The Water, Sublime Goddess



Ahuardua is a composition formed by the pairing of the PGmc*ahwō (water), which is the ancestor to OE ēa (flowing water, river), OS aha and ON á, both meaning the same. The ultimate root is the PIE *h₂ékʷeh₂ (water) and is a synonym to the root for PIE “water” (*wódr̥ ). The word is one of the oldest descriptive used for water as it is found nearly unchanged in all PIE daughter languages.

The second element is derived from the PGmc *ardugaz (steep, lofty) or from the Proto-Celtic *arduwos (high, to grow) and both are ultimately derived from the PIE *h₃erdʰ (high, to grow). In ModE, through Latin arduus we have “arduous” (that which requires endurance to overcome, a burden).

It has been speculated by Anthony R. Birley, Andrew Birley and Patrizia de Bernardo Stempel in “A Dedication by the “Cohors I Tungrorum” at Vindolanda to a Hitherto Unknown Goddess” (2013) that the combination formulated the name or title “The Water, Sublime Goddess” and that she was a precursor to many of the deities related to “water” or “heights” with the elements listed above. Stempel stating that the Ahua element is the proper theonym, whereas Ardua is the honourific title relating a sense of “noble”. Much how Arduinna can be translated as “the high goddess”.


The only “pure” attestation to the goddesses name as titled here is on an inscription found in Vindolanda, near Hadrian’s Wall:


That being said, the elements of her name are found in other significant places Arduinna (Celtic Goddess, Ardennes forest),  Aquitaine (Region of France), etc.

There may also exist a direct relationship with the Matronae Ahueccanae (ahua+*wīkwaną: retreating waters) and may have been her aspect while the tides receded. An inscription in Cologne (Ripurian territory) was discovered reading:



It is clear that Ahuardua was worshipped or at least offered dedication to by members of the I Cohors Tungrorum. It is debateable whether this cohors was indeed ethnically Tungri, or perhaps named after the Civitas Tungrorum or previously Atuatica Tungrorum. As for the Tungri, various ancient sources (too exhaustive to enumerate here) relate that they were formed in a similar fashion as the Batavians, which is to say under the pressures, re-location and expulsions by Rome. They are related to the Condrusi, the Eburones, the Caeroesi and the Paemani and that, according to Caesar their name became interchangeable with “German”.

The Tungri were quickly caught up into a wave of Roman expansionism which caused many of their numbers to either enlist in the military or were forced to pay members to the cohors as tribute. Either way, a significant of their population’s warriors were sent to Britain, which is how we have come to have inscriptions made, either by or on behalf of them.

The Tungri lived between the Scheldt and the Rhine, north of the Arduenna Silva and invariably throughout the Meuse Valley which is territory known to have hosteded a number of Frankish tribes. It is possible that they formed relations with the Cugerni (possibly descendant from the Sicambri) and the Ubii as part of the territory of Gallia Belgica.

It should be stated that the Tungri, like most other tribes living in the territory of Germania Inferior in that age, are thought to have been comprised of Gaulish and Germanic elements. The authors of the above mentioned paper go further to argue that the Tungri were trilingual, that is in Latin, Germanic and Gaulish languages (to various degrees).

Returning to Vindolanda, it is important to note that the votive stone to the goddess was located near a spring which in time went on to feed and maintain the communal water supply. It is not the least bit interesting that the divinity acknowledged at that place was given such an impressive name. Perhaps, the site was well known to flood (which led to it’s abandonment later on) and the contamination of the water supply by the camp’s refuse and lavatory system.

According to Pliny in his Natural History:

“The Tungri, a state of Gaul, has a remarkable spring that sparkles with innumerable bubbles, with a taste of iron rust, which yet cannot be detected until the water has been drunk. It is a purgative, and cures tertian agues and stone in the bladder. This water also, if fire is brought near it, becomes turbid, and eventually glows red.”

It is the belief of TFA that there is a distinct connection between the curative waters of the Tungrian homeland and their proximity to the Ardennes as well as the hardships of making a life for one’s self in the floodplains of the Low Countries.

The clear ancientness of Ahuardua, a being who seems to go back to the split of PIE daughter cultures as well as the primal, near animistic name/title she was known by… The Water, Sublime goddess… draw a picture of a deep-rooted chthonic divinity who would surely been petitioned to stave off the flood or conversely to call in the tides. Perhaps she was known to be the original source of curative hot-springs (baths) which lead to other “newer” divinities such as Apollo, Sullis, Borvo, Lenus, etc. to benefit from her gifts.

Ahuardua would befit cultivation by those modern practitioners of TFA who live in high tide/flood zones or near natural springs. No doubt she could be sought after for her curative aspects, perhaps by offering her a few coins as was done at a number of ancient springs/rivers by the elder heathens looking to win her over.