Sulis Minerva

Sulis By Hrana Janto

The Music Playing  Is "Celtic Magic"
Played By Akabadabra

Sulis Minerva

Goddess of the Sun and Healing
Patroness of Aquae Sulis
Hot Springs of Bath, England


Sulis, the great British Celtic healer Goddess, was originally a solar and fertility deity.  Sulis’ shrine was located at Bath, England, where her power was strongest.  Some scholars say she was a “Solar” divinity; her name is a derivative of the Celtic word “Sul” for “sun” and “eye,” and Suilead, meaning wisdom. She is also a Goddess of healing waters.

Perpetual fires burned at her shrines, which were natural mineral hot springs.  The Romans called her “Minerva Medica” (healing).  Statues show Minerva Medica as matronly, with a hat made out of a bear’s head, and her foot resting on an owl.  She was also referred to as “Sulis Minerva” by the Romans. Minerva was a virgin warrior dedicated to women’s rights and freedom.  The owl was her sacred bird, and healing and medicine were her themes.  

Sulis is associated with the Roman goddesses Coventina and Nemetona, who were also worshipped at Bath.  She has a connection to Brigit, who was associated with holy wells of healing water in Ireland.  Sulis, like Brigit, was served by priestesses who kept her eternal flame burning.  At Aquae Sulis as well as on the continent, she appears in multiple forms, the three-part Celtic Goddess “Suleviae.”

Symbols on her shrine are antlers, which symbolize the sun’s rays, and eyes, which signify the sun.  The Roman God Mars Loucetius (light) also was invoked at Sulis’ shrine. The Sun is associated with hot springs, connecting hot water with healing.  

On the main temple pediment there is a carved masculine Gorgon head of Celtic origin.  This image relates the Greek myth of Perseus and the Gorgon to the Celtic Goddess Sulis and the Roman Goddess Minerva.  The Gorgon’s snakelike hair represents the waves of the sea as well as the rays of the sun, linking fire and water; Sulis is a Goddess of healing water as well as of the Sun.  The Gorgon has wings on either side of his head, alluding to Air, and he is made of stone, signifying Earth origin.  Therefore, the Gorgon combines all of the four elements.  Gorgons were thought to possess an ‘evil eye,’ which defended one against enemies.

Minerva by Susan Seddon Boulet

The Baths and Shrine at Aquae Sulis

Archaeologists have determined that the hot mineral springs at Bath were in use at least 10,000 years ago.  The first to use the spa were Neolithic hunter-gatherer tribes.  The Celts, who arrived in England around 700 BCE, are believed to have built the first shrine structures at the springs.

The Romans, who arrived in Britain around 43 CE, took over the Celtic shrine, and called the spa at Bath “Aquae Sulis,” the waters of Sulis.  A quarter of a million gallons of hot mineral water (120 degrees Fahrenheit) flowed daily out of the hot springs.  For centuries after the Romans left, the springs were buried under silted deposits.  They were uncovered in the 17th Century by antiquarians.  Columns of the original bath structures stand today, open to the sky as they stood millennia ago, besides the River Avon.

Evidence of the pre-Roman sanctity of the springs is shown by the presence of Celtic coins, cast into the water as votive offerings.  The man-made causeway which led across marshy grown from the southwest to the springs is almost certainly pre-Roman.

The Romans built an imposing temple at the springs in honor of Sulis.  They constructed sumptuous bath buildings, a great altar and a reservoir for the sacred spring water. The bathing complex was designed so that the visitor could look from the main hall of baths to the actual spring, bubbling up from the earth.  The bathing pools were fed with a constant flow of water through lead pipes which still function today, and the largest bath was lined with 42 sheets of lead whose combined weight exceeded 8 ½ tons.

Once the Roman legions departed from Britain early in the fifth century CE, the city and its baths fell into decline.  However, the town was not abandoned.  By the seventh century CE, the first Christian structure was established on the ruins of the Roman temple, and for the next twelve hundred years, a succession of churches rose and fell upon the hallowed ground.  The spa was “rediscovered” by the beginning of the 16th century, as royal and aristocratic families arrived to ‘take the cure,’ and by the 1720s, Bath was on its way to becoming a fashionable spa.

The hot mineral waters at Bath contained genuine therapeutic properties for certain types of afflictions.  There was a close link between healing, regeneration and fertility, and patrons of the baths sought the waters for those benefits.  Women patrons sought help for child-bearing and lactation disorders.  Studies of the waters of Bath have revealed the presence of 43 different minerals, including iron, magnesium, potassium, copper and radium.  Although the early people who came to the spa for healing had no way to determine the nature of these minerals, the springs have been venerated as a healing site since Neolithic times.  Can this be yet another indication of the energetic resonance between humans and the Earth?

