The Light of Winter
In Yverdon, Switzerland there’s a single inscription that gives us Vindedus. Another Apllo-like figure from Gallo-Roman context, Vindedus is a fascinating figure who may be linked to several Gods, of similar etymology, all across Gaul and even southern Britain. One single inscription of one single word, and yet it holds so much when reconstructing Vindedus.
We will discuss the inscription, where it was found and the importance of that, dig deep into etymology, compare to other Gods and figures, to help get a good look at how the Helvetii saw Vindedus and lastly go over divination readings to get some UPG. As always, the goal is to honor the Gods by shedding light on Vindedus and, hopefully, uncover how the Helvetii worshipped Vindedus.
Real quick, when pronouncing Vindedus, the Gaulish language didn’t have a “V” sound. Instead, one would use more of a “W” or “Û” (guttural OO) sound like Windedus or Ûindedus. It also lines up with with the etymological root on Vindedus.
An inscription in Yverdon-les-Bains, Switzerland gives us one word, “Vindedo”. The inscription is on a stone and it’s really hard to say what exactly the purpose of this stone was. It’s size, shape, and hole in the center could suggest the base for a banner or standard of some kind. It could have been a part of a shrine or altar at the hot springs that the area is famous for today.
Whatever the purpose, the inscription is in Roman letters which puts Vindedus in the Gallo-Roman religion. Yverdon-les-Bains was once known as Eburodunum and Ebredunum during the time of Romanized Switzerland, both roughly mean “Yew-Fort” and was a key military location for Rome.
Eburodunum is nestled in a valley at the base of the Jura Mountians known today as the Orbe Valley with the Broye Hills and is on the shores of Lake Neuchâtel. This location allowed Rome to control major routes such as Geneva-Avanches, connecting the Rhône and Rhine basins, as well as those of Rhône and Danube. Rome constructed an imposing Castrum (stronghold) known as Castrum Ebredunense and it was the second largest Castrum in Switzerland.
There’s another side of Eburodunum that needs to be addressed. The word “Eburodunum” is a Celtic word as much as a Roman one. The Helvetii, specifically the Tigurini, were known to inhabit the Jura region. History has the Helvetii living in that region as early as the second century BC. However, Yverdon is also home to a large mass of standing stones that are possibly as old as 5000 years.
The meaning “Yew-Fort” could indicate that Eburodunum was a military site for the Tigurini as well. Yew wood is known to be used in the making of tools and weapons, especially bows. This practice is seen in Germanic cultures which the Tigurini could have adopted while they were allied with the Germanic Cimbri tribe during the Cimbrian War.
The standing stones were without a doubt a sacred religious site. If Eburodunum was a military camp for the Helvetii, the Menhir stones could have had associations with specific war deities or a place of ancestral/warrior worship. Each of the 45 stones could represent a deity or a monument to a heroic figure.
But there’s another feature of Eburodunum that will bring us back to Vindedus. Eburodunum is home to a natural sulfur spring. This spring is one of the tourist draws for Yverdon today, but back in ancient days, it was very much a sacred site for the Helvetii. Hot springs, lakes, rivers, in general, were seen as sacred. These spots were all associated with the Dêwoi in one way or another.
Hot Springs were commonly seen a place of healing which brings us back to Vindedus. Gallo-Roman Gods were Gaulish deities that were synchronized with a Roman God. Cobannos Mars and Matutinus Mercurius are examples of this. Vindedus was synched with Apollo, the Greco-Roman God of light and healing. With this established, these thermal springs were likely dedicated to Vindedus and possibly the purpose of the inscription stone, as a designation of the spring.
Some additional possible context to who Vindedus was and is, could be that if Eburodunum was a Helvetian Military site, then the hot springs there could have been significant for warriors. Vindedus could have been a patron of warriors. A God who healed and protected the Tigurini fighting men. Perhaps Vindedus was a more unconventional God of War.
