There are eleven known altars to Quangeio, almost all of them found in modern-day Portugal: two in the municipality of Sabugal, two in Penamacor’s, one in Fundão’s, three in Nisa’s and one in Borba’s, adding to one in the Spanish province of Caceres and another in Galicia. Not all of them are accepted as valid by every scholar, since there are doubts on the one found in Fundão and the context of Borba’s (Olivares Pedreño 2002: 29.1). Also seen as problematic by some is the altar found in Galicia, in the municipality of Verín, not so much because of the minor variation in spelling – it reads Quamgeius instead of Quangeius – but due to its great distance from the other pieces (Olivares Pedreño 2002: 93.1).
There’s nonetheless a clear concentration of altars in the modern-day Portuguese inner Beira – the districts of Castelo Branco and Guarda – which would have been part of pre-Roman Lusitania. Interestingly, in votive inscriptions found elsewhere, namely south of the river Tagus, Quangeio is given epithets, namely Tangus and Turicaecus (Monteiro Teixeira 2014: 85). The same is true for the piece found in the Spanish province of Caceres (Freitas Ferreira 2012: 69). Also, the altars from the Portuguese inner Beira appear to have been dedicated by natives, as suggested by their names (Monteiro Teixeira 2014: 122; Freitas Ferreira 2012: 69), whereas the person who made or commissioned the one from Galicia had a tri nomina, which is characteristic of Roman or Romanized individuals (Freitas Ferreira 2012: 69). This is equally true for some of the pieces found south of the Tagus (Monteiro Texeira 2014: 122), where there’s also the closest thing to a hint of syncretism, since one of the altars to Quangeio was discovered in close proximity to two dedicated to Jupiter Repulsor (Olivares Pedreño 2002: 228.1).
The etymology of the theonym has been the focus of very limited attention by modern scholars, in as much as Prósper’s proposal was the only one I could find. She suggests a root in the Indo-European *kuwon or “dog” (2002: 310) and presents *kwanke/eyo as an adjective. A similar idea was put forward by Francisco Villar in a letter to José d’ Encarnação, where he proposed *kuanikio or “canine”, suggesting Quangeio was the dog god, either in reference to the animal or the star Sirius (Encarnação 2002: 15.1).
Judging from the concentration of altars in the Portuguese inner Beira, he was part of a regional Lusitanian pantheon, so much so that the area around Star Mountain may have been the territorial heart of his cult, from where it expanded into neighbouring regions at some point. As noted by Freitas Ferreira, this possibility is reinforced by the aforementioned use of epithets only in altars from outside that area (2012: 68-9). And notice also that the titles Tangus and Turicaecus were probably connected to human communities (Monteiro Teixeira 2014: 85), suggesting they may have been a way of settling an outside god by way of local epithets.
As for the altar discovered in Galicia and which Olivares Pedreño saw as dubious (2002: 93.1), Freitas Ferreira considered the possibility of it being the product of a migration from the south, from where Quangeio’s cult could have been carried (2012: 69). But that hypothesis is made less plausible by the fact that the individual who dedicated the piece had a tri nomina that was common in northwest Iberia. In other words, it suggests a northerner, not a southern migrant. Still, that’s not enough to validate Pedreño’s doubts, at least not if they’re based solely on the distance from other pieces, since one doesn’t have to imagine a large movement of people to explain the apparent displacement of a cult. It only takes an individual, perhaps a traveller who formed a bond with Quangeio in a distant land and, upon returning home or during another journey, honoured the god with an altar far from his core territory.
Regarding Quangeio’s specific role and status in the Lusitanian pantheon, the only interpretational model that I’m aware of is Olivares Pedreño’s, who, as with Arentio and Arentia, looked at the regional context as a whole instead of taking each cult as an island. Thus, when considering other gods who were worshiped in the Portuguese inner Beira and Spanish Extremadura, he awards them functions according to a Roman equivalence and assuming that gods from the same region would not have identical and therefore redundant roles. Which is a reasonable assumption, even if not an infallible one since, on one hand, there’s only a very fragmented knowledge of pre-Christian Iberian religions and, on the other, one has to use the parameters of one culture to analyse another. Still, by applying Olivares Pedreño’s model, one gets a regional pantheon comprised of Reve, Bandua and Arentio, gods who, so the archaeological remains suggest, were worshipped in more than one place and were therefore of regional importance. And by using the Roman equivalence, which is not without historical basis – for instance, Reve’s identification with Larouco and Jupiter (Olivares Pedreño 2002: 171) – you get the following table:
Which is interesting, even enticing, especially if one makes a comparison between Quangeio and Sucellus, which Olivares Pedreño does (2002: 219-28). Because if iconography is anything to go by, the Gallo-Roman god was connected with prosperity, the underworld and sovereignty (Green 2011: 125). And that supplies a model for Quangeio, who apart from a canine association through etymology could also be linked to Jupiter – as hinted by the aforementioned altars south of the Tagus – and at the same time the underworld, if one is to use Olivares Pedreño’s interpretative model.
