Friday, December 29, 2017

My Last and Best Guess for the Name of the Uley Shrine God

I've remarked in an earlier blog post that I'm not privy to the British cult title or epithet given to Mercury/Mars/Silvanus at the Uley Shrine next to Uley Bury (quite possibly *Cambolanda/Camlan).  As a result, I've had to resort to a very careful study of the RAVENNA COSMOGRAPHY place-names as those relate to the environs of Gloucester and the Severn estuary.  I've also gleaned whatever scant clues I could from the few curse tablet translations that have been published.

In Curse Tablet 75, the god (dei) is referred to as 'potentissimus' (powerful, strong, mighty and the like). If (and this is a HUGE 'if') this is a Latin attempt at the god's cult title, then the only place worth looking at, really, is *Magalonium.

Rivet and Smith have *Magalonium for the RAVENNA COSMOGRAPHY'S Macatonion.  Here are the sections in R&S dealing with both *Magalonium and *Maglona:


* Rivet & Smith, p 405 :


-  Ravenna, 10629 : MACATONION ?

DERIVATION. R&C propose to emend this to *Magalonion, reasonably enough (with c for g by scribal confusion, as often; although Mac- may accurately represent the same root, as in Hispanic personal names Macilo / Magilo, ELH I. 359, and Macalu, a divine name in a graffito of Seraucourt (Bourges, France : DAG 354). This *Magalonium they then derive from a river-name *Magalona, which with British *-io- derivational suffix gives for the whole name a sense 'place on the noble river'. Their base is an Indo-European root *mak- 'to grow' (Holder II. 362), from which Welsh magu and Breton maga 'to feed' ultimately come, as do Latin magnus and Greek megalos. Among place-names closely related are then British Maglona and its précise equivalent Magalona > Maguelonne (Hérault, France), Magalonnum > Moulons (Charente-Maritime, France). The origin of many personal names related to these lies in *maglo-s, perhaps 'great one', from which derive Old Irish mal, Welsh and Breton mael 'prince', present in such ancient names as Magalos, Magilos, Magilius; in Britain, Brigomaglos on a subRoman tombstone at Chesterholm (RIB 1722). Based on the mag- root are the divine name Magusanus, associated with Hercules in a dedication at Mumrills, Stirlingshire (RIB 2140); also DAG 943 (many) ; and the Gaulish place-name Magdunum > Méhun-sur-Yèvre (Cher, France) and Meung-sur-Loire (Loiret, France), together with British Magantia, Magiovinium and perhaps Maia.

Whether R&C's speculation about *Magalona river is warranted can be judged from the Continental analogues, for which no such supposition has to be made; and from the fact that no modem river-namc derives from this. It seems simplest to see the name as built on *magal- with suffixes *-on- io-, as in CANONIUM; and as meaning 'high, outstanding place' or the like, possibly 'noble place'.

It might turn out that Ravenna's Macat- is right after all. A name Macato (reading of the first a being doubtful) is recorded in CIL XIII 5806 (Langres), and other names, mostly personal, are known with Mac(c)-; see GPN 364-65.

IDENTIFICATION. Unknown, but apparently not far from Gloucester.

* Rivet & Smith : Old Carlisle, Cumberland.


- Inscription : RIB899, which may belong here : see MAGIS

- ND XL13 (pictura) : MAGLOUE
- ND XL28 (text) : Praefectus numeri Solensium, MAGLONE (var. MAGLOUE)

ND's forms with u have a common copying fault of u for n. Final -e may simply be -a miscopied, or a first-declension locative.

DERIVATION. Maglona belongs with the names listed under *Magalonium, based on the root *mag-. Gaulish Magalona > Maguelonne (Hérault, France) is an exact equivalent of the British name, which has lost the unstressed vowel by elision. A similar sense, 'high, out-standing place', perhaps 'noble place', is appropriate.

IDENTIFICATION. Probably the Roman fort at Old Carlisle, Cumberland (NY 2646).


There is a Gaulish god (and also a chieftain) named Magalos on the Continent.  A place named for such a god in Britain could have taken a form such as *Magalonium.   For the etymology of Magalos we may compare maglos, from the PIE root *meg'h2- meaning 'great' or 'mighty.' (1)

Magalonium is thought to have been somewhere in the vicinity of Gloucester, and this would fit the location of the Uley shrine.

I cannot emphasize strongly enough that this idea is based in ignorance of the actual cult name found in the Uley shrine curse tablets.  For now, the only person in the world who has possession of that information is Professor Roger Tomlin of Oxford - and he is not in a sharing mood at present.  We shall have to wait for his future publication of a definitive edition of translations with the Institute of Classical Studies, London.


*maglo- 'noble, chief [Noun]
GOlD: Olr. mal [0 m], Ogam CUNA-MAGLI
W: MW mael [m] 'chieftain, lord'; MW -mael, -fael (in PN) (e.g. Brochfael
< *Brocco-maglos);
BRET: MBret. -mael (in PN, e.g. Tiernmael)
GAUL: Magalos, -maglus [PN]
PIE: *megh2- 'great' (IEW: 709)
COGN: Gr. megas, Go. mikils
ETYM: If the etymology is correc~ the a-vocalism in Celtic should be
explained by Schrijver's rule (*mCvolced- > *maCvOIced-), but this rule is not
beyond doubt. Gaul. Magalos, if related, might represent PIE *mgh2-lo- with
the expected vocalization of the laryngeal (which was, for some reason, lost
in Insular Celtic and in Gaul. -mag/us).
REF: LEIA M-13, GPC III: 2305, Delamarre 213, Ziegler 1994: 112


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