Eracurā/Hercurā

Etymology:

Before diving into the etymology of Eracurā’s name, it must be clarified that the theonym appears in countless different variations, and although it may not be the “true” form, “Eracurā” will be used here because it is the form in which the theonym is found within Noricum. With that clarification, the discussion of the etymology of Eracurā’s name is no less complicated. Many theories have been floating around academia for years, and new ones seem to be developing in real-time. Some are more believable than others. For example, Polomé’s suggestion that the name can be broken down as *(p)eri- and *k̑er- (to the effect of ‘aggressive/intense growth’) and that Eracurā is a vegetation goddess[1] is now widely discredited.[2] Green’s attempt to connect the name to that of Hecate is also not widely believed.[3] Delamarre gives an interpretation of *ēri-cūrā, which he defines as “Vent-d’Ouest”,[4] although this is criticized for both semantic and phonological reasons.[6] From Olmsted, we get a rare balanced summary of the theories that were available to him at the time of his writing. Among these, he echoes the vegetation-goddess theory, as well as proposes another possible meaning of “Before the Bread”. Apart from the less useful ideas, Olmsted also imparts a very useful piece of information: the first element in the theonym might, in fact, be derived from the intensive prefix *(p)eri-. Although Olmsted’s thoughts on the second element are not entirely well-supported, at least one (the IE stem *kū-ro‑ “strong”, i.e. “the Very Strong”)[7] is entertained as plausible by Falileyev. Falileyev, however, seems to place the most weight behind the idea that the name may not be a compound, and he implies that it may be an aggentive form of the intensive prefix itself (i.e. “The Intense/Plentiful”)[8]. The idea that the name is not a compound may actually be the most credible theory. However, the most credible of its variants appears to come from de Bernardo Stempel, despite Falileyev’s criticism.[9] De Bernardo Stempel suggests that Eracurā’s name may be derived from an original association with trees, and the variants are, ultimately, from a form *Hercurā. In her own words, de Bernardo Stempel believes that Eracurā is “derived from the IE name of the oak (*perkwu-)82 – with the delabialization of the labiovelar before the labial vowel -u- found in the pre-Gaulish period – [and] more likely alluded to the deity of the life-tree. In fact, (1) the *pérk(w)ura to which we can trace it back seems to be related to the Baltic god PERKÚNAS of IE heritage.”[10]

Function:

Many aspects of Eracurā’s cult are actually pretty well-known. Green, in this regard, gives a perfectly adequate summary. Green explains that Eracurā fills a role similar to Hecate, and that she embodies aspects of fertility, prosperity, and (due to her frequent portrayal as a divine couple with Dis Pater) protecting the dead.[11] To add to this, She may also have been related to Brixtā (magic), since she is often found in defixiones. Particularly relevant to this practice, She is also invoked in a Norican love spell.[12]

In Practice:

Within Bessus Noricon, Eracurā is a goddess of fertility, prosperity, wealth, the cthonic, and the dead. She is a goddess of Brixtā in general (an association which makes sense given her possible connection to the world-tree), and of cthonic magic in particular.

Interpretatio:

Variously: Terra Mater, Proserpina, Cybele, or Juno.

Iconography:

She is often associated with a mix of typical fertility/mother goddess and cthonic imagery. She is often portrayed seated with a basket of fruit.[13][14] If de Bernardo Stempel is correct in her association of Eracurā with the world-tree, She may also embody aspects of triplism, an aspect mirrored in Hecate.

Sources

  1. Etymologische Anmerkungen zu keltischen Götternamen by E.C. Polomé, 1997, p. 738

  2. Aericura by A. I. Falileyev, 2008, p. 439

  3. Dictionary of Celtic Myth and Legend by Miranda Aldhouse Green, 1992, p. 26

  4. Noms de personnes celtiques dans l’épigraphie classique by Xavier Delamarre, 2007, pp. 14, 218, 221

  5. Aericura by A. I. Falileyev, 2008, pp. 440 & 444

  6. Celtic and Other Indigenous Divine Names Found in the Italian Peninsula by Patrizia de Bernardo Stempel, 2013, p. 80

  7. Gods of the Celts and Indo-Europeans by Garrett Olmsted, 2019, pp. 303 - 304

  8. Aericura by A. I. Falileyev, 2008, pp. 444 - 445

  9. Aericura by A. I. Falileyev, 2008, p. 439

  10. Celtic and Other Indigenous Divine Names Found in the Italian Peninsula by Patrizia de Bernardo Stempel, 2013, pp. 80 - 81

  11. Dictionary of Celtic Myth and Legend by Miranda Aldhouse Green, 1992, p. 26

  12. HEracurā and her Divine Consorts by Francisco Marco Simón, 2019, p. 159 - 162

  13. Dictionary of Celtic Myth and Legend by Miranda Aldhouse Green, 1992, p. 26

  14. Gods of the Celts and Indo-Europeans by Garrett Olmsted, 2019, pp. 303 - 304