Now, as I wrote in the aforementioned post from 2013, my initial intuition was to focus on water and/or moon goddesses, given the local abundance of rivers and streams and what appears to be a centuries-old tradition of lunar cults. In that sense, Diana was certainly an option, but I also wanted to consider Iberian powers, which resulted in a list that at one point had around ten goddesses. Among them was Nabia, who ended up being my first choice. I already had an interest in Her and, as I wrote here, overall She seemed like the most consistent non-Roman option. So I added an annual festival to my calendar and started honouring Her, which had mixed results: while I noticed no negative response, even if the offerings were somewhat clumsy at times, I got no answer when I asked Nabia if She’s the goddess of my hometown and would therefore be willing to be honoured as a household deity. No bird flew near the river, no fish stirred the waters, no dream visited me at night. Maybe I failed to notice a sign, perhaps I should have asked a simpler question, maybe the answer is ‘no’. I decided to give it a rest for a few weeks and return to my list of options with an open mind.
On January 4th, in the spirit of Vialia, I joined a trekking group for a long morning walk. We entered some dense woodland, so dense that at one point there was no way two people could walk side by side, and it was there, surrounded by oak, pine and laurel trees, that my mind brought up a name I had so far failed to consider: Silvanus! I had been so focused on the idea of water goddesses, that I failed to consider woodland gods. And yet, it’s an option that makes perfect sense: a document from c. 1148 describes the site of my hometown as a silva or forest, which is what it was for a long time and still is in many places. The southern end of one of Europe’s largest pine forests is actually just a few kilometres away and even the aquatic element is not without a link to Silvanus, since He’s historically associated with nymphs. “Wood nymphs”, some might say, but if you’ve seen a small river or stream in a dense forest, you know that the water and the vegetation overlap considerably. Even the herding and fruit production that’s part of the local economy falls well within Silvanus’ realm. There’s a reason why He’s traditionally depicted with a batch of fruit and a pruning knife or why some ancient inscriptions refer to Him as Lar Agrestis (the Rustic Lar) and sanctissimus pastor (Most Holy Shepherd). Check Dorcey’s The Cult of Silvanus (1992: 21-4), if you’re wondering about it.
So after mentally connecting these dots and thinking about it, I decided to ask Silvanus directly. Two days ago, I walked up a hill just outside my hometown and entered a wooded area. After placing my right hand on the ground, I greeted the local genii and offered Them corn. I then touched a large pine tree and poured water over its roots, saluting its spirit and asking it to be my intermediary. And afterwards I gave Silvanus a libation of wine before posing the question, to which there was no obvious answer other than the wind blowing and the trees bending gently. At night, I had a dream about something or someone coming over from France, though I’m not sure if it has anything to do with Silvanus. If it does, it may hint at a Celtic connection (I have considered Sucellus) or have something to do with the god moving in, either in the past with Roman soldiers and settlers or in more recent days.
So now I’m meditating on the issue and juggling multiple ideas. My mind keeps reminding me that there are many gods of different types in one place, just as Rome itself had several local deities. Think of Juturna, Palatua and Tiberinus, to name just three examples. In that sense, this may come down to a matter of choice, of choosing which god/desses I want to honour and how. Which reminds me that I can use the backup plan I mentioned above and combine it with Silvanus, worshiping Him and a group of local genii I could call nymphae Alcobacenses, thus following the historical pattern. In fact, that may well be the most satisfying solution, since it includes both a named and multiple unnamed powers, the arboreal and aquatic elements, thereby resulting in a more comprehensive approach to the gods of this land. Heck! Even a local Diana and Nabia may be hinted at through a cult of the nymphs.