Goddess of the Willamette River

I live only a 5 minute walk away from a majestic river named the Willamette.

I’ve watched her through the last two years of seasons, from the summertime when she’s crowded with drunk college kids on inner-tubes and scattered with the dangling chords of fishing poles plunged below her shimmering depths, to the wintertime when her height swells with rain, choppy white peaks beneath the cloudy sky. The sheer force of her is a sight to behold.

The Willamette river is actually a tributary of the Columbia river and is 187 miles long, stretching through the heart of Oregon. Her nourishment has sustained humans for the last 10,000 years.  The first inhabitants included the Kalapuya, the Chinook, and the Clackamas tribes. The river was named by original inhabitants of the area, though no one knows what “Willamette” actually means.

The beauty, power, and importance of this river makes me fully understand why so many cultures ascribe deities to rivers. When I sit on the shore of this river I feel compelled to honor and worship it, for sure.

I do ascribe to nature-based spirituality, and I have a particular fondness for the old religions of some of my ancestors, The Celts. While I love their mythology and deities, I also think there is value in finding a spiritual connection to ones current locale. This falls in line with Celtic spirituality’s tendency towards animism.

The Celts of the ancient world believed that many spirits and divine beings inhabited the world around them, and that humans could establish a rapport with these beings. (…) rituals, offerings, and correct behaviour maintained a balance between gods, spirits and humans and harnessed supernatural forces for the benefit of the community.
The pagan Celts perceived the presence of the supernatural as integral to, and interwoven with, the material world. Every mountain, river, spring, marsh, tree and rocky outcrop was inspirited.


I would love to know the name of the deity of this river, but I don’t know if any of the original inhabitants have a river goddess assigned to it. (Does anyone know? My research has not been fruitful.)

In the meantime, I’ve decided to ascribe my own personal name to her, out of reverence.

River goddesses sometimes have the river named after them, such as Tamesis, who is the ancient deity of the River Thames, the River Severn, named after an Old British river goddess of that name, and the River Shannon, Irish Sionann, also the name of the river’s goddess.

So I’ve reverse engineered her name, taking inspiration from “Willamette”. The new name (given with respect to any other name she may have ever had) of the goddess of this river is Willamina, which actually means “determined protector”. Fitting, I think.

Thank you for your nourishment and beauty, Goddess Willamina.

2 thoughts on “Goddess of the Willamette River”

  1. I love this – I’m forever going to think of rivers as named after a female deity! I’m struggling to feminise my local River Nidd, though ! Thanks for such an informative post 😊


  2. What a lovely informative post. Any long term Brit has Celtic blood, mingling with French and who knows what other influences in my case. And when I walk along the Thames this weekend I will tip my hat to Tamesis and pass on your regards; the old girl has been fairly rowdy this year but it may calm her to know others think about her, just a little!

    Liked by 1 person

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