The Excellence of Ancient Word: Druid Rhetorics from Ancient Irish Tales
by Seán Ó Tuathail
While the ancient Irish tales abound with warriors and kings (not to forget Queen Medbh!), another figure at almost every turn emerges to out- rank them. Usually referred to as the “druid”, this person upon closer inspection is seen to be not any stereotypical wizard with his potions and paraphernalia, but a poet who, instead of having to memorize rote “secret spells”, produced spontaneous verse often in a deliberately archaic diction. A lengthy essay on the philosophy and practise of Irish druids is beyond the scope of this book, but given the misrepresentation of druids in the popular media, a few summary remarks are in order.
In the ancient Irish tales Irish druids are frequently depicted in detail. They bare no resemblance at all to the white-robed oak- worshippers of Julius Caesar. Irish druids wore, not white hooded robes, but rainbow capes, often feathered tunics and head-dresses (note, in the kast roscin this collection, how the druids mock the monks’ hooded robes!). The important trees were rowan, yew, and hazel, and mistletoe was not found in ancient Ireland. While they occasionally carried magic wands and stones, in the far great majority of cases druids’ only magic “tool” was their voices. They were, emphatically, not “pagan priests” and most of what we think of as priestly functions fell to the local king or tribal chief. They were sages, advisors, “wizards” – their closest modern equivalents would be scholars sometimes called upon to be government advisors, although in many cases they were unaffiliated with the rulers and conducted what we nowadays would call “private practice”.
But over all else, they were “poets”. The word is placed in quotes because above all other cultures and societies in the history of the world, ancient Ireland accorded poets what can only be termed nearly divine rank. Poets paid no taxes and were exempt from military service. They had a freedom of movement to cross political borders denied even kings, and wherever they traveled they were entitled to the best of available lodging. And woe to anyone who harmed, or even offended a poet! One can do no better than simply cite the story of Cairbre whose satire is included in the present collection: a wandering poet visits Tara in the days when the gods themselves ruled there, and is denied what he considers suitable food and a fine enough bed. The next morning he enters the throne room at Tara (which was, by the way, named not after the king but called “Réalta na bhFile”, “Star of the Poets”!), and recites five spare lines of verse, whereby the King of the Gods himself is toppled from his throne. In a second example, also included here, Ireland herself is conjured up, out of the magic mists, by a “poem”. (The word “rosc”, plural “roscanna”, is a rhetorical, usually magical, chant, and this word will be used throughout this book to distinguish a “poem” that can topple gods or conjure whole nations from the modern less potent variety.)
One of the purposes of the present collection is to make the archaic roscanna more readily available to the modern reader, in both English and Irish. With this in mind, and in contrast to many “scholarly editions”, the orthography has been modernized, within the limits of phonetic accuracy, i.e., “ben” has been rendered as “bean” because the former is simply the older orthography for the latter, and only the latter will be recognizable by the modern Irish reader; however, “túatha” has been left in the older form and not rendered as “tuatha” because the difference between the two forms is not one of spelling, but basically of pronunciation (“too-uh-thuh” versus “tueh-heh”). Without a long thesis on Old Irish phonetics, this will go some way toward making the roscanna readable by persons who know Modern Irish, provided they remember that aspirated medial consonants are pronounced (e.g. “Teamhair” is said as two syllables). In a few cases has out-right modernization been employed (e.g. “cen” is given as “gan”). Such “normalization” of spelling is not, admittedly, by any means standard practice, but no less a respected scholar than Myles Dillon (in his Stories from the Acallam, DIAS 1970) argued for its use. However, much of the archaic grammar has been retained, such as inbed initial object pronouns prefixed to verbs and dative plurals in “-ibh” because in such cases to give the modern rendering would completely destroy the phrasing and scan of the lines.
Retaining the archaic grammatic forms where they occur also serves the important purpose of high-lighting the heady “mixture” of language in the originals, where, for example, the first person singular of verbs may end in both “-u” and “-im” within the same rosc. Vocabulary is likewise left largely archaic (e.g. “fria” instead of the modern “leis”) since these often directly effect the sound-scheme and “poetic diction” of the original (while the distance between forms here is rather greater, no one attempts to put Shakespeare into “modern grammar” and much of his greatest poetry would be destroyed by the attempt). In other cases, there is only the archaic term available (e.g. “féath fiath” or “magic mists which confer invisibility”).
One additional major editorial decision has been made. Archaic Irish texts are notorious for interpolations (in keeping with the abundance of puns encountered in the roscanna, one might quip they suffer a great deal of “monkey-ing” and “monk-eye-ing”!). Thus an otherwise perfectly Irish tale will suddenly digress into asides on Alexander the Great, the Siege of Troy, or Biblical events. These are all late additions. In the present book, whose concern is not the manuscripts per se, but the actual roscanna themselves, these corruptions, where obvious, have been edited out in an attempt to restore the respective roscanna to their original forms. In most cases the additions are indeed obvious (sometimes they are even directly in Latin). A good example is the rosc from Forbuis Druim Damhghaire beginning “O God of druids…”. This rosc was uttered by a pagan wizard several centuries before Saint Patrick was born yet suddenly bursts into “O Patrick, your blood… victory of the apostles”. Even allowing for “otherworldly time” and a good deal of magical precognition, it is too much to credit that a druid would have called upon an as of yet unborn Christian saint in one of his magic incantations.
The overly pedantic too easily forget, there is no “true” text (not without a time machine), only the re-copying of a re-copying of the setting down (in a usually idiomatic spelling in an alphabet system not really suitable), often in abbreviated form, of an oral recitation itself the re-telling of a re-telling. In addition, and of even greater importance is the fact that the roscanna delight in complicated puns, and this itself makes any attempt to establish a single transcription not only impossible but inherently antagonistic to what is intended.
For example, in rosc in Forbuis Druim Damghaire we find the “text” gives “dris agarbh imtenn”. This might be reconstructed as “dris a garbh imtéinn” (“it is a rough thornbush I have gone round”, perhaps referring to some magic ritual), or “dris a garbh im’ thein” (“a rough thorn bush in my fire”, a magic fire figuring in the narrative), or “dris a garbh agaibh im’ teann” (“a thornbush they have in my strength”). In the same rosc, one finds text “draic thairpech” where the “p” is probably a miscopy for “b”, giving either “draic thairbeach” (bullish dragon) or “draic tháir beach” (dragon of an insult like bees), both of which fit the context. Similarly in another rosc in the same story, the text gives “leic ar gcul in caemmacamh” which could be either “leic ar a gcúl a chaem-mhacamh” (“stones on their backs made smooth” meaning that there are no recently carved ogham stones, i.e. no warriors have been defeated for a long time), or “leic, ár gcul an caemh-macamh” (“stones”, this word appending to the preceding “harsh hills”, then “a slaughter of chariots is the beauty of youth”) where the “an” with an “n” provides the pun. The differences between lentated and non-lentated consonants (“c” versus “ch”, etc.) and between long and short vowels is not, per se, preclusive of such puns. A similar situation can be seen in English where it is quite acceptable, for the sake of “poetic diction”, to sing the word “again”, usually pronounced “a-ghin”, as “a-gayn” when one wishes to rhyme it with a word like “rain”. In many cases such alternation is not even needed: one rosc ends with text “ir im a toctad” which can be either “irim a thochtadh” (I bestow its silence) or “iri mo thochtadh” (you bestow my silence). Given the general tendency in Irish pronunciation to attach a final consonant in one word to a initial vowel of a following word, and to drop the vowel in “mo” when it follows prepositions such as “le” or “i”, these two utterances could even be pronounced the same!
