She who fulfills high dreams
The etymology of the name Sunuxsal is exceedingly difficult to untangle. There have been various attempts to connect the element *sunu with the Germanic *su(H)-nu- meaning “son”, but it appears far more likely, based on the etymological research of Xavier Delmarre that the root is from the Gaulish *Sunṷo meaning “dream”. The totality of the composition of Sunuxsal would be thus derived from an older combination of the *Sunṷo with the terminal Gaulish *uχso or “high, exalted”, coupled with the adjective *ali which would indicate, much as the Nemetiales Matres of Grenoble that she was a sanctuary goddess. Thus, *Sun(o)-uχs(o)-ali- would have the meaning of “She who fulfills (grants) high dreams”. Although less likely, the etymology derived from Germanic *sunu coupled with the terminal *sal or “place, home, hall” may point to a meaning of her name to be “she who settles the sons”. Because we cannot ascertain for certain which meaning is most properly ascribed to her, it should be left to the practitioner of TFA do discern through their relationship with the goddess which is preferred. For our purposes she will be known as Sunuxsal.
Sunuxsal is interpreted as being a tutelar goddess of the Sunuci tribe, which had settled in the lands near the Ubii in Civitas Agrippinenses (Cologne). They were mentioned by Cornelius Tacitus in the first century CE as having crossed over into Britain early on, while others stayed behind and were slowly absorbed into the Frankish confederacy through various sub-conglomerations (via the Cugerni and Sicambri among others). There are many anthroponymic names throughout the ancient territory of Belgica Secundus, that are related the the same root word as Sunuxsal. These include: Sunua in Aix-en-Savoie, Mari-sunu(s) in Vichy and Iulius Sunnuvesa at Gurzenich to name but a few. We also have significant evidence of her cultus through votive stones found between Bonn and Koblenz, such as the one in Glücksburg which reads:
DEAE SVNVXSALI VLPIVS HVNICIVS VSLM
“To the goddess Sunuxsal, Ulpius Hunicius has set this stone, his vows and deservedly fulfilled”
Another in Britain, which relates to the Cohors Primae Sunicorum in the early 3rd century reads:
IMP CAES L SEPT SEVERVS PIVS PERTINAX ET M AVREL ANTONINVS PIVS AVG [ET P SEPT GETA NOB CAES] RIVOS AQVAEDVCTIVM VETVSTATE CONLABS COH I SVNIC RESTIT … LEG EORVM PR PR … NL …
“Imperator Caesar Lucius Septimius Severus Pius Pertinax, Marcus Aurelius Antoninus Pius Augustus [and Publius Septimius Geta, Noble Caesar]. the streams of the aqueduct, collapsed through old age, were restored by the First Cohort of Sunici, […] their pro-praetorian legate […]”
The relation of the Gaulish root *Sunṷo with that of the Germanic *Swefaną meaning “sleep” can point to concepts of the nebulous dream-state of death. We have evidence in the later Old English corpus of this word for sleep being used much later than the attestation to be a poetic form of “death”, such as we use today to mean the “long sleep”.
In the ancient temple of Varnenum, which draws a correlation between the god Varneno, a bronze dedicatory tablet with the name Sunuxsal was found. Along with this and other tablets were found coins, pins, brooches, pottery and nails. The temple seems to have been destroyed by fire around 70 BCE.
Her connection to the Sunuci, who later became a part of the greater Frankish confederacy, may indicate that she was a prophetic goddess tied to the bounty of the tribe and dictating the engagements of warfare (similar to Veleda). With the encroachment of Roman mystery cults dedicated to native Cybelesque religions, it is not improbable that the ancient tribes of the region either adopted similar religious beliefs or that Roman citizens incorporated the local goddess Sunuxsal in their mystery cultus to punctuate their place among the native population.
In TFA, Sunuxsal can be viewed as a prophetic goddess who guides the hopes, dreams and aspirations of the adherent in matters of prosperity, fertility and warfare. She may also act as psychopomp as do the Valkyries in later Scandinavian and English mythos. Offerings of coins, nails, pottery, brooches and pins seem appropriate as these were common offerings found at various wells, rivers and streams during the Merovingian age. The find of a bronze graven tablet is reminiscent of Chlotilda’s admonition to Clovis, stating: The gods you worship are nothing, and they will be unable to help themselves or anyone else. For they are graven out of stone or wood or some metal.”