When the Continental Celts were looking for a new homeland, they ventured west from the known river valleys of the great landmass we call Eurasia. Just beyond the great mountains, the Alps, they discovered sweet and abundant water, fertile soil, expansive woodlands, and the plentiful fish, game, berries, grasses, fungi and broad-leafed plants necessary to support their tribe.
We know that Celtic spirituality was, in its roots, animistic (spirit was alive in every living thing), non-anthropomorphic (the source of life and death was water, land, plant and animal-life), tribe-specific (in France alone there is evidence of several hundred deities) and a spirituality of place, of the major landforms that defined the world (rivers, springs, forests, animals, heavenly bodies). To the extent that Celtic spirituality was theistic, the creator/sustainer/destroyer of life was typically a goddess.
The Celts who settled at the source of the great river system defining their homeland called the river Squan, a Celtic word describing the shape of a snake. Squan, then, was river and goddess. In my mind, She was Mother Snake, source of life, for her flowing waters sustained the tribe in the same way mother’s milk nurtured children through infancy and early childhood.
Sequana is the Latin word for the Seine, the most famous of the five principal rivers of France, and also for the Celtic Squan — the Mother Goddess of the tribes of Celts who lived on her shores and islands 3,000 years ago. She was river, Goddess, the living spirit of the land — eau de vie.
The Seine runs from its source west of the Alps, through the heart of Paris, to its mouth at Le Havre, where it joins the English Channel and the waters of the Atlantic Ocean and the North and Irish Seas.
The last, long ending of winter is usually is often a time of heavy rains and snow. Because the sun is beginning to offer longer periods of light and warmth, frost is no longer holding deeply in the soil, but is now melting and seeping into the earth, bringing texture to the land and getting it ready for the new growth soon to emerge. This is the “quickening” that will soon give us the early signs of spring with bulbs pushing themselves up into view. For us that means it is time to thaw out our spirits and warm ourselves, allowing a thaw from the winter’s cold darkness, and preparing for our own new growth.
At this time of year, in this specific lunar cycle we in the Apple Branch honor Sequana, in this season of rains and possible flooding. The waters are awakening the dormant Earth as she warms toward her season of fertility.
Many ancient peoples had stories of floods in which water was both honored as a life bringer and as a destroyer. Water was seen as something that “escaped” from the realms of the gods. In many of the stories it seemed to be a female who was involved when water would move through some disaster, come to the land bringing growth and abundance though turbulence.
In Celtic spirituality, the spirit of the land was often embodied in water — in springs, rivers, lakes and later, the “sacred” or “holy” wells. Sequana is both the surface and underground waters of the Seine and her tributaries and also all of the lands drained by them. She is a watershed deity, alive today in the network of watersheds in the Paris Basin, and in the hearts of some of Her people, who remember. She is mother of the clan, Snake River, bestower of health. In Her arms, She carries the overflowing cornucopia of the abundant, giving land.
Modern statue of the Nymph of the River Seine by the Sculptor Jouffroy, situated in an artificial grotto, near the ancient Gallo-Roman sanctuary of the Sources-de-la-Seine dedicated to the Celtic goddess Sequana.
From “Living River” …..
“Flowing like a river, like a river to the sea
Love flows through you, and it flows through me…”
… “Water belongs to the earth and all species and is sacred to life, therefore, the world’s water must be conserved, reclaimed and protected for all future generations and its natural patterns respected.”
… “Water is a fundamental human right and a public trust to be guarded by all levels of government, therefore, it should not be commodified, privatized or traded for commercial purposes. These right must be enshrined at all levels of government. In particular, an international treaty must ensure these principles are non-controvertible.”
… “Water is best protected by local communities and citizens who must be respected as equal partners with governments in the protection and regulation of water. Peoples of the earth are the only vehicle to promote earth democracy and save water.”
Water also figured highly in the Pagan Cluster’s Living River Action during the protests. The Living River mission statement included,
“We say that our lives, our communities, the health of the earth’s ecosystems, the cultures of indigenous peoples, the dreams of children are too important to be subsumed to profit. Another world is possible: A world of justice, freedom, ecological balance and true abundance, and we will make it real. Although the negotiators of the FTAA believe they have fenced out dissent, we believe they have walled themselves in. We intend to liberate them so that they can hear the voices of the people, the land, and the waters!”
May water always belong to the people!
Deanne Quarrie. D. Min. is a Priestess of The Goddess and a practicing Witch and Druid. She is the author of five books. She is the founder of the Apple Branch and Beyond the Ninth Wave where she teaches courses in Druidism, Celtic Shamanism, and Feminist Dianic Wicca and mentors those who wish to serve others in their communities. She is also an Adjunct Professor at Ocean Seminary College and is the founder of Global Goddess, a worldwide organization open to all women who honor some form of the divine feminine.