“Vindo” is rooted in the Proto-Celtic, masculine form of, “Windos” which probably came from the PIE word, “weyd” which means “to see, to know”. “Vindo” or “Uindo” are a cognate of the Proto Irish word, “Vendo” which was found in old Ogham inscriptions. Interestingly, “Vendo” is also cognate with “Finn/Find” from Old Irish which leads to the name Finn McCool.
It would be a hard stretch to say that there is a strong connection between Vindedus and Finn McCool, but both share an etymological root and the Romans saw Vindedus as Apollo. Both Finn McCool and Apollo are described as “fair and bright”. There are many striking similarities between the two.
It should also be noted that Finn McCool was a famous warrior and Vindedus is possibly a war God. Apollo is also a warrior-type figure. He’s fought against enemies like Python in Greek mythology. There is much to draw upon from these figures but there is a deeper etymological root that needs to be looked at.
“Vind” in Old Norse means wind or “to blow”. The Helvetii are a Celtic people but they have had allies and enemies in the Germanic tribes, specifically the Cimbri tribe. Two of the Helvetii tribes may have been Germanic originally so there could be
A quick mention of Vinotonus. There isn’t much to draw from but the similarity of their names was worth covering briefly. Vinotonus comes from Britain and during Roman occupation, was synchronized with Silvanus. This deity shares very little with Vindedus aside from “vin” in their name. “Vin” isn’t found within Celtic language aside from being rooted in “Vindo” which we just covered. But, Vinotonus is considered a “genius loci” a tribal God or local guardian which are common in Celtic areas.
While, Vinotonus doesn’t provide much to draw from, Vindonnus does. In Burgundy, a region in eastern France, there’s a shrine build around a spring in Essarois. The shrine is dedicated to the God Vindonnus who was worshipped by the Aedui tribe, who were rivals of the Helvetii. Vindonnus was also paired with Apollo and was a healing deity.
I’ve never been one to assume that two similar Gods are the same based on similarities. All Gods should be given respect and autonomy away from synchronization. Nor should it ever be assumed that a deity is seen the same way across the landscape. The Spartan Aphrodite is not the same as the Athenian Aphrodite. In my Anextlomarâ article, I stated that the Aedui Anextlomarus is likely a masculine form of the Helvetii Anextlomarâ but should still be seen as their own deity.
That will be the same case here, however, with the etymology, the Apollo association, and worship site at a spring, there’s not much seperating the two Gods. If, perhaps, there is a slight dialect difference between the Aedui and Helvetii, that could cause a difference in spelling and result in Vindedus and Vindonnus being the same deity. This is just speculation but that’s neither here nor there and we will still look at these Gods as separate.
An archeological find at the shrine revealed that the Aedui used their spring as a place of healing. Numerous pieces of oak wood, stone, and bronze all depicting body parts were found as offerings. When someone was suffering from glaucoma, for example, the druids would use a form of sympathetic magic to heal the person. Instead of offering Vindonnus real eyes, they would engrave eyes onto a piece of bronze and offer that at the shrine to heal the person’s eyes.
No evidence was found at Yverdon but it is likely the practice was the same. The offerings could have been taken by the Romans, the Alemanni (who invaded the region as Roman power began to weaken), or even taken by a passerby who found them in the spring. If Vindedus had a more of a war God quality then it’s possible the Tigurini had a different ritual for healing wounded warriors.
Because the Aedui and Helvetii seemed to be close, as allies and enemies, their druids could have performed the same healing rituals at their springs.
While Vindedus is equated with Apollo in the Gallo-Roman religion, He could be associated with a Germanic figure, if Vindedus did have war and battle associations. Since Vindedus was, more than likely, a Tigurini God, then it’s very possible that Vindedus is linked to proto-Germanic Baldr. The Tigurini and the Cimbri were allies for some time and the Tougeni and Ambrones (possible fourth tribe) may have been the remnants of former Germanic tribes, which we touched on earlier.
Both have their names rooted in words that mean “light/white”, both have healing associations, and both are linked to warriors. Vindedus’s name is cognate to the root of Finn McCool, one of Ireland’s most legendary mythic heroes, as we covered before. Baldr’s name means “brave” or “Lord” and there are mentions of Baldr being a mighty warrior in the Eddas.