It should be stressed that the roscanna themselves were certainly originally intended to be obscure, full of puns, and often were set in deliberately “pseudo-archaic” forms intermixed with more modern idioms. They were, after all, not public proclamations but “magic”, spells and prophecy, and like all such were conceived to draw mystic power from having multiple meanings and “ancient obscure diction”. (If the English reads as artificially “stilted”, the English reader should feel reassured that the Irish also reads that way!).
This multi-faceted aspect of the language of roscanna has the same insistence on ambiguity which one finds in ancient Irish art wherein a given figure is not merely a spiral or a face or an animal or a leaf, but is all of them at once in an exquisite gestalt.
Any attempt to find a single “true” version may be admirable by modern scientific standards but such an approach is irreconcilably alien to the minds which originally produced the roscanna, and to the culture which they describe. For an equivalent modern example of the literary “mind-set” of the druidic roscanna, one need look no further than the greatest (and most “non-grammatical” masterpiece of Anglo-Irish literature – “Finnigans Wake”, whose title itself only seems to lack an apostrophe if one ignores the all important point that this lack is intentional and calls our attention to the fact that the “funeral ritual of Finnigan” is itself a pun (turning on a wayward “s”) on “Fionn Again Wakes”.
Most of the roscanna included in the present work have never been translated before. The present author is first a poet, and second a scholar (a distinction that the ancient Irish might not have accepted) and the texts have been studied and the poems translated with this in mind (e.g. “damh” has been translated by some scholars as “ox” but it also means “stag” – as the modern poet Michael Hartnett has so translated it. When one encounters a druid riding in a chariot pulled by “damha”, these are hardly oxen but must be shamanic stags; when the word is found modified by the adjectives “fierce, divinely mad” etc, such a beast amy be an ox to the lexicographer, but between the two, to the poet could be only ever a stag. The roscanna are poetry before they are grammar and vocabulary, and must correctly be approached as such.
In the translations words marked with an “*” refer to the glossary.
An index to the persons mentioned in the roscanna follow that.
1. Fáistine Teachta dTúath Dé Danann
(In the First Battle of Moy Tuireadh, the Firbolg druids interpret a dream of their king to prophesize the arrival of the Tuatha Dé Danann.)
óig dar mhuir,
mile laoch líonfas ler,
barca breaga bruigfidid,
bása uile aisnedid,
áes cach dána dícheadal,
siabra dothrú saibscince,
séanfaid tráigte sithchura,
cacha treasa maidfidid.
1. The Arrival of the Tuatha Dé Danann
A tale for you,
youths across ocean,
a thousand heros will fill (web) the sea,
speckled* (magic) ships will moor here,
all death declared.
A folk each of magic incantations,
a bad doom will strike false science,
good portents will ebb peaceful bindings,
all contention will be routed.
2. Aoir le Cairbre ar Bhreas
( At the beginning of The Second Battle of Moy Tuireadh, a traveling poet, Cairbre, visits the court of Bress, king of the gods, and is denied due hospitality. The next morning Cairbre rises and topples Bress from his throne with this poem. The tale is thus not only the primary myth of the duty of hospitality, but the basic myth of the power of poets.)
Gan cholt for criabh ceireine
gan geart fearbú fora n-asad aithrinni
gan adhbhai fhir iar ndrúbaí díasoirchí
gan díl daimhe reisse ropsain Breisse
Ní fil a mhaín trá Breisse
2. Cairbre’s Satire on king Bress
Without food quick on a platter
without fresh milk for a calf to grow on
without lodging for a man when night prevails
without sweetness for men of art – such is (the like) of Bress
No longer is prosperity Bress’s.
3. Fáistine Fiagoil
(The Tuatha Dé Danann Figol prophecizes the battle and its result)
na bóta trí a ágh
Tithreas muir nionghlas,
nimh nád beo,
Dófidh Lug Lámhfhada.
Brisfidh béimeanna úathmhara Ogma ór ró-dhearg
dó íarar beo rig.
tiocfidher aireamh iotha,
maíghfidhir bliocht túatha.
Beidh saor gach ina flaith.
Maígh gan mairc airge.
Beidh beo as.
Beidh saor cách ní ba daor nech
A Núadha, fotichartfidh
de rinn níth,
agus fíorfidher níth.
3. Figol’s Prophecy
Battle will be verified and portended
of flame through(out) its contest of valour.
An ash-tree* grey sea has come to (us),
a poison not alive,
a millstone (crowd) of foreigners.
Surety (certainty) will break (over-turn).
Lugh of the Long-Arm will burn (rage).
Terrible blows of Ogma golden very red will break
for that demanding (the) life of kings.
tribute-taxes will be turned (transformed),
(the story of) lives will be celebrated,
the ploughman(ship) of grain will (be made to) come.
the milk of the tribe will be declared.
Be freemen each in his sovereignty.
Declare (it) without a goal of plunder.
Hither (an advantage)!
Be there life from it.
Be (they) freemen each of them not a slaves of (other) persons,
O Nuada, (you) will thrust them away by a spear-tip of battle,
and battle will be verified and portended.
4. Corrghuíneacht Lugha
(Lugh circles his own hosts. on one leg, with one eye closed, one hand behind his back (a form of ritual known as “corrguíneacht” or “crane- prayer”) and chants this rosc. (Corrguíneacht is usually associated with cursing, but in this case Lugh uses it instead as a blessing for his own troops’ victory).
Ár a thraí cath co-mhart ann.
Isin cath iar ngall ro bhris comhlonna
for sléacht slúaigh. Silster ria slúaghaibh
Síabraí, íath fir fomnaí,
cuifí ciathaí, fir gan rogain.
Léantar gala. Fordám aisid,
fordám cloisid, forandíchráighid.
fir duibh. Béic finn nointam!
Fó Fó Fé Fé Clé a m’áinsí!
Noífit mann íar néalscoth
trí a treanncheardtaibh druag
Ním’ chreadhbhadh catha fri críocha
Nísitmeata m’itge for neamairches
for lúachair loisces.
mart alt shuides, mart orainn trogais.
An comair sídh fri gach nae
go comair Ogma sáchu
go comair neamh agus talamh agus muir
go comair grian agus gealach agus réaltaí.
Dreim niadh mo dhream-se dóoibh
Mo slúagh-sa slúagh mór muireach
mochtsáileach bruithe neartóireach
ro gheanaius agus tocraí atá for róe cath.
Co-mhart a thraí. ár a thraí.
4. Lugh’s Crane Magic
Havoc its strain of battles shared death there.
In this a battle after foreigners broke (our) shared settlement
by destruction of it. They will be defeated by hosts.
O Fairy-hosts, land of men on guard,
birds of prey rain down (on them), men without choice.
Be hindered (the) foreigners. Another (the other) company fears,
another company listens, they are very terribly in torment,
dark (sad) men (are they). Roaring brightly ninefold* are we!
