Sometimes a presence comes forward and makes itself known. Sometimes there are odd coincidences, thoughts unrelated to other things that stick in your head, lead you to search, to look for a name, to try and find out more. Recently this has been happening to me again. I have no idea why but the name, or at least one name, came fairly easily – Govannon, Divine Smith.
Many cultures have a divine smith in their pantheons, possibly one of the more widely known ones will be Hephaestus of the Greek pantheon. Many of these smith gods are depicted as a mature male and some are physically impaired in some way. Many are said to be difficult personalities, loners or aggressive. And many are patrons of much more than smithcraft. For example, the Voudon and Santeria Orisha Ogun, from my limited understanding, has strong links to various forms of technology and many skills connected with the use of blades including surgery. He’s also known as both a fierce warrior and a protective father.
Part of my searching over the last week has been around smith deities of other cultures to try and gain insights into who Govannon was in the past as so little is known of him.
Govannon is a modern varient of the Divine Smith title, and from what I can tell, not a very scholarly one at that. Older names include the Welsh Gofannon, the Old Irish Goibniu and the Gaulish Gobannos. I think the main reason I find myself so drawn to the name Govannon over other forms is that I live fairly close to Govan and I’ve wondered in the past if there could be links between that place name and the deity.
That tantalizing possibility of a link between modern Govan and the deity Govannon has led me to do some research on the history of Govan. I found a picture of Govan as it was in 1757, and it looks like a nice village. I discovered that before the ship building days Govan was well known for weaving and that in 1756 the Govan Weaver’s Society was formed and that the Govan Fair has a long and sometimes colourful history. I also learnt that Govan used to be called “Meikle Govan” which translates to great or large Govan. Govan has an old parish church which now houses some even older grave stones known as the Govan Stones, these include some very impressive examples of hogback stones. It was while I was reading some of the information about this that I noted that around 870 AD the capital of the Kingdom of Strathclyde moved from Dumbarton Rock to around Govan owing to a slight problem with Vikings. I’ve learnt many things but nothing that gives any evidence that the place name Govan might have an ancient link to Govannon but if there is ever a place which over time could be shown to imbue the essence of a god of craft and technology I’d think Govan would be it. It is a place with a long history of craftmanship and technology. I’ve developed a great deal of respect for Govan with this journey into its history. Oh, and the motto of Govan, still evident today in Govan High School among other places, is Nihil Sine Labore, meaning “Nothing without Work”.
So where does all this leave me?
I am being led to get to know a deity who was probably once greatly revered by those that followed crafts but one about which very little has survived. He almost certainly would have been the patron of smiths of all kinds. It’s possible that, like Goibnui, he had something to do with feasting and hospitality. There are some inscriptions to Gobannos that survive, the best currently being the Berne zinc tablet with an inscription that reads “Dobnoredo Gobano Brenodor Nantaror” and translates as “to Gobannus, the world-traveller, dedicated by the people of Brennoduron in the Arura valley” according to the information on Wikepedia about the tablet. So there maybe an aspect of being a traveller in his long lost mythology too.
Broken threads forming a very patchy tapestry. Faded images, partially formed pictures of something mystical and magical. An opportunity to forge a new understanding, a new relationship with this old mysterious figure.