Compare with Gothic niutan "to achieve, attain" and nuta "catcher, fisherman."
Interpretatio romana identifies the British god Nodens with Mars, the god of war but also of agriculture. There are a few remaining inscriptions. Two, now lost, were from Cockersand Moss in Lancashire, and three are still existing (IIRC), found from a sanctuary dedicated to Nodens at Lydney Park in Gloucestershire.
Nodens is generally agreed to be the same as the Irish god Nuada Airgetlam and the later Welsh figure of Nudd/Lludd Llaw Ereint/King Lud. Both Nuada and Lludd's apellations--Airgetlam and Llaw Ereint--mean "Silver Hand" or "Silver Hand". While Lludd's apellation is never explained, we learn from Irish myth that Nuada lost his arm in battle against the Fomorians. In this, he is like the Norse god Tyr, who also lost an arm battling dark forces and who is also identified with Mars. Lludd also battled dark forces when he and his brother Lleuelys sought to end the three plauges of Britain.
The loss of Nuada's arm lost him the kingship of Ireland, which lead to the ruling of Bres, who was half-Fomorian and who tortured the Tuatha De Danann. The reason for this loss of kingship was the belief that the king must be physically perfect; an idea retained in the later concept of the Fisher King of the Grail myth. The fertility of the land and of the king were tied together in the concept of sovereignty.
Now, let us look at the name of Nodens. It probably means "he who attains; he who catches"--possibly signifying a god of hunting, or at least in charge of providing food. Add to that the theme of the god who battles dark forces, and you have one of the typical Celtic Martian gods, who is protector of the people and provider of food. However, the loss of the arm and his relationship to Tyr also signifies that while he may have once held the position of a King of Heaven or of the Gods, he has since been demoted, replaced by the Mercurial figure (Lugh/Lugos; Norse Odin). This may represent the shift from a hunter-gatherer culture to an agricultural one; that's for others to decide.
1. Given the relationship between Nodens and Lludd, one wonders if Lydney Park was at some point named for the god in question; it is thought that Lydgate in London may have some relationship to Lludd, as Billingsgate may be related to Beli Mawr; however, the false etymology deriving "London" from "Caer Lludd" has long since been disproved.
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Mary Jones © 2003