Pop culture has sparked renewed interest in Nehalennia in the Netherlands. Beneficial not just to tourism but also to the fight against climate change.
Nehalennia an ancient goddess who was worshipped in the Roman era at the mouth of the river Scheldt. Nehalennia is a goddess of Germanic or Celtic origins. Moreover considered as a goddess of navigation and of the underworld. Often depicted with a dog or a wolf.
To the goddess Nehalennia,
on account of goods duly kept safe,
Marcus Secundinius Silvanus,
trader in pottery with Britain,
fulfilled his vow willingly and deservedly.
Nehalennia is known from around 160 votive altars discovered nearly entirely in the Dutch province of Zeeland. (Two altars were uncovered at Cologne, Germania Inferior’s capital.) They are all from the second and early third centuries CE. The majority of the sculptures depict a young female figure seated on a throne in an apse between two columns. Carrying an apple basket on her lap. A wolf dog is almost constantly by her side. In some cases. The fruit basket is substituted by what appears to be loaves of bread. In others, the woman is seen standing next to a ship or a prow.
According to national geographic after time and flood buried her legacy for hundreds of years. Besides generations uncovered Nehalennia temples and artefacts in the 17th and 1970s. This has sparked renewed interest in the pagan goddess. Furthermore, in a country where roughly one-third of the land is underwater. She is becoming a symbol of climate change and increasing sea levels.
A Modern Reconstruction
In Colijnsplaat, Zeeland, a modern reconstruction of Nehalennia temple In the Netherlands attracts modern-day worshippers and tourists. Visitors can board a river cruise ship bearing her name around Europe’s largest harbour in Rotterdam. She also inspired a goddess and queen in the popular Netflix series The Witcher, as well as the Japanese anime and manga Sailor Moon.
From new museum exhibitions to temples, here’s how visitors can learn about a goddess virtually forgotten by time.
Who is Nehalennia
Although interpreting the reliefs is incredibly challenging, one thing is almost definite. Because the woman is represented in an apse, which was generally designated for the gods, we can presume she is the goddess (rather than a priestess or mermaid). However, it is impossible to determine if she protects or tramples the ship near her foot, leaving us to wonder whether she caused the storm or silenced it. (The fact that the sculptors depicted ships rather than wrecks supports the latter, although we can’t prove it.)
Indeed the meaning of the fruits is also a mystery: are we to think of the ‘apple kingdom’ Avalon as some form of heaven, or is it a metaphor to the transience of life? What do you think about the dog? Is it a protective animal, or one of the frightening ‘dogs of the water’ recorded by the Roman author Albinovanus Pedo in his depiction of the North water? Again, we don’t know and can’t know.
The cult of Nehalennia came to an end in the third century. when the sanctuary destroyed by the sea.