3) Yew Goddesses: the Eburnicae

Another tree held a significant place in Celtic tradition and belief: the yew.1063 The tree was embodied by the Matres Eburnicae (‘Mother Goddesses of the Yew’), honoured in a single inscription discovered in Yvours-sur-le-Rhône (Rhône). Their name is based on Gaulish eburos signifying ‘yew’.1064 The inscription is the following: Matris Aug(ustis) Eburnicis Jul(ius) Sammo[…] et […], ‘To the August Mother Goddesses Eburnicae, Julius Sammo[…]? et […]’.1065 The Matres Eburnicae are eponymous of the tribe of the Eburones (‘People of the Yew’), who were situated in the area north of the Ardennes, between the Main and the Rhine.1066

Francisco Marco Simón mentions a yew god, known from an inscription discovered in Duratón (Segovia), Spain: Eburianus.1067 As the inscription is engraved on a tombstone and as it is not combined with the word deo or any other votive formula, it can be inferred that Eburianus is a proper name rather than a divine name. In other words, this inscription is actually not a votive dedication but a funerary inscription. As for the inscription discovered in Macquenoise (Hainaut, Belgium), it is difficult to determine whether the name IVIIRICCI, possibly Ivericus or Iverix (‘King of the Yew’), is a proper or divine name.1068 The inscription is engraved on the socle of a statue representing a hooded man holding a snake in his right hand and a bowl in his left hand. This statuette could be the figuration of a god or the portrayal of some king or chief.


Mackillop, 2004, pp. 430-431 ; Lacroix, 2007, pp. 28-32 ; Maccullogh, 1911, pp. 201-203 ; Ó hÓgáin, 2003, pp. 49-56 ; Chevalier & Gheerbrant, 1969, p. 518.


Delamarre, 2003, p. 160 ; Lambert, 2006, p. 55.


CIL XIII, 1765 ; Vendryes, 1997, p. 46. The inscription was discovered near the wall of the garden of the Castle of Yvourt, near Lyon. It had been re-used* in the wall of the castle. See Chapter 5 for more details.


Guyonvarc’h, 1959, pp. 39-42 ; Caesar, De Bello Gallico, V, 24, 26, VI, 31, 34-35 ; Kruta, 2000, pp. 526, 594.


Marco Simón, 2005, p. 297 ; CIL II, 2764a ; Delamarre, 2007, p. 92.


AE 1994, 1234 ; Sterckx, 1998, pp. 92-93 ; Delamarre, 2007, p. 113 ; Sterckx, 1994, pp. 255-273.