Friday 31 October 2008

Lludd's Silver Hand


Lot has been identified as Lludd; his name survives in Welsh literature as Nudd, derived from the Brythonic form Nodens, known from Irish Mythology as Nuada, who carried the epithet Airgetlám ("Silver Arm")

Stone Lud
In the parish of Bower in Caithness, in the Highland region of Scotland, about four miles south of Castletown (Grid Ref: ND222617) is a standing stone known as The Stone Lud.

It is claimed that this stone marks of the grave of Ljot, (or Loitus) the 10th century earl of Caithness and Norse Orkney, who died in battle here. The name of Ljot is clearly very close to that of Lot or Loth, the mythic king of Lothian of Arthurian legend who according to Geoffrey of Monmouth was also King of Orkney.

This standing stone is about 3 metres high, significantly taller than most Norse 10th century stones and is more likely to be a much older megalith that a local legend has attached to it. The Stone Lud is similar in size to the stones of the Ring of Brodgar in Orkney, and is one of a pair, its partner having now fallen lies some 30 metres away. It said that when erect the two stones would have made an alignment with the summer solstice sunset. [1]

Lot(h), Gawain’s father according to Geoffrey of Momouth, has been identified as Llud(d) by John Rhys, [2] and endorsed by Roger Sherman Loomis that great protagonist of the Celtic origins of the Arthurian tradition. [3] The precursor of Lud being Lodens, hence we have the ruler of Lodonesia or the Lothians, from which, come Lothus and Loth or Lot of the Arthurian Romance. [4]

This name transmutation is further attested by Charles Squire in Celtic Myths and Legends in which he identifies Lot as a late incarnation of a British god who is remembered in medieval Welsh legend as Lludd Llaw Eraint (Lludd Silver Hand).

Lludd Llaw Eraint appears only in the Arthurian tale Culwch and Olwen as the father of Creiddylad, who was said “to be most splendid maiden in the three Islands of the mighty, and in the three Islands adjacent, and for her Gwythyr the son of Greidawl and Gwynn the son of Nudd fight every first of May until doomsday”.

Nuada Airgetlám
Lludd Silver Hand of Welsh tradition is cognate with Nuada Airgetlám from Irish mythology, who carries the same epithet (Airgetlám = "Silver Hand/Arm"). Nuada Airgetlám was the first king of the Tuatha Dé Danann (Children of the Goddess Danu). He is the son of Danu, the god of healing, writing, poetry, sorcery, magic, the Sun, childbirth, beauty, youth, ocean, dogs, weapons, and warfare. Nuada had an invincible sword, Claíomh Solais (Sword of Light), known as one of the The Four Treasures of Ireland.

"From Findias was brought the Sword of Nuada;
no man would escape from it when it was drawn from its scabbard.
There was no resisting it." [5]

In the First Battle at Mag Tuired, Nuada lost his arm in combat with the Fir Bolg champion Sreng. Later his arm was replaced by a prosthetic limb made from silver by his brother, the physician Dian Cecht. After he had lost his hand in battle, he had to abdicate his throne as king to be replaced by Bres, who became a tyrant king. The Tuatha de Danann eventually exiled Bres and Nuada resumed his position as king. Balor, of the evil eye, later killed Nuada.

Nuada Airgetlám is cognate with the Gaulish and British god Nodens. His Welsh equivalent is Nudd or Lludd Llaw Eraint. John Rhys states that owing to Welsh alliteration Nodens has become the two names Nud and Lud. According to Rhys his name survives in Welsh literature as Nud, derived from the Brythonic form Nodens, known from Irish Mythology as Nuada, who carried the epithet Airgetlám ("Silver Hand/Arm").

There is evidence of a God of the British Celts being worshipped at Lydney Park, Gloucestershire, England, where a 4th Century Roman-British temple dedicated to Nodens has been found. As Nodens was a river-god in Gloucestershire; possibly due to this association with the Severn it would seem, Lud, has also been identified as a river god in Celtic mythology, although there appears little other information on him in this role.

