N, nin, ash in ogham. Wednesday; naescu, the snipe; necht, crystalline; February 18 to March 18.
NA, not, EIr. no, OIr. na, Lat. ne, corresponding with the Eng. un-, Cy. nac, nag, Bry. na. Confers wityh G. nach, that which is not, not. NAAS, the wife of Lugh, buried at Nass, County Kildare, the chief residence of the kings of Leinster until 980 A.D. NACH MAIREANN, MARRUINN, not productive, dead, but present in the spirit-world. Marruinn, flowing with cream (full of spirit). NAIDHEACHAN FADA THALL, "very much lengthened stories," tall-tales. Fables as opposed to myths, the latter being regarded as unverifiable history. The Gaels were careful to distinguish between novels and history. NAIR, “Modesty.” A goddess who consorted with the High King Crebhán taking him to the Otherworld where she gave him fabulous treasures. NAMHAID (nahv), an enemy, Oir. nama, from the root nem, to seize or take by force, thus Eng. nemesis. OHG, nama, rapine, the Eng. nimble. NAOI. Nine, Lat. novem as in November, the ninth month. me of thesacred numbers in Gaelic mythology. It may be noted that Fionn of the tales was thought to dwell in the Sun,
which had nine doors for entry and exit. At a later date this number was reduced to seven. This warrior-god lived, on earth, in a seven sided mansion as did the Scots warrior-lady, Scathach, whose house also had seven great doors and seven windows. Fionn was not one of the Gaelic gods but a transformed human who went to dwell in the Knoll known as Tomnahurich. Like the Christ is is supposed destined to have a second coming in the interest of aiding the common folk. It is said that his arrival will be timed to follow the sound of his whistle among men, and that he will return after crossing the nine rivers that separate the lands of the living from those of the dead. These rivers are: the Liffey, the Maine, the Boyne, Carlingford Lough, and Larne water among others. The peasantry sid that Fionn was lord of the Nine Otherworlds and that he kept nine bards who travel yet in the world of men to do his bidding. One of these messengers was clearly The Bas: “he never delivered a cast that missed his hand. That same man would be dead before a nine-days term was out.” Sometimes this man “with the blood-red hand” was referred to as The Tracker. It was said that nine rods stood in the house of the dead, and that these belonged to the individual “Lord of the Dead.” One of these ruling rods was known to be carried by Manann mac Ler. In the west of Ireland the horse which the death-god rode was said to be nine-legged and as ready on the sea as on the land. In the Gaelic realm it was also said that the sun emitted nine rays and it was often symbolized in this manner. Prayers and invocations often contained nine appeals, and “The Lord of Justice” also entitled ‘The God of the Nine Rays” was approached to straighten “the crooked paths of laws and lawyers.” It has been suggested that pillared Scottish stones with incised lined radiating from a central boss also represent the power of evil-eye, and possibly the hairs of the head, which weree sometimes considered a seat of power. Campbell says that Fionn’s personal banner had nine chains “dependent” on it. The name of the banner has been given as Geal-gheugach, a’Ghil-
Ghreine, An Dia Griene Nighean Righ Feill Fionn and as An Deo-Greine, and note that Der-Grene (Deur-Greine) is one of the daughters of Fiachna, a god of the Underworld. Fionn is also listed as “Lord of the Nine Ranks.” NAOISE, NOISIU, NOISE. The eldest of the three sons of Usna and his wife Elbha, the latter a daughter of the druid Cathbad. Naoise and his two brothers, Ainle and Ardan were champions of the Irish Red Branch. In the service of Conchobhar mac Nessa he met Deridiu, who was set to marry this king of Ulster. They fell in love, and with his brothers, the pair fled to Alba where the men took service with the king of the Picts. After some years Conchobhar appeared to mellow in his attitude toward the sons of Usna and sent Ferghas mac Roth to invite them all to return to Ireland. Although Deirdiu foretold disaster she was unable to forestall fate. In the end Naoise was killed by the sword of Manann mac Ler which had been loaned to him on an earlier excursion into the western ocean. Conchobhar was able to have his will with the woman he desired but it is said that pine trees grew from the graves of the two lovers and their branches entwined across the water that separated their graves. NAOMB, holy, EIr. noem, O. Pers. naiba, beautiful. See next. NAOMH, NAOIMH, heavenly ones, saints, holy. Initially men devoted to a religious cause, pagan or otherwise. See above. NÁR THUÁTHCAEACH. The swineherd of Boabd Dearg, the rival to the swineherd Oichall Ochne of Connacht. They fought their way through several incarnations. This character was on a downhill slope for it was said, “he never attended a feast at which blood was not spilt.” In the end he was born as the Brown Bull which was so desired by Queen Mebd. NA-SCIGE, The Old Gaelic name for a “vacationing” gang of dead animals and folk. An obsolete negative which is associated with the modern sgéile. misery. There are a
number of related words characterizing this band, especially: sigh, the little people; sgeig, mockery; sgeigeach, having a prominent beard; sgeilcearra, supple, active; sgeilm, boastful, prattling. Associated with all this is the Clann Seelie, the people known as Sellicks or Seligs in other parts of the world The lowland word selie, the English silly, formerly identified a brave leader of men, although it came to mean a person who was incautious in the face of danger. The unsilly people were the antithesis of the harmless little people of Gaeldom. Brian Froud says that the Scottish Host “Fly through the air at night, snatching mortals unfortunate enough to fall in their path. The hapless victims are dragged along, beaten and forced to participate in heinous activities...The Unselie (Not Silly Court) also includes a great variety of weird and terrifying monstrosities. These are usually associated with particular localities.” This “court” travelled on the northern wind, and as the winds were at their height in that half of the year that the old Gaels called geamhradh (pronounced geaur-egh) the “riding time of the Gamer, or Hunter,” it was supposed that the spirit of the Host preferred hunting in that season. In the case of Odin’s kingdoms the hunt seemed to be at its height in the month called the Yule, but in Britain the death-deities were active at the old Celtic quarter days, especially at the Samhain and Beltane. The leader of the Hunt, and its time, varied regionally and the pale rider might be Uller in Scandinavia and Frau Wode, or Frau Gode, the goddess Frigga, in another. She confers with the Cailleach bheurr, or “Winter Hag” of Gaeldom. In some quarters Manann mac Ler or the sun-god Lugh were said to be in charge of the collection of souls of the dead. NATH. obs. science, knowledge; nathach, obs., learned, dark, gray, gloomy. See following. NATHAIR, (na-ir), a snake, a serpent, viper, adder, Cy. neidr, Corn. nader, MBr. azr, the Latin, natrix, snake; Goth. nadrs;
ON. nathr; English adder. The alter-ego, or second face, of the Athair or Allfather, the creator-god. Nathair-glagain, rattle-snake. The Nathair was the prime scape-goat at Quarter-Day rites, when he appeared in the form of a hidecovered man beaten with sticks by a following of masqueraders or disguisers. We know that snakes were frequently committed to the druidic bonfires (presumably as representative spirits of Auld Reekie). It may be apropos that the Gaels referred to the Anglo-Saxons as “the Coiled-Serpent People.” In the last century Dr. Carmichael noted “a curious custom, the pounding of a serpent in effigy:” On the day of the Bride (February 2) he watched a householder at Uignis, on Skye, take off a stocking, fill it with peat and pound it “to death” with the hearth tongs. “as she pounded she intoned a rann:” This is the day of Bride; When the queen must arise from the mound; I will not touch (annoy) the queen, Nor will the queen touch me. This act seems to have been made on behalf of Samh or “Summer,” the bride of Lugh or the Sun. The beaten serpent is therefore the Winter-King, best known as Bil, and the cautionary “live and let live” note is directed to his mate, the Winter-Hag, who is the alter-ego of Summer. This is made more certain since the queen is identified in other examples of this incantation as “the daughter of Ivor (Want).” Notice the Conal Cernach and his friend Fraoch found their great serpent at the foothills of the Alps. Annne Rice thinks that their may have been an earlier tale in which this creature was a local beast. In the metrical Dindshenchas there was certainly a destructive snake which “would have wasted all the cattle of the indolent hosts of Ireland by its doings.” It was laid to ground by Diancecht, the god of medicine. In a prose version of this work, three serpents are
