Tolkien (2007) suggests that Nodens means the snarer, catcher or hunter, as seen in old Germanic *ga-niutan. Tolkien (2007) suggests based on the Irish figure Nuada, who is cognate with Nodens, and the fact that Nodens appears only in Western Britain and not on the continent that Nodens is a Goidelic god, introduced from Ireland.
A more modern and convincing etymology is suggested by Matasović (2009) from proto-Celtic *Nowdont, meaning mist or haze. Matasović still etymologically links Nuadu, Nodens and Ludd. Green (2015) suggests that Nodens means ‘cloud-maker’.
Both RIB 616 and 617 were found with ‘Mars’ statues, but these are now lost. RIB 306 on the dedicatory plate contains a dog in a characteristically barking position, which ties in with the healing and hunting associations of Nodens.
RIB 306 stands out from the other four inscriptions due to the nature of the text, it being a curse tablet, common in Britain (Mees, 2009).
Within the grounds of Nodons temple, nine votive deposits of hounds have been found, including a deerhound and a bronze dog with a human face (Aldhouse-Green, 2018). It is possible that this dog, with a human face, ties Nodons to shapeshifting in some way (Aldhouse-Green, 2018).
There are ties to healing with Nodons, seen in the oculist who operated at the temple, the dormitory for the sick, an ‘interpres’ who interpreted dreams of pilgrims, on top of the associations dogs have with healing and finally Mars as a Celtic healer God (Aldhouse-Green, 2018 and dog guy). The healing of eyes, interpretation of dreams and hunting all tie together one important aspect, that of sight (Aldhouse-Green, 2018). Sight, both physical and inward, could have been seen as a gift from Nodons. Expanding on this, with Nodons etymology coming from the word for ‘mist, haze’ (Matasović, 2009) and RIB 306 being a curse tablet asking for the withholding of health, Nodons could just as easily obscure and take away sight, as He can give and restore it.
The fact that Nodons name is cognate with the Irish Nuada and Welsh Nudd/Lludd has led many to suggest either a shared root, or continuation of Nodons worship and myth. Nuada was a great God-King, who in a battle lost His hand and was no longer fit to rule. However, upon a silverhand being made to replace the hand, he took back the throne, this led to Nuada obtaining the epithet ‘Airgetlam’, silver hand. Lludd/Nudd has a cognate epithet ‘Llaw Ereint’. In Nodons temple we find a bronze arm, which was displayed upright (Haeussler, 2017). This may suggest a similar myth for Nodons as Nuada and Lludd, where Nodons in some battle lost his hand, or perhaps more accurately his arm.
Nuada’s epithet ‘Airgetlam’, meaning ‘silver hand’ can be translated back into Brittonic as Argantolāmā. Alternatively, the word for iron or word for metal/ore can be used, as a more localised epithet, which would be Īsarnolāmā and Mēnilāmā respectively.
Nodons rules from his brigdūnon/hillfort, named Windostillsu/whitewall. From Windostillsu, Nodons rules His corner of Antumnos and keeps out incursions of the Natricocoχsā, the snake legged giants. He and His Marcācos/knights ride out on Their Liromarcos/sea horses to meet the Natricocoχsā as They emerge from the waters of Dumnos to wreak havoc on the cosmos.
From His gleaming white keep, Windostillsu, Nodons raises his Īsarnolāmā and pours His shining cup, Laχsaroscīb, and creates the clouds and mists which drench the land of Bitus, providing abundance and prosperity. As cloud-maker, healer and curser, Nodons can cloudy the sight of people doing ill with clouds from His Laχsaroscīb, or His hounds can lick clear the cloudy eyes of those in need of sight, both physical and mental.
Nodons is a God associated with sovereignty and good rule through His iron hand, Īsarnolāmā. He has the power to grant us sight or to take it away. He is a role model to us in Sepânioi Rotî as someone who stands against chaos and oppression, and we ask Him to guide us in our paths. Much like the clouds facilitate the storms of change, Nodons supports Taranos and is integral to the wheel’s continued spinning.
Sources for information beyond the shared gnosis of Sepanioi Roti are as follows:
Tolkien, J.R.R., 2007. The Name “Nodens”. Tolkien Studies, 4(1), pp.177-183.
Ranko Matasović (2009). Etymological dictionary of proto-Celtic. Leiden: Brill.
RIB 305, Dedication to Mars Nodons, Roman Inscriptions of Britain, https://romaninscriptionsofbritain.org/inscriptions/305
RIB 306, Curse upon Senicianus, Roman Inscriptions of Britain, https://romaninscriptionsofbritain.org/inscriptions/306
RIB 307, Dedication to Nudens Mars, Roman Inscriptions of Britain, https://romaninscriptionsofbritain.org/inscriptions/307
RIB 616, Dedication to Mars Nodons, Roman Inscriptions of Britain, https://romaninscriptionsofbritain.org/inscriptions/616
RIB 617, Dedication to Mars Nodons, Roman Inscriptions of Britain, https://romaninscriptionsofbritain.org/inscriptions/617
Aldhouse-Green, M.J. (2018). Sacred Britannia: the gods and rituals of Roman Britain. London; New York: Thames & Hudson.
Haeussler, R., 2017. The importance of location: religious inscriptions from archaeological contexts. Celtic religions in the Roman period, pp.339-362.