Maponos – a being of places and times between

Having read Hilaire’s first post on Cernunnos one evening last week on her Musings from Gelli Fach blog I got to thinking about some of the similarities and differences between Cernunnos and Maponos.  They both seem to be beings that are found in places between, they both seem to provide a link between the wild and so called civilised culture.  I’ve even wondered if Maponos could be a Brythonic name for Cernuunos and it’s something I’m still not sure about.

The most obvious thing which detracts from the similarities between them is the apparent age of these beings.  Maponos, particularly in the modern name of Mabon is thought of as a baby or very young child reborn at the winter solstice.  Where this idea has come from I’m really not sure because there is nothing really in myth or inscriptions that leads to the idea of him remaining as a child.  In fact he is is described as a formidable hunter whose skills are required to hunt the boar Twrch Trwyth in the story of Culhwch and Olwen.  The only part about him being a baby is that he was taken from his mother at 3 nights old but there’s no indication that it is a child that he is released from his imprisonment.  Cernunnos on the other hand always seems to be portrayed as a mature man but as I have said above this idea of Maponos as a child or baby is not one that sticks around if you do your homework.

To my knowledge inscriptions to Cernunnos have only found so far on the continent and not many of them either.  Apparently there are four known inscriptions now, described here:http://www.ancientsites.com/aw/Post/233441 (thanks to Seren’s comment on Gelli Fach’s post).

Inscriptions to Maponos are found in Britain and Gaul with at least four of them linking him to Apollo.  Details on these can be found in the article Apollo Maponos by Mary Jones.  I was at the museum at Vindolanda (http://www.vindolanda.com/) on Saturday 23 July and in it is a plaque with Maponos in a central position with Apollo on one site and Diana on the other.  I’m not sure if this is the one mentioned in Mary Jones’ article as being sketched in Anne Ross’s Pagan Celtic Britian.  Maponos in it is depicted as a man with a short beard and wearing a short cap.  (I think it was slightly pointed but can’t remember for sure).  Only one of the other statues of him depicts him as a youthful god with others depicting him with a beard.  From what I have found so far there are no items in particular shown with him.  The link to Apollo might be due mainly to the hunter aspect although Maponos also has links to water in both springs and lochs.  Lochmaben for example which is thought to be Locus Maponi, mentioned in the Ravena Cosmography, is now a town between three lochs but in the larger of those lochs the remains of crannogs were found so Locus Maponi may have originally between settlements on the lochs rather than between them.

My UPG which has been shared by a couple of others in Brython is that Maponos is to be found in the places and times between. The plaque in the Vindolanda museum seems to back that up in some ways as Maponos is positioned in-between masculine and feminine, solar and lunar as the obvious things that come to mind with Apollo and Diana.  From the above it can be seen that he has strong links to hunting too.  And my UPG connects him to both roe deer and swans.  Again there are a small number of us in Brython who have had experiences of Maponos as a strongly masculine and sensual presence.

In her further posts on Cernunnos Hilaire talks about possible links between Lugus and Cernunnos and I can see similar links between Maponos and Lugus but there are also differences not least of which is the fact that Lugus was associated with Mercury while Maponos was associated with Apollo and in at least one image at Reims Cernunnos was placed between Apollo and Mercury.

All of these deities Cernunnos, Lugus and Maponos seem to be strongly masculine and beings of places and times that are between one extreme and another.  Lugus though does seem to have more to do with trade and craftmanship where Maponos seems to be more involved with inspiration, prophecy and dreams.  And Cernunnos somehow seems more wild than either Maponos or Lugus to me.  Perhaps Cernnunos is an older deity and connected more to the transition between wild and cultured than either of the others. Both Lugus and Maponos seem to be more strongly connected with differing aspects of culture and crafts to me than to the wild.

The more I think about these being the more I see them as separate but related.  A team of beings perhaps that can aid us in finding our way between one state and another, between living in a structured culture and touching the wild within us.

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4 thoughts on “Maponos – a being of places and times between

  1. Interesting stuff. If the cap of Maponos was pointy could it have been a Phrygian cap, which might suggest a link to freemen or the general act of manumission?
    I've not had any visionary experiences of Maponos (yet), so this is quite theoretical for me. Cernunnos definitely wild, but also very fatherly. Despite the tendency of modern pagans to conflate him with Pan, he really feels quite different to me.

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  2. Also, my UPG definitely has him as a fully adult, masculine presence, and not very Apolline, i.e. in the 19th century sense of restrained, logical art. If anything, in my own head, Lugus is more the Apollo to Maponos' Dionysius wildness. Which is entirely contrary to the epigraphic evidence, but hey, that's why it's UPG.

    There's something in the back of my mind that has Lugus and Maponos in opposition–not enemies, but opposites of a type. And later, in the Mabinogi, the families of Lleu and Pryderi are in opposition, which is a nice coincidence, at least for myself.

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  3. Interesting, thanks for linking this. 😉 I wonder now if this link between Maponos, Lugus and Cernuos could be pursued even further… maybe another trinity figure even (there was a Celtiberian inscription I think which spoke of “Lugoues”, plural of Lugus)…

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