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Page:Folk-lore - A Quarterly Review. Volume 17, 1906.djvu/45

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The European Sky-God. 35

Simply because the king or quasi-king was regarded as Nuada incarnate. Moreover, there is reason to think that this was no exceptional or fortuitous honour. For the name of Nuada was sometimes used as a common substantive to denote 'king'. In the early Gaelic saga entitled ' The Feast of Bricriu ' {Fled Bricrend) the word occurs in the genitive case nuadat glossed by in rig, that is, ' of the king '} Such a linguistic usage points back to a primitive period in which any and every Irish king might claim to be a man-god and style himself Nuada.

Professor Rhys was at one time disposed to regard a whole succession of early Irish kings — Cormac, Conaire, Conchobar, etc. — as so many different forms of the Celtic Zeus.2 Since then, as he kindly informs me by letter,^ he has been to a large extent persuaded that he had treated as mythological many characters, which now seem to him to have been historical. I would venture to suggest that they were both — I mean, that such personages were traditional or even historical kings, who, in accordance with the beliefs of their day, posed as embodiments of the Irish sky-god. They would thus be brought into line with the early Greek kings, who claimed to be Zeus, and the early Italian kings, who were dubbed Jupiter.

The Irish Nuada corresponds to the Welsh Nudd,* of whom little is known except that he was the father of Gwynn, Edern, and Owein.^ Nudd, however, like Nuada, gave his name to sundry mortal monarchs. A Welsh manuscript,^ which purports to contain the ' Descent

^G. Henderson Fled Bricrend [Irish Texts Society vol. ii) pp. 88, 177. 2 Rhys Hibbert Lectttres p. 133 ff. ^ Dated Nov. 30, 1905.

  • Rhys Hibbert Lectures p. 125, Celtic Britain p. 263.

^J. Loth Les Mabinogion Paris 1889 ii. 381 Index.

^ MS. Hengwrt 536 in W. F. Skene The Four Ancient Books of Wales Edinburgh 1868 ii. 455, cp. i. 168, 355.