The Matronae are a collective of Powers that were worshipped through the Roman Empire. We don’t have any writings on them, but we do have a great collection of shrines, artifacts, offerings, and images, suggesting a powerful and complex cultus that was oral in nature.
I learned about the Matronae through the work of River Devora and the extended cultus that has spread from zir research and modern practice. In it we consider the Matronae as a cultus of conquered peoples, given how much of their imagery has been found in Gaul and Germany and other regions.
We approach the Matronae as the collective of powers who have responsibility for X (where X is their title or epithet; there were hundreds such titles for “Matronae of X, Y, or Z” historically and we create new ones in these days). They are the ones that shape the destiny of X, and approaching the Matronae of X is to call collectively to all the powers that spin, weave, and cut the fate of X, who guide and nurture X, who are responsible, Matrons of, X, and asking them to reply with a single voice.
We do not consider Matronae to be gendered, or rather, we do not consider the Matronae to be specifically Goddesses or Women. Matronae include Gods, spirits, and ancestors. Matronae is a gendered word but there are those who don’t fit into what we would consider a female gender (an odd thing to project onto a nonphysical being anyway) that are responsible for the overall shaping and destiny of things. Also, when calling on the Matronae, you aren’t calling on a single being, but on a collective, just as when you call to Ancestors collectively, thus it makes sense not to concern yourself with individual members who you can call to individually.
The Matronae are depicted as three Matrons, often including two with their hair covered in the manner of married Gaulish women, and one uncovered as a younger woman would be. They are often depicted with a tree, with a well or lake, with the stars above, with a snake coiled around the tree, with certain birds (goose, raven, peacock, crane, dove), with fruit and bread and childcare products, with cornucopias and coins. We have discovered that each part of this imagery is alive and has its own spirit or even deities associated with it. For example, I worship the Serpent, and the Serpent is a collective of Serpent powers in attendance to the Matronae, just as the Matronae are a collective in attendance to the tree, the Axis Mundi in this setting.
I share this for a few reasons: Matronae cultus is beautiful and powerful, reaching out to vast collectives of Powers is so useful at times when you do not know specifically who to pray to, when you need a big result, when you need the authority of those who guide and shape destiny, and when you need to feel the collective vastness of the various things embodied in their many epithets. I share this also because The Serpent is an inextricable part of my practice, and central to it, and many of my deities manifest through it at times. I share this because it is a valuable practice, these Powers like being honored, and I am one of theirs. I share this because if you’re going to read about my polytheist theology you will need a reference point to go back to for aspects of my cosmology.
And I write this so that you know why I have named my blog what I have: the titular Tree is The Tree, the central Tree, and the Serpent is the great Serpent that coils around it, tail in the waters, head in the stars, horns raised against its enemy entropy, who protects life in the form of the tree and its fruits, who is Ladon and many others, who dies so that they may change and changes so that they never die, who traverses the great tree to all the worlds to bring light to the roots, to carry the dead up to the stars, to know all that is going on so that it may bring that wisdom back to the Matronae.
Hail the Matronae, hail the Serpent, and hail the Tree that is the Web of All Things.