[This issue, we sit down with Rachel Patterson, who discusses her new book on the Deities of her native England.]

ev0ke: You recently released Pagan Portals: Gods and Goddesses of England. First, congratulations! Second, why this book? Why write about the Deities of England?

Rachel Patterson: Thank you, this book really was a labour of love.   It goes back probably to 2009 when I first encountered the goddess Sulis on a trip to the beautiful city of Bath.  I was captivated by her and she has not left me since.  Then on a trip to Glastonbury with my Kitchen Witch team we were talking about a goddess course we wanted to put together and the idea of using some of the more unknown ancient British deities formed. Once we got a list together we realised the majority were English.  That led me down a very deep rabbit hole.  I realised that nearly all the deities we refer to as ‘Celtic’ come from Ireland and Wales (with one or two from Scotland).  Where were the English deities?  From that point I made it my mission to seek out those gods and goddesses that were around in ancient Briton, way before the Romans came.  And it seems there are a fair few of them.  It has turned into a personal project, one that I am now very passionate about.

ev0ke: What sort of research went into Gods and Goddesses of England? Long hours at the library? Invigorating discussions with scholars and other practitioners?

RP: The problem is, unlike a lot of cultures that have written records and/or myths and legends that have been passed down, the ancient folk of England didn’t write anything down, keep any records or seemingly pass on any myths.  What we have to work from are archaeological finds.  This meant my research was done via archaeological books and academic papers.   My research involved a lot of digging and delving through old archives and reading a lot of papers and books written by experts in the field of ancient history and archaeology, seeking out morsels of relevant information.

ev0ke: While the first part of the book chronicles the history of human civilizations in England, the second part lists the various Deities and their attributes and areas of interest. Some of those entries are fairly lengthy, while others are quite short. Did you find this lack of information frustrating? And which Deity would you really like to know more about?

RP: Frustrating doesn’t even begin to describe it!  Some deities only have one mention of their name, perhaps in an inscription on an altar or in an ancient document.   Where possible I tried to work with the archaeological finds, or documentation written by Romans or in some cases, monks or scribes. Whatever information I found is included in the book.  Most of them don’t have any myths or legends surrounding them so a lot of the connection with them needs to be personal.  However, in one way I quite like it that they don’t come with a huge amount of information.  That way you aren’t swayed by something you read in a book or a whole long list of correspondences.  This gives you a chance to build your own unique relationship with each deity with no preconceptions.  

There are a few I would love to know more about just because there is so little, but the first one that springs to mind is Andraste.  Her name is mentioned in one text, where Queen Boudicca calls for her energy before she goes into battle against the Romans.  I think she must have been a formidable warrior goddess for sure!

ev0ke: The Deities who are discussed in Gods and Goddesses of England also come from a variety of source cultures. Did these Deities mix and mingle? Was there competition or did people worship whomever they wanted?

RP: A large proportion of deities in England seem to be connected to water.  It seems that ancient people would revere natural places, particularly something like a river.  The water would give life by providing food and take life on occasion when the current was too strong.  People began to give offerings to the river, then the idea of a spirit of place came into being which then transformed into a deity.  This explains why for the most part, ancient English deities seem to be tied to one place.  For example, evidence of the goddess Sulis is only found in Bath in Somerset.  A lot of goddesses only have mention linked to one river, as well.  It may also have been the case that ancient tribes in Britain each had their own deity they worked with.   So I think they must have been localised.   

Some of the more popular ones seem to have been ‘adopted’ by the Romans when they came; they teamed them up with their own deities. Sulis is one of those; to the Romans she became Sulis Minerva.  Other than that I think most of the deities would have been localised and only worshipped in each individual location.     

There are one or two that may have been brought across from places such as Gaul, but most of the ones in the book have their roots in England. I tried to focus on these for the book.

ev0ke: For those who are interested in connecting with the Deities of England, what would you recommend? And do potential devotees have to live in England?

RP: Research your local area; you may have to dig around in the folklore of your local library or check out websites for places close to where you live.  Look at ancient place names and read up about any local folk stories or folk tales.  This is all about connecting with the land you live on, the energy that lies beneath your feet.    

If you don’t live in England you can still work with these deities; as I have often found, the deities will seek you out rather than the other way around.  And how knows?  You may have a distant connection to England in some form.  For a long time, Pagans have worked with deities from across the globe, not necessarily those that are from the land we live on.  

There isn’t much information on any of them, so this will be a very personal journey, enjoy it and be open to whatever you discover along the way.

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