mentioned as embryonic in the heart of Mechiwho was killed by MacCecht before they could emerge to waste the land. The ashes from this beast were cast into the river Berba (Barrow). Saint Patrick inherited this mantle when he struck his fundamental blow at the past by supposedly banishing serpents from Ireland. It was believed that a man bitten by a venomous serpent could preserve himself by drinking from running water before the nathair. If he was at a stream before the snake it was believed that the creature would swell and burst, otherwise this would be the fate of the bittern party. To be entirely safe, if the creature was killed, it had to be cooked, divided into six portions, and eaten by the injured party. Any remains had to be given “a Christian burial.” Otherwise the nathair was likely to regenerate itself. If portions were left unburied they were reputed to putrify into yellow and black spots which produced virulantly poisonous flies. “Serpent’s heads are preserved for years to cure their own sting-wounds. If a man, cow, or any animal be stung by a serpent, let the dried serpent’s head be cast into water, let the wound be washed in it,and it soon heals.” 1 NATHAIR CEANN, AN, “A Serpent-head.” The name given certain mounds found scattered throughout Britain. Folklorist Alaisdair MacGregor interviewed John MacRae who told him that such mounds were “in the shape of a serpent: and when the chief of the people would die, he would be buried in the head of the serpent. One (researcher) from London who was going about for such things, opened a mound, and they found in the mound a big stone coffin with a big stone slab on the top. And there the bowl was found with the ashes of the dead chief... The bowl was taken to Manse... It was there for some months; and they took it to Edinburgh, to some museum or something. They were saying there was a funny noise in the Manse when the bowl was lying there. If they was any treasure in the bowl it was taken out before...” MacGregor noted the presence of another mound at Cosaig.
Celtic Magazine, Jan. 1878, p. 98.
Here arrangements were made for an archaeological dig but this was thwarted by a thunderstorm. Convinced that this was desecration, the locals blocked the project. NATHAIR MARA, NATHAIR NA’ MUIR, nathair, serpent; Old Irish, nathir, Welsh, neidr, Cornish, nader, Middle Brythonic, azr, Latin, natrix, a water snake. Confers with the English adder. + marasgal, master. Possibly related to marc, a horse and certainly to mor, great and muir, the sea. The Gaelic sea-serpent. Notice Helen Creighton's report that Maritime Canadian seamen do not like to dream of horses. Lowland forms were the nuckalavee and the nuck. According to Highlanders of Scotland sea-serpents are the largest animals in the world and the greatest of these was the one known as “The Great Whirlpool of the Ocean.” It was said so large that its belly could contain the corpses of seven whales. Mr. Iain, a cleric at Glen Elg in 1875 was fond of sailing. He, another clergyman, his two daughters and a boy named Donald MacCrimmon were chased by a lesser specimen near the mouth of Loch Hourne. At that the monster was described as being “as round as a herring barrel, and of great length. It went wriggling up and down through the water, zigzag, right and left like.” The creature came dangerously close to upsetting the sailboat but once it said within the Loch they saw nothing more of it on the way in to Arnisdale. The crew stayed there for a relatively long time, Iain’s daughters and their little terrier opting to walk the thirteen miles back along the water to their home. The others eventually sailed out again in the yacht and found the creature waiting for them. Again they were able to avoid upset and made it to their home-dock. It has been guessed that this same sea-snake was seen by an Islesman near Kyleerhea, who guessed that “it was a week before his tail passed me by.” NATHAIR ORRA, incantation for the Nathair or death-god. This was formerly addressed to the “hibernating serpent
(the adder),” on Bride’s Day (February 2). incomplete but a portion is preserved:
The chant is
Today is the day of Bridd; The serpent will therefore come from the hole, I vouchsafe I will not molest the serpent, And ask that the serpent not molest me. This date, often called the Imbolg , saw the first annual reunion of Lugh the Sun with his Bride, who was Samh or “Summer.” What they gained in power was seen as a loss in the camp of the Dark-, or Snake-lord Bil. His mate, the Cailleach bheurr, or “Winter Hag,” was from this time slowly reformed as the virgin-goddess of Summer, thus the need to propitiate this god and his kind. Bil and the Cailleach had an aversion to sunshine, particularly on this day; thus, men hoped that neither the serpent nor the “Ground Hog,” would see their shadows, for this invariably raised their tempers and brought on a few more weeks of severe winter weather. If that day happened to be grey and overcast, and these earth gods were properly propitiated, they had a tendency to return to their underground without taking action against the world of men. see braman. NATHAIR SGIATHACH, a dragon. NATHAIR THRAGHAD, shore-going sea-serpent. NATHAIR UISGE, hydra. NEABHAN, the Royston crow, raven, the totem of the “witch” fraternity. NEACH, an apparition, a person. From this neachd, obs., tribe, family. A pledge and neachdachd, obs., nerutrality. NIAMH, NEAMH, NEINAHE. heaven, the skies, “abode of bliss,” OIr. nem, Cor. nef, Br. neff, Latin nemos, a sanctified grove, Skr. námas, bowing, showing reverence. Sometimes referred to the root nebh, cloudy, the Lat. nebula but Macbain says it is nem, to distribute, the Germ. nehmen, to take. The old
world was a place of seemingly unending forest, that of the British northland being termed the Caledonian Forest. The heart of the forest was considered the seat of chaos and godhood. As late as the eight century a Christian bishop again denounced "those rites of prayer which propitiate the secret powers of the deep forest and the forest soil." The guardians of such groves were virgin females termed the nemaneach, “souls of heaven.” They derive from the goddess Neman, who corresponds with the bafinn named Emain Macha. The Mhorrigan and Neman are sometimes substituted for one another in the triad of Mhorrigan, Badb and Macha.. “All Cromarty (Scotland) people (whose countryside remembers Cromm) are familiar with the belief that the final judgement (of mankind) is destined to take place on the “Moor of Navity.” See neimh and neimhdh. When Cuchullain was hard pressed by enemies he once uttered “his terrible battle cry which all demons must answer.” Among them that day was the shout of Nemain, which was Badb, and this brought “considerable confusion on the opposing host.” Since the Badb belongs to the bafinne she is one of the Mhorrigan triad. Rice has translated Nemain as “Frenzy,” and says that “Morrigan (is) seemingly a generic term by which any of these beings could be designated.” This goddess may correspond with the Bry. Nemetona who is invariable given as “a guardian of scared groves.” See neimhidh for the location of some of these wooded retreats. See also Nemain. NEAMHACH, an angel, a heavenly spirit, based on above word. Neamhan, raven, crow. Neimhead, consecrated ground. NEARACHD, happiness, EIr. mogenar said derived from the root mag, see magh above. That which increases, see mac, cf. Lat. macte, at the root, the root of things, mak, great. NEAS, NIOS, currently a weasel, a thing up from below, OIr.
