Tionól 2005

The following papers were given at the School’s annual Tionól, 18-19 November, 2005.

Caoimhín Breatnach
Tóruigheacht Dhiarmada agus Ghráinne: text, transmission and language

In this paper certain aspects of the text of Tóruigheacht Dhiarmada agus Ghráinne (TDG) and its transmission will be discussed. A comparison will be made between the tale and some earlier sources pertaining to the main characters with a view to re-examining the date of composition of TDG and, in conjunction with this, the language of the tale will be discussed.

Marion Deane
The debate: Feis Tigi Becfholtaig

The first half of FTB ends in an ode which celebrates reciprocal exchange between Concobar and Dectire, as king and goddess, or, as partners to a sacred marriage. The sacred marriage validates Concobar as possessor of truth or fír flaithemon, which may be described as the permanent essence of kingship. However, Deictire is not only abstract sovereignty but the populace of the realm itself. The second half of the tale offers a platform for a debate, the power of which is to show that ordinary or actual individuals rather than transcendent beings are involved. It shows how this particular king in his relationship with these particular men of Ulster gives unique and individual expression to the principles of the rulers truth. They are its representatives in a supposedly contemporary or current phase in the life of the tuath. The principles and values of the ideal otherworld, which govern Concobars actions, find concrete and pragmatic expression in their interactive and mutual affairs.

Jim Doherty
The Stella Maris error

Mary, the mother of Christ, has been celebrated with the title Stella Maris (Star of the Sea) since the early days of Christianity. Yet, it is almost certain that this title arose from a scribal misreading of an early gloss on her name. Starting with an Old Irish hymn in the Liber Hymnorum manuscript, this presentation will follow the paper trail back to the original etymological gloss on a Hebrew name, and show how a later misreading gave rise to a new mythology which has continued down to the present day.

Gwenno Angharad Elias
Llyfr Cynyr ap Cadwgan: the legacy of a medieval family of clerics and lawyers

In a colophon in manuscript Q of the native Welsh laws, a law book is attributed to a character called Cynyr ap Cadwgan. The colophon states that the law book was handed down to his descendants who are named in the text. This shows a lineage that spans over four generations, one incidentally, that is omitted from Bartrums Welsh Genealogical Tracts. Cynyr ap Cadwgan is also named in the charters of the Abbey of Strata Marcella as a witness to a land suit heard before the Lord of Cydewain – Maredudd ap Rhobert, circa 1216. He was given the title Abbot of Llandinam. Llandinam was an important ecclesiastical institution in its day. Cynyrs work reflects how his style of prose was heavily influenced by his clerical background. This paper concentrates on the work of a clerical lawyer, arbitrator and his family, showing that the famous Sulien family of Llanbadarn Fawr were not the only learned clerical family in Medieval Wales.

Nicholas Evans
The Uí Néill and the development of the Early-Medieval Irish chronicles

In this paper I will discuss the textual development of the Irish chronicles in the early-medieval period, focussing particularly on the portrayal of the Uí Néill. It has been argued by John Kelleher that the record of early Uí Néill activities in the chronicles was rewritten in the ninth century, but other scholars have challenged this theory. This paper will focus on evidence for the revision in the late-eighth and ninth centuries of some records of events in the fifth- and sixth-century section of the Irish chronicles, as well as on the overall depiction of the Uí Néill in the Chronicle of Ireland (the common source, written in 911, of most of our surviving Irish annals). It will then consider the later Clonmacnoise-group revision of this text, which involved the addition of extra kings of Ireland and provincial kings and the back-projection of this depiction of Irish kingship before the time of St Patrick into the ancient past. It will be argued that, while there is some evidence for Uí Néill alterations before 912, this was unsystematic, whereas the Clonmacnoise-group revision introduced into the annals the view of Irish political history that came to dominate in the rest of the medieval period.

Caroline McGrath
The apple in Early Irish Literature

I will deal with the symbolism of the apple in Early Irish Literature, primarily in the tale Echtrae Chonnlai. I will attempt to deal with the question of biblical influence versus the possible influence of Scandinavian my thology. In this, as well as other societies, the apple represents immortality, fertility, and occasionally love. I will compare the Irish examples with these Norse examples in an attempt to prove that this motif was part of an international mythological symbolism connected to fecundity. The veneration of certain types of vegetation is common in myth, and I will attempt to prove that the gift of the apple in this tale has a deeper significance in Irish literature than merely a reflection of the Genesis myth of the Fall of Man.