Also on the etymology and possibility of a root in *kuwon or “dog”, that same information led Jorge de Alarcão to put forward the idea that Quangeio had a role similar to Hermes’, i.e. a road companion or a protector of travellers (2009: 105). And Silvia Monteiro Teixeira mentions that the theonym could derive from a human group or community that called itself “the dogs” (2012: 85). Which is not impossible and, regarding Alarcão’s theory, it’s worth remembering the altar found in Galicia, so far away from all the others and as such the possible product of a journey. But there’s not enough information on which to build certainties, so whatever the thoughts on Quangeio’s ancient cult and nature, they’ll always be hypothetical, as admitted by Olivares Pedreño himself (2002: 228.1)
3. Work hypothesis
Assuming the etymology proposed by Prósper and Villar is correct and that the theonym Quangeio stands for “dog” or “canine”, that offers a world of possibilities and none in particular. This is so because dogs have a very long history in human cultures and thus accumulated a vast amount of uses and meanings: hunters, keepers, scavengers, guides, healers, companions and hence symbols of war, prosperity, health, safety, loyalty, friendship, death, the underworld or the journey to it. And if Quangeio is a canine god, which of these meanings and functions is his? There’s nothing that allows us to choose this or that and even the hypothetical equation with Dis Pater is on very shaky ground once you make a comparison with Sucellus – who, by the way, could also be accompanied by dogs (Green 1992: 144). So instead of opting for one or the other, I propose a different approach: why choose?
There are well-known cases of deities whose complex nature is expressed by way of an animal that has multiple layers of symbolic meaning. For instance, look at the Norse god Freyr, whose boar represents not just sexuality and reproductive ability, but also prosperity and abundance, as well as the warrior virtues of an animal that can be deadly when threatened. This is equally true for Freyja, who’s simultaneously a deity of lust, wealth and war. But the most comprehensive example is perhaps Epona, a goddess whose name comes from *epos or “horse” (Maier 1997: 108) and presides over pretty much anything that’s horse related: journeys, cavalry (and hence the military), messages, sports, farming, transportation of goods and thus prosperity, sovereignty and so forth. If her animal plays an actual or figurative role in something, she has a word or two to say about it. Which is why I wonder if Quangeio, at least today, can be to dogs what Epona is to horses, linking him to the full symbolic scope of canines, from prosperity, protection and journeys to hunting, medicine, death and the underworld.
Please note that I’m not saying that this was so in the ancient world. I’m just trying to build a work hypothesis that’s drawn from historical information and on which a modern cult can be based. Perhaps in pre-Christian Iberia Quangeio was a dog god in a specific sense, perhaps in a wider one. There’s no way of knowing it. But the enlargement of his divine role, even if modern, wouldn’t be without precedent in the world of polytheistic religions: consider the example of the Hindu goddess Saraswati, who from deity of a particular river became the lady of everything that flows, including the figurative flow of music, writing and knowledge (Jones and Ryan 2007: 387.1). And so, if the widest canine nature is an historical novelty in the worship of Quangeio, then so be it!
4. Ideas for a modern cult
Thus, he can be approach in a manner similar to when dealing with a cherished dog, i.e. with respect, devotion and maybe a small treat to be offered as a gift. Actually, I’ll go as far as saying that a characteristic gesture of Quangeio’s modern cult can be the stretching out of one’s hand towards an image as a form of salute and just as one would when presenting oneself to a dog, allowing it to identify the individual by smelling his/her hand.
In prayers or acts of worship, he can be addressed with epithets for greater precision in one’s words and requests. For instance, Repulsor or Custos for protection, Medicus for healing, Viator when travelling, Psychopompus to lead the dead – humans and animals – and even “Sniffer”, which I’m not sure if it’s translatable into Latin as something like Pharator and can be used when wanting the god’s assistance in finding lost things, animals or people.
Finally, Quangeio’s ancient symbols are unknown, so new ones must be created. One possibility is a canine paw print with a star in the middle, standing for both the divine animal and the celestial body that signals the god’s celebration. Or variations such as a dog’s head with a start above. In this there’s also a territorial reference, since, as stated above and judging from archaeological remains, Quangeio’s ancient cult may have irradiated from the Portuguese inner Beira, which is where Star Mountain or Serra da Estrela is located. And that, by the way, is also the name of a dog breed.
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