Before we move on, it’s best we touch a bit more on Finn McCool. It’s theorized that those who wrote down the cycles that cover Ireland’s mythology, downgraded the figures in the stories from Gods to humans. This really isn’t important as Finn’s feats and accomplishments would make any man worthy of veneration and worship. Like the God Lugh and the Ulster Hero Cu Chulainn, Finn carried a magical spear.
The Gualish God Lugus, is also known for wielding a spear. The spear was a primary weapon for the Celts and it clearly shows. Finn was also the leader of a Warband known as the Fianna. Again, there’s a connection to Lugus as He is known to be the God of the Warband. Warbands were vital to Celtic culture. Warriors needed to gain honor, glory, and wealth and the main way to achieve this was to form a Warband and go fighting and raiding.
The Tigurini were renown warriors so Warbands would not be uncommon. If Vindedus was a war God in any way, then He could be linked to the Warband. Maybe as a leader like Lugus or Finn McCool or as Druidic healer of wounded warriors.
Vindedus through Divination
The divination results for Vindedus did mesh with all the research quite well but it did add more perspective to Him. While there was alot of water symbolism which makes sense if the hot springs at Yverdon was dedicated to Vindedus but the reading also showed alot of winter themes as well. Eburodunum would have been at the mercy of winter being at the feet of the Jura Mountians. Yverdon today has over 110 days of rain/snowfall with June being the wettest month.
In ancient times, winters would have been rough, as was covered in the Alpes article. The thermal springs would have been vital to the Tigurini during the winter months. This is just speculation but it could establish a link between Alpes and Vindedus as maybe a maternal relationship. Vindedus would heal and help the Helvetii during the cold months when Alpes was in Her winter persona.
This is where I got the moniker “Light of Winter” or “Leucos Giami”. A figure of hope and healing during dark times. Since Vindedus’s etymology means wind, it could be another link to winter. Howling winds during a storm could be a warning voice of Vindedus, perhaps. Maybe the steam rising from the springs could have been seen as Vindedus as well.
One major piece of iconography I got was a cloaked, hooded, man. Since that reading, the image of a man in a white cloak was in my head whenever I would research and write this article. Etymology points to “white” as part of Vindedus’s name. Earlier, I mentioned that Vindedus could have been more of a Druid-like figure. Druids were known to wear white cloaks, but that may be more of a modern practice rather than an ancient tradition.
Another Druidic connection from the reading was symbols and imagery of the cycle of nature, transitioning of the seasons, and the Otherworld. Specifically the transition from Summer to Winter. Not to say that Vindedus is a agricultural figure, but rather responsibility and respect to nature and community. The reading showed generosity and punishment for misuse of resources. Generosity could mean sharing resources with the tribe to ensure that the community gets through Winter, and punishment for exploitation of resources would be the response of Vindedus should someone abuse resources and not help their neighbors.
The Otherworld, Antumnos, is the Gaulish afterlife and Gaul has several psychopomps to help people cross over. Winter in ancient times, were likely to have higher mortality rate. Those who could not be healed by Vindedus, could have been guided to Antumnos by Him. Antumnos is a land of ancient wisdom and mysteries, which also is linked to wells, rivers, lakes, and, of course, springs.
The last piece of iconography is the spear for the reasons explained before. Vindedus could very well be seen as a warrior and a Druid. A protector and a healer. A warm light in cold dark months. Vindedus is a linear figure. Someone who walks the line between two extremes.
Who is Vindedus?
After everything we’ve covered, I’m very confident that Vindedus is a linear God, a pyschopomp, and a Toutatis, a tribal guardian. A God of war but more so a God of light and healing. As a warrior, Vindedus is the cold bite of a winter wind but as a healer, He is the warm healing waters of a thermal spring. A Druidic figure, Vindedus balances the natural world and that of civilization. He cares for the tribe and for nature.
This is all speculation but I am confident that this is who Vindedus is and was. At the very least, Vindedus is honored and, hopefully, brought out from obscurity. Honor to the Light of Winter, honor to Vindedus.