Nodens was the Celtic God of Healing, and the son of Belenos, (Beli) the Sun God, and Anu, his wife. He had a large shrine at Lydney (Lludd's Island) in Gloucestershire, where the devoted made offerings of small bronze representations of their diseased limbs. He was sometimes identified with Mars the protector or the regenerative Silvanus and his companion and symbol was the dog: a deerhound whose lick could cure the afflicted. The story of Nuada loosing his arm in battle with the Fir Bolg champion Sreng explains his connection with amputees.

Lydney Park is part of a hill fort covering some 4.5 acres across the tip of a promontory overlooking the Severn. The Temple complex of Nodens was added in the 4th century to the southern half of the fort site, an inscription reads:

"To the God Nodens, Silvianus has lost a ring: he hereby gives half of it (i.e. half of its value to Nodens Among those who are called Senicianius, not allow health until he brings it to the temple of Nodens." [6]

Other inscriptions from Lydney Park appear to equate Nodens with Mercury and Mars.
The Northern tradition in Britain is supported by further inscriptions; at Cockersand Moss in Lancashire a silver statuette was found in 1718 with the following inscription on the base:

”To the god Mars Nodontis, the College of Lictors
[and] Lucianus Aprilis the traveller, in fulfilment of a vow.”

Nodens was probably widely known across Northern Europe, for example at Mainz in Germany an inscription was found equating the god Noadatus with Mars.

In 1929 J.R.R.Tolkien worked on archaeological dig at Lydney Park, on the site of the old Roman temple, known locally as Dwarf's Hill. Built upon an earlier Iron Age settlement, the hill was riddled with tunnels and open cast iron mines. One 50 ft long shaft of the iron mines can be seen today, running under the fort.At this time Tolkien was working on the Hobbit. The influences of his research at Lydney on his Lord of the Ring tales is evident in his chapter which he wrote for inclusion in Sir Mortimer Wheeler’s book about the Roman excavations here. The site has yielded over 8,000 coins, carved statues, mosaics, and bronze reliefs, some of these can be seen in the museum at Lydney Park.

Local lore states that within 20 years of the Romans leaving, the local people had forgotten that Lydney had been a Roman settlement and thought the crumbling ruins were the homes of fairy folk. So strong were the superstitions surrounding Lydney that the local people kept away from the hill for a thousands years.

As part of the surrender terms in their loss against the Milesians, the Tuatha Dé Danann agreed to retreat and dwell underground in the sídhe. Later English texts refer to the sidhe as hollow mounds, the abode of the fairy folk but in older Gaelic texts the sidhe are the palaces or residences of supernatural, otherworldly beings, the Land of Eternal Youth (Tír na nÓg) which was connected with the mortal world by these hollow mounds or passage tombs, like portals to another dimension.

Gwynn ap Nudd
Celtic legend says that Glastonbury Tor is a hollow mound (Sidhe), and entrance to the otherworld as well as being the home of Gwyn ap Nudd, King of Faerie, Lord of Annwn. This connection is affirmed in the Life of St. Collen, a 7th century Welsh saint that retired to a hermitage at the foot of the Tor. The Wild Hunt rides out of the Tor and rides down Arthur’s causeway to round up souls of the dead. Gwynn appears in The Triads as one of the three distinguished astronomers of the Island of Britain, who by their knowledge of the nature and qualities of the stars could predict whatever was wished to be known to the end of the world.

Nodens, is sometimes referred to as the Celtic "God of the Abyss.” This can be no coincidence that Gwynn son of Nudd (son of Nodens) is Lord of the Otherworld (Annwn) often called the Abyss, king of the Tylwyth Teg (the Welsh Fairy Folk) and as psychopomp, leader of the wild hunt with his pack of supernatural white hounds, Cŵn Annwn, he escorts the souls of the dead. His name Gwynn meaning white, ghostly or otherworldly.

Gwynn ap Nudd also appears in the early Arthurian tale Culhwch and Olwen along with Lludd Llaw Ereint. Culwch must enlist the support of Gwynn in the hunt for the great boar Twrch Trwyth in and as stated above he abducted the maiden called Creiddylad after she eloped with Gwythr ap Greidawl, Gwyn's long-time rival. Gwyn and Gwythr's fight, which began on May Day, possibly represents the contest between summer and winter.

