The Mothers are goddesses of birth, fertility, prosperity, abundance, death, and rebirth. Relatively little is now known about them. What knowledge exists is based on interpretation of archaeological evidence. However, based on the sheer prevalence of the Mothers’ images and how widespread they were, clearly the Mothers were once wildly popular throughout pre-Christian Europe. Their veneration seems to date from a very early era. The Mothers were venerated in both Celtic and Teutonic regions and by the rich and poor, men and women alike. At Pesch in the Lower Rhine, over one-hundred-sixty altars dedicated to the Mothers have been discovered, most offered by soldiers.
There may be one, two, or three Mothers. In Aquitaine, two are portrayed, one significantly older than the other, possibly a mother and daughter. The Romans identified the Mothers with the Parcae or Fates.
The most typical votive image of the Mothers depicts three seated women. The middle one is usually significantly younger than the others. She has long flowing hair while the others wear distinctive headwear, something like a big linen bonnet. All may wear robes. One or more Mothers may expose one breast like a nursing mother. When only one Mother is portrayed, she is typically envisioned seated with something on her lap, usually an egg or a loaf of bread. Sometimes she holds a lap dog.
The Mothers are depicted with babies, fruit, grain, and big loaves of bread. Other attributes include: horn, spindle, distaff, sphere, box, scroll (interpreted as the Scroll of Destiny), basket of fruit.
The Genii Cucullati.
Creature: Lap dog, snake (both animals identified with healing in Celtic regions)
Feast: Mothers’ Night traditionally coincided with the winter solstice or the new moon nearest the winter solstice. Ancient Germans considered it the equivalent of New Year’s Eve. According to the monk and historian called the Venerable Bede (circa 672–May 25, 735 CE). Mothers’ Night was the most important Pagan festival in eighth-century Britain and coincided with Christmas Eve. Little information about the holiday survives. Divination was practiced. Dreams experienced on this night were considered prophetic.
They had shrines throughout the Rhineland, often at healing springs as well as in Aix-les-Bains in France and Chichester and York in England. The Mothers may have been venerated at the site now called Les-Saintes-Maries-de-la-Mer. Some of their shrines were huge temple complexes; others were rustic sanctuaries and domestic altars.
Fruit, bread, wine, flowers
Encyclopedia of Spirits: The Ultimate Guide to the Magic of Fairies, Genies, Demons, Ghosts, Gods & Goddesses – Written by Judika Illes Copyright © 2009 by Judika Illes.