Ritual procedures at Bath included immersion in the hot waters, drinking the sacred waters and sleeping at the shrine in the hopes of a curative vision.  Sacrifices and festivals were also held, and offerings of money, jewels, shoes, spindle-whorls and coins have been found, as well as moulds for making amulets to be sold to patrons.  The most common mould was of a solar wheel.

Sulis was also venerated as a Goddess of Justice.  Researchers found 130 “curse-tablets” at the site; these were petitions to the Goddess, telling her the nature of the wrongdoing; the name (if known) of the wrongdoer, and graphic details of the desired retribution.  These tablets were inscribed on thin sheets of pewter or lead, rolled up, addressed to the Goddess Sulis or Sulis Minerva, and cast into Sulis’ spring.  It is interesting to note that not a single Roman citizen is mentioned in any of the curse-tablets; the names are all of Celtic origin.  Although the curse-tablets mainly sought retribution for the theft of personal property from patrons of the spa, the remedies sought were often harsh.

It is interesting to note that the Celts had no male God of war, such as Ares – they invoked a war Goddess.  They also did not have a Goddess of Love, such  as Aphrodite.  Celtic goddesses evolved from manifestations of the Neolithic Great Mother in her incarnations as maiden, mother and crone, all identified with the Earth.

Sulis’ Attributes

Rules:  Joy, success, leadership, healing, light
Day:  Sunday
Element:  Fire
Colors:  Gold, yellow
Sign:  Leo
Jewel:  Topaz, yellow diamond
Angel:  Raphael
Incense:  Cinnamon, cloves, frankincense, laurel
Plants:  Acacia, bay laurel, chamomile, citrus fruits, honey, marigold, sunflower
Trees:  Acacia, ash, bay laurel, birch
Animals:  Eagle, lion, phoenix

Sulis Ritual for Healing

Best conducted at the waxing or Full Moon, on a Sunday

Bath:  Sea salt, oil of rose, pine or sage, Goddess Oil or favorite oil for Self Blessing.  White clothing or skyclad.
Goddess candle, yellow or gold; 3 candles in any combination of blue and green; 1 white Self candle, athame
Sage for purification, or spring water with sea salt
Incense:  Rose, sage or rosemary for healing or frankincense for solar power
Flowers:  any gold or yellow flowers (odd number)
Music:  Native American flute, or Celtic harp, or other calm instrumental

Ritual Bath:  Before beginning the ritual, fill bathtub with comfortably hot water.  Add a handful of sea salt, and oil of rose, pine or sage.  Bring Self candle into bathroom, light it, turn out electric lights.  Relax in water, envision your limbs floating, weightless.  When the water cools, let it out of the tub, dry off, perform Self-Blessing with Goddess Oil or favorite oil.  Dress in white clothing, or go skyclad. Free hair from all ties and bindings.

Bring white Self candle to altar.

Light sage bundle or incense and purify, or sprinkle altar and room with spring water and sea salt.

Cast the Circle deosil, and invoke the directions:
 “Hail. Guardians of the Watchtowers of the East, Powers of Air, be with me now!  Goddess Mother of Eagles, be welcome!” (Inscribe invoking pentacle)
“Hail, Guardians of the Watchtowers of the South, Powers of Fire, be with me now!  Goddess Brigit, be welcome!” (Inscribe invoking pentacle)
Hail, Guardians of the Watchtowers of the West, Powers of Water, be with me now!  Goddess Cordelia, be welcome!” (Inscribe invoking pentacle)
Hail, Guardians of the Watchtowers of the North, Powers of Earth, be with me now!  Goddess Aine, be welcome!” (Inscribe invoking pentacle).
Say, “This is a place that is not a place in a time that is not a time.  We are between the Worlds.”

Invocation:  The purpose of this ritual is to invoke Sulis’ divine powers of Healing and to transmit them with all love and good intent to (myself or other person in need).

Light Blue and Green candles.

Play calming music.  Sit facing altar and contemplate the candle flames as they burn steadily.  Close eyes and keep image of candle flame.  Slow breathing; be aware of air traveling gently in and out of your nose.  
Consciously relax your body; bring your attention first to your feet, then to your legs, up your torso, to your arms and finally to your face, so that all your muscles are relaxed and receptive.
Now see the candle flame that burns in your mind’s eye begin to grow.  Soon it becomes the Sun, golden and radiant.  You can look at this Sun without hurting your eyes; it is gentle and loving.  As you watch the Sun, it changes; sometimes it is a Gorgon’s face, with hair and beard that look like sun rays.  Sometimes it is a woman’s smiling face, her hair streaming out in all directions.  Sometimes it is the light glancing off a great shield of gold and glass, held by stern Minerva.  Slowly open your eyes and stand up.

Invoke Sulis
Light Sulis’ yellow or gold candle.  Turn to the South and raise hands, palms forward:  “Goddess Sulis, patroness of the healing springs and of the Sun, be welcome to my Circle.  Bring your healing love to me.”  Feel the warmth of the Sun on your head, on your face, on your body, and as you breathe in, feel the warming power of Sulis’ healing in your lungs, your belly, your blood, your heart.

