Mōdru

Meaning of Name: “The Mothers.”

Pronunciation: The ‘o’ is pronounced as the ‘o’ in ‘go’ and the ‘u’ is pronounced as the ‘o’ in ‘do’.

Other Names:
Matronae/Matres (Roman, Gallo-Roman)

Function: Rudolf Simek links the Modru of Bede’s Mōdraniht with the Gallo-Roman Matres and Matronae, a Northwestern European incidence of divine ancestral mother figures, and positions them as something distinct in their worship from the later Norse practice of the Disir and Dísablót, which make the Modru categorically different from the Old English Ides, a collection of female spirits[1].  Phillip A. Shaw is in agreement, supporting Bede’s account of the Mothers with Romano-Germanic votive pieces.  This would place them closer in expression to the earlier forms in the Roman world, rather than the later Norse[2].

To Bede’s world, the heathen Mōdraniht was a sacrifice that fell the night before the beginning of Geola, although the recorded proceedings of the rite were ultimately never made.  This holiday is held by some to be the beginning of the Anglo-Saxon new year.

The Modru, as native representations of the Matres, are tribal and local Goddesses that take their place in the continuum of regional worship.  They represent fertility, plenty, and fate, and are, like their Gallo-Roman predecessors, potentially associated with other ancestral mother figures.

Iconography: None known.  Gallo-Roman and Roman iconography portrays the Matres in groups of three, with motifs of plenty: seated or standing female figures, with one breast bared or one’s hair uncovered, accompanied by children or babies, with fruit (particularly apples), cornucopias, coins, bread, boats, and spinning materials (reflecting fate).  Portrayal of the Matronae (as opposed to the Matres) are periodically without coverings, which mark a distinction between the two groups.  Iconography of the Matres and Matronae also contain flora and fauna, typically oak trees on their altars, birds, snakes, goats, and dogs.

Attested Sources: The Venerable Bede gives us our best source for a native Anglo-Saxon experience of the Modru in his De Temporum Ratione: the term Mōdranecht, or Mōdraniht, or “Night of the Mothers”.  This night takes its place as one of three known holiday periods associated with specific deities in the Old English corpus.

Interpretatio Romana: The Matres and Matronae.  Less specifically, they can also be associated with the female Iuno of each family, and one’s female ancestors.


[1] 
 Simek, Rudolf, translated by Angela Hall. Dictionary of Northern Mythology, 2007, pgs. 205-207.
[2] Philip A. Shaw, Pagan Goddesses in the Early Germanic World: Eostre, Hretha, and the Cult of the Matrons, (Bristol Classic Press: London), 2011.

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