Soukélous

800px-Roman_-_Sucellus_-_Walters_54998

Soukélous (Latin: Sucellus) is a Khthonic deity associated with wealth, fertility, plenty and other general pleasures of life. Practitioners of the Gaulish religion most often attribute Him to being the God ruling over the Underworld. Some associated Him with the “Gaulish Dis” from whom the Gauls claimed descent[1], and thus He can be seen as an ancestor of all humanity; and a protective one at that, as He is typically depicted with a mallet or hammer and His name means “Good striker.”[2]

 

Interpretatio?

Soukélous was addressed in the Gallo-Roman religion as ‘Sucellus Silvanus’[3]. With Soukélous’ other associations, this may further cement Him as a protector of the home, but also as an ‘every-man’s God’ as He is associated with people of all walks of life, which makes sense as the divine ancestor of all people.

His iconography and associations make an interesting link to an older Dionysos. The two were depicted as older men with beards; associated with fertility, plenty, wine and liberation and were both Chthonic in nature.

170px-Sucellus_BritMu022a

Bronze statue of Soukélous as Herakles

A bronze statue of Soukélous depicts Him wearing a lion’s skin, like Herakles. This again reminds us that Soukélous is a protector and a warrior. Interestingly, Herakles has been portrayed as an ancestor of the Celts – Gauls in particular. A story told by Diodoros Siculus goes:

“Now Celtica (ed. part of Gaul) was ruled in ancient times, so we are told, by a renowned man who had a daughter who was of unusual stature and far excelled in beauty all the other maidens. But she, because of her strength of body and marvellous comeliness, was so haughty that she kept refusing every man who wooed her in marriage since she believed that no one of her wooers was worthy of her. Now in the course of his campaign against the Geryones, Heracles visited Celtica and founded there the city of Alesia, and the maiden, on seeing Heracles, wondered at his prowess and his bodily superiority and accepted his embraces with all eagerness, her parents having given their consent. From this union, she bore to Heracles a son named Galates, who far surpassed all the youths of the tribe in quality of spirit and strength of body. And when he had attained to man’s estate and had succeeded to the throne of his fathers, he subdued a large part of the neighbouring territory and accomplished great feats in war. Becoming renowned for his bravery, he called his subjects Galatae or Gauls after himself, and these, in turn, gave their name to all of Galatia or Gaul.”[4]

Lastly, Soukélous has obvious links to Plouton. They both rule the Underworld and are heavily associated with wealth, plenty and fertility.

 

Soukélous in Myth

Unfortunately, there are no full surviving myths of Soukélous from the classical world.

 

Iconography

Soukélous is depicted with a hammer or mallet, a dog, wine and barrels and an olla. He is also sometimes depicted with a scythe, sickle or cudgel. His appearance is usually depicted as not dissimilar to Plouton or older versions of Dionysos in art – bearded, tall and commanding. He is often either depicted near-naked with a cloak and a hood or wearing simple clothes. As previously stated, He has also been shown to wear a lion’s skin, like Herakles.

 

Worship

Pigs are sacrificed to Soukélous (via Silouanos), as well as lamb’s blood, grain, wine, grapes, meats, milks, etc.[5] As a devotional sacrifice specific to Soukélous, one may offer miniature metal hammers or mallets.

 

Bibliography

[1] Olmsted, Gods of the Celts and Indo-Europeans, p. 42

[2] Kondratiev, Basic Celtic Deity Types; Green, Dictionary, p. 200; Olmsted, Gods of the Celts and Into-Europeans, p. 42

[3] AE 1926, 00040

[4] Διόδωρος Σικελιώτης Βιβλιοθήκη ἱστορική 5.24.1-3, trans. C. H. Oldfather 1939. We are using the 2000 year edition published by Harvard Univ. Press (Cambridge MA and London England), Loeb LCL 340, entitled Diodorus Siculus III, where this quotation may be found on pp. 161-163.

[5] Dorcey (op. cit), p. 27.

 

Credit: Ádhamh Ó Catháin