Reve

Reve is another largely unknown Iberian deity, though he appears to have been an important god, even if there’s no clear idea of his exact nature and functions. For not only is the information scarce, it’s also contradictory and modern scholars have offered conflicting possibilities.

1. Information
There are thirteen known votive inscriptions to Reve, found in the regions of Ourense, Vila Real, Guarda, Castelo Branco and Portalegre, the latter in the municipality of Arronches (Encarnação et al. 2008: 89). Additionaly, there are pieces from the Galician-Portuguese border area with solely the name Larauco, which is also that of the local mountain range and is used as an epithet for Reve in an altar from Baltar, Ourense (Olivares Pedreño 2002: 173). The same mountainous area also produced a stone carving of a human figure with a large club or hammer, though it lacks a text that allows for a clear identification of who’s being depicted (Villa 2013: 198-9).

Sites where traces of Reve’s cult have been found (yellow), plus the altars to Larauco (green). Map my own.

Among the known epigraphic evidence there’s the inscription of Cabeço de Fráguas (Guarda, Portugal), which records a sacrifice to Reve, among other deities, and where the name of the god is followed by an incomplete epithet that reads Tre[…] (Blázquez Martínez 2009: 54). More problematic is the reference to a Reo Bormanicus in Caldas de Vizela (Encarnação 2015: 144), since it has been read by some as a variant spelling of the theonym (Redentor 2013: 222), adding to Reuue, Rebe or Reva, the latter of which is the source of considerations on the gender of the deity. There are also clearly recorded epithets, such as Anabaraego, Reumiraego, Veisuto, Langanitaeco, Marandicui and of course Larauco.

2. Interpretations
Regarding the origin of the theonym, the predominant theory points to *Hreu- (river or water stream), as suggested by Francisco Villar, Prósper and Blázquez (Monteiro Teixeira 2014: 86), meaning Reve would be an aquatic god. There are however alternative proposals, like António Tovar’s, who puts forward *rewe – “field” or “plain” (1985: 245) – and the thesis that suggests an origin in the Indo-European *dyeus, which is also where the theonyms Jupiter and Zeus come from (Witczak 1999: 70-1). This was rejected by Prósper, who pointed out the difficulties of an evolution of d- to r- (2009: 205-6).

The aquatic interpretation is reinforced by the epithets, since Langanitaeco can mean “large river” (Alarcão 2001: 307), Veisuto may be derived from the notion of flow (Blázquez Martínez 2006: 212) and Anabaraecus can perhaps have a watery meaning since a mausoleum from Mérida depicts the rivers Ana and Baraecus (Alarcão 2009: 88). This latter piece is also used to substantiate the theory that Reve’s cult came from that region (Monteiro Teixeira 2014: 87), making Anabaraecus not just an epithetic reference to the joining of two water courses, but also a trace of the local origins of the god, a bit like Turibrigensi signals Ataécina’s. However, Armando Redentor proposes that the worship of Reve started in Galicia (2013: 229) and states that the inscriptions on the altar from Caldas de Vizela can be read as Reo Bormanicus, which would reinforce the aquatic interpretation, since Bormanicus likely comes from the notion of bubbling water (Redentor 2013: 223-4). Also worth noting is the epithet Reumiraego, perhaps “of the river Mira”, in which case the element reu- would again point to Reve’s aquatic character (Blázquez Martínez 2006: 212). It is therefore not surprising that several scholars have put forward the idea that he was a god of the third Dumézilian function, linked to the notions of prosperity and health (Blázquez Martínez 1998: 254).

It’s not as simple, though, since the epithets Larauco and Marandicui, likely references to the mountains of Larouco and Marvão, seem to contradict the watery interpretation and suggest a first function, i.e. sovereignty. Perhaps because of that, Prósper sought to read Marandicui as being tied to a river Maranti (Blázquez Martínez 2006: 233) and suggested Larauco actually meant a territory of the river Larava (Prósper 2002: 130). But one of the altars found in the Galician-Portuguese border area has the words Larauco d(eo) Max(imo) (Olivares Pedreño 2002: 173), suggesting a god en par with Jupiter, especially since another piece found in the area is dedicated to Iovi O(ptimo) Max(imo) (Monteiro Teixeira 2014: 87). Furthermore, the inscription from Cabeço de Fráguas says Reve received a bull, which in an Indo-European context is commonly a sacrificial animal for celestial deities, even if not exclusively. Cardim Ribeiro stressed that detail and also noted that the order in which the several deities are mentioned in Cabeço de Fráguas may indicate their importance, which would place Reve at the top (2010: 42). However, Freitas Ferreira advised caution on that, since it’s just a hypothesis, though she also mentioned that many of the known altars dedicated to Reve were found far away from large rivers, contradicting the aquatic thesis (2012: 87). There’s also the inscription from Arronches, where a sacrifice is also recorded, but it has been read differently: to some, it mentions an offering of ten bulls to Reve (Monteiro Teixeira 2014: 87), making it a ritual match with the text from Cabeço de Fráguas; but according to others, the sacrificial animals were sheep (Encarnação et al. 2008: 93), making less sense in the case of a celestial god.

Amongst this contradictory evidence, there are attempts to harmonize it. So, for instance, António Redentor, based on Prósper, recognized that Reve may have been linked to water streams, but in a torrential fashion comparable to a raging bull, which could be sacrificed to war gods like Indra and Mars (Redentor 2013: 220). In that sense, note also Francisco Villar’s proposal equating Reve with Neptune, the Roman god of waters and not just or even originally of the sea (Alarcão 2009: 100) and to whom bulls were also sacrificed (Adkins 2000: 163). But it was Olivares Pedreño who took the harmonizing efforts further, again making use of a comparative analysis with the Gallo-Roman world and the wider Indo-European context.

