Nodens ‘the Catcher’ was worshipped across Britain in the Romano-British period. This is evidenced by his temple at Lydney, an inscription at Vindolanda on Hadrian’s Wall, and two silver statuettes found in Lancashire on Cockerham Moss suggesting the existence of a nearby shrine.
In medieval Welsh literature Nodens appears as Lludd Llaw Eraint. Lludd originates from Nudd ‘Mist’ and ‘Llaw Eraint’ means ‘Silver Hand’. A bronze arm found in Nodens’ temple in Lydney supports this link. His iconography and identifications with Mars and Neptune suggest he was a sovereignty figure associated with hunting, fishing, war, mining, healing, water, weather, and dreams. Many of these skills would have depended on his catching hand, which was lost and replaced in silver. Sadly we have no Brythonic stories explaining how Nodens/Nudd/Lludd got his silver hand.
Therefore we must turn to the Irish myths and the story of Nodens’ cognate Nuada Airgetlám ‘Silver Hand’…
The god who is willing to play a high price for justice, for the protection of his tribe, is found in many Indo-European religions. In the Irish pantheon we find Nuadhu, often known as Nuadhu Airgetlam (Silver Hand or Arm)…
It may seem strange that in Roman times the British god Nodens, famous for his healing shrine, was associated with Mars, a god more likely to do damage than to cure it. However, other Celtic “Mars” gods such as Lenus and Ocelus were healers, and not just to soldiers or men, but women and children.
Searching out Minervas always feels like seeing through a scrim; when you look at the Roman goddess, you see her through the Greek and Etruscan influences that went into her making. Looking at the Celtic goddesses who were compared to Minerva, named for her, or depicted in her image, you see through yet another veil, trying to discern the Celtic form under the Roman covering.
This post exists because of a mistake. When I was researching my post on Sulis, I came across references to a goddess Adsullata, who seemed similar. She was from Central Europe, and I was a bit excited at the thought that maybe Sulis wasn’t alone after all.
Unfortunately, it turned out that Adsullata was Adsalluta. She and her partner, Savus, are unusual in that they are a divine couple who retained their native names, with no Roman overlay. (The Epigraph Databank has eight entries for Adsalluta, seven for Savus, but none for Adsullata.)
Sulis is probably one of the more famous Celtic goddesses, even though she only has one cult site, at a thermal spring in south-west England.1 The site, known to the Romans as Aquae Sulis, was not only a spa, but had a temple to Sulis Minerva2, her Romano-Celtic form.
In my post on a possible birch goddess, I mentioned Dea Vercana. Since this goddess and her companion, Meduna, are so neglected, it seems mean not to pass on what I’ve learned about her.
Unfortunately, that’s not much. While it seems likely that she had a cult, even if only locally, all we know about her comes from the fountain bowl and altar inscribed with her name. The altar also mentions Meduna, who is as little-known as her companion.
Sometimes studying mythology leads you into areas of human frailty and vulnerability that bring you very close to the past. Any study of healing deities stirs the emotions, partly because we all know the fear that sickness brings, and because so many of the things they suffered from are unknown to us (at least in the prosperous world).*
The many offerings of ex-votos, often body parts, found at healing shrines testify to the various illnesses of ancient times. These were not always rich offerings, either. At the shrine of Apollo Vindonnus archaeologists found many votives carved from oak wood or stone. Many were of body parts, but others were of hands holding offerings. (You wonder if they somehow stood for the offering itself, or promised one in return for a cure.)
Imagine living in a world in which clean drinking water could not be taken for granted. Even now, in many parts of the world, people have to walk miles to get it, and in the Western World we aren’t immune from boil orders and other disruptions.
So it isn’t surprising that many peoples had a deity of fresh, drinkable water. The Romans had the god Fons, among others, from whom we get the word fountain, and the Celts in what is now Bordeaux showed their sense of priorites by worshipping a goddess of clear, drinkable water. Her name was Divona, the Divine One.
Like Belisama, Solimara and Sulis, Sirona’s cult centers on healing water, whether hot springs, baths or wells. Her name, however, means something like “Great Star”, which would make her a star-goddess, rather than a solar one. She is linked to several gods, including the Roman sun-god Apollo, as well as the gods Grannus and Atesmertius.