a) Etymology

The god Luxovius gave his name to the city of Luxeuil and, with Bricta, presided over its curative springs.2113 His name is said to derive from *leuk meaning ‘light’ - probably forming the name of the Irish god Lugh as well; hence his possible association with both light and water symbolism.2114 As regards the name of the goddess, it is important to point out that its correct spelling is Bricta or Brixta, and not Brixia or Bricia: the 18th-century archaeologists misread the T as an I.2115 Pierre Wuillemier explains that the alternation between ct and xt in Bricta or Brixta is consonant with the Gaulish language, for those groups of letters were phonetically identical.2116 Similarly, the names Divixta and Divicta are the same.2117 The suffix ta, found in other goddess names, such as Nantosuelta, Rosmerta and Segeta, indicates Bricta is a noun of action.

Holder sees a connection between Bricta/Brixta and the name of the River Breuchin, which waters Luxeuil, for it is called Brusca or Brisca in the Life of Saint Columbanus.2118 The River Breuchin gave its name to two villages, situated on its banks: Breuches and Breuchotte, which are respectively situated four and eight kilometres from Luxeuil. Bricta might thus have been originally the personification of the River Breuchin and have been later attached to the salutary waters of Luxeuil.2119

As regards the significance of her name, Olmsted suggests that it derives from the IE root *bhrēk- meaning ‘to shine’; hence Bricta, ‘the Shining One’,2120 but the etymology* advanced by Lambert, Delamarre and Leurat is far more convincing.2121 According to them, Brixta/Bricta is to be related to the Gaulish word brixtom/brictom or brixta signifying ‘magic’, ‘enchantment’, ‘charm’ or ‘spell’. The word brixta appears on line 3 of a twelve-line magical formula addressed to the god Maponos, inscribed on a lead tablet discovered in 1971 at a place known as the ‘Sources des Roches’ in Chamalières (Puy-de-Dôme): brixtía andiron, that is ‘by the magic power of the infernal (deities)’.2122 It also repeatedly appears in the forms brictom and brictas in a magical text engraved on the two faces of a lead tablet called ‘Plomb du Larzac’, discovered in 1983 on the necropolis of Hodpitalet-du-Larzac (Aveyron), e.g. on face 1a, line 1: in sinde se bnanom brictom, i.e. ‘the magic of the women’, and line 9: andernados brictom, i.e. ‘the magic of the underworld’.2123 Gaulish brixta must be cognate with the Old Irish bricht, ‘bewitchment’, Middle Welsh lled-frith, ‘charm’ and Old Breton brith, ‘magic’, all derived from an old IE theme *bhregh- meaning ‘to declare ceremoniously’.2124 As Bricta ends with a suffix of action, *bhrgh-tá > *briktá > brixtá would denote ‘magical activity’ and Bricta might be ‘the woman who exercises magic’, that is the ‘magician’ or the ‘witch’.2125


Bonnard, 1908, p. 97 ; Lerat, 1950, pp. 207-209 ; Olmsted, 1994, p. 438.


Evans, 1967, pp. 358-359 ; Sterckx, 1996, pp. 13-15, 56 ; Lacroix, 2007, p. 85.


All the archaeologists misread the name of the goddess until the discovery of the third inscription in 1938. It was Lantier, 1943, p. 197 and Lerat, 1950, pp. 207-213 who restored the correct name of the goddess.


ILTG 404 ; Dottin, 1920, p. 64.


Delamarre, 2007, pp. 87.


Holder, ACS, vol. 1, p. 616; Jonas de Bobbio, Vita Columbani, Book IX.


Toutain, 1920, p. 303 ; Delacroix, 1867, p. 74.


Olmsted, 1994, p. 365.


Delamarre, 2003, p. 90 ; Lambert, 1995, p. 154 ; Leurat, 1950, p. 213, note 1.


Lambert, 1995, pp. 150-159 for a study of the lead tablet from Chamalières, and pp. 154-155 for a translation of the third line.


Lambert, 1995, pp. 160-172. See chapter 1 for more details.


Lambert, 1995, p. 154 ; Delamarre, 2003, p. 90.


Lambert, 1995, pp. 57, 154 ; Leurat, 1950, p. 213, note 1.