ness, a sea serpent. Anglo-Saxon naes, nose, referring to the fact that its head had this predominant feature. Also know as the neck from another prominent characteristic. Possibly related to the Old Gaelic ness, a wound. The Eng. nessa did not differ substantially from the nicca, or nicks, but were generally seen as the young of the species, having less length and girth, and thus found coasting closer the land, even entering lochs or embayments. Keightley noticed that the Icelandic nuck was called Nickur, Ninnir or Hnikur, which correspond with the eddaic names of Odin: "He appears (sometimes) in the form of a fine applegrey horse on the sea-shore; but he may be distinguished from ordinary horses by the circumstance of his hoofs being reversed. If any one is foolish enough to mount him, he gallops off and plunges into the sea with his burden." In this form the nuck is an equivalent of the kelpie. More often he was observed far from shore as in November 1805: "A small vessel of the Traeth was upon the Menai (Wales) sailing very slowly, when the people on board saw a strange creature like an immense worm swimming after them. It soon overtook them, climbed on board through the tiller-hole, and coiled itself on the deck under the mast - the people at first were dreadfully frightened, but taking courage they attacked it with an oar and drove it overboard; it followed the vessel for some time but a breeze springing up they lost sight of it." The Loch Ness Monster Nessie is representative of this class of creatures. Thomas Keightley has said that, "The Thames, the Avon, and other English streams never seem to have been the abode of the neck." This is because these southern rivers are shallow, and the nicks preferred the room offered by the deep fjords. The nick has been characterized as having two horns on its head, making it an obvious relation of Micmac Indian wiwilameq and the jipjakamaq. Like those creatures, the deep-sea nick has been pictured as having a triangular head on a long neck after the fashion of an ancient plesiosaur and a body not
unlike that of a seal. The earliest North American sighting of one of these mythical beasts in our waters occurred off Cape Breton Island in 1805 when David Lee reported seeing a dark green sea-serpent passing through the water "with an impetuous noise." Twenty years later there were multiple reports from a number of ships in Halifax Harbour when one swam by on the twenty-fifth day of July. One man who saw it guessed this nick to be "as big as a tree trunk and sixty feet long." In 1833, to members of the Royal Navy at Mahone Bay, Nova Scotia, saw a beast they said resembled a common American eel, except that its long neck supported "a head six feet in length." The two thought that the total length of the animal might be eighty feet and claimed it was dark in colour, almost black with streaks of white. A very spectacular sighting was recorded by geologist J.W. Dawson from Merigomish Beach, Pictou County, Nova Scotia, in 1842. Estimated at one hundred feet in length, this serpent beached itself within two hundred feet of shore and struggled there for a full half-hour before regaining deep water. In that time it was seen by a horde of Pictonians. Some thought the head was horse-like others said it resembled a seal. The colour was black but the body surface had a mottled rough appearance. In its efforts to reach safety, the animal was seen to "bend its body almost into a circle." In 1890 a fisherman returning to Port George on Victoria Beach, Nova Scotia, spotted another "horseheaded" creature racing through the Bay of Fundy. The captain noted that "it rolled hoop-like" beside his craft, each hoop taking up thirty or forty feet of water. The crew were terrified to observe "eyes as big as saucers" and as the creature was following closely they put on more sail hoping to outrun it. Nevertheless they were trailed under threatening storm clouds as far as Prim Light. Two sister vessels made similar sightings before the weekend, but this sea-serpent was never reported afterwards. A classic sighting of a ness was made by the entire
crew of the schooner Madagascar just before it docked to load coal at Lubec , Maine on the morning of July 28, 190l. The ship was moving through the Bay of Fundy at eight knots when the watch warned of an object in the water, which at first appeared to be a floating log. Within "a seabiscuit" of the object, sailors were astonished to see this apparently inanimate object raise a snake like head and glide sinuously away from the ship. The crew all agreed that the animal was snake-like thirty feet in length and covered with scales, which refracted light so that parts appeared green and other areas brown. There were spinal points all along the back and a huge dorsal fin just below the head; this was thick, dark in colour, and about the size of a man's hand. The body was estimated to have a diameter of two feet, tapering slightly beyond the head and drastically toward the tail. The men watched it for a half hour as it made "fast skipping motions" through the water. Edward Ray told "The Saint Croix Courier" of Saint Stephen, New Brunswick, that he had been a seaman for nine years and had never seen anything on or in the sea that looked like this animal. Asked if it might be feasible to trap the creature, Ray guessed that it would be dangerous to attempt this or to injure it with a harpoon. T h e "Saint Andrews Beacon" reported a similar sighting, August 2, 1906. This time the serpent was seen very near land by Theobold Rooney the keeper of Sand Reef Light. This man supposed that the monster had been drawn into shallower water following a school of herring. After a fast entry into the approaches of Saint Andrew's harbour, the serpent put about and moved slowly away in the direction of Clam Cove. Rooney said the animal was twenty-five to thirty feet in length, and the diameter of a large weir stake. The keeper said he might have taken it for a shark, but it lacked a dorsal fin and kicked up a whale-like tail before diving out of sight. Having heard of these sightings the naturalisthistorian William F. Ganong came to the area to assess their validity: "For the past few summers the local papers have
often reported the appearance of sea-serpents at Passamaquoddy and the Saint Croix (River). The animal is really there but is according to testimony of observant persons, a White Whale...Locally it is stated that it came into the Bay of Fundy with war-ships during the Champlain celebrations, June 25, 1905...the animal was also seen in the bay at least one season before 1905." If this was a whale it was a very emaciated example! NECHTAN. An early water god, the legitimate spouse of Boann. Sidh Nechtan, or Nechtan’s Side-hill, County Kildare, Ireland, held a sacred well, the Well of Segais, the supposed source of arcane knowledge. Only four persons aside from Nechtan were allowed to go there. Boann disobeyed the taboo, and went to the well whose waters overflowed drowning her, and forming the River Boyne. NECTANEBUS. A pharaoh of Egypt whose daughter Scota married Mil. A warrior-woman she was killed while fighting the Tuatha daoine in County Kerry, Ireland. This Scota is not the Scota identified elsewhere as the daughter of Pharaoh Cingris, the mother of Goidheal, the progenitor of the Gaels. There were two rulers of Egypt who actually bore this name, the first ruled from 389 to 363 B.C., the second from 360 to 343 B.C. The name, transcribed as Nechtan was popular in Ireland and may historic personages bore it. NEIDE. A Red Branch poet, the son of Adna, the chief poet at the court of Conchobhar mac Nessa. Having learned the craft from his father, Neide went to Alba for further study under Eochaid Each-bel, “Horse-mouth.” One day, after consulting with the ocean waves (it was traditional that poets had their inspiration “at the edge of the water.”) he composed a lament, and when he asked the waves why this mood had overcome him, was told that his father had just died. Neide returned to Ireland to claim the tugen, or mantle of poetic succession, but was contested by Fer Cherdne who also wished to be chief poet. NEIMH, NIMH, poison, OIr. nem, to distribute, "something
