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Links to Pagan Ritual in Medieval Irish Literature

David A. Hutchison
p. 113-143

Résumés

Cet article révèle des liens avec des rites païens irlandais qui peuvent être déduits de la lecture de fragments de littérature médiévale présentés sous forme de listes. Trois sont présentés ici : Aidedh Ferghusa Maic Léti (La mort de Fergus Mac Leide, vers 1100 après J.-C.), Buile Shuibhne (La Folie de Suibhne, manuscripts du xviie siècle), et du Livre de Leinster (Lebar na Núachongbála, xie siècle). Dans chaque cas, on s’aperçoit que lorsque les éléments de la liste sont traduits dans une langue plus ancienne que l’Irlandais (que l’on nommera le Goidelic) et récités dans l’ordre, on découvre des poèmes décrivant des rites païens. Le Goidelic est reconsitué sur la base de la linguistique de l’Indo-européen et de lois phonétiques bien connues sous-tendant l’évolution de la langue irlandaise. On verra que la langue Goidelic utilisée ici a une structure très comparable à celle dévoilée par les premières inscriptions ogam et même par le Gaulois. De plus, la prosodie et la scansion de ces poèmes goidelic ont des traits communs avec ceux repérés dans une inscription gauloise datée de 0-300 après J.-C. et découverte à Chamalières en 1971. Nous remarquerons aussi quelques traits récurrents dans ces poèmes : (a) Le but désiré n’est révélé qu’en termes très vagues, ou pas du tout. (b) chaque poème constitue une récitation adressée à un dieu ou une déesse par un “témoin” agissant au nom d’autres participants. (c) Une dualité du rituel est très apparente : c’est-à-dire, un double feu sacré, ou une recitation dans deux sites, etc. (d) Un lieu sacré est mis en évidence devant la divinité, où les vœux des pratiquants ne devraient pas être refusés.

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Introduction

  • 1 Standish H. O’Grady, Silva Gadelica, T. P. Cross, C. H. Slover, Ancient Irish Tales, Caitlín & John (...)
  • 2 Thomas P. Cross, Clark H. Slover, Ancient Irish Tales, J. G. O’Keefe, D. Nutt, Adventures of Suibhn (...)
  • 3 Three 17th to 18th century manuscripts: p. 82a-95b, paper manuscripts in the Royal Irish Academy: w (...)
  • 4 Sources: Dublin, Trinity College Library, Manuscript 1339 (H 2.18, Book of Leinster) T. K. Abbott a (...)

1This article uncovers links to pagan Irish rites which can be deduced from excerpts in the form of lists from medieval literature. There are three presented here: from Aidedh Ferghusa Maic Léti1 (Death of Fergus Mac Leide, c. 1100 A.D.), from Buile Shuibhne2 (Frenzy of Suibhne, 17th-century manuscripts 3), and from the Book of Leinster (Lebar na Núachongbála, 11th century 4). It is seen in all cases that, when list items are rendered in a language ancestral to Irish (henceforth termed Goidelic) and recited in order, poems result which describe pagan rituals. This Goidelic is reconstructed on the basis of Indo-European linguistics and well-known sound laws governing the evolution of the Irish tongue. It will be seen that the Goidelic language used herein has much the same grammatical structure evinced by early ogam inscriptions in Ireland and even by Gaulish itself. Furthermore, the prosody and scansion of these Goidelic poems match features seen in a Gaulish inscription datable to c. 0-300 A.D. discovered at Chamalières, France in 1971.

  • 5 For reconstruction of Goidelic, consider the following articles and texts: Anders Ahlquist, “Relati (...)

2The Goidelic dialect of the poetry reconstructed below seems more archaic than the Irish ogam inscriptions of 300-600 A.D. and will be shown to date to the first two centuries of the Common Era 5. We will also notice some recurring features in the rites described therefrom:

  • The desired outcome of the rite is stated only in the vaguest terms, if at all.

  • Each poem constitutes a recitation addressed to the deity by a “witness” or “master of ceremonies” acting on behalf of other participants. Reciprocally, it is hoped that the godhead will observe the ceremony and grant the wishes of the celebrants.

    • 6 Alwyn & Brinley Rees, Celtic Heritage, p. 162-163 for Roman and Indian Brahmin rites. Also cf., Ama (...)

    Duality in the ritual is readily apparent; e.g., a sacred double fire, or rituals and declarations at two sites, etc.6.

  • Each poem emphasizes that the rite takes place at a sacred locale where the wishes of the performers ought not to be refused. Such locales may be boundaries between natural elements; e.g., the crest of a hill (boundary between earth and sky), a beach or shoreline (boundary between earth and water), or a path between the two.

Inscription at Chamalières, France

  • 7 Patrick L. Henry, “The Gaulish Inscription of Chamalières”, Études Celtiques, Vol. 21, p. 141-150, (...)

3In 1971, a Gaulish inscription was discovered on a tablet in a stream bed at Chamalières, near Clermont-Ferrand amongst other votive objects. The inscription ends with four lines of poetry, perhaps a chant or song. Descriptions and attempted decipherments of the tablet are many. The one used here follows [Henry, 1984] 7, who offers this translation and transliteration of the final four-line poem:

Gaulish (0-300 A.D.):

English translation:

  • When [the god Maponos] had bound [the oath], what was small will become great. I straighten what is crooked.

    • 8 Literally, “Beyond sight” or “Beyond the eye”. Lat. ab oculo, a direct translation, becomes Fr. ave (...)

    In time to come8 I shall see it so happen through this [magical] song inscription.

  • I am preparing them for the oath (3 times).

  • Swear!

Reconstruction and Background:

4The preamble (not shown here) to this Gaulish ritual poem mentions one Floros Nigrinos, who styles himself as adgarios (literally, “pleader”), a title which designates him as master of ceremonies (cf. O. Ir. gair-, “call”). The god Maponos is mentioned by name to whom Nigrinos acts as a witness (cf. line 2: Exops pissiiumi, literally, “In time to come I shall see…”) visualizing the desired outcome. Note that there is only the vaguest notion in the inscription of what that outcome might be, other than Meion, ponc sesit, buet-id ollon.

5The Gaulish phrase ponc sesit, “once he [the god Maponos] has bound it”, contains the notion of binding an oath or constraining events to come through ritual. We note P. Henry’s final paragraph:

… All of the cham [sic] is highly dynamic or performative, particularly [the poem lines], which visualize the desired effects taking shape in the future. At the very end the adgarios can he heard marshalling the oathmakers and exhorting them to swear in order to set the chain of desired events in motion.

Scansion:

  • 9 In the Auvergne (<tribe name Ar(e)vérni) the preference is for penultimate, as in the Chamalières p (...)
  • 10 See John T. Koch, “Prosody and the Old Celtic Verbal Complex”.

6The first three lines of the poem show six accents per line, mainly on the penultimate syllable 9. The exception is the relative pronoun ison, which is followed by the object pronoun son. The latter acts as an enclitic and draws the accent to the syllable immediately preceding10. Hence the accentuation isón on the last syllable. We now can see that the final successive vowels in line 1’s cadence, namely e-u-a-i-o fan out to accented vowels in the second line:

Line 1:

…Regu-c cambion.

