The Roman Empire was never shy about adopting deities from other lands. Isis, Mithra, Cybele all became wildly popular, perhaps because their cults were different from the staid Roman deities. All three of these cults came to Rome, but others had the Romans come to them.
I know I tend to write about goddesses more than gods, but the slightly mysterious god Condatis has a special place in my heart, because I used to live in Durham. He seems to be a local god, with three altars dedicated to him dotted around the county. A further one was recently unearthed in Cramond, Scotland.
On the Capitoline hill in Rome three deities had their temple, Jupiter, Juno, and Minerva. This cult was important enough that every city in Italy and later the Empire had its temple called the Capitola. If you’re thinking that this seems a heavily feminine group of deities to represent the warlike and male-dominated Romans, then you may also wonder how they came to replace the original trio of gods: Jupiter, Mars and Quirinus.
Here’s another post on Nodens, which appeared just after mine. Lorna’s article is much more poetic, weaving together Irish, British and Welsh myth and literature. I hope you enjoy it as much as I did.
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’…
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The Irish god Ogma combines aspects of Mercury and Hercules – he is the inventor of the ogham writing system and an orator and poet, but he is also the champion of the deities, their official warrior.
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)…
The Irish god Nuada is known for three things: his magical sword, his sliver arm, and losing the kingship twice. HIs losses, however, define him in ways that show his quality.
Some Norse gods are famous – Odin, Loki and Thor, for example. Others, like Forseti or Magni, are only known to the cognoscenti. Tyr isn’t quite as obscure as those two, but he can’t compete with the big three. It seems strange that a god whose name means “god” should be so little-known. Did he fade away, or is there another explanation?
Tyr was supposed to be the bravest of the Norse gods, and the proof of this was he stuck his hand in the Fenris Wolf’s mouth. He lost the hand, meaning that he gave up his sword (and oath-taking) hand so the Aesir could bind the gigantic wolf. But what did he lose, and what did he gain?