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Meditation Archive - TEMPLE OF NODENS INCUBATION by Caitlín Matthews and Jane Dagger
The Romano-British god, Nodens, is the patron of sleep, dreams and healing. His temple at Lydney, on the northern banks of the Severn estuary in Gloucestershire, was used for the purposes of temple-sleep. The method of dream incubation practiced at Lydney seems to have been based on the standard Aesculepian model where, after prayers, offerings and preparations, the client goes into an abaton or sleeping cubicle to receive the oracular dream of the god; such dreams were interpreted by the resident priesthood. It is also in such conditions that the poets of the ancient Celtic peoples incubated their poetry, in the darkness of an enclosure. Nodens is the British name of Nuadu, the King of the Tuatha de Danaan who lost a hand in battle. Since no maimed or disfigured man could be a ruler, he called upon his physician Diancecht to make him a new hand of silver. The name Nodens is derived from the proto-Celtic * neu-d – ‘to fish.’ As a Neptunian interpreter of unconscious states, Nodens is one of the deep guardians from an earlier level of belief. His name is the origin of the expression ‘the Land of Nod,’ for the region of sleep. This meditation originated with my dear friend, Jane Dagger, who died in 2009. Together we developed it for those who like to incubate their dreams:

He is the king of waters deep, Silver Hand, Silver Hand.
He sleeps and dreams of what may be, Silver Hand, Silver Hand.
Remembering and healing all, Silver Hand, Silver Hand.

As the voices sing this chant, make your way to the nearest flowing water near you – a river or estuary – and wait upon the shore. Votaries of the Temple of Nodens come in small reed boats to ferry you over to the Temple. The waters carry you over to a small jetty where the boats are moored. Step out and go up the steps.

There is a central hall with a door in each wall. To your left is the Sanctuary of Sleep and Rest where all who are burdened with care and weariness can safely rest. Around this room are deep beds and a covered fire which is kept in all night, so that nights are warm. If you wish to rest here, find a bed and lie down. It can also be a place of healing and forgetting after difficult times. If you wish to pass onwards, return to the central hall.

In the central hall, the door to the right is the Door of Dream and Vision. The door itself is made of thick glass, but if your desire is to go inside and dream, you can pass through it. Your desire to dream causes it to melt and you go within. Inside there are separate cubicles wherein you may take a watched sleep. One of the priests or priestesses of the temple comes to welcome you and lead you to one of the cubicles. This person will sit nearby while you sleep and be ready to hear your dream and interpret it in the light of your question. If you want to dream clearly about an issue, then go to sleep here. If you wish to pass onwards, return to the central hall.

In the wall opposite the main entrance, in the central hall, is the door to the Shrine of Initiation and Learning. Above this door is an emblem that will help you in the shrine. Look well upon it and remember. Within the Shrine there is a central pool over which a light burns. There are places to sit around the walls. You may come here when there is something you wish to learn, when you need to be wakeful in vigil. Those who sit here gaze into the waters of the central pool and watch the criss-cross ripples reflect upon the ceiling, or gaze watchfully at the shrine light. Here you may hear the chants of initiates or the half-remembered words of wisdom.

Now that you know each of the rooms of the Temple of Nodens, you can revisit them again. For now, the boatmen and women come to guide you back to the reed boats. You are ferried back to the shores where you began this journey.



"For the god Nodens. Silvianus has lost a ring and has donated one-half [its worth] to Nodens. Among those named Senicianus permit no good-health until it is returned to the temple of Nodens."

The above inscription was discovered at Lydney Park during the excavations of the Temple of Nodens on a defixio or curse tablet whereby the loser of the ring, Silvianus, asks the god Nodens to witness and punish the thief, who is of the family Senicianus. There is a corollary to this Romano-British curse, for in 1786 at Silchester, a ring now known as ‘The Vyne Ring’ was discovered. It bears the inscription “O Senicianus, mayest thou live prosperously!” It’s very rare that two such finds can be so nicely tied together. It is thought that Tolkien, who was an advisor to Sir Mortimer Wheeler on his excavation of Lydney in 1938, may have stored up these two pieces of information and have thought up a story in which another ring - of rather more momentousness – figures largely! Perhaps Nodens did Silvianus a long-delayed favour! Did the bombastic thief Senicianus ever reckon he would end up as Gollum, though?

© – John and Caitlín Matthews Site design by Ocelot Solutions

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