Arduinna, Gaulish Goddess of Forests and Hunting is one of the many Celtic Goddesses who is associated with a particular region or body of water. She was worshipped in the heavily forested regions of the Ardennes, located in what is current day Belgium and Luxembourg with small portions found in France and Germany. She was also associated with the Forest of Arden in England. Her name has its roots in the Gaulish word “arduo” meaning “height”.
Arduinna’s stories have not survived into modern day. We only know for sure that she both hunted the forests of Ardennes and protected its flora and fauna. Though she demanded animal sacrifices on her feast day, she was also known to extract fines from hunters who killed animals on her land.
She is associated with the forest, the boar, and the spear. Some scholars assert that she is also associated with the moon. Many ancient cultures connect the boar with strength and courage. Arduinna’s favorite beast was the boar, which she road whenever she hunted, making her own strength and courage clear to all. Plus it is important to note that throughout Gaul the wild boar was abundant and a vital food source for the population. Arduinna’s association with the boar thus shows her importance as a protective and nurturing goddess.
The only surviving image of her is a small sculpture of a woman riding a boar. This statue has lost its head and some scholars dispute the belief that it is a representation of Arduinna.
We are left with only assumptions about Arduinna’s original function and stories. It is assumed that she is the Gaulish equivalent of the Irish Flidais, a complex Celtic Goddess called Lady of the Forest by modern Celtic pagans. Once Roman influence began on the continent Arduinna became associated with the Roman Goddess, Diana, who of course is the Roman version of the Greek Goddess, Artemis.
Arduinna as a Woodland Goddess represents our wild nature. With no tame, domesticated castle or demesne to call her own, she ran free in the forests of the Ardennes. She is the untamed spirit in us all, never tied down by the commitments of love or motherhood. But being Celtic, she was not chaste. As a free spirit, she would have enjoyed amorous liaisons when and where she chose.
The natural world is her domain which she protects with the ferociousness of a mother bear protecting her cubs. Woe to the human who causes harm to the forest or over hunts the animals. Then she steps in with her justice and extracts a hefty fine. Here we see her in her fierce aspect, standing strong and tall as she protects her domain.
Many sacred woods throughout Northern Europe were named after goddesses. This association protected sacred trees all over the continent. Punishment was expected by divine intervention. Anyone who cut them down could be struck with palsy or other ailments.
Such a sanctuary existed at Margut, dedicated to Arduinna. Her following was so large that in the 6th century Saint Walfroy attempted to eradicate her cult by installing himself atop a pillar he had installed close by. He vowed that he would live on only bread and water and would not descend until Arduinna’s followers abandoned her.
Her nature also manifests in a gentle way. It’s more than likely that like Flidais and Artemis, Arduinna functioned as a healing goddess, protecting and healing the fauna, human and otherwise, living in her region. In this aspect one can image her tending a wounded man, a sick child, a dying elder as dappled light filters through the trees of her forest, bathing her in a soft glow.
When Arduinna calls your name, she calls you to a full expression of your untamed spirit. Through her you can claim your right to your “wildness”. She is by your side when the need to protect yourself and your own arises. She opens you to accessing your own strength and courage. Call on Arduinna when you need a healing touch or you are giving a healing to others. May Arduinna’s power to protect, heal and run free be with you.
Sources used for this article: Faerie Lore, Ponnivala, Gaels and Gauls, by Max Dashu, The Great Goddess, Reverence of the Divine Feminine from the Paleolithic to the Present, by Jean Markale
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Judith Shaw, a graduate of the San Francisco Art Institute, has been interested in myth, culture and mystical studies all her life. Not long after graduating from SFAI, while living in Greece, Judith began exploring the Goddess in her artwork. She continues to be inspired by the Divine Feminine in all of Her manifestations. Originally from New Orleans, Judith now makes her home in New Mexico where she paints and teaches part-time. Give yourself the gift of one of Judith’s prints and paintings, priced from $25 – $3000.
22 thoughts on “Arduinna, Gaulish Goddess of Forests and Hunting by Judith Shaw”
High or tall often refers to mountains, ie, the Mountain Mother.
I was just thinking that the method for researching these Goddesses might start with describing the place with which She is associated rather than the written records. Just a thought.
I think researching the associations with a region is a very good way to examine a particular goddess. Patrician Monahan did a great job with _The Red-Haired Girl from the Bog_, looking at a variety of goddesses in Ireland, and Heide Gottner-Abendroth wrote an interesting methological treatise on the same thing, but unfortunately for most of us, it’s in German. I’ve just started reading it.
Hi Nancy, would you mind giving me the name of the treatise which was written by Heide Goettner-Abendroth? It sounds very interesting. Thank you. Gitta
Sounds like a good idea to me. Soon I’ll be hitting the editing part of this years long project to create a deck of Celtic Goddess cards and have many things to work on, improve, add and delete.
And one more thought. I figured that with Arduinna high or tall refers to a forest of tall trees.
Forests and woodland can also be associated with mountains. The mountains are beautiful and I can certainly see her there.
Why is your Arduinna wearing antlers?
She is wearing antlers because many of the Celtic Goddesses were shapeshifters. Perhaps Arduinna was also. I envisioned her with that ability to shapeshift into a deer. The deer has many sides – powerful, cautious, adventurous and protective. Deer also is associated with instinct, independence and regeneration – The antlers are symbols of regeneration.
Very interesting. So she lives in the Forest of Arden. Does she, in some magical realm, know the banished Duke Senior, Rosalind, Orlando, Jacques, and Touchstone from Shakespeare’s As You Like It? What a mashup that would be!
That’s for sure Barbara – a real mash-up!
The gentleness of the woods suggests that the forest is protecting Arduinna, just as She protects it. A lovely symbiosis.
I believe you are right herbiznow. She protects the forest enabling it to protect and provide for us.
I would like to let you know, the description of this Goddess is amazing. I also would like to mention there is a particular book that is very similar to her, the author is Allison Crogann, the first book is “The Gift “, there is one other title, as it had to be renamed. I believe that the depiction is very interesting, and it’s a worth while read.
I wonder about the hunting and all the suffering of the animals, when I look at the spear. I dislike meat, can’t eat it, because I think of the animals and how they may have died. Nature can be wonderful, but then again ferocious. I wish all animals were vegetarians, and I absolutely love elephants and giraffes for that reason.
I understand completely how you feel Sarah. In particular modern farming practices are cruel and brutal. But predators are an important part of every ecosystem, helping to maintain a balance – All living things depend on each other for survival, with changes in the size of one species’ population having the potential to affect all of the other species that share the ecosystem.
In my vision of Arduinna one of her functions is to maintain that balance. Hunting was an important part of food for most ancient people. And many cultures always gave thanks for the life they took in order that they could live.
Really enjoyed this blog about Arduinna. Had never heard of her before.
Glad you enjoyed D.Read
The Vanir peace-hostage – Frey – is often depicted with Gullin-bursti, (golden bristles), the
boar, gifted from the dwarves of Svart-alfheim.
The association of the boar symbolized Frey as deity of vegetation. Boars use
their tusks to turn over the soil.
In the current age, Frey has biodegraded into a couch potato who “veggs” in front
of a home entertainment unit, thus inspiring the salutation:
Get off your ass, you lazy swine!
Maggie, that’s interesting to know that the boar is connected with vegetation since he turns the soil with his tusks