Originally from the European regions, the celts have reduced in number over the passing years. This is due to the innovation and development that have occurred including the introduction of new religions. The Celts were however a very advanced group and even today, their religion and beliefs are still being discussed.
One of the main characteristics of the Celtic people was that they had different gods and goddesses associated with different aspects of nature. Each god or goddess was revered for what they were believed to have power over, be it fertility, the moon, or the earth. Among their gods, was the god Moccus. This post will be dedicated to understanding who the god Moccus was and the importance he had in the Celtic religion.
Who is Moccus?
As a Celtic god, Moccus was identified as the boar/swine god and invoked as the protector of boar hunters and warriors, by the Celtic tribe of Lingones. The Lingones were a Gaulish tribe, located in modern-day Langres, around the area of rivers Seine and Marne in today’s northeastern France. There was another Lingones group known for weaving, agriculture, and metalwork, located near the Po River in the northeast of Italy.
Moccus was known for the sacrifices made by the Langres to gain his favor. The name Moccus is said to be derived from the Gaulish word ‘moccos’ which translates to pig or wild boar. Names with similar meanings include ‘moch’ in Welsh, ‘mucc’ in Old Irish, and ‘moc’h’ in Breton. A lot of Gaulish’s names have stemmed from the name Moccus, including Moccia, Moccius, or Catomocus.
Being the god of boars, boar meat was considered sacred to the ancient Celts and would be eaten on special feasts according to Irish mythology. Moccus is also associated with Mercury, one of the major gods in Roman mythology. Mercury was considered to have power over financial gain, luck, communication, and eloquence, among others. Similarly, Moccus was believed to bring fertility and abundance to those who worshipped him.
In terms of historical references of this Celtic god, scholars like Philippe Jouet and Emile Thevenote believe that Moccus has some association to the Celtic sculpture Euffigneix. The sculpture is a depiction of a god wearing torc and has a wild boar inscribed vertically along the torso. The Euffigneix is also believed to have been in the same tribal territory of Lingones, where the inscription of Moccus was found.
Additionally, J.A. MacCulloch, in the Religion of Ancient Celts, notes that in Europe the swine was seen as a representation of vegetation divinities. As such, its meat was buried in the fields along with corn seeds to promote fertility. Since Moccus was the god of swine, he was therefore seen as the god of fertility, hence his association with Mercury and Hermes, who is the Greek god of fertility in herds and flocks. Moccus is also linked to the Irish myth ‘Oidheadh Chlainne Tuireann’, by scholar Philippe Jouet, where Lugh obtains Tuis’ pigskin which was believed to heal any injury. Lugh in this case is considered to be the Irish version of Lugus a Celtic god who is connected to Mercury.
Although today, boars are seen as shy animals who aren’t known to pose a threat to humans, they have been depicted in many different forms according to the Celtic religion. Different myths depict the boar as a representation or symbol of various things ranging from war to fertility. The following are some of those symbols and where they stemmed from:
An emblem of war.
According to the Celts, boars were considered to be the most ferocious and formidable beast in the wild. In Europe, helmets with crests of the boar’s head were found in many places. These were Celtic and Anglo -Saxon helmets that were believed to protect warriors when they went to war. The boar crest would also be put on swords and shields, as well as boar statues being placed near warrior statues. This was further proof of the strong association between warriors and boars.
A symbol of fertility and wealth.
Aside from being seen as the representation of warrior strength, fearlessness, and courage, the boars were also used to symbolize fertility and wealth. This is why their meat was buried in the ground to promote fertility in the lands. The Irish tale of the hermit Marban who owned a white boar as a pet is a great depiction of boars as gentle and fertile creatures.
A spiritual authority.
According to the Druids, the boars symbolize spiritual authority in the Celtic culture. They believe that seeing a boar in your dreams is an indication of the warrior spirit. This belief stemmed from the story of Isolt, a great warrior who dreamed about the death of a great boar as a forewarning of Tristan’s death.
A representation of death and natural disaster.
Some folklore tales depict boars as magical and divine creatures of death who also bring about natural disasters. In some of these tales, the boar is described as a disguised trickster filled with disobedience and deceit. Other tales talk about the boar being the direct cause of the hero’s death. The famous Irish myth of the Boar of Ben Gulbain is a perfect depiction of this. The myth is a representation of the battling forces of light and darkness. In this case, the boar of Benn Gulbain is a clear representation of darkness that kills 50 of Diarmat’s men.
According to Celtic culture, it was believed that boars had restorative effects on those who ate its meat. This belief stemmed from the Irish legend of the Celtic goddess Arduinna, said to be the keeper of Ardennes forests in Belgium. Arduinna is said to have owned a boar and therefore was the patroness of boars. Although according to Celtic myth, boars are also difficult to kill, Arduinna had a knife that gave her the power and dominance to kill the boar if necessary. It is said that she sacrificed her boar and served its body with an apple in its mouth. Since then, eating boar’s meat was believed to revive one’s health and happiness.
The Moccus in Celtic Religious
The Celts being largely agricultural people and Moccus being considered to have the power of fertility, he is therefore seen as a god of great importance. In Celtic religious contexts, boars are seen as both war and prosperity. As such, you’ll find boars as divine symbols on helmets, swords, coins, altars and as the majority of the bronze animal sculptures created. They were also a favorite Celtic dish in different festivities.
In Ireland, the swine is an esteemed creature, that is believed to have been legendary forms of swine-gods. As a result, many sacrificial feasts are done using swine flesh. They are also the staple food in all the major feasts. In some parts of Britain and Hallstatt, the bones of a swine would be cremated and its ashes spread over the Celtic graves. Other areas in Hallstatt would bury the entire animal with the dead, as a kind of sacrifice to the god of the underworld.
Today, Moccus is still worshipped by Celtic Polytheists, Druids, and Wiccans. He is also still one of the main gods in the temples of the members of the Shrine of Irish Oak Inc. He even has a feast day during the winter solstice given his depiction as the protector and giver of plenty.
Moccus is among the most revered gods in Celtic culture. Although boars are not as ferocious as they are depicted in most of the Irish myths and Celtic legends, they can be fierce creatures when provoked, given their famous temper. In as much as few groups still worship Moccus today, pig/boar/swine meat is still a sacred food in many festivities.