Hurrah and Woe! Leftward*! O you my beautiful ones!
Sacred will be the sustenance after cloud and flowers
through its powerful skills of wizards.
My battle will not dwindle until (its) end.
Not cowardly my request with (their) encountering me
with a land of rushes laid waste by fire
death’s form established, death on us given birth.
Before (the presence of) the Sídhe with each of them,
before Ogma I satisfy,
before the sky and the earth and the sea*,
before the sun and the moon and the stars*.
O Band of warriors my band here to you
My hosts here of great hosts sea-full
(of) mighty sea-spray (boiling) smelted golden powerful,
conceived, may it be sought upon the field of battle.
Joint death its strain. Havoc its strain.
5. In Dáil n-Astadha
(The Tuatha Dé Danann victorious over the Fomor, Lugh proclaims the peace. The lines on milking refers to the terms of the peace including that the Fomor supply their knowledge of dairy science.)
Gébaid foss fionnghrinne
toirce bad cach toirel
Tiocfait sceo mblicht.
Mhórad an bhearadh
m ‘arcainibh darach
Beartar failte feara fuim.
Techet grian gléasaibh
Sintar fir fleitighibh.
fo chomh-fhearga cridiu.
Cealait Fomoire farraige fionn.v Cas ró-séat!
&Eacht;acht a guidí eachtrann
agus suthaine fearaibh,
ó indiu go brách.
Bíodh sídh ar Fomoire agus Éire!
5. The Convocation of the Establishment
It is established steadfast bright and accurate
(this) aftermath (of the battle).
O people of the world,
it has come that all has been made manifest
to our flowering ones.
Understanding of milkings will come.
Made great are those (who were) reduced
by my judgement/esteem
(by) my singing chants of oaks*
to (those of) youthful feats of riding
in quick (soon over) weeping.
Joy/welcome is bound on the men below me.
The sun* gives home to (these) arrangements
to those cherished ones who are free.
Go forth O men to the banquet-halls.
I establish the frame-work of this home
(this) binding establishment
concerning (our) mutual angers in (the) heart.
The Fomors of the bright sea do vanish.
O turn great path/way!
Life to Ireland!
Destruction to foreign petitions/chants
and long-life to men,
bright games-playing be prosperous,
from today forever
be there peace between Fomor and Ireland!
6. Fáistine leis an Mórrígu
(After the battle the Morrigu relates two alternate prophecies. the text of the second about the world’s degradation (not is destruction) is incomplete, but the first, of prosperity, runs:)
Sídh go neimh
neimh go domhan
domhan fo neimh
neart i gcách
lán do mil
míd go sáith
sam i ngram
gae for sciath
sciath for dúnadh
fód di uí
ros forbiur beanna
abú airbí imeachta
meas for chrannaibh
craobh do scís
scís do ás
saith do mhac
tarbh di arcain
odhbh do crann
crann do thine
tine a n-áil
ail a n-úir
uích a mbuaibh
Boinn a mbrú
brú le feabh faid
ásghlas iar earccah
foghamar forasit eacha
iall do tír
tír go trácht le feabh ráidh
bíodh rúad rossaibh síoraibh ríochmhór
sídh go neimh
6. Morrigu’s Prophecy
Peace to (as high as) the sky
sky to the earth
earth beneath sky
strength in everyone
a cup very full
a fullness of honey
summer in winter
spear supported by shield
shields supported by forts
forts fierce eager for battle
“sod” (fleece) from sheep
woods grown with antler-tips (full of stags*)
forever destructions have departed
mast (nuts) on trees
a branch drooping-down
drooping from growth
wealth for a son
a son very learned
neck of bull (in yoke)
a bull from a song
knots in woods (i.e. scrap-wood)
wood for a fire
fire as wanted
palisades new and bright
salmon* their victory
the Boyne (i.e. Newgrange) their hostel
hostel with an excellence of length (size)
blue (new) growth after spring
(in) autumn horses increase
the land held secure
land recounted with excellence of word
Be might to the eternal much excellent woods
peace to (as high as the) sky
be (this) nine times eternal
Amhairghin, or Amergin as usually spelt in English, was one of the leaders of the “Men of Míl”, the first human arrivals in Ireland who battled the Tuatha Dé Danann or “gods” for posession of the island.
The piece here entitled Amergin’s Challenge certainly deserves to be one of the most famous of all Irish poems, for it is the first poem, according to legend, uttered by a mortal in Ireland, proclaimed by Amergin as he first set his foot on the beach. Unfortunately, the existing texts are all corrupt, greatly open to varied interpretation none of which agree among themselves! However, a basic core can be discerned – e.g. all copies mention such elements as wind, wave, stag, boar, etc and begin with statements of “I am” and go on to rhetorically ask “who (except I)?” The “poem” has sometime been claimed to be a pantheistic hymn but is in fact no such thing. It is clear from the context of the narrative that it is a self-proclamation by Amergin of superior port-hood and a challenge to the Tuatha Dé Danann. Given the extreme unreliability of the texts and the contention about them, in this one case the present author has taken a rather great liberty in his attempted to reconstruct it in a coherent form. This amounts to yet again another version but one which retains the elements and diction central to the rosc’s obvious intent.
The second piece is equally impressive in context. The Tuatha Dé Danann attempt to stop mortals from landing by hiding Ireland behind “druidic mist” and Amergin’s second rosc amounts to nothing less than a summoning invocation of Ireland itself out from behind the magic mists. Fortunately for Ireland, the texts of this poem are a great deal clearer and in greater agreement with each other than those of the first poem!
The third piece by Amergin here is often printed, but this edition differs considerably. “En” is usually taken for “én”, thus “coursing birds, flashing bright”, but the RIA Dictionary clearly indicates that “en” (without the long vowel) can mean water. Also, the salmon are here the size of whales, rather than the two being separate animals.
Thus Amergin should, by the way, not be confused with the totally different poet of the same name who figures in the Ulster Cycle. The name Amhairghin means “Birth of Song”.
7. Duan Amhairghine
Am gáeth tar na bhfarraige
Am tuile os chinn maighe
Am dord na daíthbhe
Am damh seacht mbeann
Am drúchtín rotuí ó ngréin
Am an fráich torc
Am seabhac a néad i n-aill
Am ard filidheachta
Am álaine bhláithibh
Am an t-eo fis
Cía an crann agus an theine ag tuitim faire
Cía an dhíamhairina cloch neamh shnaidhite
Am an ríáin gach uile choirceoige
Am an theine far gach uile chnoic
Am an scíath far gach uile chinn
Am an sleagh catha
Am nómá tonnag sírthintaghaív Am úagh gach uile dhóich dhíamaíní
Cía fios aige conara na gréine agus linn na éisce
Cía tionól na rinn aige, ceangladh na farraige,
cor i n-eagar na harda, na haibhne, na túatha.