given" (with evil effect. See entry immediately below. The poisoners were the nemaneach, the "keepers of the grove." Confers with Neman or Nemain, one of the triad goddesses associated with Mhorrigan and Macha and Babd. These were the semi-mythical creatures also known as the befinne, who the Scandinavians called the fylgiar, vala, valkyra, nornr, disces, or hagadisces, those given charge of "weaving" the fates of men and the gods. As Guerber has noted, they also "officiated at forest shrines, and often accompanied invading armies...urging the warriors on to victory. When the battle was over they would cut the bodies of captives. The blood was collected in great tubs, wherein the disces plunged their naked arms, previous to joining in the wild dance with which the ceremony ends." (The Norsemen, p. 171). As custodians of wild lands these women became skilled in herbal medicine, and must soon have noticed the effects of overdosing. As prophetesses the nemaneach were rarely questioned, as they we quixotic and could confer death at a glance. Also anciently, the son of Agnoman, who gave his name to the Nemedian race. The Partholans were the first "human" race to attempt to occupy Ireland and the Nemedians the second. A descendant of Magog and Japhet, Nemed sailed to Ireland from Scythia with thirty-two ships. His fleet spent only a year They spent a year and a half at sea and their most of the expedition perished from hunger except the leader and four women. When the survivors landed they were only nine in number, but in the course of many years they also multiplied until there was a population estimated at 8,060. Like the Farlanders, the Nemedians were agriculturists who reformed the land into sixteen plains and made a number of new artificial lakes. Before long they became acquainted with the “huge, mishappen, violent and cruel” Fomorians, and fought four pitched, and successful, battles against them. The source of their quarrel is not given, but it was never about land as these sea-people are
not recorded as coming into Ireland as a regular part of the population. It would appear that the Fomorians sought instead the normal rewards of piracy. They were unable gain much booty in any of the land encounters but after the fourth encounter the chieftainof the Nemedians and 2,000 of his people were killed by plague. Nemed was buried on the largest island in Cork Harbour. This unexpected help from the bas-finne, or fates, allowed the Fomorians to dominate the Nemedians although they never felt confident enough to mount a frontal assault. In this period, the Fomorians were led by two chieftains named Morc and Conann. By this time, the undersea people had established a outpost on Tory Island off the coast of Donegal. From here they raided the land and at last demanded a tribute of two-thirds of the milk production and two-thirds of all the children born to the Nemedians. At this the Nermedian leaders balked, and led by three chieftains they landed on Tory Island and took both Conan’s Tower and the Conann. At this moment in the battle Morc arrived with a fresh host and utterly routed his enemy killing all but thirty of the invading warriors. It is said that the survivors gathered up what remained of their possessions and people and retreated, leaving no descendants to show that they had been there. After they landed the population increased and the Nemedians fought victoriously against the Fomors in four great battles, but they were ravaged by a plague that killed two thousand people. The kings of the Fomorians were Morc and Conan, the later based on Tory Island. Led by three war-lords, the Nemedians captured Conan's Tower and took the king prisoner. Unfortunately, at a critical moment, Morc came into the battle and routed the Nemedians, who were all slain excepting thirty men. Nemed was buried on Great Island in Cork Harbour. The survivors gathered their possessions and their women and children and retreated into the Mediterranean region, from which they had come. A few mythologists say that their remnants settled Britain under
a later chief of that name. Other claim they went no further east than Belgium, after many years returning to Ireland as an element of the Firbolg race and later as some of the Tuatha daoine. See next entry. NEIMHIDH, House of the Nemeds, a grove of trees, sanctuary, or sacred place in which there was a central stone, a magic tree, well or sidh-hill. From the Nemedians, early inhabitants of Britain. Note the resemblance to Nemain, who is sometimes represented as one of the bafinne. The word is preserved as the modern Gaelic neimheadh (pronounced nevay), the sacred lands of the druids confiscated by the Christian Church; thus in current use, “church-lands.” In every case, holy places set aside for religious observances and the passing of judgements. The English nemeta, which survive in Gaelic parts in the Scottish dialect as nemet or navity. Duneaves, in Perthshire, Scotland, derives from the Gaelic Tigh-neimh, and the standing-stone known as the “Great Ewe” which is found in that vicinity is thought to have been a former centre of religious rites. Rosneath, on the Gareloch, is actually Ros-neimhidh. Other northern place-names of similar derivation include: Nevay, a parish of Angus; Navidale, in Sutherlandshire; Creag Neimhidh in Glenurquhart; Dalnavie in Rosshire; Navitie in Fife; and Navity in Cromarty. Many of these former sanctuaries were islands, as: Neave, near the Kyle of Tongue; and Isle Marie in Loch Maree. Medionemeton. Note also Nemetona near Bath, England and Vernemeton, Nottinghamshire. Centuries after the introduction of Christianity the sites not reconsecrated to Christianity were said “sacred to the fairies.” She was also known as Arnemhidh, “She who stands before the Sacred Grove.” the patroness of wells and springs in Celtic Britain. In Roman times Derbyshire was particularly noted for her healing springs. See nèamh. NEIT, NET. A war-god, the husband of Nemain, part of the triune Mhorrigan. He is sometimes given as the father of
mac Cécht in place of Ogma. Slain in the second battle of Magh Tuireadh after which his sons divided Ireland among themselves. As it was Nuada’s death that caused the upset and division of property, Nemain is sometimes confused with Nuada’s wife Macha. It would appear that Neit is really a form of Nuada since Macha is one of the female trinity. NEITHEAN A’ TIGHINN, “the Nethy sprites are coming.” An expression recorded from northern Nethy, Scotland. Eng., obs. neffy, downward, the downward parts. This has reference to the goddess Nemain, see above. NELADOIR, a druidic cloud diviner. NEMAIN, (Now-nin), the distributor of goods, vengeance. A war-goddess and wife to Neit. One of the five battlegoddesses of ancient Ireland, the others were sometimes said to be Fea, Hateful; Badb, Fury; Macha and Mhorrigan. This goddess and Mahorrigan are one, being a single portion of the triune known as the Bafinne.As Rolleston has said some wordsmiths have associated Nemed with the old Gaelic word for “sanctuary,” and with the goddess Nemain, who is the Basfinne of the Gaels. Some have even gone further noting that there was a Brythonic goddess named Nemetona who was worshipped in the sacred groves at Bath. Perhaps with this in mind, attempts were made to suggest that one of the retreating Nemedians settled in GreaterBritain, giving it his name. It is also said that others of this tribe became the ancestors of of later invaders, but as Rolleston says these “histories” seem laboured and artificial. It would appear that the Nemedians came from the west and this is not so clearly the case with the some of the late-comers. See Neit and nèamh, “heaven.” NEMANACH. Nemglan. A son of Aonghas Og, thought cognate with
NEMED. A descendant of the Biblical Magog and Japhet sailed out of the eastern Mediterranean with thirty-two
ships intending to settle Ireland.. The Nemedians were related to the Partholonians, their leader being Nemed the son of Agnoman, himself a brother to Partholon. His fleet spent only a year and a half at sea where most of his people died of hunger and dehydration. When the survivors landed they were only nine in number, but in the course of many years they multiplied until there was a population estimated at 8,060. Like the Farlanders, the Nemedians were agriculturists who reformed the land into sixteen plains and made a number of new artificial lakes. Before long they became acquainted with the “huge, misshapen, violent and cruel” Fomorians, and fought four pitched, and successful, battles against them. The source of their quarrel is not given, but it was never about land as these sea-people are not recorded as coming into Ireland as a regular part of the population and they were certainly neither hunters nor agriculturalists. It would appear that the Fomorians sought the normal rewards of piracy. They were unable gain much booty in any of the land encounters but after the fourth encounter the chieftain and 2,000 of his people were killed by plague. Nemed was buried on the largest island in Cork Harbour. This unexpected help from the bas-finne, or fates, allowed the Fomorians to dominate the Nemedians although they never felt confident enough to mount a frontal assault. In this period the Fomorians were led by two chieftains named Morc and Conann. By this time, the under-sea people had established a outpost on Tory Island off the coast of Donegal. From here they raided the land and at last demanded a tribute of two-thirds of the milk production and two-thirds of all the children born to the Nemedians. At this the Nemedian leaders balked, and led by three chieftains they landed on Tory Island and took both Conan’s Tower and the Conann. At this moment in the battle Morca mac Dela arrived with a fresh host and utterly routed his enemy killing all but thirty of the invading warriors. It is said that the survivors gathered up what remained of their
possessions and people and retreated, descendants to show that they had been there.
