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Life on the Fringe - 5: Gallic Origins - Ever Wondered, Where the Name 'January' Stems From?

Updated on May 14, 2019

The elusive Ianuaria...

Celtic goddess Ianuaria, patron of music and healing from whom we have the month of January
Celtic goddess Ianuaria, patron of music and healing from whom we have the month of January | Source

Ialonus and Ianuaria

IALONUS in Gaulish lore was a god linked to cultivated fields as well as to woodland glades. 'Ialo' was the Gaulish term for a glade or clearing (like 'Thwaite' in later English); Two inscriptions for Ialonus, the first found at Nimes in France where his mate is the goddess Fortuna. Another stone to the god, also a Brythonic deity, was found at the Roman fort of Calunum near present-day Lancaster, itself established as a Roman fort/base on the road to Carlisle. The nearby River Lune has an element of his name (in the early Middle Ages Lancaster lay within the Anglian kingdom of Deira, and the city was known as 'Luneceaster').

IANUARIA was a Gaulish goddess worshipped at the sanctuary of Beire-le-chatel in Burgundy. Very little is known of her background or associations. Archaeologists at the sanctuary turned up a small stone figure showing a young girl with curly hair, deemed to be her. The figure is shown in a pleated coat, holding a set of pipes. From this it is considered that she was a goddess associated with music, although her chief skills were in healing - to which the sanctuary was dedicated. It is possible the month of January is named after her, although there will be those who say the Roman god Janus is really the one the worst part of the year was named after. The Romans tended to give their months male names like Janus and Mars or Augustus and Juno. The idea may have appealed to the Celts to name this month after a girl. The Celts had a ten month year, so this is likely to have been early spring.

God-like, or was it a wish to take on bull-like qualities in battle?

Celtic horned helmet - did it put the frighteners on raw Roman recruits? Imagine a tall, muscular, moustached warrior hurtling along, roaring war blood-curdling war cries on a chariot fitted with scythes on its wheels - which is more frightening?
Celtic horned helmet - did it put the frighteners on raw Roman recruits? Imagine a tall, muscular, moustached warrior hurtling along, roaring war blood-curdling war cries on a chariot fitted with scythes on its wheels - which is more frightening? | Source
Images of Ialonus are hard to come by... This may be one of him in a woodland glade
Images of Ialonus are hard to come by... This may be one of him in a woodland glade | Source
The Celtic tribes of the Iberian peninsula in the days of the Roman empire
The Celtic tribes of the Iberian peninsula in the days of the Roman empire | Source
Celtic Iberian warriors
Celtic Iberian warriors | Source

Iberia and Iceni

IBERIA: The Celts are thought to have settled Iberia - nowadays Spain and Portugal - as far back as 900 BC. According to Irish lore, the Celts who settled Ireland were from the Iberian Peninsula. The Celts there were embroiled in the long drawn-out war between Carthage and Rome and paid heavily for their initial successes. The Carthaginian general Hamilcar Barca attacked southern Iberia and his son Hannibal launched an invasion on Rome through the Celts' territory. The Celts struck an alliance with Hannibal and the Romans took their revenge on them after the fall of Carthage in 197 BC. The Romans overran Iberia and meted out savage retribution. Servius Sulpicius Galba even slaughtered the Celts after they yielded in 151 BC. War between the Celts and Romans in Iberia went on until the mid-1st Century BC, after when the Celts became gradually assimilated into the Romans' lifestyle and accepted their culture;


ICENI were an ancient British tribe, one of the leading peoples of the area known now as East Anglia. One of their leaders is particularly well-known, Boudicca, wife of Prasutagus. The Iceni were allied with the Trinovantes and launched attacks on the Romans under Boudicca's leadership after she had been whipped by the Romans for insubordination and her daughters raped. Boudicca's husband had been a 'client king' of the Romans. When he died his land and wealth was expected to be handed over. Only a portion was handed over and the Roman governor, Suetonius Paulinus, took matters into his own hands. He advanced on their main settlement (in what is now Norfolk), his men raped Boudicca's daughters and she herself was whipped in front of her people. The Iceni were incensed.

Boudicca sacked Camulodunum (Colchester, Essex), the southern capital of Britannia, destroying the temple where the Roman populace had sheltered, going on to destroy the Roman trading port of Londinium (London - archaeologists have found a charred black level of earth below which had been the original Roman settlement). A Roman legion sent to destroy them was also defeated and Suetonius Paulinus brought his legions from Anglesey, where he had waged war on the Druids and their guards, south-east to the Midlands along Watling Street (the later name for the Roman road from Chester to London and Rochester). Boudicca's alliance was destroyed by the Roman force on June 1st, AD 61, after which she fled with her daughters and they took poison, sooner than be taken again. The Romans would most likely have had her put to death and her daughters sold into slavery.

The Iceni's weapons were taken, their lands confiscated. Roman 'civilisation' was imposed on them for the next three and a half centuries.

