The Celts lived in large communities or tribes - called civitates* or nationes by the Roman historians - led by a chief, for instance Ambiorix, leader of the Eburones, or Ambigatos, king of the Bituriges. There were around sixty different peoples in Gaul, not counting the unrecorded septs* and the tribes of Narbonnensis, around twenty in Ireland and about thirty in Britain.1233 Those septs* shared cultural and religious ideas and were linked by economic ties, but they did not form a political entity or a homogenous whole. The tribes lived on a territory delimited by frontiers which were generally natural, such as a river, a forest, a mountain, etc. Gaulish and British epigraphy reveals that names of single goddesses or epithets of Matres, Matronae are ethnonyms*, i.e. names of tribes, which tends to prove that the Celtic peoples venerated goddesses bearing the name of their sept*. As noted in Chapter 1, the tradition of ‘tribal-goddesses’ was also part of the beliefs of the Germanic peoples, for a significant number of Matres, Matronae, bearing ethnonymic* bynames* are known. For example, the Matronae Hamavehae are the Mother Goddesses of the sept* of the Chamavi the Matres Kannanefates of the Cananefates; the Matronae Vanginehae and the Matres Vagionae of the Vangiones; the Matres Suebae of the Suebi; the Matres Frisavae of the Frisiavi, and the Matres/Matronae Cantrusteihae (Andrustehiae) of the Condrusi.1234 What evidence of tribal-goddesses in Britain and Gaul is there, who were they and what were their nature and functions?
See Fichtl, 2004 and the map of Gaul at the beginning of the 1st c. AD, p. 9 ; Barruol, 1999.
Neumann, 1987, pp. 111, 116 ; RGA, Band 19, p. 439 ; De Vries, 1931, p. 98 ; Olmsted, 1994, p. 425 ; Spickermann, 2002, p. 147 ; Specht, 1937, p. 6.