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Thursday, March 26, 2015

translation tidbits



So here's the thing. I'm kind of swamped right now working on a couple writing projects and am having a hard time sitting down to get a focused blog put out. So today I give you, random Old Irish translations.

Enjoy.


A Blessing:

"Corbat cara sluaig,
Corbat roga ríg,
Corbat cruithnecht chaem,
Corbat craebh co fín."
- A Maccáin Na Cí


May you be a crowd's friend
May you be a king's selection
May you be valuable wheat
May you be a branch with wine


On Curses:

"Ferr gach maoin mainbthigh miofhocal már marta"
- Bretha Nemed Dédenach

Better than every wealth of treasure, a great slaughterous curse


Some Curses:


"Fognad dúib ág is ernbas"
- The Metrical Dindshenchas

May you all be served dark battle and iron-death*

"Bé Néit fort"
- Sanas Cormaic, #168

Goddess of Battle on you

"Bás fort béolu"
- Fingal Rónáin

 Death on your mouth**
An Idiomatic Saying:

"Íbait fíaich lúgbairt lacht!"
- The Táin Bó Cúailgne; Leabhar Buidhe Lecain

Literally - "Ravens will drink milk of a garden"
Figuratively - "Ravens will drink blood of a battlefield"


Some Poetry:

"Caraim-se fos, ferr cach clú,
oc mu lebrán, léir ingnu...
fúachimm chéin fri fégi fis
mu rosc réil, cesu imdis...
hi tucu cheist n-doraid n-dil
os mé chene am fáelid."
- excerpt from Messe ocus Pangur bán


"I love the quiet, better than fame,
and my book zealously I study...
I direct my clear eye, though very weak
towards sharpening knowledge...
I grasp a question, difficult, dear,
and my mind in that time is happy."


And A Bit About Brighid

Brigit .i. banfile ingen in Dagdai. is eiside Brigit baneceas (ł be neicsi) .i. Brigit bandee noadradís filid. arba romor 7 baroán afri thgnam. is airesin ideo eam (deam) uocant poetarum hoc nomine cuius sorores erant Brigit be legis Brigit bé goibnechta .i. bandé .i. tri hingena in Dagdai insin. de quarum nominibus pene omnes Hibernenses dea Brigit uocabatur. Brigit din .i. breoaigit ł breoṡaigit. - Sanas Cormaic B 129

Literal translation - Brigit, that is a poet daughter of the Dagda. It is this Brigit woman of poetic art (woman of the poetic skill) that is Brigit Goddess worshiped by poets. Great benefit and great service is hers.. It is therefore she is called a Goddess by poets; her sisters were Brigit the woman of healing, Brigit the woman of smithcraft, that is a Goddess, that is they are three daughters of the Dagda. Of which names almost all Irish goddesses are called Brigit. Brigit, then that is breoaigit or breoshaigit fiery arrow 

Brigit – a poet, daughter of the Dagda. This Brigit is a woman of poetry (female poet) and is Brigit the Goddess worshipped by poets because her protection was very great and well known. This is why she is called a Goddess by poets. Her sisters were Brigit the woman of law and Brigit the woman of smithcraft, Goddesses; they are three daughters of the Dagda. Almost all Irish Goddesses are called a Brigit. Brigit then from breoaigit or breoshaigit, ‘fiery arrow’
And as an apology for not getting an actual blog, a bonus meme I made recently
"Have you heard of the power of the Morrigans?"

* ernbas, or iron-death is an idiom for death in battle by spear or sword point
** 'death on your mouth' and similar expressions are very common and can be find in many sources including the Táin Bó Fraích, and Cath Maige Mucruma. 