Some say they later returned to Ireland as the race known as the Firbolge. Rolleston has said some wordsmiths have associated Nemed with the old Gaelic word for “sanctuary,” and with the goddess Nemain, who is the Basfinne of the Gaels. Some hav even gone further noting that there was a goddess named Nemetona who was worshipped in the sacred groves at Bath. Perhaps with this in mind attempts were made to suggest that one of the retreating Nemedians settled in Greater Britain, giving it his name. It is also said that others of this tribe became the ancestors of later invaders, but as Rolleston says these “histories” seem laboured and artificial. It would appear that the Nemedians came from the west and this is not so clearly the case with the some of those who followed them to Ireland. NEMGLAN. A bird-god who appeared before Mess Buachalla and seduced her. The son of their union was Conaire Mor. After the death of King Nuada Necht, Conaire’s chariot was surrounded by swirling birds. Taking out his sling he made ready to kill them but they shape-changed into warriors. One came forward and introduced himself as Nemglan who laid the geis on his son that he might not kill birds. Nemglan advised Conaire to walk naked along the road to Tara if he wished to be king. The boy heeded this strange advice and the prophecy was fulfilled. NEOINEAN, a daisy, literally the “noon-flower,” noon. Considered a sun-symbol and a good omen. from noin,
NEONACH, an eccentric or curious person or thing, sdtrange, novel, that which is “unwont,” or not customary. Possessed by the dark-side. NERA, a servant to Ailill, king of Connacht. On Samhain Ailill offered a gold- hilted sword to the man who had the courage to encircle the left foot of a dead man on the
gallows of Ráth Cruachan with a ring of willow twigs. It was known that the Underworld entrance became visible under such conditions and sometimes valuable forecasts came from the mouths of the dead. Unfortunately this was also a time when the Fomors and defeated sigh could return to the world of men seeking vengeance. Several men went to the hill but returned terrified. Nera did as instructed and the corpse asked for water. The two sought this drink in the Netherworld, passing a house completely encircled by fire; a second, inaccessible as it stood in a lake; coming at last to a place where they were able to solicit three cups of water. Apparently the dead man hated his host for he spat the third cup upon those who served him and they died. After that he commanded that his body be returned to the gallows. Back in the world of men Nera returned to find Aillil and Mebd’s palace aflame; the heads of Ailill and his warriors removed as tokens by the Otherworld dwellers. Nera immediately followed them back into the side-hill of Cruachan, but was soon made captive of the sithe. He was lodged with a woman of that tribe and made to carry firewood. After a time the woman had a child by Nera and confided that Rath Cruachan was entirely illusion and that the burning of Mebd’s palace had not yet taken place, but would happen unless he returned to Connacht to warn his king. Nera took the sidh-woman and his child and made an escape to the Outer World. Hearing his tale, Ailill sent mac Roth to despoil Cruachan. His warriors took great plunder from it including the crown of Brion. The Echtra Nerai upon which this tale is based is eighth century but the tale is much older. NIA. Obs. A sister’s son. The name given any warrior or champion. See next. NIALLIG NOIGHIALLACH, Neil, gen. Nellis, the root niata, “champion.” Hence Mac-Neill. The name was borrowed into ON as Njáll or Njal and into Eng. as Nigel and Neil, whence Nelson. The interaction of the Mhorrigan with the Milesians is exemplified in the case of Niall Noighiallach:, the son of Eochaid mac Muchtra, the twelfth king to bear the
name Eochaid. This king of Munster had a pedigree reaching back to Ith son of Bregon so he was in the line of succession for the high-kingship except for the fact that he was a goill after the fashion of the Cailleach bheurr. That lady was said to possess a single virulent eye, and this was also the case with the Eochaid ard-righ. The term goill embraces more than this “blemish” including general distortions of the face, blubber lips, inane immobile grins, pock-marks, the wry-mouthed condition, crossed-eyes and similar genetic or accidental “problems.” The people of Munster all suffered from their relationships with the Fomors, and the king more than others since this “defect” barred him from the throne at Tara. Eochaid was king at the time of Conchobar mac Nessa and formed an alliance with Ailill and Mebd during the Tain war. Niall ard-righ had no such problem and he came to the throne and ruled between the years 379 and 405 A.D. He raided Britain and Gaul during the time of Theodosius the Great being forced to retreat by the Roman general Stilicho. He was assassinated in Gaul by some of his own people which he was “distracted” by some of the local women. He was the progenitor of the very successful Ui Néill, or O”Neill dynasty, but the main point here is the fact that he was Eochaid’s youngest son, and probably would not have come to power except by way of a powerful omen: Once the five sons of Eochaid hunted and while they did developed a thirst. In a clearing they came upon an old hag “with grey hair, black skin and green teeth (a reflection of the seahabitat).” She offered them water in exchange for a kiss. The three elder boys refused, but Fiachtra pecked her modestly on the cheek. At this she predicted that he would reign briefly at Tara. Hearing this Niall must have suspected her identity and gave her a full fledged buss on the lips. She demanded intercourse and they retired into the woods where she shape-changed into a beautiful ravenhaired beauty who identified herself as Flaithius, the “Chieftainess.” After a successful romp in the moss, this mhorrigan told Niall that his line of kings would be the
most successful in the history of Eiru. NIAMH. (Nee-av), The daughter of Manann mac Ler who appeared to Osgar on the shores of Lake Lena and suggested he accompany her to her homeland, Tir Tairnigri. Since the Féinn were all dead, Osgar agreed and lived in the Land of the Daughter of the Thunder taking her as his lover. After three weeks he returned to Ireland but found that three hundred years had passed in the Upper World. NIBE. a Tuathan from the sidhe Breg. In his day he was considered one of the nine best pipe-players in the world. NIC, a prefix which is the female patronym, MG. nee, Ir. ni, MIr. ini, this an abbreviation of the OIr. ingean, now written as inghean or nighean and sometimes as ui. This word originally implied a “grand-daughter” and used to be seen in full as inghean mhic or ni mhic, see mac and magh. Based on the name of the old goddess Mhorrigan. In the elder days the female clann name Ne Ve Kenze was the equivalent of the male Mac Kenze. Note the related nigh, to wash, and the Eng. nick and Auld Nick, the latter the Germ. Nix, a spirit of the water, the sea-name for Odin. Skr. nij, clean. See G. niuc and entries immediately below. NIGH, purify, wash in water. NIGHEAG BHEAG A’ BHROIN, (First word pronounced neeyahe), “the sorrowful little washer,” a water-spirit who used to forecast death by washing the shrouds, or clothing, of the soon-to-expire in a mountain stream. See next. NIGHEAG NAH-ACH, NIGHEAG NAH-ATH, nighean, daughter, Washer-woman, originally inghean; nah-ach, "at the ford," a banshee, the predictor of death. Her prototype was the goddess Mhorrigan. This is the spirit that haunted remote upland streams in Ireland and Scotland, washing the bloodsoaked garments of those destined to die. Some have said that these haunts were the ghosts of