Body of Ritual
Sit facing altar, keeping Sulis with you.  Turn your gaze inward and again visualize the golden Sun, feel its warmth.  Sulis sits beside you; feel her warm hand on your shoulder.  Pray:  “Be with me, Goddess Sulis, as I gather healing for (myself or a loved one).”  Visualize white and golden rays mingling, streaming from the face of the Sun.  Raise your hands, palms upward, and feel the healing streaming into your palms; it may tingle or pulse.  Notice the healing moving up your arms, into your chest and your heart, suffusing your entire body.
If you are healing yourself, open without reservation and allow the healing to stream to the tips of your fingers and toes; visualize what is ailing and see it surrounded by white and golden light.  See yourself as whole and healthy, dancing in the Sunlight.

If you are sending healing to someone else, say, “Goddess Sulis, be with me as I send Your healing power to (name).”  Feel the healing concentrate, great beams of white and golden light, in your heart.  Raise your arms, palms outward, send the rays through your arms and hands and hurl them through time and space to the person you wish to heal.  Feel the healing streaming out of your palms.  Sulis rests her hands on your shoulders and streams the healing with you.
After a while you will feel the healing rays subside and then slowly fade.

Raise Cone of Power
Return your attention to the present; be aware of the music playing softly.  Dance, swirl and move to the music.  Sulis dances with you, her long hair flying. You can still feel Her hands in yours.  Then, She releases your hands.

Kneel, put your palms on the ground and rest your forehead between them.  You may need to stay this way for a while (much power raised!).

Open the Circle
Moving counterclockwise, open the Circle.  Thank the Watchtowers, saying to each in turn, “Leave if you must, stay if you will.”
Thank the Goddess Sulis, saying, “Leave if you must, stay if you will.”

Ground again if necessary.  Say, “The Circle is open but unbroken; the love of the Goddess is ever in our hearts.  Merry meet and merry part, and merry meet again.”

Sulis’ Priestess
Original Work By Dame Niamh

sulis collage

Sun-faced Mother, when I was very small, they brought me to Your Temple.
“Look,” they said, “Our offering to You, our sun-haired daughter,
To be Your postulant.”  They left.    
I was only five years old, and I cried, “Mother, Father!”
 I cried and cried, and some old dame, a senior Priestess, took me by the hand.  
“You are most favoured,” said she.  
“Now you are a member of the Goddess’ family.  Now, cry no more.
Come, meet your sisters.”  
Soon I learned to tend the holy fires and fetch the coins
Thrown by the patrons into the Goddess’ spring.  I learned to love
The hot, fetid, bubbling waters that washed away sad memories.
I learned the prayers and chants.  I learned to take the hand of an old blind lady
And bring her to the baths; pour soothing waters over her,
Receive her thanks and blessings.  Soon I learned
The rituals and treatments for the sick.  I learned to be a Healer.
 Patrons pressed my hand, knelt at my feet, thanked me with gifts of gold,
Of cloth, of lyres.  I learned to diagnose old aching bones and joints,
A weakened liver; impending childbirth peril, scanty milk.  I comforted
Mothers bereaved in childbed, and the blind that believed, mistakenly,
That, beholding the Goddess’ face, their sight would be restored.  
My sisters and I read the curse-tablets piously laid in the waters;
Laughed at the punishments asked for the theft of a sandal or a rabbit.  
On the solstices and other solemn nights, we gathered together
At the foot of the Goddess, the Sun, and thanked her for our serene lives.
Now I am old; now I too soak in the bubbling waters, ease my bones.
I never missed an earthly family.  Early transfixed by Sulis’ light,
Sulis’ love filled my heart; Her service filled my days.  
Sometimes I wonder: if I did not serve Her, if I had lived a mundane life,
Married, had children, seen my children’s children,
Would I have come at last to Her, bringing my aging bones?
I think I would. I have lived my life in the Sun.

Bibliography and Credits

Aldhouse,-Green, Miranda, The Sun-Gods of Ancient Europe
Conway, Diana J, Ancient and Shining Ones
Conway, Diana J., The Goddess Path
Cunliffe, Barry and Davenport, Peter, The Temple of Sulis Minerva at Bath
French, Claire, The Celtic Goddess: Great Queen or Demon Witch
Green, Miranda –The Gods of Roman Britain
Monaghan, Patricia, The New Book of Goddesses & Heroines
Monaghan, Patricia, The Goddess Path
Monaghan, Patricia, Encyclopedia of Celtic Mythology and Folklore
Starhawk, The Spiral Dance, 20th Anniversary Edition
Telesco, Patricia, 365 Goddess

Special thanks to Hrana Janto, for her magnificent portrait of Sulis at
Martin Gray’s Websites, (Minerva, the Celtic Connection)


This page is the intellectual and creative property of Dame Niamh