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Maponos

MAPONOS

MAPONOS , a Celtic deity associated with youth, but of otherwise uncertain attributes, was identified by the conquering Romans with Apollo. The name is attested by several Romano-British and Gallo-Roman inscriptions in insular Britain and Gaul. It has also been found in an inscription in Gaulish at Chamalières (Puy-de-Dôme). In insular Britain, an inscription found in Ribchester, County Durham, reads "Deo sancto Apollini Mapono(o)," and another found in Hexham, County Northumberland, reads "Apollini Mapono" (Corpus inscriptionum Latinarum, Berlin, 1863, vol. 7, nos. 218, 1345). These indicate with exactitude the interpretatio Romana: Maponos is Apollo in his aspect of youth, an interpretation that takes into account the meaning "young man" associated with the stem map- ("son") and the theonymic suffix -ono-s.

Although no accounts of Gaulish theology survive, the name is enough to prove that the two aspects of the Celtic Apollo that are attested in Irelandgod of youth and leech godalso existed in Gaul and in insular Britain. The Irish equivalent is Mac ind Óg ("young son"), whose other name is Oenghus ("only choice"), son of Daghdha and of Boann, wife of Elcmhaire. Mapono's conception is recounted in the first version of the cycle of Édaín: Daghdha has sent Elcmhaire away and has magically suspended the course of the sunand consequently the march of timefor nine months. The child is thus born on the evening of the day he was conceived. For this reason he is both the symbol of youth and the god of time, in opposition and complementarity to his father, the god of eternity.

Under the name of Mac ind Óg he is the hero of the adventure known as The Taking of the Sid, and, under the name of Oenghus, he is one of the principal personages of the cycle of Édaín. To him befalls the adventure of The Dream of Oenghus, a tale of a quest for sovereignty disguised as an amorous anecdote. And it is he who, at the end of the cycle, will vainly fight with Patrick over Eithne (Édaín), a personification of Ireland.

The Welsh form Mabon mab Modron ("Mabon son of Modron": Modron from *matrona, "mother") is attested on several occasions, for example in the story Culhwch and Olwen. But this account gives only very brief indications as to his character: It is said only that he is kept prisoner from birth and that King Arthur ends up releasing him during the quest for marvelous objects needed for the marriage of Culhwch and Olwen.

Bibliography

Guyonvarc'h, Christian-J., and Françoise Le Roux. Textes mythologiques irlandais, vol. 1. Rennes, 1980.

Le Roux, Françoise. "Notes d'histoire des religions, V. 9: Introduction à une étude de l' 'Apollon celtique.'" Ogam 12 (1960): 5972.

Mac Cana, Proinsias. Celtic Mythology. Rev. ed. Feltham, U.K., 1983.

FranÇoise Le Roux (1987)

Christian-J. Guyonvarc'h (1987)

Translated from French by Erica Meltzer

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