Line 2:

Exops pissiiumi isoc canti risu ison …

7The first three lines show repeated vowel sequences:

Line 1:

o-o-e:

Meion ponc sesit … ollon. Regu-c

Line 2:

i-i-u-i-o:

… pissiiumi isoc …canti risu ison …

Line 3:

u-e-e-u-i-i:

Luge dessumiiis (3 times)

8It is also seen that rhyming accented syllables in some feet in line 1 are matched by identical or similar syllables after the accent in the same feet in line 2:

Line 1, 1st, 2nd and 5th feet accent e:

Meion … sesit … Regu-c

Line 2, 1st, 2nd and 5th feet lead to –xo/-so:

Exops pissiiumi isoc … ison son

9Likewise, the i-rhyme in line 2’s fourth and sixth feet is matched by the syllable –on after the main accent in the same feet in line 1:

Line 2, 4th and 6th feet accent i:

…risu … bissiet

Line 1, 4th and 6th feet lead to –on:

…ollon … cambion

10One should also note that an ABBA vowel sequence at the start of line 1 (e-o-o-e: Meion ponc sesit…) is matched by a similar sequence at the close of the second line: (i-o-o-i: …ison son bissiet).

11Thus we can see the following prosodic features in the poem:

  • Fixed number of accents or feet per line, except for a foreshortened final line.

  • Fanning out of successive cadence vowels in line 1 to accented syllables in the following line.

  • Repeating successive vowel sequences in each line.

  • Rhyming accented vowels in one line matched at the same feet by identical or similar syllables after the accent in another line.

  • ABBA vowel sequence at a certain position (i.e., number of feet from the start) in one line followed by a similar ABBA sequence at the opposite position (i.e., same number of feet from the end) of the next.

12We shall see all of these in the Goidelic examples reconstructed below.

133. Iubdán’s Lay to Fer Dédh

14In Ulster, Leprechaun King Iubdán spies Fer Dédh, the fire servant of King Fergus, heaving a log onto the fire bound round by woodbine. Iubdán implores him to spare that tree, and proceeds with this lay:

15Middle Irish, c. 1100 A.D (1st six lines lettered for subsequent analysis).

a) A fhir fhadós teine

sac Fergus na fled:

b) Ar muir ná ar tír

sna loisc ríg na fed.

c) Airdrí feda Fáil

sim nach gnáth sreth sluaig:

d) Ní fann in feidm ríog

ssníom im gach crann cruaid.

e) Dá loisce in fid fann

sbud mana gréch nglonn:

f) Ro sia gábad renn

snó bádad trén tonn.

Ná loisc aball án

sna ngéc faroll fæn:

Fid man gnáth bláth bán

slám cháich na cenn chæm.

Deorad draigen dúr

sfid nach loiscenn sær:

Gáirid elta én

strén a chorp cid cæl.

Ná loisc sailig saír

sfid deimin na nduan:

Beich na bláth ac deol

smian cáich in cró cæm.

Cærthann fid na ndruad

sloisc cæmchrann na gcær:

Sechain in fid fann

sno loisc in call cæm.

Uinnsenn dorcha a dath

sfid luaite na ndroch:

Echlasc lám lucht ech

sa cruth ac cládh chath.

Crom feda déin dris

sloisc féin in ngéir nglais:

Fennaid gerraid cois

ssrengaid nech ar ais.

Bruth feda dair úr

só nach gnáth nech seim:

Tinn cenn tís ó a dhúil

stinn súil ó a ghrís ghéir.

Na fern urbadb fheda

sin crann as teo i ngliaid:

Losc go derb do deoin

sin fern is in sciaig.

Cuilenn loisc a úr

scuilenn loisc a críon:

Gach crann ar bith becht

scuilenn as dech díob.

Trom dana rúsc ruad

scrann fírghona ar fíor:

Loisc co mbeith na gual

seich na sluag a síod.

Cid na fharrad fæn

sbéithe ba blad buan:

Loisc go deimin derb

scainnle na mbalg mbuan.

Léig síos madat maith

scrithach ruad na rith:

Loisc co mall co moch

scrann ‘sa barr ar crith.

Sinnser feda fois

sibar na fled fis:

Déna ris anois

sdabcha donna dis.

Da derntá mo thoil

sa Fhir Dédh dil:

Dot anam dot chorp

sní bud olc a fhir.

16The method by which we shall proceed is to list all the bolded Irish tree names in a table, render each in Goidelic and recite them in order. For example, the first two trees mentioned are the woodbine and apple, respectively féithlenn and aball in Irish. Goidelic reconstructions of these would be Weitis (w)*l*nas and abal(n)a (see the included Glossary), with bracketed consonants w and n possibly no longer pronounced, even at this early stage in the language. Running these words together approximates the first line of the Goidelic poem about to be reconstructed: Wete swela nassa b(w)alæn, “Observe the turns [of the fire drills] which may bind good fortune”. A more complete discussion appears subsequently.

Table 1. List from M. Ir. Poem, Translated to Goidelic

M. Ir. in Poem

English

Actual O. Ir.

Goidelic

ríg na fed,


Airdrí feda Fáil

woodbine

féithlenn

weitis (w)*l*nas a

aball

apple

aball

abal(n)a

draigen

blackthorn

draigen

dragenas

sailig

willow

sail

salihs

cærthann

rowan

cærthenn

kairatinas

call

hazel

coll

koslas

uinnsenn

ash

uinnius, uinnsiu

osnis(t)iu

dris

briar

muin(e)

moni / moniwian

dair

oak

daur

darus

fern

alder

fern

wernas

sciaig

whitethorn

scé

squiat-

cuilenn

holly

cuilenn

kolinas

trom

elder

trom

trusmas

béithe

birch

béithe

betwias

crithach

aspen

crithach, crithech

krit*kas

ibar

yew

eo

iwas

a. See Carl Marstrander, “Hibernica”, p. 410, shows Indo-Eur. examples of names for woodbine.

Goidelic Poem Concerning Waterside Ritual (scansion at right):

  • 11 Sound change nt>dd likely caused pronunciations bwalæ’-ddrâg(e)i, i’-ddorous. matching initial d of (...)

1. Wete swela

snassa bwalæn11

/* /* /* /*

2. Trâg(e)i in æssei

sau wliska ei raddei;

/* /* /* /

3. (Y)an naskûs læssowous

snis(t)ui monu

* /* /** /* /

4. In torous wernæs

sko(m)wii ad kouli;

* /* /* /** /

5. (Y)an nastri (y)ouhsmi

sadsfehtwiei ahsei

* /* / /** /*

6. Qritou (y)akkias

sseiw* ahsei.

/* /** / /*

English Translation:

  • Observe the turns [of the fire drills] which may bind good fortune

  • To/At the strand in the path from the bough around the offering:

    • 12 i.e., two sacrificial fires.

    I then bind at two lights12 to the promenade by the deed

  • Within two fire drills the posts as a way to the two woodpiles.

  • Then let the joinder [i.e., of the fire drills] be bound that there should appear on the axis

    • 13 i.e., healing flame.

    The shape of a balm 13 during the ritual activity at the marsh.

  • 14 Compare Ir. aisling, “vision” <Goidelic *ahsilinga, literally “axis leap”.
  • 15 For these two reasons, the final vowel of “initial” subjunctive verb nastri fails to elide.

17The above Goidelic ritual poem makes use of a clever pun: the word ahsei can mean both “on the axis 14” or “at the marsh”. Elision takes place (unbolded vowels) whenever a final open syllable collides with an initial vowel in a subsequent word. Exceptions occur (a) before nouns (but not connectives or conjunctions) beginning with possible initial y or its remnant; e.g., (y)ouhsmi, (b) after any word starting a declarative sentence 8, possibly after a connective such as (y)an, “then”15.

Reconstruction and Background:

18It is seen that (a) féithlenn, “woodbine” appears as such only in the preamble before the lay, (b) two other list elements use synonyms: dris, “briar” replaced by O. Ir. muin(e), ibar, “yew” by eo.