7. Amergin’s Challenge
I am a wind across the sea
I am a flood across the plain
I am the roar of the tides
I am a stag* of seven (pair) tines
I am a dewdrop let fall by the sun
I am the fierceness of boars*
I am a hawk, my nest on a cliff
I am a height of poetry (magical skill)
I am the most beautiful among flowers
I am the salmon* of wisdom
Who (but I) is both the tree and the lightning strikes it
Who is the dark secret of the dolmen not yet hewn
I am the queen of every hive
I am the fire on every hill
I am the shield over every head
I am the spear of battle
I am the ninth* wave of eternal return
I am the grave of every vain hope
Who knows the path of the sun, the periods of the moon
Who gathers the divisions, enthralls the sea,
sets in order the mountains. the rivers, the peoples
8. Toghairm na hÉireann
Áiliu íath nÉireann
éarmach muir mothach
mothach sliabh screatach
screatach coill citheach
citheach ab eascach
eascach loch linnmhar
linnmhar tor tiopra
tiopra túath óenach
óemach ríg Teamhrach
Teamhair tor túathach
túathach mac Mhíleadh
Míleadh long libearn
libearn ar nÉirinn
Éireann ard díglas
dícheatal ro gáeth
ro gáeth bán Bhreise
Breise bán buaigne
Bé adhbhul Ériu
Érimon ar dtús
Ir, Éber, áileas
áiliu íath nÉireann
8. Amergin’s Invocation of Ireland
I request the land of Ireland (to come forth)
coursed is the wild sea
wild the crying mountains
crying the generous woods
generous in showers (rain/waterfalls)
showers lakes and vast pools
vast pools hosts of well-springs
well-springs of tribes in assembly
assembly of kings of Tara
Tara host of tribes
tribes of the sons of Mil
Mil of boats and ships
ships come to Ireland
Ireland high terribly blue
an incantation on the (same) wind
(which was the) wind empty of Bres
Bres of an empty cup
Ireland be mighty
Ermon at the beginning
Ir, Eber, requested
(now it is) I (who) request the land of Ireland!
9. Bríocht Baile Fharraige
íasc fo thoinn
i reathaibh eana
9. Amergin’s Bounty of the Ocean
Fishful the ocean,
prolific in bounty the land,
an explosion of fish,
fish beneath wave
in currents of water
(from) hundredfolds of salmon
(which are) the size of whales,
song of a harbour of fames,
an explosion of fish,
fishful the sea.
FORBUIS DRUIM DAMHGHAIRE
Forbuis Druim Damhghaire (“The Siege of the Ridge if the Stag’s Cry”) from the Book of Lismore is a fine source of druidic roscanna of a variety of types. Most of these had never been translated before the present author’s editions (qv Cainteanna na Luise No.19 and CnL SS-6, 1988). Sjoestedt (Revue Celtique 43-44) edited many, but not all, of the rhetorics without translation, but her work leaves, unfortunately, a great deal to be desired, and it is not closely followed here. Three examples can be given: 1) Sjoestedt gives “an-ulc”. This has no meaning, but in older Irish longhand script “c” and “t” are very similar and can easily be confused. Taking the phrase as “a n-ólt” (“their drink”) fits both the rest of the sentence and the context of the rosc. 2) Her “fasda critre ure” makes no sense, but “fásta crithre uise”, reading “s” for “r” (again two very similar letters in old Irish script) renders “grown from a humble spark”. Since a magical fire is being discussed at this point in the narrative this exactly fits the context. 3) Sjoestedt gives “damh cuana coilgdirech. gu mbeannuibh banarcait”. Allowing for the vagaries of Irish manuscript tradition, such as the omission of vowel lengths and vowel orthographic substitution, this readily can be rendered as “damh cuana coilgdireach. go (m)beannaibh banarcait”. This gives something like “Stag of dog-pack sharp as swords. To antler-points white silver”. One must, obviously drop the period, but moreover “cuana” is obviously in error and substituting “crúba” a word at least within the wide margins of error over repeated recopyings, one gets the quite sensible “stag, hooves sharp as swords to antler-points white-silver”.
The narrative of Forbuis Druim Damhghaire relates the refusal of Munster to pay a double cattle tribute to Cormac, high-king of Ireland, the subsequent invasion of Munster by Cormac with a large retinue of royal court druids and other magical allies, and the magical battle engaged against them in defence of Munster by the independent druid Mogh Ruith and his assistants. While a detailing of the development of druidism in Ireland is beyond the scope of the present book, it must be noted that the “free-lancers” easily win against the combined magic of all of the royal retainers, and that this has important implications. In the earliest sagas, powerful druids are attached to royal courts. In later tales, this is emphatically not the case and in a story set sometime before FDD, Tara itself must be saved from magical attack by the semi-outsider Fionn when the royal wizards prove impotent. In FDD, set at a yet later date, we have progressed from the “establishment” druids not merely needing to be helped by an outsider but being soundly defeated, en masse, by a “free-lancer”. Druidism is depicted as being “alive and well” but most definitely not among the sycophants at court. By the time that St.Patrick defeated the court-druids, all the “real” druids may have been “off in the woods” cheering the down-fall of the royal toadies!).
10. Suantraí d’Ardrí
(Before leaving for battle, the high king of Ireland, Cormac, is put to sleep with a magical lullaby by his court druid.)
Ard a thraí, a Chormaic chaoimh,
Cíd ní fuil art’naimhdiú.
Buan t’ainm ós Éirinn.
Éirigh sunn soeid toei
frium, agus rom’ chiall.
Cia cath an dúisiú deogha suain
saigsias duidsiamh dínn,
dorcha docheat conchuadas.
Cia cath a bhaí-sin a bhean.
A Bharrfhinn, Bhlátha, Bháirce,
bí chaoimh do chomhaise.
Chuige an odh cudnód,
a Chormaic, cuir díot do shuan.
Ard a thraí, a Chormaic.
10. A Lullaby for the High-King
High its strain, O Cormac.
Sleep as though in downy feathers.
Cry no blood on your enmity.
Enduring your name above Ireland.
Arise here, changed, silent
by means of me and my intelligence.
Although battle be the waking from the draught of sleep,
attained will be what I establish between us,
obscured the discord jointly come to us,
although battle be its shattering.
O Fair Pinnacle, Flowery One, Stronghold (Ship),
be you most precious among (your) contemporaries
(a pledge to his people’s commonweal).
Toward that, this melody of guardings,
a circle of safe-keepings (around you).
O Cormac, bind yourself to your sleep,
high its strain, O Cormac.
11. Rosc Catha le Mogh Ruithe ag Tosú
Cingthe, a Cheannmahair choscurigh,
do-chódh catha Chorb
go ro soeiter sealg
is delbh da éis
inne go dtaí gheall.
Go ro-dhluidhí drong
sléachta mo roisc rindamn
cía ro bat é is beacht.
Do bhear catha coilt
gan neimhe gan neart
Niamhtar mo dhaimh dhamhraighi
go lúath gáeithí
im’ ghort do Chormac mac Airt.
Éarnfaidh uath is olc
dom roich agus mo sholmae
re súigtis neartu niach,
dom roich mo coilg ndaighneimhneach,
frithálta mo sciath,
scáil mo ghoithne umhaidhí.
Oirciu-so Choinn ach go
go rop ceann úas, chách catha díana
dífhrecra dermára na ndroinge
dáiríne agus deargthine
Domnat for Leath Cuinn corraigh
mo chlíabh chreaphnaise,
céim fria hilar ann
biadh óic fo áill.
ailmí calma. Cing,
cingtheá, a Cheannmahair.