According to Pedreño, Reve was in western Iberia what Jupiter was to the Romans and Taranis among the Gauls, based first on a link to mountainous terrain. He thus rejected a connection to health and hot springs, setting aside as well a theory by Fernández-Albalat, who suggested a character similar to Macha’s, which Pedreño believed to be unlikely, as it would overlap with Bandua’s role and therefore be redundant (Olivares Pedreño 2002: 170-1). But while he accepted a mountainous link, he also recognized a watery character, which begs the question of how does he reconcile the two. And the answer is Jupiter’s columns, syncretic monuments erected throughout Gaul in honour of one or more native deities who were assimilated to the greatest of the Roman gods, where Jupiter is depicted on horseback and fighting a serpentine monster. And according to Pedreño, those columns are frequently located near streams and rivers (2002: 176), which he explains through a parallel with Indra, the Hindu god of thunder, and Vritra, a monster who holds the waters captive and whose defeat allows them to flow. In other words, a Gallo-Roman Jupiter in a variation of the Indo-European myth of the thunder god combating a dragon or giant serpent, making the former a benefactor who guarantees cosmic order by ensuring the availability of water (Olivares Pedreño 2002: 177). And this theory is reinforced by altars found along the Rhine and Danube where Jupiter is linked to the aquatic element (Olivares Pedreño 2002: 178.2). Reve would thus be a celestial mountain god whose atmospheric action feeds the rivers, much like the old Jupiter, who despite the political role acquired during the Republican period and perhaps the monarchy still kept epithets that tied him to weather phenomena (Olivares Pedreño 2002: 179.2).

As for the altar with the inscription Reo Bormanicus, José d’ Encarnação argues that the text was tweaked by a stonemason who turned a D into an R (2015: 144), meaning the original text might have been Deo Bormanicus. And regarding the possibility of a female partner named Rea, Francisco Villar and others have demonstrated that the theonym is male since that’s also the gender of the epithets (Olivares Pedreño 2002: 175.2; Prósper 1999: 179).

3. Work hypothesis
Pedreño’s theory appears to be the one that best harmonizes the different pieces of information and offers an inclusive interpretation. Which is why I’m opting for it, defining Reve as a mountain god. Not in the sense of Ilurbeda, who presides over the mines and maybe the paths, nor Endovélico, who’s a deity of the interior of a specific hill, but an atmospheric god who, so to speak, steps on the highest portions of land, where the ground touches the heavens and frees the rains that feed the mountainous springs of great rivers. Think of Star Mountain, out of which flows the Mondego, or better yet Star Mountain covered in clouds, shrouded in a storm or wrapped up in blizzard, when Reve touches the earth. Which is pretty much what Miranda Green wrote about Celtic sky gods, i.e. that they were deeply and often connected to mountains, but were also weather deities similar to the old Jupiter (2011: 64-5).

4. Ideas for a modern cult
Thus, much like what I said for Ilurbeda, Reve’s modern festive days can be based on the natural cycles of a mountain, in particular weather patterns like snow storms, the beginning and ending of the rainy season or the prolonged presence of clouds on the summit. Even if you live away from large mountains, you can still use criteria like the first thunderstorm of the year or a season and also the occurrence of natural flooding. Of course, these imply moveable feasts and therefore hard to plan in advance. For more stable criteria, you can resort to the tradition in which you worship Reve: for instance, if it’s Roman polytheism and given that Jupiter is honoured on the Ides, you can pick the 13th or 15th of one or more months to organize a celebration to Reve.

You can also use modern symbols as clues. For example, the oak, which has a long tradition as a tree of thunder or sky gods, can help determine the date of a feast based on whether its shedding its old leaves or showing new ones. As for animals and also in line with similar deities, the bull and the eagle are solid options.

Following the historical precedent of the epithets Larauco and Marandicui, you can create modern version that connect Reve to other mountainous ranges and even pair him with goddess of the sky or waters (or both). For instance, Nabia is a good candidate for that role, more so since she already has an equally historical precedent of a link to Jupiter and Coronus – who may have been a local celestial god.

Works cited
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BLÁZQUEZ MARTÍNEZ, José María. 2009. “Teónimos hispanicos. Addenda y corrigenda. V”, in Palaeohispanica, volume 9. Zaragoça: Institución «Fernando el Católico», pages 39-61.

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CARDIM RIBEIRO, José. 2010. “Algumas considerações sobre a inscrição em “Lusitano” descoberta em Arronches”, in Palaeohispanica, volume 10. Zaragoça: Institución «Fernando el Católico», pages 41-62.

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MONTEIRO TEIXEIRA, Sílvia. 2014. Cultos e cultuantes no Sul do território actualmente português em época romana (sécs. I a. C. – III d. C.). Master’s Dissertation in Arcaheology, Lisboa: Faculdade de Letras da Universidade de Lisboa.

OLIVARES PEDREÑO, Juan Carlos. 2002. Los Dioses de la Hispania Céltica. Madrid: Real Academia de Historia; Universidad de Alicante.

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REDENTOR, Armando. 2013. “Testemunhos de Reve no ocidente bracáro”, in Palaeohispanica, volume 13. Zaragoça: Institución «Fernando el Católico», pages 219-235.

TOVAR, António. 1985. “La inscripción del Cabeço das Fráguas y la lengua de los Lusitanos”, in Actas del III Coloquio sobre Lenguas y culturas paleohispánicas, ed. J. de Hoz. Salamanca: Universidad de Salamanca, pages 227-253.

VILLA, Silvia Alfayé. 2013. “Sobre iconografía y teonímia en el noroeste peninsular”, in Palaeohispanica, volume 13. Zaragoça: Institución «Fernando el Católico», pages 189-208.

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