  • 16 Myles Dillon, Norah Chadwick, The Celtic Realms, p. 1, 33, 137, 287, 290.
  • 17 Barry Raftery, Pagan Celtic Ireland, p. 178-199.

19Clearly the setting of the Goidelic poem is the water’s edge, or boundary between land and liquid. This boundary is deemed imbued with magical significance, within whose presence no request should be denied. The rites indicated include time-honoured offerings cast into a lake or bog. From ancient times and over many settings, the archaeology and documentation within Celtic realms has constantly borne this out. Examples include the votive offerings at Lake La Tène near Neuchâtel, Switzerland 16, Toulouse, Lynn Cerig Bach in Wales, Loch Beg and Loch na Séad in Ireland 17.

20The remainder of the Goidelic poem deals with the “deed” within two fire drills, undoubtedly a human or animal sacrifice, and associates this repeatedly with various forms of the verb “bind”: nassa bwalæn, “that may bind good fortune”, naskûs læssowous, “I bind at the two lights [fires] …”, nastri (y)ouhsmi, “let the joinder [of the fire drills] be bound/constrained …”. The central idea is that the desires of whoever presides as master on behalf of his devotees must come to pass by virtue of the proper ritual having been performed at the sacred locale.

Comparison of M. Ir. and Goidelic Poems:

21Some of the verse lines in M. Ir. prove apt for the associated lines in the Goidelic poem. For example, when Iubdán admonishes Ar muir ná ar tír, “Whether afloat or ashore …”, he foreshadows the upcoming introduction of line 2, Trâg(e)i, “to/at the strand”. The apple tree na ngéc faroll fæn, “of spreading and low-sweeping bough”, matches the Goidelic phrase in line 2: au wliska ei raddei, “bough around the offering”. Still within Goidelic line 2, the blackthorn is described as Deorad “wanderer”, suiting the word æssei, “in the path”. The M. Ir. lines concerning the willow end mian cáich in cró cæm “All love the little cage”. But cró could also mean “barn” or “enclosure”. Indeed, the above-mentioned au wliska ei raddei, “bough around the offering” constitutes a sacred enclosure demarcated from the real world prior to offering. Alder, deemed teo i ngliaid “hottest in the fight”, matches Goidelic line 4: wernæs ko(m)wii ad kouli, “posts …way to the two woodpiles” (for sacred fires). Finally, the birch tree covers the Goidelic phrase adsfehtwiei ahsei, “that there should appear [a flame as balm] on the axis”. The latter notion contains the essence of the Celtic fire rite, that the flames drive out witches and bad spirits and so improve the luck of the people. Consider this description of the Scots highland Beltane fire from John Ramsay, laird of Ochtertyre:

  • 18 Sir James G. Frazer, The Golden Bough, p. 618.

… This fire had the appearance of being immediately derived from heaven, and manifold were the virtues ascribed to it. They esteemed it a preservative against witchcraft, a sovereign remedy against malignant diseases, both in the human species and in cattle; and by it the strongest poisons were supposed to have their nature changed 18.”

Scansion:

22Unaccented syllables at the front of any line should be considered as the end of the previous line. As such, it becomes apparent that line 2 reverses the scansion of line 1, line 4 that of line 3, and line 6 that of line 5, as shown in the numbered feet below:

  • 19 The final syllable of the last foot of lines 2 and 4 is actually the conjunction (y)an, “then” at t (...)

Line 1: (1) /* (2) /* (3) /* (4) /*

Line 2: (4) /* (3) /* (2) /* (1) /* 19

Line 3: (1) /* (2) /** (3) /* (4) /*

Line 4: (4) /* (3) /* (2) /** (1) /*

Line 5: (1) /* (2) / (3) /** (4) /*

Line 6: (4) /* (3) /** (2) / (1) /*

Rhyme:

23Each couplet shows identical or nearly identical end rhyme:

  • 20 Elided vowels do not vanish. But they meld into any succeeding one, and therefore can take part in (...)

Lines 1-2, a-a/æ:

…bwalæn /

…raddei / (Y)an …

Lines 3-4, o-i:

…monu / In

…kouli20

Lines 5-6, a-ei:

ahsei /

ahsei

24It is also seen that the final vowel sequence of any line fans out to successive accented vowels in the next one:

Lines 1-2, a/â-æ:

…bwalæn: /

Trâg(e)i in æssei …

Lines 2-3, a-a/æ:

…raddei / (Y)an

naskûs læssowous …

Lines 3-4, o-ui/we:

…monu / In

torous wernæs …

Lines 4-5, a-ou-ia:

ad kouli / (Y)an

nastri (y)ouhsmi adsfehtwiei

Lines 5-6, i-a-ei:

…adsfehtwiei ahsei / Qritou (y)akkias seiw*

25Certain vowel sequences repeat throughout each line, at times through to the beginning of the next:

  • 21 As at Chamalières, elided vowels may be included in the sequence.

Line 1-2, a-a/æ-a/â:

… swela nassa bwalæn / Trâg(e)i

Line 2, a-(e)i-a-ei21:

Trâg(e)i in æssei …wliska ei raddei

Line 3-4, o-ou/u-i:

…læssowous nis(t)ui monu / In

Line 4, o/ou-i-a:

…ko(m)wii ad kouli / (Y)an

Line 5-6, a-e/ei-i:

adsfehtwiei ahsei / Qritou

26Finally, when certain feet in a line possess identical or similar syllables after the accent, another line in the poem sees those same feet accent the same vowels. Recall that k, t immediately after n or s are equivalent to g, d respectively.

Line 1, 2nd, 4th foot leads to -la/æn:

…swela nassa … bwalæn

Line 6, 2nd, 4th foot accents a:

…(y)akkias … ahsei

Line 2, 1st, 3rd foot leads to –g(e)i/-kei:

…Trâg(e)i … wliska ei

Line 5, 1st, 3rd foot accents a:

…nastri … adsfehtwiei

Line 3, 3rd, 4th foot leads to -ui:

…nis(t)ui monu / In

Line 4, 3rd, 4th foot sequence o-i-a:

…ko(m)wii ad kouli / (Y)an

27In the entire discussion above, diphthong æ is seen to be everywhere equivalent to a, thus predating the Irish ogam inscriptions. Nevertheless, diphthongs au and ou are coming together: kouli, “two wood piles” instead of original *kauli. (See Glossary).

Scansion and Prosody in the Later Irish Poem:

28In this section, we analyze the lettered line groups in the late M. Ir. poetry above in comparison with the corresponding numbered lines of the reconstructed Goidelic poem. Unlike other trees, six whole lines in Iubdán’s Lay are devoted to the woodbine. Upon inspection, we readily see that these lines have a structure mimicking that of the Goidelic poem in many ways. Note that when a “fifth” or “sixth” foot in a 4-foot Goidelic verse line is mentioned, this denotes the first or second foot in the subsequent line:

  • 22 Umlauting and consonant classes are ignored, so that; e.g., loisc shares an accented vowel with glo(...)

