Last Sunday I attended an event about the goddess Nehalennia in Leiden, organised by the Pagan Federation. We met in a building of the Leiden University, where we listened to a very interesting talk by GardenStone. He has done 4 years of research on Nehalennia and has written a book about it. First in German, but a translation in Dutch will be available in May this year. I have pre-ordered the book and will get it at the Dutch PFI Conference.
GardenStone told us a lot about the history, the archaeological finds, what we know and don't know about Nehalennia.
I always thought she was a Dutch goddess, but that's not entirely true. The finds are found on what is now Dutch territory, in the province of Zeeland near Colijnsplaat and Domburg. In the time of the Nehalennia worship (about 200 years in the first three centuries of our era) it was Roman territory (Germania Inferior), inhabited by Romans, Celts and Germanic tribes. They asked her for protection (safe passage over sea to Brittanica), fertility (agriculture, fruit culture), high profits & prosperity in trade and guidance for the souls of the deceased.
There is a lot of speculation about the origins of her name. The most likely (linguisticly explicable) explanation is from West-Germanic: 'she who lives near the water'. Neha =nearby, halen/lenne = water area, -ia = female suffix.
Her symbols can be found on the votive stones that were retrieved: apples and pears, a dog, a little cloak (pellerine), ship artefacts, a canopy of shells and sometimes a curtain.
After the talk and lunch we walked to The Dutch National Museum of Antiquities (Rijksmuseum van Oudheden). In their 'Netherlands in the Roman Era' area they have a lot of Nehalennia votives and altars on exhibition. I made pictures there; you can see them in this album.