In Irish mythology, Nechtan was the father and/or husband of Boann. He may be Nuada under another name, or his cult may have been replaced by that of Nuada. His inhabited the otherworldly Síd Nechtain, the mythological form of Cadbury Hill.
Only Nechtan and his three cup-bearers were permitted to visit the well of Segais, into which nine sacred hazel trees dropped their wisdom-bearing nuts. When Boann visited the well, it overflowed and chased her to the coast, forming the river Boyne.
The name 'Nechtan' is perhaps cognate with that of the Romano-British god Nodens or the Roman god Neptunus, and the Persian and Vedic gods sharing the name Apam Napat.[dubious ] It may also be cognate to the Swedish mythological being Näcken, who dwells near wells and springs.
Nechtan or Nectan became a common Celtic name and a number of historical or legendary figures bear it. Nechtan was a frequent name for Pictish kings. The name MacNaughton derives from "MacNeachdainn", the son of Nechtan. God who had a well of wisdom which was the source of the Boyne. His wife's name is given as either Boann or Elcmar; either way, this wife was later wooed by the Dagda, who impregnated her with Oengus.
Nechtan's well of wisdom was situated under nine hazel trees, the nuts of which imparted wisdom. In that well swam the Salmon of Wisdom. Only Nechtan could draw water from the well. One day, his wife decided to draw water, but instead flooded the well, creating the River Boyne.
His name is related to Neptune; both, it seems go back to the Proto-Indo-European god Népot-, whose name means "close relative (of the waters)", and who rules the fiery waters which grant wisdom—quite possibly sacred alcohol.
- Edel Bhreathnach, entry on "Bóand/Bóinn/Boyne," in Celtic Culture: A Historical Encyclopedia (ABC-Clio, 2006), p. 217.
- Culture, p. 754, citing Dumézil.
- Koch, entry on "Aedán mac Gabráin," in Celtic Culture, p. 16.
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