Line a, 3rd, 4th and 5th feet accent 22 e:

…teine ac Fergus na fled

Line 1, 3rd, 4th and 5th feet accent a/â:

nassa bwalæn / Trâg(e)i

Line a, 2nd and 4th feet lead to –s:

…fhadós …Fergus

Line 1, 2nd and 4th feet lead to –la/æn:

…swela nassa bwalæn

Line b, 2nd and 4th feet accent í:

…tír …ríg

Line 2, 2nd and 4th feet accent a/æ:

æssei …raddei

Line b, 1st and 4th feet lead to –na/á:

Ar muir …ríg na

Line 2, 1st and 4th feet lead to –(e)i…n:

Trâg(e)i in …raddei / (Y)an

Line d, 3rd and 4th feet accent ío:

…ríog sníom

Line 4, 3rd and 4th feet accent o:

…ko(m)wii ad kouli

Line e, 1st and 6th feet accent o:

Dá loisc …nglonn

Line 5, 1st and 6th feet accent a:

(Y)an nastri …/…(y)akkias

Line e, 3rd and 4th feet accent a:

…fann bud mana

Line 5, 3rd and 4th feet accent a:

adsfehtwiei ahsei

Line e, 3rd and 6th feet lead to –nn:

…fann …nglonn

Line 5, 3rd and 6th feet lead to –i…as:

…adsfehtwiei ahsei /…(y)akkias

Line f, 2nd and 4th feet accent á:

…gábad …bádad

Line 6, 2nd and 4th feet accent a:

…(y)akkias …ahsei

Line f, 1st four accented vowels i-á-e-a:

Ro sia gábad renn no bádad …

Line 6, accented vowels i-a-ei-a:

Qritou (y)akkias seiw* ahsei

29At times, the “lead to” sequence in the M. Ir. and Goidelic poems includes elements of a subsequent accented syllable:

Line c, 1st and 2nd feet lead to –f:

Airdrí feda Fáil

Line 3, 1st and 2nd feet lead to –(o)us:

(Y)an naskûs læssowous

Line c, 4th and 5th feet lead to –ths:

…gnáth sreth sluaig

Line 3, 4th and 5th feet lead to –ui/we:

…monu / In torous wernæs

Line d, 1st and 5th feet lead to –nn:

…fann …crann

Line 4, 1st and 5th feet lead to –r…ou…s:

In torous .../(Y)an nastri (y)ouhsmi

Line f, 2nd and 4th feet lead to

ad: …gábad …bádad

Line 6, 2nd and 4th feet lead to

sei:…(y)akkias seiw* ahsei

30All of the above evidence shows that the structure of some form of the original Goidelic poem was borne in mind when the M. Ir. poem or its forerunner was constructed. It also proves that pagan prosodic features from the continent survived in Ireland until that time.

Recapitulation:

31The above Goidelic poem describes a ritual performed at the water’s edge. Duality of sacrifice is maintained “at two (fire) lights”, “by the deed / Within two fire drills”). Repeated use of the verb “bind” (nassa, naskûs, nastri) portrays a hoped-for constraint on the future outcome which includes a successful kindling of the sacrificial pyre. Furthermore, the structure of the first six lines of the M. Ir. poem shows many features in common with the Goidelic verse.

Eulogy for the Natural Beauty of Glen Bolcáin

32Suibhne praises the beauty of his surroundings at Glen Bolcáin in three stanzas. The Goidelic poem reconstructed therefrom deals with propitiatory rituals performed near a well.

  • 23 Lines here given after each cæsura appear as separate lines in the manuscript. Line pairs are thus (...)

Irish23:

  • 24 Appears as agus in the manuscript. Ocus is the older version, and provides the rhyme.

a) Uisge Ghlinne Bolcáin báin,

seisteacht re a énlaith iomláin,

b) A shrotha millsi nach mall,

sa innsi ocus 24 a abhann.

c) A chuilenn cliuthar’s a choill,

sa duille, a dreasa, a dercoinn,

d) A sméra áille uagha,

sa chna, a áirne ionnúara,

e) Iomad a chúan fo chrannuibh,

sbúiredhach a dham nallaidh,

f) A uisci iodhan gan gheis.

sNí liom-sa robá miosgais.

33Close attention must be paid in this instance to the declension of each bolded item in the above three stanzas, as these are reproduced in list from which the Goidelic poem is reconstructed.

  • 25 List members are superscripted to indicate case and number; e.g., NS = nominative singular, NP = no (...)

Table 2. Item List from Poem25

From M. Ir. Poem

English

Actual O. Ir.

Goidelic

uisge

water

uisceNS

udeskia-NS

énlaithOP

birds

énaibhOP

etnisuLP a

shrothaNP

streams

srothaNS

srutowesNP

innsiNP

islands

insiNP

enis(t)îsNP

abhannNP

rivers

abann, aibinnNP

abonesNP

chuilennNS

holly

cuilennNS

kolinasNS

choillNP

hazels

cuillNP

kosliNP

duilleNP

leaves

duilneNP

doliniaNPb

dreasaNP

brambles

drissiNP

dre(h)s(t)îsNP

dercoinnNP

acorns

dercoinnNP

derwuggonesNP

sméraNP

berries

sméraNP

sme(y)erâsNP

chnaNP

nuts

cnoiNP

knowesNP

áirneNP

sloes

áirneNP

agriniaNP

chúanGP

packs of hounds

cuanGP

kounanGP

damhGP

stags

damhGP

damanGP

uisciNS

water

uisceNS

udeskia-NS

a. Indo-Eur. locative plural for o-decl. is usually reconstructed as *–oisu (cf. Skt. vrkesu, “among wolves”). The unaccented diphthong oi becomes i in Celtic, e.g., i-suffix of o-decl. Hence the reconstructed –isu suffix.


b. Indo-Eur. nouns denoting diminutives or smaller portions of larger entities usually take the neuter gender; e.g., Germ. neuter nouns in –chen (e.g., das Mädchen, “maiden”). So suffix –inion (plural –inia) creates neuter nouns. Neuter plurals of these evolved the ending –ne in post-apocope Irish and came to be transferred to the ia-decl. with feminine gender; e.g., duil(n)e, áirne, etc.

Goidelic Poem Concerning Well Ritual:

i. Recall that final vowels of the first non-conjunction word in any declarative sentence do not elide. As a result of –nk->-gg-, we likely have a pronunciation (Y)a’-ggwrinu…, approximating the first two syllables of list item agrinia.

ii. Goidelic change of unaccented –es->-is- may not yet have taken place.

English Translation:

  • He has offered thorn(s) from the withe that would be cleansed from the first of the waters

  • From the path at/from the river of a complement of fish at the declarations of two feasts.

  • To the net may you bind for sure that which we may partake by the two ends [of the sacred path] which you watch;

  • Then I purchase, hard by the interval [between the two path “ends” of line 3.], a favour(?) from the folk in the bier of the waters.

Reconstruction and Background:

  • 26 Lady Wilde, Irish Mystic Charms and Superstitions, p. 69-71.

34Ireland continues the ancient European custom of reverence for sacred wells, as described by Lady Wilde 26. Although these rites smack of bygone paganism, it is important to realize that their devotees perform them in Christ’s name in the most devout manner. In fact many of the Irish wells so used are consecrated to known saints:

  • 27 W. G. Wood-Martin, Traces of the Elder Faith in Ireland, p. 89.

In the parish of Killady, county Cork, is St. Ita’s Well, where “rounds” are still paid. An oblong hole in the ground not far distant is called “St. Ita’s Bed”, where, if child-bearing women roll themselves, they will not suffer the pains of childbirth 27.

35Yet the rites performed have antecedents which definitely predate Christianity. In the quid-pro-quo world of the ancient supernatural, the ritual must include an offering to placate the ambient deities. Pliny the Younger proves this notion’s antiquity with the following passage from Epistles:

  • 28 Iona Opie, Moira Tatem, A Disctionary of Superstitions, p. 439.

The spring emerges … and … opens out to the view with a broad expanse, clear and transparent, so that you are able to view and count the small coins thrown into it 28

  • 29 Sir James G. Frazer, The Golden Bough, p. 619.
  • 30 The modern spelling, Leabhar Gabhála Eireann, as opposed to Lebar or Lebor, etc., usually refers to (...)
  • 31 Caitlín & John Matthews, Encyclopedia of Celtic Wisdom, p. 11-15.

