Wednesday 19 November 2014

Saint Noémlug, November 19


On November 19 the Martyrology of Gorman records the name of Saint Noémlug, with a prayer for his protection:

19. A.

N[o]emlug dena nemdaib fri demnaib in domain.

Noemlug of the heavens (be) against the demons of the world.

The Martyrology of Donegal records the name only, in the later rendering Naemhlugh and an interesting name it is too as it seems to contain both the element holy noem/naemh and the name of the pagan deity Lug/Lugh. Thus to call our holy man Saint Noémlug is actually a tautology. The index of persons appended to the 1895 edition of The Martyrology of Gorman, however, gives a different derivation for the name:

Noémlug ('holy-small'), Nov. 19. Naemhlugh, Mart. Don. better spelt Noéblug. Not known.

The corresponding index of the Martyrology of Donegal simply records:

Naomh Lugh, 19 Nov. 

but adds a note from the translator:

Lugh. i.e. Saint Lugh or Holy Lugh. This name ought perhaps to have been under Lugh in this index. Nesslugh, one of the three sons of Nesan, occurs at 15 Mar. 

Indeed, even a quick glance at the entries for saints by the name of Lugh and its variants Lughaidh, Lughan, Lughair etc. reveals around two dozen holy men recorded in this Martyrology alone. Obviously, the name of this Irish pagan deity is not an uncommon one among Irish Christian holy men. Another plain and simple 'Lugh' is recorded on January 16, but whether he, or the Nesslugh mentioned above bear any relationship to the saint commemorated today is another matter. 

The name of Noémlug does not occur in the earlier Martyrology of Oengus at November 19 and I have no further information on when and where he flourished.

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