11. Mogh Ruith Begins Battle
It is arrived (approached), O Kenmare Victorious,
a terrible vanquishing (winning) of the battle with Corb
that was a (trans)formed hunt
(by the) old and white (drained) red sidhe
transformed in its shape (troop)
(from that) of soul-mentorship (good advice)
today to secured silence.
To great diminishings of throngs
the slaughter of my starry (piercing) rosc
is that which is certain.
Engaged are battles of destructions
without poisons, without strength.
Envenomed be my stag* of stag-ragings
speedily so (as though) of winds
in my field (on my own ground) to Cormac.
A thorn-tree* which is harmful will bestow
to my reach and my readiness
by its attachment to heroic strength,
to my reach, my sword of fiery poison,
having attended to my shield,
a phantom my little bronze dart.
I slay thusly Conn, except that
it accomplishes (requires) utmost effort.
O terribly wretched man,
who would be a noble head(man), he of swift battle
incomparable and vast of the multitudes
of Petty Selfdom and of Red Fire (puns on tribal names)
(What) bursts forth upon the side of battleful Conn
(is) my swift-cutting “rib-work” (obscure meaning),
an exploit with its multitude here
a fit substance/cause for stags*,
food of youth in its beauty,
brave pine-tree*. Arrive! (Approach!),
you arrived, O Kenmare.
12. Aoir Mhogh Ruith ar an nGabháltas
Coille beaga binneacha,
ealla chuileach chorrmhíolach
comhdháil geinnte is gadaighid [goid],
gleann go n-éachtaibh ilardaibh,
adhbha fiadhmhuc noinsheascair
cuiteach léanach lánshalach
feagha loma ilotreacha.
iolar bhuidne beann.
dá mbun a ndochuibh,
beidh gan aicme noiracais,
áilnibh railgibh rún,
rotaibh ruaibh rig-leasaibh / léasaibh,
reannaibh (rionnaibh) cathráibh.
12. Mogh Ruith’s Satire on the Invasion
O woods small and melodious,
(now) of an unkept surprise (burst) of midges,
a meeting of birth-giving and thievery,
(in this) valley that’s of achievements of many-exaltings,
abode of wild pigs (they) made comfortable,
bird-ful of wild honeys.
(Is inflicted) on it [i.e. Munster] very grimly (stupidly)
like a snare (pitfall) deeply afflicted fully dirty
a bare (de-feathered) raven (of) many-dunghills.
On stormy mountainsides
O glorious(ly) to the south of this
(is an) eagle gainful (having troops) of the (mountain) peaks.
Those who died (their) deaths
if as a result of the founding of their
(the enemy’s) wrong-doings,
it will be without (distinction of) tribe they are angered,
(they) of beauties, of the secrets’ oaks*,
of slaughters ruddy (bloody) of royal benefits / radiances,
of the spear-points (satires) of battle-sayings.
Retreat! (you the enemy)
O woods! [this does not attach to the previous line, but is a standard formula of “locking” a rosc by
repeating the opening phrase.]
13. Beannacht Mogha Ruithe ar Mhumhan
Tír mhín ainmhéin,
tír fhluich thirim,
tír aibhinn an-anibhinn,
tír fhántach thulchach,
tír bhláitheadrocht bhráthar,
ní humfhaemú-sa an thír.
Clú chathach clonghalach,
clú eachtach urbadhach,
clú uathmhar aicsineach,
clú fhliuch lochanach,
lir a conach,
lir a húscaí,
lir a hantaic géid a hiommaire,
lir a catha,
lir a haile,
lir a heighmhe aidhbhre
a huile eile a slada
a sáruighte slighí churad clú
13. Mogh Ruith’s Homage to Munster
Land gentle of passion,
land (both) wet (and) dry,
land of very beautiful rivers,
land of (both) hollows (and) hills
land of flowery and mysterious language,
no acceptance of raw/harshness (is) this land’s.
Fame of sword-clashing battles,
fame of baneful wondrous deed-doing,
fame thick with its own singularity of vision,
fame of wet lake-fulness,
a great many its victories,
a great quantity its lard,
a great wealth its furrows of goose-fat,
a great many its battles,
a great many its other things,
a greatness its shouting, vast splendour,
that everything else is its plunder,
its exceedly (fine) woven ways bound to fame.
14. Rosc Catha le Mogh Ruith
(the High King’s druids dry up Munster’s rivers; Mogh Ruith chants:)
Buinn fria bráth
Brígh fria dloimh
Dígla (díglá) daigh ó bhrígh
aird saer ní cheal go bhrígh mbáin.
I ndeoin áedh ón tsruth theas
dían túar brígh go sruth thuaidh.
Slúaigh nár thib.
fó gach colg re a ndul amach
i ndeoin ard cinnbhea damh
fo barr scíath a ghlinn.
go háth Cliath in arbáid sin
Cíd na conn, bed fo mblog,
for mbia mairg romhuidh.
Díl rom chealt.
Ceannmahr, Muiche, Buireach, Beant,
Or nár comhbhrígh friu (go) beacht,
Dóibh bás olc.
Fía muinter, cinnbhea damh.
ní bat gluinn faífait buinn.
14. Mogh Ruith’s Battle Cry
Torrents (great rivers) be with it (Munster) forever
(Magical) energy with its nucleus
foremost enlivened of battles.
Be it avenged (a terrible shout) ablaze from energy
of free nobility not vanished to energy made white (bloodless).
By (my) will of fire from a stream (flow) in the south
swift(ly) a portend (poet) of energy to a flow in the north.
Hosts of warriors may they not be cut back.
May a stag* strike foremost,
good every sword with their going forth
by (my) high will, may a stag* strike foremost
beneath the tip of shields guaranteed.
Be they confirmed
to the mouth of the Liffey in submergence (drowning) there.
They of the hounds, be they under (cut into) pieces,
that there will be sorrow around them.
Destruction before my visage.
Kenmare, Mochet, Buireach, Beant,
Be there no limit (to their) joint energy precisely.
To them (the enemy) a terrible death.
A deer is well-learnt, may a stag* strike foremost.
Fruit of wave,
be there no generations lamenting (the lack of) great rivers.
15. Bríocht Síothlaithe Cheannmhara
Síothal lán, síothal slán.
Luigsim féin féin ra cach mál.
Síothal shuain, síothal sámh.
Bear úr uaibh
do cheann slúaigh d’Fhiachaigh mál.
Síothal glan, síothal gart
um rígh mborb.
Síothal slán, síothal suain.
Do Mhogh Chorb
síothal airgid agus óir agus cruain,
síothal shíog agus rígh agus rúain
lúthar libh agus uaibh do Mhogh Ruith
is d’fhir Coirb
is do Bhuan
feacht fo thrí
ra feacht fáth
beact for rígh.
sóefidh síath. Síothal.
15. Kenmare’s Pacification Spell
Melt away (expire, soften) fully, melt away completely.
I swear this myself to every prince.
Melt into sleep, melt in tranquillity.
Be borne a bright newness
to (the) head of the hosts of Fiacha of princes.
Melt clean(ly), melt (with) generosity
(all those) around an ignorant (unjust) king.
Melt away completely, melt away into sleep.
Be borne a fresh newness.
(But) of Mogh Corb
melt away his silver and gold and enamel (jewelry),
melt away fairy (allies of the king) and king and great ones,
empowered with you and from you to Mogh Ruith
and from (the) men of Corb
and to Buan
a sight (seen to be done) three times
with that a sight of wisdom
the (high) king made humble.
