Esus or Hesus ("lord" or "master") was a Gaulish god known from two monumental statues and a line in Lucan's Bellum civile. The two statues on which his name appears are the”Pillar of the Boatmen” from among the Parisii and a pillar from Trier among the Treveri. In both of these, Esus is portrayed cutting branches from trees with his axe. Esus is accompanied, on different panels of the Pillar of the Boatmen, by Tarvos Trigaranus (the ‘bull with three cranes’), Jupiter, Vulcan, and other gods. The name Esus is a cognate of Zeus who as the tree-splitter is associated with both axes and trees.
A well-known section in Lucan's Bellum civile talks about the gory sacrificial offerings proffered to a triad of Celtic deities: Teutates, Hesus (sic), and Taranis. Among a pair of later commentators on Lucan's work, one identifies Teutates with Mercury and Esus with Mars. According to the Berne Commentary on Lucan, human victims were sacrificed to Esus by being tied to a tree and flailed. Jones' Celtic Encyclopedia These Commentaries come from the 9th Century AD, though, and their source is in doubt.
The given name Esunertus (‘strength of Esus’) occurs at least once as an epithet of Mercury on a dedicatory inscription. J. A. Religion of the Ancient Celts Cf. also "Examples of Interpretatio Romana"
It is possible that the Esuvii of Gaul, in the area of present-day Normandy, took their name from this deity. Jan de Vries. 1954. Keltische Religion. W. Kohlhammer, Stuttgart. p.98. Cited here.
Esus in later tradition
The 18th-century Druidic revivalist Iolo Morgannwg identified Esus with Jesus on the strength of the similarity of their names. He also linked them both with Hu Gadarn, writing: "Both Hu and HUON were no doubt originally identical with the HEUS of Lactantius, and the HESUS of Lucan, described as gods of the Gauls. The similarity of the last name to IESU, Welsh Jesus is obvious and striking.", J. Williams Ab Ithel (ed). 1862. The Barddas of Iolo Morganwg, Vol. I
This identification is still made in certain Neo-Druidi] circles. Modern scholars consider the resemblance between the names Esus and Jesus to be coincidental.
- In Merry Gentry series by US writer Laurell K. Hamilton, Essus is the father of the lead character Meredith Gentry.
- Esus, including photographs and a capitulation of primary and secondary source material.