The ancient Celts liked to do things a little differently when it came to their gods. They took one look at the Greco-Roman god Apollo and thought “no way dude, that guy’s boring… pretty sure the god doesn’t look like that.” (What, you don’t think the ancient Celts talked like that?)
Nope, they thought, the god definitely looks like something more… well… four-legged. And pointy-nosed.
In fact, they were so convinced that they named him Moritasgus, which scholars have analyzed and believe means… Great Badger. Or maybe Sea Badger. Either way, he’s a giant badger god of healing.
The god’s epithet (or, what they called him) has been found on four inscriptions at the ancient city site of Alesia, and two of those are what identify him with Apollo. Moritasgus also had a consort named Damona who—in keeping with the animal-epithet tradition—means “Divine Cow.”
The ancient Celts liked to devote various objects to the Great Badger, most of which were models of affected body parts like limbs, internal organs, genitals, and eyes—and archaeologists have also found surgeons’ tools near these votive offering sites, which may suggest that the god’s priests acted as surgeons in their duties to the healing god.
The ancient city site where the inscriptions were found is also the site of a shrine dedicated to Moritasgus, near a spring believed to have healing properties. Pilgrims to the shrine would have bathed in the pool and also journeyed to the god’s nearby temple.
Why a great badger? Badgers do burrow in the earth and re-emerge, which has been thought to symbolize death and rebirth—so it may make sense to give this epithet to a healing god. The concept is also reminiscent of the Celtic belief system’s origins, which were highly animistic.