Róisín McLaughlin
A Middle Irish textbook on Auraicept na nÉces

The purpose of this paper is to discuss a Middle Irish text which consists of citations, questions and answers, etymologies and linguistic material relating to Auraicept na nÉces. The text is of interest in that it often presents alternative versions of matters dealt with in the Auraicept. It is found in eight manuscripts, including the Book of Ballymote, the Book of Uí Maine and the Yellow Book of Lecan. There will be an examination of the manuscript transmission, which differs from the transmission of the Auraicept as established by Calder (1917) and revised by Ahlqvist (1982). Some sources for the text will also be considered.

Neil McLeod
The saga of Fergus mac Léti

Fergus mac Léti, King of Ulster, catches some leprechauns. They give him the power to travel underwater in return for their freedom. This gift comes with a proviso; that Fergus stays away from Loch Rudraige. Naturally, he goes into the Loch. There he confronts a water-monster and is so terrified that his face is distorted by a permanent look of horror. This blemish compromises Fergus’s eligibility for the kingship. His slave woman, Dorn, taunts him about his blemish and he kills her. Then he returns to Loch Rudraige, slays the water monster, and dies.

This marvellous tale is the first in which leprechauns make an appearance. Various aspects of this tale have already been discussed by scholars. The older versions of the story survive only in legal manuscripts, and Binchy has noted how much we owe to its legal redactors. And yet the legal implications of the story have never been teased out.

In this paper I will look at the saga in its role as a legal teaching tale. I will attempt to explain the basis of the complicated legal dispute it revolves around, the principles on which the various claims were based, and the legal basis on which judgement was finally determined.

Peter McQuillan
The idea of ‘suairceas’ in the 17th and 18th centuries in Irish

The word “suairceas” is conventionally translated, somewhat diffusely, as pleasantness, agreeableness, cheerfulness, gaiety. However, in certain texts of the period under discussion (Ó Bruadairs poem Mairg ná fuil na dhubhthuata, for example), such glosses seem to obscure as much as they reveal. The paper will identify a semantic-pragmatic core of meaning for suairceas which is then channelled through particular ideological filters in the 17th and 18th centuries in response to changing conditions in Ireland. I will argue in effect that suairceas is part of the lexemic realization of a particular cultural model which develops in response to social and political change during this period. Central to this model is the establishment of a type of corporate solidarity, whereby the qualities imputed to suairceas are seen as the possession of a particular social group (or groups) that share common cultural and political ideals in defence of the status quo ante at this time, whether the particular domain relates to poetics, social style or political allegiance. The discussion will be underpinned by a comparison with some parallel developments in Early to Classical Latin terminology relating to poetics, aesthetics and the language of social performance (as discussed by Krostenko 2001).

Gerald Manning
On restoring the text of the poem Suidiugad Tige Midchuarta

The poem entitled Suidiugad Tige Midchúarta, the arrangement of Tech Midchúarta, describes the seating arrangements and portions of food appropriate to the various grades of society when attending a feast in the Tech Midchúarta. The subject matter of the poem is of interest because of the light it sheds on food, feasting and the relative legal status of persons in early Ireland. There are two previous editions of the poem, the first by John O’Donovan in Petries History and Antiquities of Tara Hill, The Transactions of the Royal Irish Academy 18 (1839) and another by B. O’Looney in Gilberts Facsimiles of National MSS II (1878). The earliest manuscript in which the poem is preserved is the twelfth-century Book of Leinster. However, what appears to be a more complete version of the poem is preserved in three additional sources: the fourteenth-century Yellow Book of Lecan and two seventeenth-century MSS – RIA B iv 2 and TCD H 1 12 (both in the hand of Michél Ó Cléirigh). This paper discusses some of the issues involved in attempting to establish a critical edition of this poem based on all of the extant MSS.

Jenifer Ní Ghrádaigh
Interpreting a fragmentary legal text on the saer

CIH 2107.36-2108.23 consists of very brief citations from a tract on remuneration for craftsmen, probably from the Senchas Már, with middle Irish glossing. I will be discussing the text and its implications for our understanding of the role of the saer in pre-Norman Ireland. The text is particularly interesting in what it tells us about workshop structure and practices, and this corresponds to the evidence of architectural style as found at monastic sites such as Clonmacnoise. Other texts bearing on the skills and payment of the saer will also be briefly discussed.

Meidhbhín Ní Úrdail
Athchuairt ar an gCúirt

Tá sé ráite coitianta gur déantús eisceachtúil filíochta é Cúirt an Mheán Oíche le Brian Merriman (ca 1749-1805). Déanfar iniúchadh sa chaint seo ar na slata tomhais a thagraíonn an eisceachtúlacht san don dán féin. Ina theannta san, áiteofar nár chaonaí aonair an té a chum, ach gur thairig sé téamaí a dháin as pota stóir dúchais.