36In place of coins, the Goidelic poem describes an offering of thorn(s) from an encompassing withe dressing a well likely alongside a stone monument perhaps referred to figuratively as “bier of the waters”. There are some additional clues as to the season of this ritual: “the first of the waters” (either the initial skimming of the well or of May dew at Beltane, both thought of as highly curative for a wide range of ailments). More insightful is the ending of line 2, declarations of two feasts. This is reminiscent of the Scots Highland Beltane ritual whereby the bannoch bread is offered in two stages: in the first stage, bannoch pieces are presented to beneficial spirits, imploring them to protect and bestow good fortune; the second offering is to the harmful forces such as predatory animals (“This to thee, O Fox. Spare thou my lambs…”) 29. In Irish myth (Lebor Gabala Érenn30), when the Milesians reach Ireland, their archdruid Amairgin recites two declarations of the bounty of Ireland: one when first reaching the Irish shore (“I am a wind on the sea, / I am a wave of the ocean…”) and the second after banishment by the Túatha Dé Danann into a storm beyond the ninth wave (“I seek the land of Ireland / Forceful the fruitful sea …”). As with the Highland bannoch offering, the appropriate occasion is Beltane31.

37The poem above closes with a deliberate purchase of godly favour or unnamed wish at the extremities of the sacred path or interval (tisi, adga(y)ei). Such boons can only be granted at auspicious locales, in this case the two ends (er(s)aus) of this path trod by the participants. In the final line, the verb kon-awi- constitutes part of an exhortation for the deity to observe (cf. initial verb Wete in the previous section) the ritual and grant its desired outcome.

Scansion and Prosody:

38As before, unaccented syllables at the start of any line are to be regarded as final syllables of the previous one. The metre after any cæsura either repeats what appears before it (line 1: /* /* /*, line 2: / /* /*, line 3: /* /** /*) or reverses it (line 4: /** /* /* followed by its inverse /* /* /**).

39We can also see instances where rhyming feet in one line are matched elsewhere in the poem by another line whose feet culminate in or lead to identical or similar syllables:

  • 32 It is permissible to extend as far as the accented syllable in the following foot, as in these two (...)

Line 1, 2nd & 4th feet accent i:

… squiæ(n/s) … nihstra

Line 2, 2nd & 4th feet lead to –n*s:

… abon eiskan lîni adsquous32

Line 3, 3rd & 4th feet accent e:

… derw* … kon-(y)a- esmo

Line 4, 3rd & 4th feet end in -*n:

… won(d)*n dâma in

Line 3, 3rd & 5th feet end in –kon:

… derw* kon-… er(s)aus kon-…

Line 4, 3rd & 5th feet accent o/aw:

… won(d)*n … awędd(*)

  • 33 Cf. previous instances of kouli, supported by rhyme, in place of more archaic *kauli.

40The latter provides important evidence for dating the poem. It shows that the altering of diphthong au to ou has already taken place. Since this feature has been dated in Britain to the late first century A.D., it would seem that this is the earliest possible era for the composition of the stanza 33.

41If we choose squiæs, “thorns” (favouring udeskias) over singular squiæn, then some additional correspondences appear in lines 1 and 2:

Line 1, 2nd & 5th syllable end in –æs w/-esu:

… squiæs weiti … towes(t)u

Line 2, 2nd & 5th syllable accent a:

abon(*) adsquous …

42As in the previous section and also at Chamalières, each line shows repeating vowel sequences:

Lines 1-2, e/ei-e/ie-i:

…weiti nihstra … eni / Ehs tisi

Line 2, i/î-ia-o/ou:

…tisi abon(*) lîni adsquous

Line 3, a-ei/e-e/ei-e:

adreihses derw* kon-(y)a-esmo ei er(s)aus

Line 4, a-a-ei/i:

adga(y)ei … dâma in

43A vowel sequence at the start of the first line replicates itself as a sequence of accented vowels further on:

44Line 1, initial vowel sequence ou-e-i-æ-ei-i:

Oude squ(-n/-s) weiti

45Lines 1-2, accented vowel sequence ow-e-i-a-ei-î:

… towes(t)u eni / Ehs tisi abon(*) eiskan lîni

46Finally, end rhyme is apparent between line 1 and 4 and between lines 2 and 3. However, as in the later 17th century Irish poem, unaccented syllables rhyme with accented ones and vice versa. In the case of line 1, the rhyme continues into the following line.

Lines 1-2, e-i-i-a:

eni / Ehs tisi abon(*) …

Line 4, e-i-i-a:

… awędd(*) iskia(-n/-s).

47We also obtain the following end rhyme between lines two to four:

Lines 2-3, ou-i-au-î-u:

… adsquous wlidau / Lînui

Lines 3-4, aw-î-a-i-ù:

… kon-(y)*-awîs / (Y)an qrinu

48The above match is possible if (a) au/aw has developed to ou and (b) unaccented a of conjunction (y)an (older *(y)on) is equivalent to o.

Scansion and Prosody in the Later Irish Poem:

  • 34 In O. Ir. poetry, final words in a line may avoid rhyme, but instead share an identical consonant a (...)

49The later Irish excerpt above shows the matching of rhyming feet in a line with identical consonants or syllables after the accent in the same feet of the line before or after 34. There are indeed correspondences between the M. Ir. and Goidelic poems. Some examples here illustrate the process:

Line a, 2nd and 4th feet lead to -n:

Ghlinne …báin

Line b, 2nd and 4th feet accent i:

…millsi …innsi

Line a, 1st and 5th feet lead to –s:

Uisge …eisteacht

Line 1, 1st and 5th feet lead to –es:

Oude squiæ(-s?/-n?) …towes(t)u

Line b, 1st and 5th feet accent o:

…shrotha ...ocus

Line 2, 1st and 5th feet accent a:

abon(*) adsquous

Line c, 2nd and 5th feet lead to –sa:

…cliuthar ‘sa …dreasa

Line d, 2nd and 5th feet accent ái:

áille …áirne

Line 4, 2nd and 5th feet accent a:

adga(y)ei …awędd(*)

Line c, 5th and 6th feet accent e:

dreasa, a dercoinn

Line d, 5th and 6th feet lead to –r:

áirne ionnúara

Line e, 4th and 6th feet lead to –dh:

búiredhach …n-allaidh

Line f, 4th and 6th feet accent io:

...liom-sa …miosgais

Line e, 3rd and 6th feet accent a:

…chrannuibh …n-allaidh

Line f, 3rd and 6th feet lead to –s:

…gheis …miosgais

Recapitulation:

50The setting appears to be a well-side ritual, matching the death setting of Suibhne himself. However, there is further allusion to the season and links to spring rites. Also in evidence is a request to the godhead expressly perpetrated at betwixt-and-between locales; i.e., the land-water and water-sky boundaries. Once again we perceive duality in the ceremony (“declarations at two feasts”, “at two ends (of the sacred path)”).