women dead at childbirth, fated to perform this duty until the date when they would normally have died. Clearly this was not the case for the Ulster hero named Cúchullain, whose banshee is known to have been the goddess Mhorrigan; nor is it the case for her namesakes in Clan Morgan, also known as Mackay. See next entry. The equivalent of the male nathair mara. "They are usually represented as short and stumpy with shaggy hair. dark wrinkled faces, little deep-set eyes, but bright as carbuncles. Their voices are cracked and hollow; their hands have claws like a cat's; their feet are horny like those of a goat. They are expert smiths and coiners; they are said to have great treasures in the barrows or weems (hollow hills) in which they dwell, and of which they are regarded the builders. They dance round them by night, and woe to the belated peasant who, passing by, is forced to join in their roundal; he usually dies of exhaustion." Wedneday is their holiday, the first Wednesday in May their annual festival, which they celebrate with dancing, singing and music. They have the same aversion to holy things as the morrigan; like them they can foretell events. The nighean is always furnished with a large leathern purse, which is said to be full of gold, but those who have succeeded in wrestling it away, have found nothing better than locks of hair and a pair of scissors. These are the same sidh, or trows, who warn some men of death by appearing in the night as globes of fire or as wraiths which wail or track the path which the funeral cortege will follow from home or church to the grave. NIMHIR, venom, a serpent. NI'N RUAIRI 'IC FHERAGHUIS, the “Red-headed Sigh Washerwoman of Clan Fergus;” their banshee or death-bane. She is supposed to have dwelt at Airigh Dhubh ni'in Ruari, the socalled "black-sheiling", a small hillock still seen on North Uist. She was a descendant of the entirely human Aonghus Og, Lord of the Isles in 1308. A baobh and shepherdess, she had charge of the lambs at the time of tearbadh or
“weaning.” Her personal nemesis was the elder-god Dudair (see separate entry) who made repeated attempts to take her spirit by isolating her from running water, which he could not cross. In one instance where he managed this her guileamanas, or confidence, did not forsake her. She always carried a sprig of mistletoe and tossing this at a peat-bank she yelled "The object of your interest is now on yonder bank, take it!" Mistaking this for her soul, he pounced upon it and carried it off while the witch-lady went quietly on her way shepherding her lambs. This washer-woman at the ford foresaw the history of her island and recounted it in song: I I I I saw saw saw saw the the the the era era era era of of of of the the the the Sleat man; Harris man; Grim man; Caithness man
Good that I shall not live to see the era of woe; Good that I shall not see the era of blackness; Good, especially, that I shall not see the era of the Clerk The eras of affliction for the land of Uist. As it happened her omens proved correct. She herself died in 1498. The rulers of Clan Fergus after her time were, successively, the Harris, Grim and Caithness men, the last of whom was killed in 1540. When they were gone, control of the island passed into the hands of southern bureaucrats. See above entry. NINIAN, “Constant,” the first historic missionary to Scotland, Saint Ninian arrived at Whithorn, south Galloway while legions still manned the "Roman wall." He is supposed to have been the son of a Pict, born on Solway Firth and taken to Rome as a hostage in 370. In Imperial Rome, he became a Christian and was made a bishop in 394. After that, he was sent back home to preach the Faith. St. Aelred of Rievaulx, who wrote Ninian's biography in the twelfth century, said that Ninian's community at Whithorn preached
to the Picts by travelling about the coast in three-man coracle. In Scotland, Ninian was immediately opposed by King Tudvallus, but won him over after curing him of an illness. He also impressed the people of Galloway by restoring the life of a man apparently dead after having been disembowelled by a bull. Like the "saints" Aldhelm and Germanicus, Ninian caused a week-old child to "speak" so that one of his monks could be relieved of a paternity-suit. Like the pagan god Aod, this Christian had a heated personality and as he sat reading by the road, in a rainstorm, his book and person remained dry except when his thoughts were "tickled by a suggestion from the devil." His pastoral bell is preserved at his seat in Edinburgh although he is credited with having erected a second church at Stirling. Bede established a rival church at Kirkcudbright, apparently disagreeing with Ninian's keeping of Easter on the Celtic rather than the Roman date. In 730, the Saxon Church forced the Gaelic Church to follow its reckoning of the appropriate time for the festival, and a party of monks, refusing to obey, fled to Loch Lomond. Possibly put out of sorts by this politicking Ninian retired to a cave at Glasserton where he gave himself over to prayer. At Kirkmaiden an ancient cave-chapel may still be seen, and his name is attached to it. He died in 432 and was buried before the altar of his church. Unfortunately St. Ninian's cave has taken a beating from tourists and is now locked and barred. Relics of the bronze age were found in this place: stone axe heads, spindle whorls and hammer heads, showing that it was occupied long before Ninian took an interest in it. Tales of the Daoine sidh are still associated with these souterrains and Ninian may have selected the place with this in mind. NIOS. NEAS. weasel, OIr. ness, weasel, a creature "up from below." A sea-serpent. From this we have the Loch Ness Monster and the name applied to many Scottish headlands. The AS is naes, akin to ON. nes, nose. Hence, a point of
land, a promontory, a headland. Thus, the combining word seen in Sheer-ness and similar place-names. Sea-serpents were observed to have extra large noses or snouts. Also an enchanted spear-shaft fashioned by Goibniu for the warrior who seduced his wife. The spells he chanted over this weapon made it irresistible in battle but caused it to burst out in an all-consuming flame when it ceased to be used. The Norse vikings must have had an easy association with the old death-gods, for they sailed at night with fires built behind their dragon-prows. By the light of day it was seen that their craft and the sails were painted blue, the colour preferred by the sea-gods. Emblazoned on the sails the Celts often saw the raven image, the totem of An Domhain (and the land-god Odin). Odin was represented as a sea-god under the name Niùcr , the Middle-English form being Nookr. From these we have “Old Nick,” a synonym for the Devil. In the mythology of the Faeroes, which gradually became a Norse outpost, Odin or Nikkr, was the “Lord of the Northern Mountains,” a deity quite often represented in his son, the sun-god Baldur. In the Orkneys, where the ancient relationships became uncertain, this death-lord was called Balkin (the kin of the Bal or Bil). When Reginald Scot visited this island in the seventeenth century he heard “many wonderful and incredible things” of this deity: “He was shaped like a satyr, and fed upon the air (Odin was originally conceived as a god of the upper air, the lord of the north winds). He had wife and children to the number of twelve thousand (reflecting the Viking habit of rape), which were the brood of the Northern Fairies (i.e. elfs or sidhe) inhabiting Southerland (Sutherland) and Catenes (Caithness).” In spite of their Norse connections it was held that the side-hill folk who lived in the mountains of Pomonia (the largest of the Orkneys) spoke ancient Irish or Gaelic. Anglo-Saxon naes, nose, referring to the fact that its head had this predominant feature. Also know as the neck from another prominent characteristic. Possibly related to the Old Gaelic ness, a wound from its voracious appetite. The
nessa did not differ substantially from the nicca, or nicks, but were generally seen as the young of the species, having less length and girth, and thus found coasting closer the land, even entering lochs or embayments. The Loch Ness Monster Nessie is representative of this class of creatures. See nuckalavee, nick, sea-serpent etc. A classic sighting of a ness was made by the entire crew of the schooner Madagascar just before it docked to load coal at Lubec , Maine on the morning of July 28, 190l. The ship was moving through the Bay of Fundy at eight knots when the watch warned of an object in the water, which at first appeared to be a floating log. Within "a seabiscuit" of the object, sailors were astonished to see this apparently inanimate object raise a snake like head and glide sinuously away from the ship. The crew all agreed that the animal was snake-like thirty feet in length and covered with scales, which refracted light so that parts appeared green and other areas brown. There were spinal points all along the back and a huge dorsal fin just below the head; this was thick, dark in colour, and about the size of a man's hand. The body was estimated to have a diameter of two feet, tapering slightly beyond the head and drastically toward the tail. The men watched it for a half hour as it made "fast skipping motions" through the water. Edward Ray told "The Saint Croix Courier" of Saint Stephen, New Brunswick, that he had been a seaman for nine years and had never seen anything on or in the sea that looked like this animal. Asked if it might be feasible to trap the creature, Ray guessed that it would be dangerous to attempt this or to injure it with a harpoon. The "Saint Andrews Beacon" reported a similar sighting, August 2, 1906. This time the serpent was seen very near land by Theobold Rooney the keeper of Sand Reef Light. This man supposed that the monster had been drawn into shallower water following a school of herring. After a fast entry into the approaches of Saint Andrew's harbour, the serpent put about and moved slowly away in the direction of Clam Cove. Rooney said the animal was
