c) Vercana (‘Fury, Rage’)

The goddess Vercana is mentioned in an inscription discovered in Ernestviller (Moselle), in the territory of the Mediomatrici: In h(onorem) d(omus) d(ivinae) deae Vercanu isd(em) co(n)s(ulibus) […] pos(uit) […], ‘In honour of the Divine House and of the Goddess Vercana (...?)’.1566 The votive formula In h.d.d. associated with the term dea allows us to date this dedication to the beginning of the 3rd c. AD.1567 In Bad Bertrich, near Trier (Germany), in the territory of the Treveri, she is honoured along with the goddess Meduna: De(a)e Vercan(a)e et Medun(a)e L(ucius) T() Acc(e)ptus vslm, ‘To the Goddess Vercana and to Meduna, Lucius T. Acceptus paid his vow willingly and deservedly’.1568 The dedicator bears the tria nomina of Roman citizens and Latin names.1569 In this dedication, the goddesses Vercana and Meduna are linked to water and healing, for excavations carried out at Bad Bertrich revealed Gallo-Roman spa installations near to the medicinal springs.1570

Vercana remains a somewhat obscure goddess. The significance of her name could shed light on her possible functions. Olmsted suggests that her name *verc-ano- could come from an Indo-European root *uer-k- meaning ‘to wind’, ‘to twist’, giving Irish ferc, ‘knob’, ‘handle’ and Welsh cywarch, ‘rope’. In view of that etymology*, Vercana can be understood as a water deity.1571 As far as Lambert, Delamarre and Holder are concerned, Vercana is to be derived from Indo-European *uerg- signifying ‘to do, to act, to hasten, to press’, or ‘to be puffed with rage, pride or anger’, which gave Old Breton guerg, ‘efficient’, Old Welsh gwery, ‘active’, Old Irish ferc, ferg, ‘fury’, ‘anger’, ‘rage’ and Modern Irish fearg - it can be paralleled to Latin urgeo, ‘to press (the enemy), ‘to hasten’, ‘to torment’, ‘to push forward’. Vercana would therefore signify ‘Fury’, ‘Rage’ or ‘Wrath’.1572 This etymology*, which is the most likely, would indicate that Vercana is a goddess related to war and combat. Her name evokes the state in which the Celtic combatants were said to be when they were fighting the foe, being overcome with anger and wanting to spill blood. It expresses the furor or ‘war frenzy’ which particularized Celtic warriors on the battlefield and, according to contemporary accounts, scared enemies to death.1573


CIL XIII, 4511.


Raepsaet-Charlier, 1993, pp. 9-11.


CIL XIII, 7667. See Chapter 5 for an analysis of the dedication and of the possible functions fulfilled by Meduna.


Solin & Salomies, 1994, p. 287.


Wightman, 1970, pp. 138, 226.


Olmsted, 1994, pp. 372-373, 412.


Lambert, 1995, p. 45 ; Delamarre, 2003, p. 315 ; Holder, ACS, vol. 3, p. 183 mentions that D’Arbois de Jubainville also derived the name of the goddess Vercana from Irish ferc / ferg ‘rage’, ‘anger’.


Brunaux, 2000, pp. 188-190. See Chapter 5 for more details.