Amairgin’s Lay at the Shore of Ireland

51Amairgin Glúngel (White Knee), archdruid of the sons and tribe of Míl Espáne, retires his people beyond the ninth wave from Ireland, abiding by the judgment of Mac Cuill, Mac Cecht and Mac Gréne, the three kings of the Túatha Dé Danann. Unbeknownst to Míl’s people, the wizards of the Túatha raise a mighty tempest. It is only becalmed when Amairgin places his right foot upon the Irish shore and recites this lay (from Book of Leinster with similar variants from Lebor Gabala Érenn):

Irish35:

  • 35 Lines here given after each cæsura appear as separate lines in the manuscript. Lines are thus group (...)
  • 36 This phrase only in Book of Leinster. Perhaps should be read doman or domun?
  • 37 Ibid.
  • 38 The more common version of this word is either drenn or dreng.
  • 39 In Lebor Gabala Érenn and most other versions, but not Book of Leinster.
  • 40 In Book of Leinster as gai, but elsewhere.

a) Am gæth i mmuir (ar domni)36.

sAm tond trethan (i tír)37.

b) Am fúaimm mara.

sAm dam secht nd[í]rend 38.

sAm séig i n-aill.

c) Am dér gréne.

sAm caín (lubæ)39.

sAm torc ar gail.

d) Am i llind.

sAm loch i mmaig.

sAm brí a ndaí.

e) Am brí dánæ.

sAm 40 i fodb feras fe[o]chtu.

f) Am delbas do chind codnu.

52

53The above is an initial excerpt which proceeds in a more verbose manner through two more verses. However, by tabulating those nouns tagged in lines beginning Am (“I am”), we can derive the following Goidelic fragment.

  • 41 As above, case and number are indicated in superscripts; e.g., NS for nominative singular.

Table 3. Item List from Poem 41

From Poem

English

Actual O. Ir.

Goidelic

gæthNS

wind

gæthNS

goitaNS

tondNS

wave

tondNS

tundaNS

maraGS

sea

maraGS

maro(y)osGS

damNS

stag, ox

damNS

damasNS

séigNS

hawk

senénNS a

senetnasNS

gréneGS

sun

gréneGS

greisnisasGS b

lubæGP

plant

lubæGP

lobianGP

torcNS

boar

torcNS

t(w)orkasNS

NS

salmon

éNS

esahsNS

llindOS

pool

lindOS

lindeiLS

lochNS

lake

lochNS or OS

lokuNS, lokouLS

mmaigOS

plain

maigOS

magisLS

bríNS

height

bríNS

brîhsNS

dánæGP

art

dán(æ) GP

dånanGP c

NS

spear

NS

gaisanNS d

NS

god

NS

deiwasNS

a. Noun séig (O. Ir. sebacc) is actually derived from Anglo-Saxon heafoc and cannot have a Goidelic antecedent. See Rudolf Thurneysen, “A Grammar of Old Irish” for an explanation of the replacement of the initial consonant of loanwords by s. The native Ir. word is senén, lit. “old bird”.


b. We find in this poem that unaccented –es- has already become –is-; e.g., ogam TOWISAKI (<*towestaki).


c. Originally neut. o-stem. See Glossary.


d. Originally neut. o-stem, cf., Lat gaesum. See Glossary.

Goidelic Poem Concerning Waterside and Beltane Ritual:

English Translation:

  • A sea wave was surrounding the folk of storms on two sides:

  • [The side] of the gathering of two herbs of the sun; [and the side of] two piglets where [the god] shall seek upon the flagstone

  • Beyond two comely kine, the battle din from the track that the god shall find.

Reconstruction and Background:

  • 42 See Togbail Bruidne Dá Derga (Taking of Dá Derga’s Hostel), where two stones, Blocc and Bluiccne co (...)

54Once again, duality of sacrifice is readily apparent at the description of two distinct rites: the gathering of two sacred plants at the waterside likely for Beltane, and the animal offerings on land. In more recent Irish folk custom, the former usually took the form of rowan and marsh marigold. The latter rite again splits into two, or quadruple sacrifice: two piglets on one side and two cows (calves?) on the other. Note the use of the flagstone to denote the advent of a king or conquering deity 42 (in this case “King Summer” or his human representative).

Scansion and Prosody:

55We continue the habit of counting unaccented syllables at the end of the line as part of the previous one. The cæsura either divides the line symmetrically (line 1: (1)* (2)/* (3)/* (4)/*, followed by (4)/* (3)/* (2)/* (1)*; line 2: (1)/** (2)/* (3)/*, followed by (3)/* (2)/* (1)/**) or into repeating metres (line 3: / /* /* twice). Taken as a whole, line 2 is seen to reverse the scansion of line 1:

Line 1:

(1)* (2)/* (3)/* (4)/*

(5)/* (6)/* (7)/**

Line 2:

(7)/** (6)/* (5)/*

(4)/* (3)/* (2)/* (1)*

56We can also see instances where feet which rhyme accented vowels in one line are matched in the next by the same feet containing similar syllables after the accent:

Line 1, 1st and 5th feet accent i/î:

Ko(m)-wita …sînan

Line 2, 1st and 5th feet lead to –sas/sâhs:

Greisnisas …sisâhs

  • 43 As seen previously, unaccented a and o are equivalent.

Line 2, 5th and 6th feet accent i:

...sisâhs sflind(e)i

Line 1, 5th and 6th feet lead to –na/-no:

…sînan tenowous43

57It is also evident that vowel sequences (including elided ones) in the cadence of the first two lines repeat themselves in the subsequent line:

Lines 1-2, i/î-a-e-o-ou:

…sînan tenowous / …lobiau e(n)towou

Lines 2-3, â/a-i-ei/i-a/æ-a/æ -oi/ai:

…sisâhs sflind(e)i / Al(n)a koimou agis bristæn

ængwa îhsæn …

58Finally, ABBA vowel sequences appear in all lines. One should note that equivalences are allowed here; i.e., unaccented a and o, a and æ, etc.

  • 44 We have already seen how unaccented a and o are equivalent.

Lines 1-2, last and 1st feet ABBA vowel sequences e-o-o-e, i-a44-o-i:

…tenowous / Greisnisas lobiau

59The last line also shows an ABBA vowel sequence at the second and third feet:

Line 3, a-i-i-æ:

agis bristæn…

Scansion and Prosody in the Later Irish Poem:

60In this section, we analyze the lettered line groups in the late poetry shown above. When we do this, we see that patterns of construction and rhyme seen in the later Irish verse match similar constructs in the Goidelic poem at the same lines and feet. We include here the phrases ar domni (domun?), i tír present only in the Book of Leinster, and the word lubæ without which line c makes little sense. Here are some examples, with lettered lines from the later Irish excerpt, and numbered ones from Goidelic:

Line a, 1st and 5th feet accent (a)eth:

…gæth …trethain

Line 1, 1st and 5th feet accent i/î:

Ko(m)-wita …sînan

Line a, 3rd and 4th feet accent o:

…domni …tond

Line 1, 3rd and 4th feet accent a/â:

maro(y)os …dâmæn

Line b, 1st and 5th feet lead to –m(m):

…fúaimm …nd[í]rend. Am

Line 2, 1st and 5th feet lead to –sa(h)s:

Greisnisas …sisâhs

Line b, 5th and 6th feet accent e/é:

…ndrenn …séig

Line 2, 5th and 6th feet accent i:

sisâhs sflind(e)i

61Certain additional rhyme patterns suggest that the original stanza after which the later Irish poem was fashioned was not the early form given above, but instead a later version datable to the end of the period of ogam inscriptions (5th century). For example, if we allow tunda, Greisnisas, lobiau, sflind(e)i to evolve into tunna, Grênnia, lobio, slinni respectively, the following additional matches are achieved:

Line a, 2nd and 6th feet lead to –r:

…muir …tír

Line 1, 2nd and 6th feet lead to –na/-no:

tunna …tenowo(u)s

Line b, 1st, 2nd, 6th feet lead to –m:

…fúaimm mara. Am ..n-aill / Am

Line 2, 1st, 2nd, 6th feet lead to –io/-ia:

Grênnia lobio …slinni / Al(n)a

62Rendering line c’s caín in its more archaic form cáin, we achieve a near rhyme with final word gail. A similar near rhyme between bristæn and deiwas (or their later equivalents) is found in Goidelic line 3:

Line c, 3rd, 6th feet accent –ái/ai:

…cáin …gail

Line 3, 3rd, 6th feet accent (e)i:

bristæn …deiwas

63All of the above analysis proves a persistence of ancient prosody into medieval times. In this case, however, it seems that a version of the above Goidelic poem lasted till the end of the pagan period, with all its subsequent vowel and consonant alterations. This later form served as a basis for the construction of Amairgin’s lay.