Friday, March 20, 2015

Reconstructionism - What It Is, What It Isn't, and Why I Love It

   I've said it before but it bears repeating: Reconstructionism is a very misunderstood thing. There are many reasons for why that is and why some of those misunderstandings keep being perpetuated, but mostly it comes down to assumptions and stereotypes. So today let's take a look at what reconstruction is and what it isn't. 
   Disclaimer (because I don't enjoy the sensation of being flayed): This article is meant as a general commentary on the methodology of reconstruction when applied to polytheist religion. As with anything there will be exceptions to any statement or cases where specific styles of Recon differ. I am writing it from the base of my own experience, which is primarily in Celtic Reconstructionism* and Heathenry, however I wouldn't presume to speak for all recons everywhere.
 ~ What is Reconstructionism?
     This seems like a good place to start. Reconstruction is a methodology that uses a variety of sources including archaeology, anthropology, mythology, folklore, and historical texts to reconstruct what an ancient belief or practice most likely would have been. Using this reconstruction of the old the belief or practice can then be adapted for modern practice. Or, as I like to say, reconstruction is understanding the old pagan religion so that we can envision what it would have been like if it had never been interrupted and still existed today. 
   Reconstructionism is most often applied to spirituality but it can be used for a variety of related practices including traditional non-religious witchcraft. It can also be for mystic practices used in conjunction with spiritual practices, such as the reconstruction of seership methods within Celtic Reconstruction, or of seidhr within Heathenry. 
    Reconstruction is a method that is applied to a wide array of different ancient pagan faiths including Norse, Anglo-Saxon, Minoan, Egyptian, Irish, Gaulish, and Indo-European** to name just a few. It is a method which is both sound and flexible, but which also requires personal engagement and imagination. Because of this the end result of different people's reconstruction of the same culture's religion will not be identical, although it should be similar. 
   ~ What is Reconstructionism *NOT*
   1) Recons are not mean. Well, they aren't any meaner, generally speaking, than any other community can seem to outsiders. I see this one all the time, and it is usually rooted in two things: a difference in communication style and a difference in paradigm. People within reconstructionist communities tend to have a communication style - in my experience - that is rather blunt and straightforward. In contrast people within non-Recon communities tend, again in my experience, to have communication styles that favor friendly language and more passive aggressive approaches. Recons tend to operate from a paradigm of earned respect, skepticism, and where any statement requires hard evidence to support it, while non-recons have a paradigm of immediate intimacy, trust, and acceptance of people's assertions on face value. Neither of these is inherently better or worse than the other, but they create very different cultures and expectations of behavior for the people within them. It should be obvious that these communication styles and paradigms are in many ways antithetical and it is almost inevitable that people interacting between the two groups will have issues with each other. 
   2) Recons are not re-enactors. This is another very common one, usually expressed through the criticism that Reconstructionism is flawed because "there are things that should be left in the past". Well, yes, clearly. No one is advocating the return of human sacrifice or slavery - although we are honest about the fact that these were historic practices and that understanding them is important to understanding the culture. Reconstruction is not about recreating ancient religion exactly as it was and practicing it that way, but about understanding how it was in order to make it viable today.
   I for one love indoor plumbing and refrigeration, and I'm not about to give up all modern amenities to build a roundhouse and pretend I'm living in the Iron Age. I might not mind a round house with wifi and solar panels though. Obviously just like the rest of the population there are some recons who do favor sustainable living, off the grid living, and even a rejection of many aspects of modern technology but that isn't an aspect of reconstruction itself, anymore than belonging to the SCA or going to Renn Faires is. 
   3) Recons are not books only. There is a bit of a hesitance in reconstructionist groups - or at least the ones I have experience with - to discuss actual practice and experience. I think there are several reasons for this, including that we tend to get very tangential about minutia in discussions and we get sidetracked when someone else starts disagreeing and saying their research supports a different approach. However just because we don't talk all the time about what we actually do in our daily lives doesn't mean we aren't doing anything. Just like just because a non-recon talks a lot about what they do and not much about what they read doesn't mean that they don't read anything (I like to assume anyway). Recons do like their source material, but the entire point of the source material is using it to create a viable practice. 
  4)  Recons don't hate "upg"***. This one is also often expressed as "Recons are obsessed with lore" or "Recons are pagan fundamentalists". However you say it it simply isn't true. And that's just not my opinion, I'll quote the CR FAQs here, under What Is Celtic Reconstruction (CR): " By studying the old manuscript sources and the regional folklore, combining this information with mystical and ecstatic practice, and working together to weed out the non-Celtic elements that can arise, we are nurturing what still lives and helping the polytheistic Celtic traditions grow strong and whole again." (emphasis mine). Incorporating personal experience and mystical practice is part of reconstruction, so recons obviously do not hate personal gnosis. However we do apply the same critical thinking and discernment to mystical experiences as we do to any source of information and I suspect this is where the problem comes in. Recons question everything to ascertain its veracity including spiritual experiences and that is often unpopular especially in communities that do not share the same approach. 
   But seriously people recons don't hate mystical experiences, nor do we reject anything that isn't straight out of a book. We just place a lot of value on the vast amount of combined experience and belief that is the culture we are reconstructing and we use that as a measure for the credibility of new information. 
 ~ So why do I love it? Well, honestly Reconstruction is a part of who I am. It fits my nature, my personality, and so it is something I apply to everything: my religion, my witchcraft, my fairy faith. I was always that kid who asked why and who dreamed about what something could have been. I love studying the evidence we have and asking myself what if? What if it had never stopped? What if the Old gods, the old ways, had been continuously worshiped, continuously kept? What would that look like today? I find it a fascinating puzzle and one that I am compelled to sort out. 

