In July this year we are moving to North Devon. One of our neighbours will be the cephalophore St Nectan.
Nectan lived around the time of King Arthur. He was a hermit with two homes, a waterfall in Cornwall and and well in Devon. When he was martyred he was some distance from either, but picked up his head, walked to his well and there collapsed and died.
He is one of a number of cephalophores (for that is the generic term for a saint who survives beheading), who are associated with areas previously inhabited by the Celts, which has given some people the notion that they have a connection with the Celtic cult of the head. Nectan’s association with two watery places strengthens the suspicion that his myth has a pre-Christian origin.
In Irish mythology Nectan is the husband of Boann the goddess of the River Boyne. He had control over a well of wisdom. Nectan may be related to other watery gods such as Neptune, the Swedish Näcken, and the Persian Apam Napat.