Sucellus  

Posted by Stella Clark

Sucellus Cover
In ancient Celtic religion, Sucellus or Sucellos was the god of agriculture, forests and alcoholic drinks of the Gauls, also part of the Lusitanian mythology. Sucellus may also have been thought of as a creator god, and was particularly revered by the Arverni and the Boii.

He is usually portrayed as a middle-aged bearded man, with a long-handled hammer, or perhaps a beer barrel suspended from a pole. His wife, Nantosuelta, is sometimes depicted alongside him. When together, they are accompanied by symbols associated with prosperity and domesticity.

In this relief from Sarrebourg, near Metz, Nantosuelta, wearing a long gown, is standing to the left. In her left hand she holds a small house-shaped object with two circular holes and a peaked roof – perhaps a dovecote – on a long pole. Her right hand holds a patera which she is tipping onto a cylindrical altar.

To the right Sucellus stands, bearded, in a tunic with a cloak over his right shoulder. He holds his mallet in his right hand and an olla in his left. Above the figures is a dedicatory inscription and below them in very low relief is a bird, of a raven. This sculpture was dated by Reinach (1922, pp.217-232), from the form of the letters, to the end of the first century or start of the second century.

At least eleven inscriptions to Sucellus are known (Jufer & Luginbuhl p.63), mostly from Gaul. One (RIB II, 3/2422.21) is from York in England.

In an inscription from Augst (in antiquity, Augusta Rauricorum) Sucellus is assimilated to Silvanus (AE 1926, 00040):

- In honor(em) / d(omus) d(ivinae) deo Su/ cello Silv(ano) / Spart(us) l(ocus) d(atus) d(ecreto) d(ecurionum)

The assimilation of Sucellus to Silvanus can also be seen in artwork from Narbonensis.

In Gaulish, -cellos is interpreted as 'striker'. It is derived from Proto-Indo-European *-kel-do-s whence also come Latin per-cellere ('striker'), Greek klao ('to break') and Lithuanian kalti ('to hammer, to forge') . The prefix su- means 'good' or 'well' and is found in many Gaulish personal names. Sucellus is therefore widely glossed as 'the good striker.' The name is a systematically corresponding cognate of Early Irish sochell ('kindness') and Old Irish soichell ('liberality, generosity, open-handedness')

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