Monday, February 11, 2008

Nodens: Part 1

Long time readers of this blog know that it's not my intention to get into the many modern interpretations of Lovecraft's Mythos. Rev. Price and Mr. Joshi have spoken on this often, as to how first August Derleth reinvented the Mythos with dualism and pantheism, and how Mr. Lumley has taken a very different turn. Brian Keene has diligently set out his own new mythological system called the Labyrinth. So far it seems great fun.

In Dark Hollow (2008) which is identical to The Rutting Season (2006), Keene mentions Nodens. On pp. 226 he writes that "Found a picture in one of my history books. It's all in Latin ... a marker, a totem to Nodens, one of the Thirteen ... discovered by a scientist fella named Machen ... O'Connor had said we weren't supposed to say Noden's name out loud". The inscription is previously listed on p.26 of Dark Hollow.


This is basically from the story, The Great God Pan (1894). Arthur Machen hints that the identity of the god is actually the ancient British god Nodens. In the final chapter, an informant from the border of Wales tells of finding an inscription on a pillar in an ancient roman ruin near where Helen Vaughn lived.

On the side of the Pillar was an inscription, of which I took a note. Some of the letters had been defaced, but I do not think there can be any doubt as to those which I supply. The inscription reads as follows:


"To the great good Nodens (the god of the Great Deep or abyss) Flavius Senilis has erected this pillar on account of the marriage which he saw beneath the shade".

I don't know when Mr. Keene became entranced by Machen's work, but he has been a long time correspondent and friend to Mr. Tim Lebbon, whose work is very indebted to Machen.


A previous researcher has stated: the mental model was the Roman ruin at Caermaen, which war near the home where Machen grew up in in southeast Wales, he probably was also inspired by findings at Lydney Park, just across the border in Glouschestershire. Machen's fictional inscription seems to be a sinister parody of the kind of inscriptions which were found during the excavation of an extensive temple complex dedicated to Nodens located there. ... Machen probably became familiar with Nodens and his cult through William Hiley Bathhurst and C. W. King's Roman Antiquities at Lydney Park published in 1879, which included a number of similar obscure inscriptions to the mysterious god. ... Machen's use of Flavius Senilis as the author of the fictional inscrpition. Flavius Senilis is also the author of a famous inscription found by Bathurst and King on a mosaic floor at the temple at Lydney park (above) which reads, "D(eo) N(oenti) T(itus) Flavious Senilis, pr(aepositus) rel(oqiatopmo), ex stipibus possuit o [pus cur]ante Victorio inter[pret]e. 'The god Nodens, Titus Flavious Senilis, officer in charge of the supply-depot of the fleet, laid this pavement out of money offerings; the work being in charge of Victorious, interpreter of the Governor's staff.'"(Wheeler and Wheeler, p. 103; who reproduce Bathurst and King's drawing of the inscription).

Also: Sir John Rhys wrote, "Nodens, the Celitc Zeus was not simply a Neptune or a Posidon, in his connections with the sea; he was also a Mars, as his inscriptions at Lydney testify: (p 130, my emphasis).. Nodens is not simply to be compared with the classic Zeus, but with the pre-classical Zeus, was Zeus, Posidon and Pluto all in one; who also discharged the functions of his classical so-called sons. Greek Literature usually represents Greek theology in a highly departmental state; but traces are not lacking of a previous state. We have a well-known instance in Pluto, who was always a Zeus, with his realm in the deep earth as far below its surface as the sky above it. This is born out by the orphic myth of the union of Persephone of Zeus in the form of a snake, but still as father Zeus; and by the Pontic cult which did not did not disting Zeus Upatos and Zeus Chthonios, not to mention how near the ideas of Pluto, or Pluton, as a god associated with wealth, comes to that of Zeus Plousious (Celtic Heathendom, p. 131).

Machen's Pan is not the simple goat god of the mythology handboks, but one created in the orientalized syncretistic religious decadence of of the late Roman Empire. Machen's image of Pan is most likely the product of more esoteric reading, which could include the Hermetic Books, Gnosticism and Alchemy, and some more scandalous early studies such as Richard Payne Knight's Discourse on the Worship of Priapus, (1786), which were sold to later day Victorian as a kind of antiquarian pornography. This Pan was always closely associated with the cult of Dionysus, and often was his double.

No comments:


Blog Archive


Google Analytics