twenty-five to thirty feet in length, and the diameter of a large weir stake. The keeper said he might have taken it for a shark, but it lacked a dorsal fin and kicked up a whale-like tail before diving out of sight. Having heard of these sightings the naturalist-historian William F. Ganong came to the area to assess their validity: "For the past few summers the local papers have often reported the appearance of sea-serpents at Passamaquoddy and the Saint Croix (River). The animal is really there but is according to testimony of observant persons, a White Whale...Locally it is stated that it came into the Bay of Fundy with war-ships during the Champlain celebrationis, June 25, 1905...the animal was also seen in the bay at least one season before 1905." If this was a whale it was a very emaciated example! NIUC, a corner, cf. Scand. neuk, the MEng. nok. Eng is the borrower. See above entry. NIUL, NIALL, root-word niata, champion. Borrowed from Gaelic into Norse as Njall, Njal, hence into English as Nigel. The latter a "learned" spelling of Neil, whence Nelson. Supposedly named for Niul, said named after the river Nile in Egypt. A progenitor of the Scots, married to a daughter of the pharaoh whose name was Scota. See Niallig. NIUL NOIGHIALLACH, the son of Eochaid mac Muchtra, himself the twelfth king to bear the name Eochaid in that dominion. Niul of Munster had a pedigree reaching back to Ith son of Bregon so and was in the line of succession for the high-kingship except for the fact that he was a goill after the fashion of the Cailleach bheurr. That lady was often said to possess a single virulent eye, and this was also the case with the king. The term goill embraces more than this “blemish” including general distortions of the face, blubber lips, inane immobile grins, pock-marks, the wry-mouthed condition, crossed-eyes and similar genetic or accidental “problems.” The people of Munster all suffered from their relationships with the Fomors, and the king more than others since this “defect” barred him from the throne
at Tara. NODHA, new, after the “new god” Nuada. Nodh, knowledge, intelligence, information. Noble, excellent. With global warming, the Upper Palaeolithic hunters, whose ancestors had managed to adapt to life on a tundra, saw their traditional plants and animals retreating northward. Mesolithic man, still essentially a hunter and gatherer, had to follow them or learn new tricks, and some did, hunting the sea for fish while they followed land trails seeking small game. The island of Ireland was by now cut off from any land bridges and those who travelled there had to come by sea. Some fairly sophisticated craft must have been available sometime before the Thermal Maximum in 8,000 B.C. for the ancient tome known as the Cin na Drom-Snechta which no longer exists, but is quoted in the Book of Balleymote, tells us that Hibernia, or Ireland, was approached by intending colonists just prior to the great World Flood. The leader of the expedition was a remarkable woman whose maiden name is given as h’Erni , and this is perhaps the source of Eriu, the early Irish name for Ireland. Her married name seems to have been Banbha Cass-ir , or Cesair often too loosely translated as the “Lady Caesar.” She was the daughter of Bith, who is sometimes described as “a son of Nodha.” NOIDHIU. The son of the woman named Fingel whose parents posted guards about her to prevent premature pregnancy. She was “visited” by a god and gave birth to an infant who was only saved from death when he uttered nine wise judgements. As a result he was nicknamed Noidhiu Naoi mBreathach, or “Noidhiu of the Nine Judgements.” NOINDEN, the ninth hour. The “curse” of birth-pains put on the men of Ulster by the goddess Macha. NOIN REULT, goddesses. evening star. Associated with the Celtic
NOIR, the east, from OIr. an-air, before (the morning sun).
NOIN, noon, genitive nona, evening, noon, Cy. nawn, similar to Lat. nona, the ninth hour of the day, i.e three o’clock. NOLLAIG (nol-ik), Ir. nodlog, EIr. notlaic, sometimes said from Latin natalicia, the Nativity of Christ, Christmas Day, December 25. The derivation is nodha, new, corresponding with nuadh, OIr, nue, the Latin novus, the English word new. + laigh, lie abed, thus the possible interpretation "the new god found in a manger." But note that the first word names the old god Nuada, one of the Gaelic creator-gods. His twin was Lugh or Leug or Ugh, whose name corresponds with the second portion of Nollaig. Notice the related word ugh or uigh, an egg, a cove, related to the Norse vik, from which the Gaelic uigean, a fugitive or wanderer, and the English witch, conferring with Woden. R.C. Maclagan says that the ON form is Jól, “Yule is in inception the festival of the hailing of the New Year; and if so, Odin’s name of Julvatter (Yule-father) is in its genesis the same as that of (the Roman) Jupiter - Io-pater.” Also note the Gaelic nuall, the Middle English yol, English yell, the Anglo-Norman noel. This word is at least related to the Anglo-Saxon geohhol (earth-holers or inhabitants of earth), from which was also derived geola, the name of one of their winter months. The Swedes have a similar word, Jul, which they now use to describe the Christmas season, and this is similar to the Danish, Juul. All of these may be akin to the Latin joculus, a diminution of jocus (a joke, sport, jest or pastime). Nollaig is now distinguished as Nollaig Mhor, the Big Yule, December 25, and Nollaig Bheag, Little Yule, New Years Day. The mummers who are active at these times are called the gillean Nollaig or Yule lads. Occasionally these goisearan or disguisers, are termed the nuall airean or rejoicers. Those who sing at first-footing are the fir duan or song men. "While Thor is the embodiment of Northern activity, Loki represents recreation, and the close companionship between the two gods shows very plainly
how our ancestors realized that both were necessary to mankind. Thor is ever busy and ever in earnest, but Loki makes fun of everything...As a personification of fire as well as of mischief, Loki (l ightning) is often seen with Thor (thunder)." (The Norsemen, pp. 216). This also applies when transferred to Nuada/Lugh, who are sometimes identified as the sun and the moon gods, and the causative agents in thunder and lightning, which was said to result from their battle play in the sky. Notice that Lokki was sometimes identified as "the brother of Odin." Additionally, Ygg, or Egg or Ugh was one of the numerous names applied to Odin after he displaced Lokki, Thor and Tyrr as the dominant deity of northwestern Europe. As for Christmas Day, it was quite blatantly stolen from the pagan gods since it bears no relationship to the birthday of Jesus Christ. Anciently, the month in which it occurred was named, along with the day, as the Noll, Noel, Juul, Yell or Yule in the various languages of Europe. Guerber says that the Yule was principally "Thor's month", although secondary toasts were made to Frey and Odin and Frigga. The old descriptive "Yell", which has survived as a word in English, helps to categorize it as a time for rejoicing at the return of the sun after midwinter. Yule also confers with wheel, and the lowland Scottish word wymss, as the sun was thought of as a sphere wheeled across the sky in an invisible chariot. "The first Christian missionaries, perceiving the extreme popularity of the feast, thought it best to encourage drinking to the health of the Lord and his twelve apostles when they began to convert the northern Heathens." (The Norsemen, p. 125). This holiday was never as important in the herding districts of Scotland, excepting regions invaded by the Norse. In general, Christmas is no more than a religious holiday in modern Scotland, most of the riotous behaviour having been reserved to the Hogmanay at the New Year. The Gospels say nothing of the time of year when Christ was born, and accordingly the early Church saw no need to