Recapitulation:

64Once again, the Goidelic poem describes dual rites, including the gathering of two sacred herbs by the waterside, matched by two double animal offerings on land. As before, the deity is exhorted to observe (literally “seek” and “find”) the flagstone where ritual combat takes place, likely between “King Summer” and a winter scapegoat. Because unaccented –es- and –is- have become equivalent, the above poem likely postdates prior examples; e.g., late 2nd or 3rd century, with at least one version surviving later.

Summary

65We have seen how poetry preserved in medieval Irish manuscripts contains lists which, when rendered in a Goidelic dialect and recited in order, describe pagan rituals known or inferred from folklore or ancient sources. These rites are led by a master of ceremonies who intercedes on behalf of the celebrants, and it is he who recites the poetry reconstructed above.

  • 45 R. R. Brash, The Ogam-Inscribed Monuments of the Gaedhil in the British Isles. Note: Most ogam insc (...)

66This Goidelic dialect seems more archaic than any evidence from ogam inscriptions 45:

    • 46 Consider the town of Cashel (Ir. Caiseal) derived from Lat. castellum, “small fort”. This toponym s (...)

    Sibilant clusters –sl-, -sm-, –sn- and perhaps –st-46 are preserved.

  • Consonant s never drops at the end of a word or between vowels.

  • Syllable *an before t or k has not yet developed into long ê. The evidence instead shows a vowel here reconstructed as æ which rhymes most often with other a-syllables. Likewise, older *-ans, *-âns becomes –æs.

  • Final syllable –an has not yet become –en. Instead, we reconstruct –æn, which tends, as above, to rhyme usually with other a-syllables.

    • 47 Compare Gaul. in Alixie, “in Alesia”, Celtiberian loc. sing. article somei distinct from dat. sing. (...)

    Noun cases other than genitive are preserved. This includes distinct locative 47 (sing. –(e)i or –ou for u-decl., du. –aus, -ous, pl. –su), dative, ablative and possibly instrumental. By O. Ir., these are merged into a single oblique case.

67On the other hand, there are these similarities with the ogam inscriptions:

  • Clusters –nk-, -nt- are already pronounced –gg-, -dd- respectively.

  • Unaccented short o and a are equivalent.

  • Diphthongs –au-, –ou- and vowel –o- rhyme with one another. This seems a step towards the levelling of all diphthongs, as found in ogam inscriptions.

    • 48 Kenneth H. Jackson, Language and History in Early Britain, p. 305-307, 1953. This change is not uni (...)

    On occasion, -ou- is found where more archaic –au- is expected. This feature is datable in Britain to the late 1st century A.D.48

  • 49 Claudius Ptolemæus flourished in the 2nd century. His map of Ireland, originally Greek, based upon (...)
  • 50 Cf. Gk. adjectival suffix –οιδLs, –οιδ]

68The balance of the evidence suggests a date of second century A. D. for the reconstructed Goidelic poetry in this article. There would then be a close match in age with the famous map of Ireland given in Ptolemy’s Geographia49. At least one tribe shows the typical ogam-style alteration o>a in unaccented syllables: USDIAE (Gk. ). Similar final syllables also occur in the more northern tribe ROBOGDII, matching O. Ir. adjectival ending –aidhe, -dhae <Goidelic –dias <-dios50. USDIAE preserves the final vowel a of –dias and adds a Greek or Latin plural ending.

69We would be naïve to suppose that the sound laws and dialectal peculiarities described above apply universally over all Ireland in the second century. But we can be more specific concerning the locale. Aside from unaccented o>a noted in the tribe name USDIAE, we also note EDROS (Ir. Beann Éadair) showing –nt->-dd-. This would suggest a location of East Central Ireland for the focus of the ritual settings shown in this article. Recall that this is where Roman material has been unearthed dating to the first and second centuries A. D. Lambay Island is typical in this respect, showing a grave in British style with Roman artifacts. Perhaps we should regard the Roman goods as being borne to Ireland by British and continental Celts promulgating European ideas and bringing Irish ritual more in line with them.

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Notes

1 Standish H. O’Grady, Silva Gadelica, T. P. Cross, C. H. Slover, Ancient Irish Tales, Caitlín & John Matthews, The Encyclopedia of Celtic Wisdom, p. 359-376.

2 Thomas P. Cross, Clark H. Slover, Ancient Irish Tales, J. G. O’Keefe, D. Nutt, Adventures of Suibhne Geilt, web site [http://www.ucc.ie/celt/published/G302018/].

3 Three 17th to 18th century manuscripts: p. 82a-95b, paper manuscripts in the Royal Irish Academy: written between 1671 and 1674 by Daniel O’Duigenan; p. 131-180, paper manuscripts in the Royal Irish Academy: written in 1721-1722 by Tomaltach Mac Muirghiosa; Brussels 3410, folia 59a-61b, paper manuscripts is in the Royal Library, Brussels, written by Michael O’Clery, 1629.

4 Sources: Dublin, Trinity College Library, Manuscript 1339 (H 2.18, Book of Leinster) T. K. Abbott and E. J. Gwynn (eds.) Catalogue of Irish Manuscripts in the Library of Trinity College Dublin (Dublin 1921) 158-161; R. I. Best, Osborn Bergin, M. A. O’Brien and Anne O’Sullivan (eds.) The Book of Leinster, formerly Lebar na Núachongbála (6 volumes) (Dublin Institute for Advanced Studies 1954-1983). Digitized at [http://www.ucc.ir.celt/published/G800011A/index.html].

5 For reconstruction of Goidelic, consider the following articles and texts: Anders Ahlquist, “Relative Endings of the Old Irish Simple Verb”, Ériu, Vol. 36, p. 137-142, 1985; Warren Cowgill, “Origin of the Insular Celtic Conjunct and Absolute Vernal Inflexions”, Flexion und Wortbildung (ed. H. Rix), p. 40-70, Wiesbaden, 1975a; Warren Cowgill, “Two Further Notes on the Origin of the Insular Celtic Absolute and Conjunct Verb Endings”, Ériu, Vol. 26, p. 27-52, 1975b; Warren Cowgill, “On the Prehistory of the Celtic Passive and Deponent Inflexion”, Ériu, Vol. 34, p. 73-111, 1983; Warren Cowgill, “On the Origin of the Absolute and Conjunct Verbal Inflexions of Old Irish”, Grammatische Kategorien: Funktion und Geschichte (ed. N. Schlerath), Wiesbaden, 1985; Kenneth H. Jackson, Language and History in Early Britain, Edinburgh University Press, Edinburgh, 1953; Julius Pokorny, Indogermanisches Etymologisches Wörterbuch, Bern, 1949-59; Peter Schrijver, “The Development of Primitive Irish *aN before Voiced Stop”, Ériu, Vol. 42, p. 13-25, 1991; Rudolf Thurneysen, A Grammar of Old Irish, Dublin Institute for Advanced studies, Dublin, 1946; Joseph Vendryes, Lexique Étymologique de l’Irlandais Ancien, Dublin, 1959; Calvert Watkins, “On the Pre-History of the Celtic Verb Infliction”, Ériu, Vol. 26, p. 1-22, 1969.

