Nodens (Nudens, Nodons) is a Celtic deity associated with healing, the sea, hunting and dogs. He was worshipped in Britain, most notably in a temple complex at Lydney Park in Gloucestershire, and possibly also in Gaul. He is equated with the Roman gods Mars, Mercury and Neptune, and his name is cognate with that of the Irish mythological figure Nuadu Airgetlám and the Welsh Nudd.
The temple complex at Lydney Park, situated on a steep bluff overlooking the Severn Estuary, is rectangular, measuring 72m by 54m (80' by 60'), with a central cella measuring 29m by 49.5m (32½' by 55'), and its north-western end is divided into three chambers 6.3m deep. It was excavated in the 1920s by Sir Mortimer Wheeler, who established that it was built some time after AD 364, with occupation continuing well into the 5th century.
It has produced several inscriptions to Nodens. One, on a lead curse tablet, reads:
DEVO NODENTI SILVIANVS ANILVM PERDEDIT DEMEDIAM PARTEM DONAVIT NODENTI INTER QVIBVS NOMEN SENICIANI NOLLIS PETMITTAS SANITATEM DONEC PERFERA VSQVE TEMPLVM DENTIS
For the god Nodens. Silvianus has lost a ring and has donated one-half [its worth] to Nodens. Among those named Senicianus permit no good-health until it is returned to the temple of Nodens).
Another, on a bronze plate, equates Nodens with the Roman god Mars:
D M NODONTI FLAVIVS BLANDINVS ARMATVRA V S L M
To the god Mars Nodons, Flavius Blandinus the drill-instructor willingly and deservedly fulfils his vow.
Another plate, bearing the image of a baying hound, makes the same equation:
PECTILLVS VOTVM QVOD PROMISSIT DEO NVDENTE M DEDIT
Pectillus dedicates this votive offering which he had promised to the god Nudens Mars.
Two inscriptions from Lydney Park appear to equate Nodens with Mercury.
The cella has a mosaic floor, the surviving fragments of which depict dolphins, fish and sea monsters. The artifacts recovered include bronze reliefs depicting a sea deity, fishermen and tritons, and a bronze object, which may be a headdress or a vessel, showing a sea-god driving a chariot between torch-bearing putti and tritons. Also found were nine stone or bronze statues of dogs, some of which are similar to Irish Wolfhounds, a bronze plaque of a woman, a bronze arm, an oculist's stamp, about 320 pins, nearly 300 bracelets, and over 8,000 coins. The iconography shows a clear association with the sea, while the dogs, pins and bracelets indicate a healing function: the dog is a companion of the healing aspect of Mars, and the pins are associated with childbirth. The dogs also suggest a connection with hunting.
A silver statuette found at Cockersand Moss, Lancashire, in 1718 but now lost, had an inscription on the base which read:
LVCIANVS • D M N • COL LIC APRILI VIATO • RIS V S
To the god Mars Nodontis, the College of Lictors [and] Lucianus Aprilis the traveller, in fulfilment of a vow
The name Nodens is cognate with Old Irish Nuadu, a name borne by several mythological and legendary figures. Nuadu Airgetlám was the first king of the Tuatha Dé Danann, who was disqualified from kingship after losing his hand in battle, but restored after he was given a working silver one by the physician Dian Cecht (gaining the epithet Airgetlám, "silver hand"). The Welsh Nudd is also cognate, and it is likely that another Welsh figure, Lludd Llaw Eraint (Lludd of the Silver Hand), derives from Nudd Llaw Eraint by alliterative assimilation. The name probably derives from a Celtic stem *noudont- or *noudent-, which J. R. R. Tolkien suggested was related to a Germanic root meaning "acquire, have the use of", earlier "to catch, entrap (as a hunter)". Making the connection with Nuada and Lludd's hand, he detected "an echo of the ancient fame of the magic hand of Nodens the Catcher". Similarly, Julius Pokorny derives the name from a Proto-Indo-European root *neu-d- meaning "acquire, utilise, go fishing".
- James MacKillop, Dictionary of Celtic Mythology, 1998, p. 306
- Dyfed Lloyd Evans, Nudd/Lludd/Nodons, Nemeton, 2005, retrieved 3 March 2007
- "Lydney Park Temple Complex" and "The Gods of Roman Britain", Roman-Britain.org
- James Mackillop, Dictionary of Celtic Mythology, 1998, p. 266
- J. R. R. Tolkien, "The Name Nodens", Appendix to "Report on the excavation of the prehistoric, Roman and post-Roman site in Lydney Park, Gloucestershire", Reports of the Research Committee of the Society of Antiquaries of London, 1932
- Julius Pokorny, Indogermanisches Etymologisches Wörterbuch p. 768