Andraste was a warrior goddess in Celtic mythology, who was associated with victory, ravens, battles and divination. She was a strong and powerful goddess, often invoked before a battle in hopes of gaining victory. Let’s take a look at who she was and the role she played in Celtic religion.
Who Was Andraste?
There are no records to be found on Andraste’s parentage or any siblings or offspring she may have had, so her origin remains unknown. According to ancient sources, she was the patron goddess of the Iceni tribe, led by Queen Boudica. Andraste was often compared to the Morrigan, the Irish Warrior goddess, since they both have similar characteristics. She was also compared to Andarte, a goddess worshipped by the Vocontii people of Gaul.
In Celtic religion, this deity was known as ‘Andred’. However, she’s most popularly known by the Romanised version of her name: ‘Andraste’. Her name was thought to mean ‘she who has not fallen’ or ‘the invincible’ one.
Andraste is often portrayed as a beautiful young woman with a hare, a symbol of divination that was sacred to her. Some sources state that no one in old Britain hunted hares since they feared that the hunter would be afflicted with cowardice and would anger the warrior goddess.
Andraste in Romano-Celtic Mythology
Although Andraste was a warrior goddess, she was also a lunar mother-goddess, associated with love and fertility in Rome. In several accounts she was invoked by Queen Boudicca who led the rebellion against the Romans.
With Andraste’s guidance and aid, Queen Boudicca and her army sacked several cities in a brutal, savage way. They fought so well that Emperor Nero almost withdrew his forces from Britain. In some accounts, Queen Boudicca released a hare in hopes that the Roman soldiers would kill it and lose their courage.
According to Tacitus, the Roman historian, Queen Boudicca’s female Roman prisoner’s were sacrificed to Andraste in a grove which had been dedicated to the worship of the deity in Epping Forest. Here, they had their breasts chopped off, stuffed in their mouths and were finally murdered. This grove was just one among many that were dedicated to the goddess and it later became known as Andraste’s Grove.
Worship of Andraste
Andraste was worshipped extensively throughout Briton. Some say that before a fight, the people and/or soldiers would build an altar in her honor. They would place a red candle with black or red stones on it to worship the goddess and invoke her strength and guidance. The stones they used were said to be black tourmaline or garnets. There was also a representation of a hare. Some made blood sacrifices to Andraste, either animal or human. She was fond of hares and accepted them as sacrificial offerings. However, not much is known about these rites or rituals. What is known for sure is that Andraste was venerated in a grove.
Andraste was one of the most powerful and feared goddesses in Celtic mythology. She was widely worhsipped and people believed that with her aid, victory would surely be theirs. However, little is known about this deity making it difficult to have a complete picture of who she was.