Donnchadh Ó Corráin
The Irish nota .h. for Ua, Úi, etc.: an explanation

The Irish nota .h. for for Ua, Úi, etc is, so far, as I can find, unexplained. It is wrongly expanded Húa etc. by M. A. O’Brien in Corpus genealogiarum Hiberniae, and by many other over the last century or so. At no time in the history of the Irish language did the forms Ua, Ui etc. or the older forms aue etc. have an organic initial h. The explanation is simple and economic. Initial .h. is an Irish adaptation of Tironian material and has nothing to do with the letter h.

Tom O’Loughlin
The inscription on the Ardagh Chalice: its liturgical setting.

The list of apostles on the chalice is presented in such a way that its precise liturgy source can be identified. Once this is identified, its particular significance when stretched around the chalice rim becomes clear.

Morfydd Owen
Gael agus Gall agus Breatnach: the poetry of Hywel ab Owain Gwynedd

The poetry of the twelfth-century poet prince Hywel ab Owain Gwynedd (obit 1172) is unique among the poetry of the twelfth- and thirteenth-century Court Poets in that it consists very largely of love poetry which has been compared to that of the troubadours. Hywel was of mixed Irish, Welsh and Scandinavian lineage. This paper seeks to explore the possibility that it was his mixed lineage which accounts for the special nature of his poetry. Its poetic idiom is Welsh. but its themes will be compared with some of the love themes of early Irish Literature will be considered as well as those of Skaldic Poetry.

Geraldine Parsons
The manuscript tradition of Acallam na Senórach

The late twelfth- or early thirteenth-century text, Acallam na Senórach is found in Oxford, Bodleian Library, Laud Misc. 610; Chatsworth, The Book of Lismore; Oxford, Bodleian Library, Rawl. B. 487; Dublin, University College, Franciscan A4 and Dublin, University College, Franciscan A20. That none of these copies preserve an ending for the tale has contributed to a characterisation of these witnesses as fragmentary. This paper will consider the manuscript tradition of the Acallam and will argue that although imperfectly preserved, the witnesses present a more coherent narrative than has been recognised to date. The implications of this assessment for literary criticism of the text will be outlined.

Katja Ritari
What makes Irish saints sacred?

In this paper I propose to ask the question what does it mean that saints are sacred persons. What does holiness signify in Irish hagiographical tradition? Sacredness as a saintly quality denotes someone set apart from the normal human community and conventions and marked as belonging to God. Saint is someone who is closer to heaven even when living this life. How are these aspects of sacredness communicated in Irish hagiography? The saints virtues and miracles can be understood as signs of his or her holiness, but what is the relationship between the two? Is virtuous life a prerequisite for miraculous powers or are both equally gifts from God and dependant on His Grace? The aim of this paper is to explore Irish hagiography from a theological point of view and to study sacredness as an integral aspect of sainthood.

David Stifter
Endlicher’s Glossary: a document of Late Gaulish

Endlichers Glossary is a unique document kept at the Austrian National Library, the sole still extant Gaulish-Latin bilingual wordlist. Though preserved as a copy in a MS of the 9th century, it clearly dates from late antiquity or the early middle ages, probably from the 6th or 7th centuries, as I will argue on the grounds of textual links esp. with Gregory of Tours Historia Francorum. It is thus one of the rare testimonies for the latest phases of the Gaulish language shortly before its death. Since the last comprehensive study of Endlichers Glossary was undertaken almost a century ago, and since our knowledge of Gaulish has increased tremendously since then, it is high time for a new evaluation of the text. The phonological peculiarities of the words in the glossary, as compared to earlier stages of Gaulish, reveal a strong influence from Vulgar Latin, and certain features like e.g. word-internal lenition have to be viewed rather in the context of similar developments in early Romance than in Insular Celtic languages. A close philological study of the text reveals different chronological layers and allows for new etymologies of Gaulish words.

Elizabeth White
Scéla na esérgi: scholastic humanism in medieval Ireland

The homily known as Scéla na esérgi, found in Lebor na hUidre, has been largely overlooked by scholars. However, this paper will show that Scéla na esérgi – based in part on Augustine’s Enchiridion, but also strongly influenced by European intellectual trends of the late-eleventh and early-twelfth centuries – is of central importance in demonstrating Ireland’s participation in the ‘twelfth-century renaissance’.