Gaulish, druidic festival survivals in French-speaking Europe?

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      Hello everyone,

      I’ve come across something interesting in relation to a potential druidic/Celtic animist survival in parts of French-speaking Europe. On the first Sunday of Lent, Quadragesima Sunday, that is the first Sunday after Ash Wednesday, there were, and still are, in some cases festivals held which are connected to fire: The Fête des Brandons. Now, on one of the proposed reconstructions of the Coligny Calendar, there is a month, Edrinios, the name
      of which could be connected to fire and heat. Given that we are dealing with luni-solar dating here, the dates shift somewhat, but we have a rough correspondence of early/mid-February to early-March for both the Fête des Brandons and the Gaulish Coligny month of Edrinios.

      The Fête des Brandons seems to have been quite a significant fire festival in the past, and from the descriptions I’ve read, up until the 1950s, was still celebrated quite avidly, today it seems less so. One of the festival’s songs that I’ve come across, from the Auvergne region of central France, was recorded in 1901 as follows:

      Granno, mo mio,
      Granno, mon pouère,
      Granno, mo mouère!
      Brando, Brandounci,
      Tsaque brantso, in plan panei!

      The language is Occitan and may be loosely translated as “Granno, my friend, Granno my father, Granno my mother, Burn, burn every branch a bushelful.”

      This in itself reminds me a little of some traditional wassailing songs, albeit from a different time of year. Many of the other regional songs found around France seem to be connected to fruit and fruit trees, too.

      Two things strike me about this. First we have a fire festival surviving in French-speaking (Gaulish) areas at around roughly the same time the Coligny Calendar records a month name that seems to be connected to fire. Secondly, we have the name Granno, which very much looks like the Gaulish god Grannus – connected to the sun, heat and healing and, moreover, the fact that Granno is referred to as both mother and father. Grannus has also been identified with a British deity, Mogons “The Mighty One”. (Other derivations have also been suggested re Granno.)

      Frazer discusses this in The Golden Bough and I also found the Auvergne song reference in Pommerol, F. in Bulletins et Mémoires de la Société d’Anthropologie de Paris (1901). Most of the literature seems quite old and is in French, however this has certainly whet my appetite for more research.

      So, do we have a possible survival of an ancient Gaulish festival? Is it plausible that this could be connected to, if not perhaps explain a Gaulish month name?



        Thanks for this, Dowrgi, very interesting! There’s also an inscription from the 1st century on a fountain in Limoges mentioning a ten nights festival of Grannus.

        POSTVMVS DV[M]
        NORIGIS F(ilius) VERG(obretus) AQV
        NOCTIACIS GRANNI D(e) S(ua) P(ecunia) D(edit)

        Translation: “The vergobretus Postumus son of Dumnorix gave from his own money the Aqua Martia (“Water of Martius [or Mars]”, an aqueduct for the ten-night festival of Grannus”.


          On a sidenote: It always struck me as very odd that druids and neo-pagans spend so much time on the bogus calendar that Graves devised when we have the Coligny Calendar. It should be one of the centerpieces of druidic study, as it is one of the artefacts that contains actual untainted druidic knowledge and lore.


            Hi there,

            That’s also very interesting Dannorix. I wonder when the ten-night festival of Grannus was held? This inscription seems to be from the 1st century CE, therefore in a Romanised Gaul, but it’s interesting that the Gaulish office and title “vergobretus” is still being used. Limoges is not that far from the Auvergne and still within the Occitan-speaking area of France, too.

            On a sidenote: It always struck me as very odd that druids and neo-pagans spend so much time on the bogus calendar that Graves devised when we have the Coligny Calendar. It should be one of the centerpieces of druidic study, as it is one of the artefacts that contains actual untainted druidic knowledge and lore.

            I wholeheartedly concur. The obsession with tree calendars and even all kinds of “Celtic astrology” based thereon is a bit puzzling. Perhaps one of the reasons is that there is still uncertainty with regard to the Coligny calendar. In addition to which, with it being a lunisolar calendar working on five-year cycles with extra months and so on, it’s not the easiest to use.

            The difficulty I often encounter with the Coligny calendar is that it’s very often assumed that Samonios is equivalent to Samhain, and really there isn’t all that much to back this up and, on the other hand, rather a lot of linguistic evidence to suggest otherwise. I believe Samonios was around the 1st of May, the word derives from the word for summer and this would make sense if Giamonios is indeed derived from the ancient Gaulish word for winter, a fact which linguistics would suggest.

            I don’t think there’s really any solid evidence to equate Gaulish Samonios with Gaelic Samhain. There’s also very little to suggest that the so-called “Celtic New Year”, at least in a pan-Celtic sense, was around 1st November. Given that the ancient Celtic peoples and the druids likely believed in a cyclical concept of time as opposed to a linear version, would the concept of a “new year” even have made much sense to them?

            It seems like anything to do with Celtic spirituality is fraught with assumptions and conjecture that somehow get morphed into “facts” and then embedded in common “knowledge”, and poor old Robert Graves’ legacy with The White Goddess is one of the culprits, let’s say, along with our old friend Iolo. 😀 I tend to be a little more sympathetic to Iolo as well, given the circumstances he found himself in.

            While we’re on the subject, it’s a bit like the assumption that there was an Irish goddess Danu when in actual fact this is merely a hypothesis based on an interpretation of Tuatha Dé Dannan. The oldest Irish manuscripts record Tuath(a) Dé – people(s) of (the) God; Dannan was only added later by Christian monks in order to avoid confusion with the Biblical peoples referred to in the same way. The Dannan part is open to a number of interpretations, including “of arts/skills” or even “of the (deep) earth”. In spite of this, it’s almost taken for granted that Danu existed and was an ancient Irish mother goddess, equivalent to the British Dôn, who is usually identified as a mother goddess figure yet at times was also considered a male figure, especially, it seems, by some 17th and 18th century Welsh scholars.

            So where does that leave us?


            david poole

              Thank you for this contribution Dowrgi, it is above my current level but is certainly something which I have learned from

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