5. Ancient Celtic Queens

Questions to consider . . .

  • What are the names of the Celtic queens, their respective goddesses and territories?
  • What does Severus’ use of Brigantia tell us about the Roman attitude to mythology?
  • What is the Sovereignty Goddess’ connection to war and death?

We know that the ancient Celtic tribes were familiar with war and death. Celtic leaders were members of a warrior elite, a special class of nobles who knew the martial arts.

We also know that the Celtic tribes believed in regional Sovereignty Goddesses, sometimes seen as living queens.

So far we’ve focussed on the role of the Goddess as an embodiment of fertility and abundance, as a Great Mother. But she could just as easily be a Great Destroyer.

What was war for in the ancient past and what role did she play in the culture of war?

There was clearly a flip-side to this ancient Goddess, a wrathful and violent aspect that demanded a different type of relationship, a different type of veneration.

Further Reading

You can purchase Sheena McGrath’s ebook using the link below.

Brigantia: Goddess of the North

Notes and References

Septimius Severus

Brigantes Territory
Iceni Territory
Boadicea, Opie


  • Sheena  McGrath, Brigantia: Goddess of the North (2015), 11-12:

. . . her cult seems to have taken Roman form, with inscribed altars and a Romanised statue. The promotion of a deity from local to provincial protector was not unknown; the Romans had done the same in Noricum (Austria) with the goddess Noreia, and in North Africa with Tanit . . . it was settled Roman policy to propitiate local deities so they wouldn’t try to put a spoke in the wheel, as well as because it flattered local sensibilities and gave a sense of continuity to see the old deities honoured by the new government. The new province of Britannia Inferior, with its new governor and legions, needed its own emblems to legitimate it and give it a shape in people’s minds. Who better than the goddess who protected the area and had done so since time immemorial?


  • Ibid. 141-1:

Cartimandua was, pollens nobilitate, powerful in noble lineage. This implies that she came of a well-connected royal family that hadn’t had a male heir. The coincidence of a sovereign queen and a tribal goddess is an irresistible invitation to speculate on connections between the two. . . . Many writers have made a case based on Cartimandua’s own name, which means “Swift Pony”, the kind used for war-chariots. . . . They assume that her name implies a connection to the sovereign goddesses like Epona and Rhiannon, who took horse form or were depicted with horses.


  • Dio Cassius (c. 190 – 235 CE) Roman History, 62:

Boudica, a British woman of royal lineage and an uncommonly intelligent woman was the person who was most instrumental in inciting the natives and convincing them to fight the Romans, who was thought fit to be their commander, and who directed the campaigns of the entire war. This very woman brought together her martial forces, approximately 120,000 in number, then she climbed up onto a raised platform, which had been built of turf in the Roman manner.

She was huge of body, with a horrific expression and a harsh voice. A huge mass of bright red hair descended to the swell of her hips; she wore a large torc of twisted gold, and a tunic of many colours over which there was a thick cape fastened by a brooch. Then she grasped a spear to strike fear into all who watched her.

. . . After that, she used a type of augury, releasing a hare from the folds of her garment. Because it ran off in what [the Britons] considered to be the auspicious direction, the whole horde roared its approval. Raising her hand to the sky, Boudica said: ‘I thank you, Andrasta [the ‘Unconquered’ goddess], and call out to you as one woman to another . . . I implore and pray to you for victory and to maintain life and freedom against arrogant, unjust, insatiable, and profane men.


Boudica = bouda (‘victorious’); compare with the Welsh name Buddug (‘Victoria’) and buddugol (‘victorious’)

Andrasta = ‘Unconquered’


  • Miranda Green, Celtic Goddesses (BMP 1995), 33:

What is interesting is the close link between Boudica and Andrast[a]: in a sense, they appear to have represented two aspects of the same identity, one of which resided in the world of the supernatural, the other as an earthly war-leader.