The veneration of Gods associated with bodies of water are a commonality between the Celtic and Germanic speaking peoples on Continental Europe. Given the importance of the Rhine to the Belgic people, it’s no surprise the Rhine was deified by them.

There are pieces of evidence that show this, such as an inscription to Rhenus Pater[1] in Vechten -the Netherlands, statuary in Cologne to Him, and an alleged quote from Viridomarus (war chief of the Insubres), recorded second hand from Sextus Propertius:

Claudius beat back the foe that had crossed from the banks of Rhone, when the Belgic shield of the giant chief Virdomarus was brought back to Rome. He boasted that he was born from the Rhine itself, and he was nimble as he hurled the spear from a steady chariot. In striped breeches he went forward before his troops and the twisted torc fell from his severed throat.[2]

While Viridomarus was of a Lepontic people, it does show one connection that many Celtic speaking peoples had to the Rhine.

Isabel Rodà de Llanza points out in her paper ‘A latin defixio (Sisak, Croatia) to the river god Savus mentioning L. Licinius Sura, hispanus’ that Aristotle, Claudian and later writers attribute a practice to Celtic and Germanic peoples of submerging babies into rivers to test their vitality and legitimacy. Rivers also facilitated the final journey of the deceased, as seen by fossilized trunks containing human/funerary remains, brought down by the Rhine[3].

The idea of water transporting the dead to an afterlife is reminiscent of Procopius account of the coastal people in Gaul who believed that the dead would be transported by boatmen to an Isle of the Blessed[4].

This makes the importance of local rivers clear in these religions. In Leitodubron, we have a river that functions like that of the Rhine in classical times; the Mississippi River.

The Mississippi River is named from the Anishinabe, an Ojibwe people who still live in Minnesota today. The name “Messipi” or “Mee-zee-see-bee” means ‘Big River’ or ‘Father of Rivers’[5]. The Dakota peoples named the river “Hahawakpa,” meaning “River of the Falls”[6].

While we at Bessus Leitodubrâkon respect and recognize all Indigenous peoples who call the Minnesotan lands home (as well as all Indigenous peoples who call Turtle Island home), the veneration of Rhenus Pater, the Anishinabe name that points to ‘Father of Rivers’ and the contemporary usage of Mississippi inspires us to give the naming convention and personification of a river father to this body of water; Rênoatîr Leitodubrii (River Father of the Grey Water).

For ecological background of the Mississippi river, and thus Rênoatîr, (directly from the National Park Service)[7]:

  • At least 260 species of fish, 25% of all fish species in North America, live in the Mississippi River.
  • Forty percent of the nation’s migratory waterfowl use the river corridor during their spring and fall migration.
  • Sixty percent of all North American birds (326 species) use the Mississippi River Basin as their migratory flyway. 
  • The Upper Mississippi is host to more than 50 mammal species
  • At least 145 species of amphibians and reptiles inhabit the Upper Mississippi River environs.
  • The Mississippi starts from Omashkoozo-zaaga’igan (Elk Lake in Ojibwe)/Lake Itasca and ends into the Gulf of Mexico, at a total of 2350 miles.

Function of Renôatîr Leitodubrii in Bessus Leitodubrâkon:
Rênoatîr gives Leitodubron’s people and land life, commerce and protection as both a river and liminal water god. He also acts as a legitimizer of the Leitodubrâki, from birth ritual to death, as well as a guide to the afterlife, whatever one the Leitodubrâkon is destined for. While His body stretches from Leitodubron into other lands on Enistîs Seleciî (Turtle Island/North America), we consider Him to be originally a Dêwos Leitodubrii, as His head waters are located here. This isn’t to say He isn’t worthy of worship in other lands, but He holds a special significance to the Leitodubrâki as an ‘Atîr’ of sorts.

Resources

  1. Pater Rhenus: the hydrological history of Rome’s German frontier by Tyler V. Franconi p. 1
  2. The Elegies by Sextus Propertius 4.10.39-44
  3. A latin defixio (Sisak, Croatia) to the river god Savus mentioning L. Licinius Sura, hispanus by Isabel Rodà de Llanza
  4. De Bellis by Procopius c. 540s CE book VIII translator: H. B. Dewin. 1916
  5. River Facts – National Park Service document https://www.nps.gov/miss/learn/education/upload/brjfact.pdf?fbclid=IwAR1jpJ03JVLhZ-oOXriqJPw-pLJwU8urpOVG_wZIcNiYqkVAV3F2DAVMhD8
  6. River Facts – National Park Service document https://www.nps.gov/miss/learn/education/upload/brjfact.pdf?fbclid=IwAR1jpJ03JVLhZ-oOXriqJPw-pLJwU8urpOVG_wZIcNiYqkVAV3F2DAVMhD8
  7. Mississippi River Facts – https://www.nps.gov/miss/riverfacts.htm?fbclid=IwAR1sXZab8RAGTAYjecrL6T3-sAnDMotQuuzzqLrDmQCiFeCUSYAsvnT2Des