At the height of the Iceni attack on Camulodunum

Romans and Romano-Britons took shelter in the recently built temple, to no avail. The rampaging tribes - Iceni and allies - set .fire to the building where the refugees his in the basement. There would be no survivors
Romans and Romano-Britons took shelter in the recently built temple, to no avail. The rampaging tribes - Iceni and allies - set .fire to the building where the refugees his in the basement. There would be no survivors | Source

Icovellauna, Idris and Imbolc/Imbolg

ICOVELLAUNA was a Gaulish goddess worshipped in the region of Metz in Alsace-Lorraine in France and Trier in Germany. She is thought to have had links with the healing spring of Sablon at Metz. no images or figurines of her have been so far unearthed.


IDRIS was a giant in Welsh legend, said to have been a skilled poet, astronomer and philosopher. His home is thought to have been on the mountain Cadair Idris in Gwynedd (North Wales).


IMBOLC or IMBOLG was one of the four Celtic festivals, the others being Samhain, Beltane and Lughnasad. Imbolc was celebrated on the first day of of February and linked with the lactation of ewes at or prior to the birth of lambs. Later this pagan festival was adopted by the Christian Church as the feast day of St. Brigid.


Next - 6: From immortality to Italy

See description below
See description below | Source

A great, detailed overview by leading specialist Miranda Green on the Celts' beliefs. Their gods were almost tangible, their presence felt across Celtic settlement areas of Central and Western Europe

Gods of the Celts, colourful, active, cruel, bloodthirsty for sacrifice. When the Romans came to Britain they spent a lot of time cornering and wiping out the Druids on the island we know as Anglesey (off the coast of Gwynedd, North Wales) at around the time Boudicca led the Iceni and allied tribes into open revolt. Their beliefs led them to literally roasting the Romans and Romano-Britons in their temple at Camulodunum (Colchester) before progressing west to Londinium (London) and doing the same again.


Seat of a god, Idris

Cadair Idris, or Idris' Mountain, sear of the god of poetry, philosophy and learning - a giant druid?  View from Heulwen in the Snowdonia National Park (Heulwen is also a personal name meaning 'sunshine'
Cadair Idris, or Idris' Mountain, sear of the god of poetry, philosophy and learning - a giant druid? View from Heulwen in the Snowdonia National Park (Heulwen is also a personal name meaning 'sunshine' | Source
A closer look at Cadair Idris, 'Idris' Seat' with the saddle above a mountaintop tarn (along with 'col', a Celtic word that's crept into the English language).
A closer look at Cadair Idris, 'Idris' Seat' with the saddle above a mountaintop tarn (along with 'col', a Celtic word that's crept into the English language). | Source
The southern side of the Snowdonia National Park
The southern side of the Snowdonia National Park | Source

Have you a Celtic name?

Do you have a Celtic name, i.e., Welsh, Irish, Scots, Breton, Iberian, Central European?

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© 2013 Alan R Lancaster

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    • alancaster149 profile imageAUTHOR

      Alan R Lancaster 

      3 years ago from Forest Gate, London E7, U K (ex-pat Yorkshire)

      Hello Celtus, tell us about Viriathus. You realise this is only the fifth of a series of twenty-one. Give me a bit more about him and I'll add him to the last, or do a new page on him and some of his associates. I'll see what I can find on Wikipedia and maybe together we can 'knit' something on him.

      Hasta luego.

    • profile image

      Celtus 

      3 years ago

      Why didn't you write about Viriathus?

      In my opinion he was the most successful Celt against Rome.

      Is Viriathus not considered Celt?

    • alancaster149 profile imageAUTHOR

      Alan R Lancaster 

      4 years ago from Forest Gate, London E7, U K (ex-pat Yorkshire)

      Which carriage was this, peachpurple, and where is/was it? (I wouldn't lay claim to knowing everything about the Celts, the Angles, Jutes, Saxons and Norsemen are my speciality).

    • peachpurple profile image

      peachy 

      4 years ago from Home Sweet Home

      interesting , I thought the twelve people in the horse carraige got the twelve months by itself

    • alancaster149 profile imageAUTHOR

      Alan R Lancaster 

      5 years ago from Forest Gate, London E7, U K (ex-pat Yorkshire)

      Hello Bill, caught up with me again I see.

      William came with the Normans, similar to Willelm/Willem/Wilhelm is of Germanic origin. According to my Collins Gem Dictionary of First Names it's literal meaning is 'will helmet' or much better 'strong-willed'. The Franks were originally another Germanic tribe who Latinised their language and eventually became French. There are Celts in France, in Brittany and on the border with Spain (Andorra) and in the Basque region of Spain.

      Alan is a Breton name, brought by William's allies the Bretons, some of whom were given land in England for their part in grabbing the crown for him. Alan 'Fergant' became Earl of Richmond in Yorkshire. When he died his cousin (also Alan) the Count of Brittany took over his lands. In French areas Alan translates to Alain. The name was popular in post-War years. I went to school with quite a few Alans and one of my wife's cousins is another. Mind you, most of my background is Anglo-Saxon from all corners of the country between Sussex, East Anglia and Yorkshire as well as North Lancashire (where Lancaster came from).

    • billybuc profile image

      Bill Holland 

      5 years ago from Olympia, WA

      Whatever William is, that's what I have. Scottish, Irish, and little Brit...darned if I know. I leave that information up to experts like you, and you never fail me. Well done!

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