6 Alwyn & Brinley Rees, Celtic Heritage, p. 162-163 for Roman and Indian Brahmin rites. Also cf., Amairgin’s two incantations to call forth the fertility of Ireland for the Milesians.

7 Patrick L. Henry, “The Gaulish Inscription of Chamalières”, Études Celtiques, Vol. 21, p. 141-150, 1984.

8 Literally, “Beyond sight” or “Beyond the eye”. Lat. ab oculo, a direct translation, becomes Fr. aveugle, “blind”.

9 In the Auvergne (<tribe name Ar(e)vérni) the preference is for penultimate, as in the Chamalières poem. However, the fore-runner of Fr. change, Sp. cámbio, is seen in cambion, which likely accents its first (possibly antepenultimate) syllable, given this evidence.

10 See John T. Koch, “Prosody and the Old Celtic Verbal Complex”.

11 Sound change nt>dd likely caused pronunciations bwalæ’-ddrâg(e)i, i’-ddorous. matching initial d of list elements dragenas and darus. Note that n. pl. nouns (swela) govern singular verb forms (nassa) as in Gk., Skt. and other more archaic Indo-Eur. languages.

12 i.e., two sacrificial fires.

13 i.e., healing flame.

14 Compare Ir. aisling, “vision” <Goidelic *ahsilinga, literally “axis leap”.

15 For these two reasons, the final vowel of “initial” subjunctive verb nastri fails to elide.

16 Myles Dillon, Norah Chadwick, The Celtic Realms, p. 1, 33, 137, 287, 290.

17 Barry Raftery, Pagan Celtic Ireland, p. 178-199.

18 Sir James G. Frazer, The Golden Bough, p. 618.

19 The final syllable of the last foot of lines 2 and 4 is actually the conjunction (y)an, “then” at the start of lines 3 and 5 respectively. Likewise the final syllable of line 3 is really the initial preposition in of line 4.

20 Elided vowels do not vanish. But they meld into any succeeding one, and therefore can take part in rhymes.

21 As at Chamalières, elided vowels may be included in the sequence.

22 Umlauting and consonant classes are ignored, so that; e.g., loisc shares an accented vowel with glonn.

23 Lines here given after each cæsura appear as separate lines in the manuscript. Line pairs are thus grouped together and lettered for the sake of subsequent analysis.

24 Appears as agus in the manuscript. Ocus is the older version, and provides the rhyme.

25 List members are superscripted to indicate case and number; e.g., NS = nominative singular, NP = nominative plural, OS = oblique singular, GP = genitive plural, LP = locative plural, etc.

26 Lady Wilde, Irish Mystic Charms and Superstitions, p. 69-71.

27 W. G. Wood-Martin, Traces of the Elder Faith in Ireland, p. 89.

28 Iona Opie, Moira Tatem, A Disctionary of Superstitions, p. 439.

29 Sir James G. Frazer, The Golden Bough, p. 619.

30 The modern spelling, Leabhar Gabhála Eireann, as opposed to Lebar or Lebor, etc., usually refers to more recent rescensions of the widely used manuscript.

31 Caitlín & John Matthews, Encyclopedia of Celtic Wisdom, p. 11-15.

32 It is permissible to extend as far as the accented syllable in the following foot, as in these two examples.

33 Cf. previous instances of kouli, supported by rhyme, in place of more archaic *kauli.

34 In O. Ir. poetry, final words in a line may avoid rhyme, but instead share an identical consonant after the accent; e.g., r/ …lár. German analysts; e.g., Bergin, Thurneysen, etc. referred to this as Assonanz, or in English, assonant rhyme.

35 Lines here given after each cæsura appear as separate lines in the manuscript. Lines are thus grouped together into sections of at least six accented words or feet and lettered for the sake of subsequent analysis.

36 This phrase only in Book of Leinster. Perhaps should be read doman or domun?

37 Ibid.

38 The more common version of this word is either drenn or dreng.

39 In Lebor Gabala Érenn and most other versions, but not Book of Leinster.

40 In Book of Leinster as gai, but elsewhere.

41 As above, case and number are indicated in superscripts; e.g., NS for nominative singular.

42 See Togbail Bruidne Dá Derga (Taking of Dá Derga’s Hostel), where two stones, Blocc and Bluiccne come apart to allow the chariot of the true king to pass. In like manner, the Symplegades or Cynæan Rocks permit Jason and the Argonauts to pass through the Bosphorus. The renowned Lia Fáil at Tara provides an Irish exemplar, while the royal stone at Scone and the Dál Ríata coronation stone at Dunadd are two Scottish examples.

43 As seen previously, unaccented a and o are equivalent.

44 We have already seen how unaccented a and o are equivalent.

45 R. R. Brash, The Ogam-Inscribed Monuments of the Gaedhil in the British Isles. Note: Most ogam inscriptions occur in southwest Ireland and are datable from 300-600 A.D.

46 Consider the town of Cashel (Ir. Caiseal) derived from Lat. castellum, “small fort”. This toponym shows that the first two syllables of the Latin word were borrowed as is and later subjected to the well-known Ir. sound law –st->-ss-,-s-. The earliest Roman objects discovered in or near Ireland, at Drumanagh, Lambay Island and Tipperary date to the first and second centuries A. D. For Roman material in Ireland, please consult the following texts: Nick Constable, Karen Farrington, Ireland, p. 54; Peter Harbison, Pre-Christian Ireland, p. 180-182.

47 Compare Gaul. in Alixie, “in Alesia”, Celtiberian loc. sing. article somei distinct from dat. sing. somui. Possible i-decl. loc. sing. –i seen in Gaul. phrase Pape boudi, “in each victory”. For du. cf., Skt. –yôh <Indo-Eur. *-(y)*us. For pl. cf., Skt. vrosu, “among wolves”, senâsu, “in armies”.

48 Kenneth H. Jackson, Language and History in Early Britain, p. 305-307, 1953. This change is not universal in the Celtic world all at once, cf., Gaulish (Menapian) usurper Mausaeus Carausius, late 3rd century A.D.

49 Claudius Ptolemæus flourished in the 2nd century. His map of Ireland, originally Greek, based upon late 1st-century material from Marinus of Tyre, survives as various mediaeval manuscripts in Greek and Latin, the earliest of which (in Latin) records Howth (Ir. Beann Éadair) as EDROS. Other Greek copies give this name instead as ,  (<earlier *ANTRO-). In just this example, we see the Goidelic sound change –nt->-dd-. Navan Fort (Ir. Eamhain) shows up as ISAMNIUM (or Gk. Ισαμνιονc.fO. Ir. mythical isle of Emne), clearly preserving intervocalic –s-. Underscoring the piecemeal nature of early dialect evolution, we also have a tribe name to the north of EDROS called VOLUNTII where –nt->-dd- has not occurred. Likewise, tribes AUTINI and CAUCI preserve au. See Peter Harbison, Pre-Christian Ireland, p. 173.

50 Cf. Gk. adjectival suffix –οιδLs, –οιδ]

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Légende i. Recall that final vowels of the first non-conjunction word in any declarative sentence do not elide. As a result of –nk->-gg-, we likely have a pronunciation (Y)a’-ggwrinu…, approximating the first two syllables of list item agrinia.
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David A. Hutchison, « Links to Pagan Ritual in Medieval Irish Literature », Études irlandaises, 34.1 | 2009, 113-143.

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David A. Hutchison, « Links to Pagan Ritual in Medieval Irish Literature », Études irlandaises [En ligne], 34.1 | 2009, mis en ligne le 30 juin 2011, consulté le 23 octobre 2017. URL : http://etudesirlandaises.revues.org/2697 ; DOI : 10.4000/etudesirlandaises.2697

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