Open main menu

Page:Folk-lore - A Quarterly Review. Volume 17, 1906.djvu/55

This page needs to be proofread.


The European Sky -God. 45

Lastly, St. Neot was not only a sacred, but also a royal, personage. The monkish chroniclers regarded him as the son of king -^thelwulf and the brother (or at least near kinsman) of king ^Elfred.^ Alfred — it was said — visited his retreat in Cornwall for the cure of a dangerous malady,^ was rebuked by him for tyrannical behaviour, and at various crises of his life saw the saint in a consolatory vision : on one such occasion the phantom of the dead St. Neot undertook to lead the king's army to victory against the Danes.^ A fine stained-glass window in the parish church at St. Neot, Cornwall, represents the saint crowned in allusion to his supposed royal descent.^

It appears, then, that several features in the life and legends of St. Neot bear out the suggestion that he is the Christianised form of a priestly king corresponding to Nuada, Nudd, and Nodons. I do not mean to imply that St. Neot himself was not a historical character, but rather that he inherited the name, the myths, and the festivals of a Cornish divine king.

It would be interesting to know how far the name of these quasi-divinities corresponded to their nature. One point that stands out clearly in their story is the connexion with a river and sacred fish (Nuada, Nodons, Neot). Another, not quite so obvious, is their relation to cattle and other horned beasts. Nuada was husband of the Boyne, whose name Bou-uinda signifies ' White Cow.' ^ On May i, the day of his arrival in Ireland, cattle were driven by the druids between two fires.*^ And Bres, the successor of Nuada, by means of a crafty trick obtained

^ Gorham ib. p. 21 ff., Asser's Life of King Alfred ed. W. H. Stevenson Oxford 1904 p. 256 ff.

^Asser's Life of King Alfred ed. Stevenson p. 55 f., cp. p. 296 f.

^Annals of St. JVcol's in Stevenson's ed. of Asser's Lzfe of King Alfred p. 137 f-

■* Gorham ib. p. 242. ® D'Arbois Les Celtes p. 50. ' Supra p. 30.