I honestly can not recall the first place that I saw the name Abnoba. I wish it would have been one of those moments that stuck with me, etched in my mind for all-time. Unfortunately, these things do not always happen like that. It would be several times after reading her name that something finally clicked. I have been on this quest with various deities for quite some time now, and it is always a different circumstance each time. Sometimes the signs are subtle, and at other times they smack you upside the head. Abnoba had tried both methods with me before I finally took notice. Now that I realized she was trying to get my attention how was I to get to know her? My quest was only just beginning.
Searching for Abnoba
When I explore a relationship with any deity the facts are my first course of action. I began to explore what we know about Abnoba. I would quickly learn that the answer to that question was a resounding; not much. Sites online abound describing her various traits, but how did they know? I must admit to occasionally being obtuse to the spiritual aspects of communicating with the divine. When getting to know a deity I have a bad habit of opting for academics at the exclusion of trying to have a real experience. As for Abnoba, I would learn to get over that after a time, but for now I still needed to do more research.
The information on Abnoba is scant. I finally located several inscriptions in my research. There are, in fact, ten inscriptions that bear her name. That was all that I had in the beginning. Some dedications to Abnoba scrawled onto some stones well over 1500 years ago. She came to me with no mythology, or even folklore, to help and understand her traits. Today many of the dedications are barely even decipherable. On a few of these dedicatory stones all that can be read is her name. At least I had a name to start my research. I was met with another hurdle. Apparently, the etymology of her name is not a settled topic. However, the common consensus is that it derives from the Gaulish word for ‘river’ — abona.
My research began to turn up another interesting fact. Each of these inscriptions had something in common. They were all found located in, or very near, to the Black Forest region of southwestern Germany. Next, I would learn that the Roman writer Tacitus would reference a Mount Abnoba as the source of the Danube. This makes a lot of sense as the Danube does actually have its source in the Black Forest. Finally, my search was starting to take off. My luck continued with the discovery that a statuette in her likeness exists! I was getting very excited at this point. Unfortunately, I quickly discovered the statue was headless. Still, the image was intriguing.
In the image, Abnoba stands wearing a tunic with a quiver slung over her shoulder. Next to her on the ground is her hound companion who appears to have caught a hare in its paws. I would soon discover how strikingly similar this image of Abnoba was to one of the Roman Diana. This connection to Diana I would go on to learn was one that seemed apparent to the people who had honored Abnoba in the past. On at least two occasions (a possible third instance may have existed at one point but the inscription has since been lost) Abnoba is given ‘Diana’ as an epithet.
Constructing an Altar
I could now physically see how people of the past envisioned Abnoba. What steps should I take next? I decided it was time to do what I had done for years when getting to know other deities, and construct an altar. I personally do not feel enough can be said on the importance of having dedicated sacred space. Over the years I have become quite adept at altar construction. My unrelenting fascination with the divine had been with me for years, and this was my go-to response. These past relationships with other deities would quite frequently dissipate over time. I would typically take this personally. Now I know that is just how things occasionally go. A deity may show up for a particular lesson, or be there to introduce you to other deities.
Oftentimes my altars have been sparse in their ornamentation, consisting of a candle, offering dish, and an incense burner. If I am lucky, I locate some form of an image that at least reminds me of the deity in question. I would start with these elements once again; at least for a time. I essentially needed a quiet place to pray and meditate. That is why I think altars are so imperative to reaching out to the divine. Despite my academic leanings, I knew that I would have to take it upon myself to do the work and reach out to Abnoba. It is so easy for me to get lost in the learning to the point that I lose interest in what I am studying. I then miss out on taking that important step of applying what I have learned to real spiritual experiences.
Now I had the knowledge, and I had the sacred space. For my next step, I again went with my standard. I made my first offering. It was simple enough, some incense and some fresh water. I offered this up with a simple prayer asking for Abnoba to accept my offering. This is usually something I make a habit of when working with any god or goddess. I think offerings and prayer is such a great, and often understated, way of getting to know a deity. On many occasions, when I began praying to a deity I have learned through ‘talking’ with them whether or not the relationship is viable. A few instances have resulted in semi-regular offerings even to this day, but more often than not this relationship did not last. The connection to Abnoba would run much deeper.
Working with Epithets
It is through prayer that I would come to see that Abnoba had been with me for years. She felt so familiar that it was hard not to notice this. That constant call to the wilderness had been there from a young age. It was through connecting to her in nature that I began referring to her as ‘Goddess of the Wilds’ with increasing frequency. She seemed to respond rather well to this, and given the location of her worship, I did not feel it was a stretch of the imagination to call her by that epithet. It is the use of other bynames that I feel I gained a better understanding of her. So, what other epithets do I know her by?
We have now seen that through her name, and a possible connection to the Danube, that Abnoba may be associated with rivers. Goddesses of Gaul are frequently tied to land and water features. In fact, in Badenweiler Germany Abnoba was honored at a thermal spring. Thermal springs often hold a strong association with healing. This led me to connect Abnoba to that role. Over time, ‘Goddess of Health’ has become a title that I have called Abnoba by. In this guise I have often prayed to her at times of need regarding medical procedures for both myself and others.
When I discovered that a dedication to Abnoba was found at a villa rustica near Pforzheim Germany I was slightly surprised. A villa rustica was a term for grand countryside estates during the time of the Roman Empire. These villas would typically consist of a main house with additional areas for animals and crops. This is not entirely out of the scope of possibilities as Diana was honored in the countryside as well. It is through this association that I have come to honor Abnoba in some of my domestic activities such as home repairs, grounds keeping, and even tending to my pets. ‘Goddess of the Homestead’ is the title I give to her in this role.
As you can imagine, getting to know a goddess with little known information is not easy. While I did put in a lot of research to get to know her it was so much more than that. It took a lot of time spent in prayer. Some of this time I was convinced she did not even hear me. It consisted of a lot of meditation, which is not an easy task for someone with my mind. Through it all I got to know a goddess who was far more than those ten inscriptions. Those dedications did help to inform my practice to a large extent, but the personal interaction time that I invested is what really paid off. I hope that this has maybe encouraged you to reach out to Abnoba, or another little-known deity. They really have so much to share with us.