Finding Nehalennia

Atefwepwawet’s post inspired me to write about my own journey to Nehalennia. What made me search for this “forgotten Goddess”, and what drew me to her when I finally found her? This particular journey starts about eight to ten year ago. I’d been a witch for about thirteen years, I was part of a coven, had been granted my third degree initiation, together with the title High Priestess. In our coven many Goddesses (but no Gods) were represented and honoured during ritual. Within our tradition (heavily Wiccan influenced, but not Wiccan) people were encouraged to search for “their” Goddess, what is now mostly known as a Matron. One Goddess (and God, though no one except me and my partner had a Patron) that would guide you and that you would worship and honour. In my coven at the time we had Lilith, Isis, Pele, Aradia (not a Goddess, we know), the Morrigan, and Danu. We were also part of a bigger organization of covens, where the Egyptian Gods were very popular. I myself was a dedicated priestess of the Sumerian Goddess Inanna. In 2006 I had done a dedication ritual to her, and her sister Erishkigal a few years later, both “as long as the Goddess walks with me”. I know that people change, that paths wind and twist and can lead you to where you never thought you’d be. So I made room for that change. And, in 2012, I had found Inanna’s connection waning, making room for something new.

I remember standing in the circle during ritual, listening to everyone call upon their Goddesses and thinking “aren’t these all so far from home?”. I remember wondering if there shouldn’t be something or someone closer. From here. From the land upon which we stood. And then I wondered why I didn’t know this already? Why this wasn’t something I had looked into before? I knew we had worshipped the Norse Gods in these parts, but knew almost nothing of them. And what about more local? Were there even Dutch Gods and Goddesses: deities tied to our own lands and traditions? I made a vow, that same night, to, in the very least, start searching.

Photo by Dominik Lückmann on Unsplash

When you type in “Dutch Goddess” in any search bar Nehalennia is going to be one of the first names to come up. Information that is readily available all say the same things; Goddess of the Sea, guardian of sailors, goddess of prosperity and the harvest. Worshipped in what is now Nieuw Zeeland and she may have been Roman, or Celtic, or Germanic. I did some research and while I was intrigued (and found out that I had read about her before) there was no connection there. This was a Goddess we already knew (I thought), I wanted to find the ones we had really forgotten (hubris, anyone?). I delved deeper, found old books and articles, started reading history journals and archeology magazines as old as 1865. I found twenty six unique Dutch deities, one of which specifically piqued my interest: Baduhenna. I wrote down all I could find in a word document, without citing sources — what was past-me thinking? I was hoping to write one article about them. Eventually I wrote several for a few of them.

Around that same time my world view was changing. I was doubting if the Gods where even real or if they were thoughtforms, or archetypes. The research was now purely one of interest, to connect to the past, but nothing spiritual. I became an atheist witch for a while, but that also didn’t feel right.

March 2017. Nehalennia has been on my mind again and this time, I took the time to look deeper. To study her like I studied the others. And I found a treasuretrove of information. What I also found was that there were two temples dedicated to her in the Netherlands. One in the historical reenactment park Archeon, where me and my coven sisters witnessed and participated in a “ritual”, and one which was rebuilt near where the original had been found: on Colijnsplaat in Nieuw Zeeland. During my search I found that his temple is also used. That there is a small group of people dedicated to Nehalennia, today. A group of pagans that use this temple to perform their public rituals. The next one: Ostara 2017. Me and my coven sisters go, and I’m immediately enchanted.

It wasn’t enough of a pull, however. I had absolutely loved the ritual, but was it because of Nehalennia, or was it because of the people and the style? A lot more loose and free and ancient than our tradition. I wasn’t convinced. Luckily that same year there was another ritual, bigger, with a festival and everything. So, on Mabon of that same year, we made the trek again. This time it was clear. I could feel the pull of the sea, connect to the land and the past in a way I never could before. Had experiences with other pagans and witches that I felt deeper within me than many before that. There was a feeling of ancientness, of primal and wildness, that I had been seeking my entire path, but hadn’t been able to find. I found it there. I found it with Nehalennia.

Nehalennia statue at the harvest festival

2 thoughts on “Finding Nehalennia

  1. Wow, what an amazing journey, thank you for sharing it! You’ve had such a rich experience with so many different deities and pantheons, must provide quite a good overall perspective. And anything you post on those Dutch gods I bet will be in high demand, since there’s not a lot in English available. (I also wanted to sympathize with the bit about taking notes without sources and then being unable to find that source again, that has happened to me way too many times… )

    And I had no idea that the temple was still used — I figured that it was more of a museum. That’s fantastic!

    Liked by 1 person

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