commemorate it. In time, however, the Christians living in Egypt somehow settled on the sixth of January as the proper time for the Nativity. An early Christian writer has said: "The reason why the fathers (of the Church) transferred the celebration of the sixth of January to the twenty-fifth of December was this. It was a custom of the heathen to celebrate on the same twenty-fifth of December the birthday of the Sun, at which they kindled lights. In those solemnities the Christians also took part; accordingly the fathers took counsel and resolved that the true Nativity should be solemnized on that day and the Epiphany on the sixth day of January (the traditional end of Yule)." The Christians did as much as possible to confuse matters by referring to their God as "the Son (or Sun) of Righteousness" thus magically embracing those in the pagan camps. Being an ascetic religion Christianity was unhappy with the yelling and drinking and whoring that accompanied "Christ's Birthday", and the clerics worked, first to reduce the riotousness to Christmas Day itself, and have been trying ever since to eliminate the secular elements of the day. The Scandinavians, who were married and assimilated into the Scottish clans, considered the Yule the penultimate celebration in terms of feasting, dancing and drinking. In honour of the Vananian god Frey, who was the successor to Odin, boar's flesh was eaten. Crowned with laurel and rosemary, the animal's head was presented in the banquet hall with great ceremony. The paternal head of each tribe and family laid his hand upon this "boar of atonement" swearing to be faithful to his kin and fulfil all promised obligations to the tribe. In addition to consuming this symbol of the godhead, each adult male, starting with the king would state his Yultide promise (the equivalent of New Year's resolutions), always toasting some major or minor god in the process. Because there were many men in a village, the feast typically ended with boring monologues, hence the relationship between the words boar and bore, not to mention beer, which derives from the same source. That
source, by the way is the god Borr, first born of Buri, the provider. The Scots may not have understood the religious aspects of this particular fire-feast, but they did share the spirit of the season, as the following ballad makes clear: Atween Yule and Year mas, Auld wives shouldna spin; And nae house should be waterless Where midans lie within. The water referred to whisky and "midans" translates as "maidens". The time from Yule to Yearmas, the "Daft Days" has untidy connotations. The old meaning of the word was not "mentally incompetent", but one who was "frolicsome or merry". The serious side of the celebration of Yule is seen in the custom of creating the Yule Boar, a practice which is, or was, seen in Scotland. The corn from the last sheaf of the harvest was, in some places, made into a cake, which the Scots call oat-cake or bannoch bread. In much earlier times, this was understood to literally embody the corn-spirit or even Donart or Thor, in the same way that the elements of the mass embody the blood and body of the Christ. All through Yule, the Boar was expected to remain upon the festive table. Often it was kept until the sowing time when part of it was mixed with the seed for the new crop and the rest given to the plough man, horses and oxen to eat. Since these animals voided their wastes in the fields, the god was returned to his summer-place where he might generate a full-harvest. Before this was done, a real boar was sacrificed as a representative of Frey or Thor. Earlier still, it may be suspected that men were dressed after the fashion of a boar and killed with a knife. This is inferred from a "Christmas custom" still observed in Sweden, where a man wrapped in skins enters the room bearing straws clasped between his teeth, in imitation of boar bristles. An old woman, her face blackened, approaches and pretends to cut out his heart. It is known that the Old Norse devoted as much as a month to the
festival of Yule, and in the north it is unquestioned that this is still the "greatest feast in the year". This also holds for those parts of Scotland which have close Scandinavian ties, notably, the Orkneys, Shetlands and a few of The Western Isles. Every year, on the last Tuesday of January, the residents of Lerwick, in the Shetlands, hoist the raven banner of Odin from the town hall indicating the start of Up-Helly-Aa (Hel's Island Festival). This fire-festival used to last through "three hectic weeks", but after the Yule was replaced by Christermas, this period became one of prayer, fasting and introspection, which ended on the twenty-fourth night after December twenty-fifth. To mark the end of these boring holy days, the Shetlanders set a great bonfire after the pattern of their forbearers, reverting to social customs which are still a part of social life in these islands. NOS, custom, knowledgem the first of anything, from nua, new, after the god-king Nuada. NUADA, NUADH (nooda), nua, new, modern, OIr. nue, Cy. newydd, OBr. neuud, Latin novus, Eng. new. The god of the new moon, co-creator of the universe with the help of his brother Lugh. The "new god" may correspond with the Norse god Thor, or one of his usurpers, either Tyrr or Odin. In Gaelic mythology he led the Tuatha daoine against the Firbolge until he was "blemished" by losing his right arm in battle. This makes him the equal of Tyrr who was also lefthanded having left the other arm to the mouth of the Fenriswolf. This god was known to the Welsh as Nudd or Llud, and the Romans identified him as Nodens. He had a temple on the present site of St. Paul's in London and the entrance to it was Lude’s Geat, now termed Ludgate. Note also the old Gallic combination name Novio-magus, which is seen in Gaelic as nuadh-magh, a “new-field.” There are nine places known to have had this name in antiquity; six were in France, one in Belgium, one in the Rhineland and one in the Palatine. NUAL, NUALL, NUAIL, the Eng. wail. Cofers with nollaig, the
Yell-tide or Yuletide. nuail is obsolete, to roar or howl. Nuall, praise, lamentation, roaring, howling, lowing, shrieking, a low but persistent sound, screech of an owl. Opinion, hail, incantation, sound made by a wild cat, a freak. As we have noted the agricultural New Year commenced with the resurgence of the sun after it reached its low point in the sky in the month of December. The Gaels called this month Dudlachd and the Old Norse Yoll (wheel) or Yule. The opening day of the Yule was termed handsel, from the habit of using a handshake to seal bargains on this day, which was, ironically, devoted to Odin, "Oath-Breaker". The Norse took this holiday to Scotland in the person of invaders and "broken-men" and it gradually attained the ritual importance of Oidche Challainn (Hogamanay) and a' Bhliadhn" Ur (The New Year). In Scandinavia the Old Norse roasted the god Frey in the form of the boar, which was his totem animal. At the Yule feast the head of each family laid his hand upon this sacred "boar of atonement". admitting past errors, and swearing faithfulness to king, tribe and family. As toasts followed each handsel, and every person was expected to participate, elaborate promises were made in the final hours of the ceremony. A bit of yelling inevitably followed! There were twelve equally dissolute days marking this Yule holiday, which the Christian missionaries attempted to sweep into one called Christ's Mass, or Christmas. They had little luck reforming the secular part of the rule but did manage to have the toasts addressed to the Twelve Apostles rather than the pagan gods. NUALL AIREAN, nuall, a howling, a cry, freakish, shrill; airean, a herdsman, a ploughman, Ir. oireamh, a ploughman, said derived from the mythic Milesian Eremon, Airem(on), from the Ayran root-word ar, a plough. A side-form of the god Lugh, Ugh or Hugh. NUAS, down from on high, from above, bottom, ground. Ir.
anuas. See uasal. Nuathaig, obs. heaven. NUINEAN, obs. A dwarf. Based on nuin, ash-tree.