The draught will be drowned.
(Magical) energy will enliven,
each will be healed,
will transform into peace. Melt away.
16. Millteoireacht le Mogh Ruithe ar nDaoithe an Ardrí
muna soeim dluma dirche
soeim bríocht, soeim breachta
soeim deachta doilbhte,
soeim ard, soeim adhbhal
soeim gach aidbhertaid,
soeim tulach do thulaigh
comhdar thubhaidh ar traigh.
Traethfat-sa cnoc ceann a ceann
comhbean-sa fria a aitheann.
Soeim gach at,
tráis i bhfíochaí eo,
i bhfíochaí sceo.
neimh im’ neart Ua Chuinn cur,
Colphtha agus Lurga luáth go ndíobhát san áth.
Errghi, Eng, augus Engain ná cú
Bíodh crúibleacht ar crúibh,
cré omh ann dan lot.
Bíodh fiadhlann ar cnoc.
Bíodh a ráidh ar áth féim
a chomhailfeat frium chlana Eoghain ann.
Bíodh dóibh an maith mór, biáidh,
flaith ina láimh
dá ndiúlat rem chlú ann.
Cineadh Fiachach feirt
a ndine a n-ólt
gan ríghí, gan reacht (ríocht).
Cinfeadh ó Mogh Corbh
cuaine ráth fria a rí,
a righfidis as a reacht
a seacht mba sé.
Séidim-se Druim nDamh.
Séidis gaeis líaigh gom.
Séidis gabhál ngall.
Séidis neimh úar omh.
Ní rob inann sin,
séidis bánfiadh bruth
ach rob inann súd.
Soeis ré sin an sraith
im’ racht i ndraíocht
im’ dheachath úadh.
comhbhlicht cnocv a soeim.
16. Mogh Ruith’s Attack on the High King’s Druids
I turn (transform), I re-turn,
not but I turn nuclei of darkness,
I turn verbal spells, I turn speckled* spells,
I turn purities of form,
I turn high, I turn mightily,
I turn each adversity,
I turn a hill to subside,
equally an onslaught on its foot.
Subjugated will be the hill, one by one
an equal blow against those who flee,
I turn each not smelled out.
I turn each tumour (in hiding),
they are disgraced in my fierce anger of a yew (prince)
in my angers raging.
I bestow (declare a poem, make it fate) by this,
I bestow, I bestow,
poison in my power, the O’Cuinns to bind.
Colptha and Lurga, may they speedily terribly-die in the ford.
Errghi, Eng, and Engain (the enemy’s magic ewes)
and not one (of my magic) hounds,
are they each chained.
Be it hooves’ grave from claws, raw dust in it, ruin.
Be a fiodhrádh piece (wild anger) cast on the hill.
Be there a piece (saying) on the ford itself,
which equally strikes (nourishes) my clann of Eoghan there.
Be there to them a great good, a blessing,
a sovereignty in their (own) hands
if they do not deny my fame among them.
Be descended of Fiacha prodigies
who will suck their drink
without a (high) king, without his rule (over them).
(But be) descended from Mogh Corbh
a pack of dogs altogether against their king,
scattered away from his kingdom
each of their seven cows* in turn.
I breath-blast indeed the Ridge of the Stags.
Breath-blasted be the sageries of the doctors of anguish.
Breath-blasted be the grasp of the foreigners.
Breath-blasted poison raw and cold.
Not a body the same just there
breath-blasted wild-white (empty) raging,
but a(nother) body the same over there.
Turnt (transformed) be that expanse of the sword
in my paroxysm of magic
in my best battle
in my perfect best battle.
Subjugated (made into stone)
yielding milk (drained dry) be the hill
which I turn (transform).
17. Lia Draíochta le Mogh Ruith
(This is the magic stone that will turn into a monster.)
Ailim mo lic laeme
Nárobh é thaidhbhsí tháidhe
Bíodh breo a bhrisfes báirí
re chath chródhe Cláire.
Mo chloch thein a thug a thinn.
Bíodh nathair dearg a dhobhair mairg
cur a bhfillfe a fhoraim.
Bíodh muireascann (reascán)
fiadh seacht gconga dée ró-dhaimh
idir thonnaibh tré-oll
Bíodh badhbh idir bhadhuibh
a scéaras corp re hanmuin.
Bíodh nathair nóis-naidmuibh
um corp Colptha ollmhór
ó dtalamin go a cheann,
anbhoig sleamhan a bhirrcheann
an rot ruibheach a reaghtainn.
Bíodh drais gharbh imtéinn (im’thein)
mairg a ticfa a thimpeall.
Mo dhraic thairbeach (dhraictháir beach) teann,
canfait uais is uagtair,
mairg co a shín
do Cholptha agus do Lurga
a laifider f’aill.
An trascradh nosthrascainn.
Is fastad nosfhastainn.
Is nascadh nosnascainn.
Mar bhís féithe im’chrann.
Coiscfider a bhfoghaill,
meathfaider a monair,
beith a gcoirp fa chonnuibh.
Ar ath olair air (a rath olair air/ara tholair air)
go mbearrbhais leo leinibh
gan troit is gan deabhaidh
a gcoscair re a gceannuibh.
Cé maith eadh budh áil,
17. Mogh Ruith’s Magic Stone
I request my stone of conflagration.
Be it no ghost of theft.
Be it a blaze that will fight/uproar victory/sages
before the valiant battle of Clare,
my fire stone which delves pain.
Be it a red serpent which sorrows
a binding his course to bend.
Be it a sea-eel / little-loquacity
eye-browed (fierce) / spindled (going round)
deer of seven-points of gods of a very-stag*
between waves triple great.
Be it a scald-crow among scald-crows
who divide a body with a nasty trick.
Be it a snake in eminent constrictions
around Colptha’s body mightily
from the earth to his head
a terrible softness slippery the tip of his head,
the daring slaughter I have overthrown.
Be it a rough thorn-bush* I go round (in my fire)
a sorrow which will come round him.
My strong dragon bullish (of insult like bees)
will sing proud and of authority,
sorrow in its storn
below its gambolling
to Colptha and Lurga,
lay them low beneath the cliff.
The casting-down, I cast it down.
And the detaining, I detain it.
And the binding, I bind it.
Like a spiral of sinew in my staff.
Prevented be their escapes,
failed be their undertakings,
both their bodies beneath hounds.
At the ford, grease (blood on it / disgusts on their wealth)
be they stripped (death cut through) to their tunics
without fight and without contention
to protect their heads.
Such good will be the request
18. Toghairm Cheannmhara do Phéist
(the jingle-jangle style of this humourous rosc with its many puns and deliberately childish grammar can only idiomatically be rendered into English)
Fós a mhuin cé acht mhaeth-romhar,
a chael a ruadh
a lath breac
a aiteann ruadh iar-romhar
a mhalach ruadh mhidh-romhar
a chrann shúileach ruadh coilg-romhar
a theanga dearg tein-dtighti
a ghun a cheas ar comhlasadh
a anál dían duibhnéalach
a mar cheo tar garbhcnocuibh leic
ar a gcúl a chaem-macamh
(ár gcul an caemhmacamh)
ó nach comhlonn comhadais
nár thug sár ár saor-chlannuibh
óm’ Fhiachachaigh Mhóir Muilleatháin.
