The Matronae, whose name simply means "Mothers" in Latin, are found in Celtic (specifically Gaulish), Roman, and Germanic sources (Lendering, 2013). These goddesses are known from over 80 inscriptions on images found from France to Germany and through northern Italy, and can be found on hundreds of votive altars (Evans, 2005). The Matronae are usually depicted as three seated women holding symbols of abundance, including fruit, animals, infants, and cornucopias, as well as items like small pieces of cloth, basins, and spindles; the women wear long skirts and have one breast bare, possibly symbolizing a nursing mother (Evans, 2005; Green, 1992). Often the figures on the sides are shown wearing wide hats and sitting next to trees while the central figure has loose hair; in one case the inscription was accompanied by an image of a tree, a snake, and a goat (Lendering, 2013; Green, 1992). Images also depict the Matronae being worshiped by women and by soldiers and being offered fruit and bread (Green, 1992). Although its difficult to know with certainty what the Matronae were worshiped for, most scholars surmise that they were related to fertility, abundance, healing, and protection. Many Matronae had distinctive names relating to the area they were in or people who worshiped them so it is also possible that they represented communal maternal ancestors, an idea supported by inscriptions naming them "matres paternae" which may be translated as ancestral mothers (Lendering, 2013). It is also possible that the Matronae were examples of cults of genus locii expressed in a set form, although Ross suggests that they are reflexes of tribal mother goddesses (Green, 1992; Ross, 1998). In specific locations the Matronae also had specific associations: the Matres Comedovae and the Matres Griselicae were associated with healing and specific healing springs, for example (Green, 1992).
|My personal shrine to the Mothers|
I tend to relate to the Matronae as the Great Mothers, the Deae Matres, the ultimate ancestral mothers of us all, the uber disir. To me they are both ancestors and deities; they are a force which ultimately connects all humanity together back at the beginnings and which connects us to the land as a source of basic life sustaining nourishment. I use three images of paleolithic female figures to represent them on my altar and pray to them for protection of my home and family as well as abundance. I also pray to them for peace within my home and for healing, particularly of my children. I offer them fruit, honey, and bread, and celebrate them especially on Mutternacht, the night before the Winter solstice.
Lendering, J., (2013) Matres, Matronae, or Mothers. Retrieved from http://www.livius.org/man-md/matronae/matronae.html
Evans, D., (2005) Matronae. Retrieved from http://www.celtnet.org.uk/gods_m/matronae.html
Green, M., (1992) Dictionary of Celtic Myth and Legend
Ross, A., (1998) Pagan Celts