Sunday, 27 May 2012

More notes from the library...

The next lot of notes should be a bit shorter...Promise...

The Christianization of the Early Irish Cosmos?: muir mas, nem nglas, talam cé (Blathm. 258)
Liam Mac Mathúna
ZcP Volume 49-50 (1997)

Most folks who've been in the CR scene for a while have probably come across Mac Mathúna's article on the three realms in the Celtica journal (if not, it's really worth a read). I think it's safe to say that this article should be considered to be a companion piece to that one: although this article was published earlier than 'Early Irish Perceptions of the Cosmos,' it begins by referencing that article as establishing the Irish concept of "a three-fold division of the cosmos" as fact.

This article covers some of the same ground as the Celtica article and provides more examples of the three realms concept, but takes a different tack, ultimately proposing the idea that eventually the idea came to be articulated in a pair of words: nem (heaven - or sky) and talam (incorporating both land and sea). Or, as Mac Mathúna puts it - "From being confined to one corner of the nem - muir - talam conceptual triangle, where it shared the horizontal plane with muir, talam may now occupy the whole horizontal, subsuming muir, and finding in nem its sole contrasting opposite."

So. Now you know.

It also provides a wider context for the line muir mas, nem nglas, talam cé ("the beautiful sea, the blue heaven, the present earth") given in the Celtica article:
Ba deithbir do dúilib Démuir mas, nem nglas, talam céco imro-imchloítis a ngnéoc coíniud a ngalgaite. 
"It would have been fitting for God's elements, the beautiful sea, the blue heaven, the present earth, that they should change their aspect when keening their hero." (Blathm. 257-60)

Some Heathenish and Superstitious Rites: A Letter from Lewis, 1700
Domhnall Uilleam Stiúbhart
Scottish Studies: The Journal of the School of Scottish Studies Volume 24 (2000-2006)

This is a lengthy article so I'm just going to pick out a couple of bits I found interesting and potentially important; it's an examination of a letter "Ane Accompt of some heathenish & superstitious rites used in the Isle of Lewis given by a frend to Mr Alan Morisone Minister of Ness 15 April 1700" and there are several bits that prove interesting from a folklore perspective, describing certain customs and rites associated with various occasions and festivals that give details I've not otherwise seen before.

First up, there's probable mention of the practice of making offerings to Shony. The letter tells us:
"Others contribut a quantity of Corn & make malt of it, & brew it into ale, and drink it in the kerk [church] pouring the first coigfull into the sea, that they may have fish the better that yeir and sea ware for there land, And all the town will joyn in this work but now its abolyshed, they called this kynd of sacrifeceing Shion, but the Etymology of that word I know not.  Others killed ane heiffer or bullock and threw the blood of it into the sea wt certane rites and ceremonies promiseing to themselves therby the more abundance of fysh and sea ware to be brought ashore to them." (205-206)
This is a slightly different account to the one Martin Martin gives, and unlike Ronald Black, who links Shony to John the Baptist (Seonaidh) and, ultimately possibly Manannán, Stiúbhart suggests the name is evidence of Norse practice, from the Old Norse word son-, which means an atonement or sacrifice. An alternative explanation might link the word with the Lewis name for fairies, muinntir Fhionnlaigh.

The next bit I want to pick out from the letter relates to Là Fhèill Brìghde. The letter describes the making of the leaba Brìde (the bed of Brìde), made "in a Seive wt a little straw and clean cloaths," into which the icon of Bride was placed. The letter goes on to say:
"Then every persone in the family man woman and child put in something wch he daily wor into the bed, and after all was compleet for the service, all the familie fell on thr faces and wt high voices cryed ndanig briid, gun di riist." (206)
This is interesting in that I've never seen mention of clothes being but into the bed (that I recall!), and presumably it's for blessing, just like the practice of putting clothes outside for Brigid to bless in parts of Ireland. Clearly the bolded words are an attempt at articulating Gàidhlig, which Stiùbhart gives as '[Gu]n tàinig Brìd, gun dì [i] rithist.' Martin describes the ritual as well giving the words as "Briid is come, Briid is welcome." Stiùbhart suggests this is a mistranslation, when it should be as above - "Bride is come; may she come again." That has some implications for reconstructionist ritual, no doubt.

One final thing to note is that Stiùbhart mentions in his notes that Ronald Black is currently working on a book about the Gaelic year. All I can say is, YAY.

OK, I'll finish there for now, since I have to leave the house today. I hope you find these useful!


Hilaire said...

Yes, thank you, especially the first one.

Seren said...

You're most welcome! I'm glad it was useful :)