Dálta na draoithe
Éirigh go cóir
a luighe (loighe)
ar/ár láimh mín Mhór-Mhogha.
Ro fheadais rádh fíos, fós
(Rá feadais rádh a fhios, fós).
18. Kenmare Calls-Up a Monster
Although his back it’s only skinny-fat
it’s he who is a monster.
his little stream through the bog is ruddy (bloody)
it’s he’s a speckled* (magic) warrior
his furze ruddy fat behind him
his eye-brows rudy middle-fat (raised/bushy)
his eyed-tree (penis) ruddy sword-fat
his red tongue a fire’s fat house ablaze
it’s a wound, his mouth an equal blazing
his breath a sudden black cloud
like a fog across harsh hills of stones
on their backs made smooth [i.e. without warriors recently dead to commemorate by carving on them]
(slaughter of chariots is the beauty of youth)
from there being no violence equal, nor fitness equal to,
nor a gifting exceeding that of our free clans
of my Fiacha great Muilleathan.
Engaged are the (enemy) druids
gathered together in a big bunch.
Arise to a justice
success a hundredfold spirited
sworn (given indulgement)
by the fine (our little) hands of Big Mogh.
It has been whistled in derision
(a saying-spell of a wisdom still).
19. Duan Bhuain don Dhamh-Dia
(The first two lines are in prose.)
Is ann thug Buan an seaghdhaí sheanfhocail
ar ard ag a hinnsint agus asbert:
A Thádhbhais damh ardbassa,
a Fhir a fhéach aislingí
na hÉireann il-infris-fhéidhí,
Dhia h-eisidhí frium,
Dhaimh, crúba coilgdireach
go mbeannuibh bánargead,
muc allaidh úr úathmhar,v bó hoghearc fionn,
an triar ná thúitrann-sa,
bó agus muc mór féighe,
damh dreaman dásachtach
rá dílmain drong,
a cucainn, ró-comhluidset
go ár leapaidh lánlaidhí.
A Athar liom, ro luighesdar a daoine, go buan.
Bearat bráit, mbunathaibh forfhios
féigh, ar chanaidh
as na féathuibh faistine.
Forbeirit gúel glúinn,
fháse an torc trébhiadhnach,
traethar feirg fortanlais,
flaith chathach chonghalach
chorm chuí, chuid crota,
i ndamh dreach-leathán.
Dagh-mhac fial fionn-Eoghan Mór Muillethán
a mhúires cath cró.
Éimhne fhial ilcruthach
im’ mhaith mhóragha
mo bhean-sa an bhó,
bíodh fuí ní faífider.
Cath Cláire claífider,
bíodh rem uind ro féinfider.
Rígfit meic mna.
Bíodh curdháin chomhaigtes Cormaic
Bíodh dinn a domaincheas.
Irim a thochtadh (Irí mo thochtadh).
19. Buan’s Invocation of the Stag-God
Then Buan gave the excellence of ancient word
aloud in its telling, and said:
O Spectre of stags* of great knowledge,
O Man whose sight is in visions
of Ireland of many byred calms,
God of requests beside me,
O Stag*, hooves sharp as swords
to antler-points white-silver,
pig* of the wilds fresh green terrible,
fair cow* of red-speckled* ear-points,
the trinity who do not scrutinize,
cow* and great pig* of keen sight,
fierce stag* of divine possessions,
glorious, free of the restraint of crowds,
who sing together, have advanced together
to our harbour of complete attentions.
O father of mine, pledged to his people forever,
The veils are removed,
by the source of great wisdom
keenly seen, upon song
from out of the magical mists of prophecy.
The generations of the Gael increase.
The triple-yeared wild boar* has grown,
subdued the wraths of supreme power,
sovereignty of battles pugnacious,
of a proper ale feast, of a lot of the harp,
in a wide-faced stag*.
Good son gentle fair Eoghan Great Muillethan
wages a war of inheritance.
Eimhne gentle many-beautied
in my joy much magnified
gentle handsome flower-bright,
my woman, she the cow*,
let her have no reason to lament.
The Battle of Clare will be put to the sword,
before my gaze be it soldiered.
May the sons of women reign.
The bound-givings equally guaranteed
by Cormac and in need abandoned,
let them be performed.
Let there be no belonging here for profound grief.
I bestow its silence (You bestow my silence).
20. Gáeth Luisthine le Mogh Ruith
A Dhé dhraíthe, mo dhé
tar gach ndé,
séid, séid fair, séid fáe
Foluibh luis le húr, acht
fiadhláibh luis le críon
acht lúath crithrach críne
fásta crithre uise.
Cirb, a cheo chaethainn,
caín, a cheo chaethainn.
Chearda dhraoíthe, dolbhaím.
Nirt Chormaic. cloím.
Cheachta, Chruite, Chithre
clocha daoibh dolbhaím.
De-uca gáeth dobhéineadh.
cathfhráoch, a chlich
re choir gáeth aneas
thréan gáeith a neas,
ocht bhfogháeithe, ceathre phríomhgháeithe
gáeth ós gháethuibh.
Sruth mór mac Gaill,
caínfider, faidh fis.
Forcha cath cáth Fiachach,
forfháinneach athcháith Cormaic.
Caín, a Bhebáis (a Bhé Bháis)
a Mhaidme be teine tréathnaigh
fé scéarta leacaithe (leiceatha) Chormaic
ó n-omáidhí mo chloichmharbh
Ní ba ruireach ríghphoirt
a ré ráis cloich.
Caín, a Chathfráoigh.
A Dhé, dhé dhraíthe.
20. Mogh Ruith’s Rowan-Fire Magic Wind
O god of druids, my god
above all (other) gods,
breath-blast, breath-blast on it, breath-blast beneath it.
By the essences of rowans* to engreen, but
by the wooden-poems (fiadhrádh*) of rowans* to wither,
yet speedily a glowing of decay
grown from a humble spark.
Cut (them) short, O fog of rowan*,
keen, O fog of rowan*.
O Skill of druids, I sorcerize you.
O Power of Cormac, I vanquish you.
Cecht, Cruit, Cithra (the enemy druids),
I sorcerize you into stones.
For that, a wind of harsh beating,
a battle frenzy which bestirs
before a justice of wind from the south,
a power of wind which wounds.
Eight lesser winds, four major winds
which equally punish,
a wind above winds.
Great torrent of sons of the foreigners.
it will be keened, an out-cry of wisdom.
A lighting-bolt hammer is the noble battle of Fiacha,
encircled is the old rubbish of Cormac.
Keen, you who have died (O Woman of Death),
O Explosion which is a fire of triple cleansings
below the squashed shouts (battled to stone) of Cormac
in homages to my stone-giving-death.
May he recognize (this is so).
Be there no chief in the king’s camp,
its expanse said (verbally magicked) to stone.
Keen, O Battle-Frenzy.
O god, god of druids.
21. Rosc Catha Déanaigh le Mogh Ruith
a neart néil cuma
braen fola ar fhear.
Bíodh fó an bíth.
Bruiter drong, go mbá crith,
ár cuain Chuinn
go mbá i n-eas,
gach neart níath.
