Saturday, 31 August 2013

Badger God

Badger culling is in the news. Despite scientific evidence that culling will not work to prevent TB in cattle, and the opposition of wildlife trusts and the RSPCA, the government is pressing ahead with the support of the National Farmers Union.
Volunteers are going out by night to protect the setts as far as they can, and it occurred to me that there really ought to be a god of badgers for Pagans to appeal to.
A little bit of Googling brought up something interesting.
There is indeed a Gaulish badger god - at least, if the translation of Moritasgus really is Great Badger. It might also be Sea Badger, or "masses of sea water". There was a Romano-Gaulish shrine to Apollo Moritasgus at a place called Alesia in present day Burgundy. The Romans often tagged the name of one of their own gods onto a local deity, and since Apollo and Moritasgus were both associated with healing, it seems apt. There was a healing spring at the shrine, and excavations have turned up offerings of model parts of the body, much as you'd find today at Lourdes or other Catholic healing shrines. Alesia is nowhere near the sea, though, which makes me tend to favour the Badger translation of the name.
And then it gets even better, because Moritasgus's consort goddess is Damona - the Divine Cow.

Alesia became even more interesting when I dug a little further, too. It wasn't just the site of a healing shrine. Anyone who's read Asterix will be familiar with the name of the great Gaulish hero Vercingetorix. Alesia is the place where Julius Caesar defeated Vercingetorix in battle, and conquered Gaul (except for that one little village where Asterix lived, of course). It was, in fact, a huge siege, with the Romans throwing up vast earthworks to cut off the Gauls from their re-enforcements, and traces of these earthworks have been picked up by aerial photography There's a statue of Vercingetorix there now.

So here's to Moritasgus, the Great Healing Badger, and his consort Damona the Divine Cow, and to the volunteers who are going out to protect the badgers in Somerset and Gloucestershire.

FAQs about the cull can be found at

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