In Northern Britain we find a further inscription to Nodens, linking hin to the God Neptune, from Vindolanda on Hadrians Wall:

To the god Neptune Nodons"

Nudd Hael
There is possibly another inscription to Nodens (Nudd) in the north of Britain, an early 6th century monument discovered in Yarrow, north of the Ettricks, at Warriors Rest, Selkirkshire is inscribed:

"This is the everlasting memorial: In this place lie the most famous princes, Nudus and Domnogenus; in this tomb lie the two sons of Liberalis [the Generous One]."

The Yarrow Stone, also known as the Liberalis Stone, marks the grave of two British Christian chieftains. The inscription on the stone is incomplete and there is debate as to its correct translation; some say it is to the sons of Nudd Hael, others to Nudd and his brother. The stone was turned up the plough at the beginning of the 19th century when this ground, then a moor known as Annan Street, was first brought under cultivation. It was found lying just under the surface with the remains of human bones underneath it. At this time there were about twenty burial cairns on the moor. The Liberalis Stone was removed for examination, then returned to Annan Street and was erected at the place of its original discovery. The east face of the stone bears the Latin inscription. The stone is now surrounded by a wooden fence.

Nudd the Generous (Liberalis?), son of Senyllt, appears in the Triads as one the Three Generous Men of the Island of Britain.
Although seemingly a historical character from Northern Britain, Nudd Hael does not appear to be the basis for Gawain’s father, as there does not appear to be a connection to Lludd Silver Hand, Nuada Airgetlám, or Nodens. But we do find a mythological King Lud in early tradition.

King Lud
Lludd Law Eraint is probably the source of king Lud from Geoffrey of Monmouth's History of the Kings of Britain. In the Brut y Brenhinedd, the Welsh version of Geoffrey's Historia, he is called Lludd son of Beli. Geoffrey names him as Lud son of Heli, they are clearly one and the same. Lud was a separate figure in Welsh tradition and is usually treated as such. The legendary British king Lud may therefore ultimately be derived from Nodens.

Yet again we find our man Geoffrey at play again, that great corruptor of British History, who states that the origin of London's place name is from Lud, legendary King of Britain in the first century BC. He was the eldest son of Geoffrey's King Heli (identified with Beli Mawr). Lud's reign is notable for the building of cities and the refortification of Trinovantum (London).

The story goes that Lud became King and rebuilt the city that King Brutus had founded and had named New Troy. He renamed it Caerlud, (city of Lud). This later became corrupted to Caerlundein, which the Romans apparently took up as Londinium, and became modern day London. Personally I find the sound of the name London more similar to Lugdunum, modern day Lyon in France.
Lud was buried in an entrance to the city that still bears his name, Ludgate, his father Beli Mawr is supposedly buried at Billingsgate, just as Bran is at Tower of London. King Lud’s name persists in present day Ludgate Circus and Ludgate Hill, on which St. Paul's Cathedral stands, Ludgate being a major gateway into the City of London. Crumbling statues of King Lud and his two sons, Androgeus and Tenvantius, which formerly stood at the gate, now stand in the porch of the church of St Dunstan-in-the-West on Fleet Street in London. There was even a pub at Ludgate Circus called "King Lud". After his death, Lud was seemingly elevated to the status of a diety.

When the building of the present St. Paul's cathedral began in 1675, architect Sir Christopher Wren, discovered remains of a pagan Stag Goddess temple in the foundations of the previous Catherdral which had been destroyed in the Great Fire of London in 1666. This was possibly the site of the pagan temple at Ludgate Hill, reputedly destroyed by the Saxons in 597 AD.


1. Leslie J Myatt, The Standing Stones of Caithness, 2003
2. John Rhys, Lectures on the Origin and Growth of Religion as Illustrated by Celtic Heathendom, 1888, from the Hibbert Lectures 1886, pp 125 – 129.
3. Roger Sherman Loomis, Celtic Myth in Arthurian Romance
4. John Rhys, ibid.
5. Lebor Gabala Erenn (The Book of the Taking of Ireland or The Book of Invasions), compiled in the 11th Century. This translation has been disputed – see The Four Sacred Symbols by Michael Ragan.
6. Mortimer Wheeler, and T.V. Wheeler, Report on the Excavation of the Prehistoric Roman and Post-Roman site in Lydney Park, Gloucestershire (1932), p. 100.)