Bíodh flaith fúach.
Fhir do-liach, go luidh brách.
biáidh ós gach Eoghan Mór.
Mogh Corb cas cliti sealaig.
Bíodh ráidh, flaith nóifer.
21. Mogh Ruith’s Final Battle Spell
I fashion-and-verify a verbal spell
its power of clouds, a shape
of a rain of blood on a man.
Be good the wound.
Be goaded, the rabble to drown atrembling.
a slaughter of the dog-pack of O’Cuinn
to drown in the rapids
each a warrior’s strength.
Be there a sovereignty of stanzas (poetry).
O man very wretched, keep fleeing forever.
Of the triumphs of the hosts,
a blessing above all on Great Eoghan.
Mogh Corb is repulsed, necessarily vanquished, laid low.
Be it a proverb, sovereignty will spread
I fashion-and-verify a verbal spell.
22. Fáistine Teachta Phádraig
tar muir mercheann
a thí thollcheann
a chrann crommcheann.
a mhias (mheas) i n-airthair a thige,
fris-géarat a mhuinter uile
22. The Prophecy of the Coming of Patrick
Adze-head will come
across a sea craze-headed
hollow-headed his cloak
bent-headed his staff.
He will sing maledictions
his dish (judgement-giving) in the back (western) corner of his house,
all his people answering
“Only one, only one” (bilingual pun on “Amen”)
ash-tree : associated with war, conquest, also austerity.
cow : in sharp contrast to its use in English, “cow” in ancient Ireland was employed as a term of endearment, also denoting wealth and high social rank.
Earth, Sea, and Sky (the order often differs) : the earth (below), the sky (above), and the sea (around) formed the “great binding triad” which defined the world, and, while the three remained in their correct places, maintained the order and smooth functioning of the cosmos.
fiodhrádh : literally “wooden utterings”, this was the druidic “tree- alphabet” employed in divinational and other magical purposes in which each tree had symbolic associations. Its entire exact content is open to dispute (qv ó Tuathail, An Fiodhrádh, Toronto 1985) but the major trees and their associations are well established.
left : this gained its sinister associations only after the coming of Christianity; in pagan times rightward motion symbolized “opening” (growth, harvest, greeting, increase in wealth, etc), while leftward motion symbolized “closing” (binding, secrets, returning to source, protection, enclosing and thus capturing an enemy, etc).
nine : while three was the magic number of binding and establishing, nine symbolized completeness and wholeness.
oak : in ireland the “robur” oak (there were two kinds) was associated with habitation, hospitality, and law.
pig (boar) : a pig symbolized wealth and health, and, especially as a boar, heroic valour.
pine-tree : symbolic of responsibility, valour, protection of the tribe and the social order.
rowan : this was the major druidic magic tree; associations included bindings, rejuvenation, and protection. Not apparent in the translation is the fact that in Irish it has both a common “mundane” name (caorthann) and a magic-name (luis).
salmon : associated with poetic wisdom, thus magical knowledge, actually indirectly because it eats hazelnuts, the true source of this.
speckled : this adjective indicated either high magic skill or a connection with the Otherworld (a doorway to the Otherworld was referred to as a “cómhla breac” or speckled gate).
stag : stags have been shamanic animals since distant prehistoric times, and appear as such on the cave paintings of France and Spain; a “seven-point” stag was a “royal” (or top of the hierarchy) stag.
sun, moon, and stars : oaths were often sworn on these, and in effect they acted as guaranteers of promises.
thorn-tree (or bush) : this tree symbolized, among other things, in this context, trial and quest, the conquest of adversity.
PERSONS MENTIONED IN ROSCANNA
Amergin – poet-leader of the Men of Mil
Beant – student of Mogh Ruith
Bres – king of the Tuatha Dé Danann
Buan – son of Mogh Ruith
Buireach – student of Mogh Ruith
Cairbre – a wandering poet of the Tuatha Dé Danann
Cecht – Cormac’s court-druid
Citach – Cormac’s court-druid
Cithmor – Cormac’s court-druid
Cithruad – Cormac’s high court-druid
Colptha – Cormac fairy-druid ally
Conn (O’Cuinn) – grandfather of Cormac
Cormac – high-king of Ireland
Crota – Cormac’s court-druid
Eber – one of the leaders of the Men of Mil (see Amergin)
Eimhne – Buan’s wife
Eng – fairy ally of Cormac changed into ewe
Engain – fairy ally of Cormac changed into ewe
Eoghan Mor – Fiacha’s father
Ermon – one of the leaders of the Men of Mil (see Amergin)
Errghi – fairy ally of Cormac changed into ewe
Fiacha muilleathan – king of Munster
Firbolgs – the older “sibling-gods” of the Tuatha Dé Danann
Fomors – the foreign rival gods of the Tuatha Dé Danann
Ir – one of the leaders of the Men of Mil (see Amergin)
Kenmare – student of Mogh Ruith
Lugh – king of the Tuatha Dé Danann
Lurge – Cormac’s fairy-druid ally
Men of Mil – the first human inhabitants of Ireland
Mogh Corb – son of Cormac
Mogh Ruith – independent druid
Morrigu – warrioress of the Tuatha Dé Danann
Nochet – student of Migh Ruith
Nuada – king of the Tuatha Dé Danann
Tuatha Dé Danann – the gods of Ireland
1: Other Irish Editions of texts (by author from main bibliograpy)
*bilingual editions, otherwise without translation
The First Battle of Moy Tuireadh: Fraser*, Travis*
The Second Battle of Moy Tuireadh: Hull*, Gray
Amergin: Travis, Henry, Macalister*, Best and Bergin, Connella*
The Siege of the Ridge of the Stag’s Cry: ó Tuathail*, Sjoestedt
The Coming of Patrick: Travis, Carney*
2: Texts and general works on druidic poetics
Best, Richard, & Bergin, Osborn. The Book of Leinster 1. Dublin 1954.
Carney, James. Medieval Irish Lyrics. Dublin 1967.
Connella, Patrick. The Poems of Amergin. Trans. Ossin.Soc.5, 1857.
Fraser, John. The First Battle of Moytura. Ériu 1, 1916.
Hull, Vernam. Cairpre Mac Edaine’s Satire Upon Bres Mac Eladain. ZCP 18, 1929.
Gray, Elizabeth. Cath Maige Tuiraed. London 1982. (prose, but not roscanna, translated).
Henry, Patrick. Saoithiúlacht na Sean-Ghaeilge. Dublin 1978.
Macalister, R. A. Stewart. Lebor Gabála 5. Dublin 1956.
ó Cathasaigh, Tomás. Curse and Satire. Éigse 21, 1986.
ó hógáin, Dáithí. An File. Dublin 1982.
ó Tuathail, Seán. Roscanna ón bhForbuis Druim Damhghaire. Cainteanna na Luise (Supplement-Separate No. 6), Ottawa 1988.
ó Tuathail, Seán. Forbiud Druim Dsmhghaire 7 Teagasca Bríochtaí. Cainteanna na Luise No.19, 1988.
Sjoestedt, Marie-Louise. Forbuis Droma Damhghaire [prose in French, roscanna not translated]. Revue Celtique 43-44, 1926-1927.
Travis, James. Early Celtic Versecraft. Ithaca 1973.
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