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Kent Archaeological Review extract

Letters to the Editors --
Derivation of the name of Vagniacae.
by W S Perm.


I must refer to the excellent and interesting article by Mr Evans on the subject of early place-names. In this, he mentions that Professor Jackson has no explanation of the element Vagn in Vagniacae. This is a subject I have studied for many years and believe that a possible explanation exists.

In Cologne there is an altar dedicated to the German goddess Vagdavercustis (information from F Jenkins, FSA), the deity being associated with a cult of source. Now, the altar is similar to the one discovered in Temple I at Springhead (Arch. Cant., lxxiii (1959), 1) and since this is the only other altar of this type, out of 500 examined in the United Kingdom and on the Continent, it seems possible that our altar was also dedicated to Vagdavercustis, and that this goddess may have given her name to the settlement. The fact that Springhead is a cult of source par excellence lends weight to this argument.

More recently, an inscription has been discovered in Cisalpine Gaul (C B Pascal, The Cults of Cisalpine Gaul) to Vagadavergusta, clearly a variant of the name of the German goddess. The inscription belongs to an ex-voto by M. Ulpius Valens, probably an auxiliary of Trajan and who probably became attached to the cult when serving in Germany.

The conclusions to be drawn from this discovery are valuable. First, the cult of Vagdavercustis was an appealing one, powerful enough to attract an individual originally domiciled far from the sphere of influence of the goddess. Second, if the cult could travel from Germany to Italy, it could equally well travel to Britain and by the same means. Moreover, the date of the inscription is relatively early when Vagniacae was certainly an important posting station where troops en route may well have stayed, particularly if they were addicted to a cult of source.

Thus, we may tentatively draw the attractive conclusion that the cult of source represented by the goddess Vagdavercustis had wide appeal and gave her name to the settlement at Springhead.

Yours, etc.

Professor K H Jackson, FBA, kindly comments:

"I can see no reason whatever to connect this goddess with the name Vagniacae. Incidentally, the goddess's name looks Germanic to me, whereas Vagniacae is unquestionably Celtic."

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