  Reconstruction is not a methodology for everyone, just like any other path it is simply one option among many. It appeals to certain people for a variety of reasons, and leaves other people uninterested, and that's okay. Many people who don't practice Reconstruction, and even some who do, misunderstand what it is and sometimes perpetuate stereotypes about it, and I hope this blog helped at least a little bit to shed some light on a few of them. Recons aren't out to make people cry, aren't trying to recreate the Iron Age, aren't only about reading books, and aren't against personal ecstatic experiences or gnosis. What we are about is using solid academic evidence and personal inspiration to envision what that polytheism would have looked like today if it had existed without interruption. We are about honoring our ancestors, spirits of diverse types, and Gods. We are about respecting and helping to preserve the living culture today. 
   Reconstruction isn't about living looking backwards. Its about walking forward with the past a firm path beneath our feet, guiding our steps. 


 Further reading:
http://www.paganachd.com/faq/index.html
http://moon-books.net/blogs/moonbooks/how-to-be-an-irish-reconstructionist-polytheist/
http://www.tairis.co.uk/introduction/gaelic-reconstructionist-polytheism
http://www.beliefnet.com/Faiths/2004/08/Our-Gods-And-Goddesses-Are-Closer-To-Us.aspx#

*I identify publicly as a practitioner of Celtic Reconstructionist Polytheism, however I am specifically endeavoring to reconstruct Irish polytheism. 
** Ceisiwr Serith has an interesting book called 'Back to the Beginnings: Re-inventing Wicca' which is, to all intents and purposes, an attempt to reconstruct Indo-European religious witchcraft.
***upg - unverified personal gnosis, or as Lora O'Brien puts it (and I like better) unique personal gnosis. I've also been known to refer to this as personal numinous experience, but PNE isn't as catchy of an acronym.

Tuesday, March 17, 2015

Translation: Fáed Fíada/The Deer's Cry

Today I wanted to tackle my own translation of an excerpt of an Fáed Fíada (the Deer's Cry), which is itself a portion of the Lorica of Saint Patrick. The Fáed Fíada portion is said to be much older and reflect a pagan prayer, and quite frankly I've always liked and have based one of my own daily prayers on the style of it. 

"Atomriug indiu 
niurt nime, 
soilsi gréne, 
étrochtai éscai, 
áni thened, 
déni lóchet, 
luaithi gaíthe, 
fudomnai mara, 
tairismigi thalman, 
cobsaidi ailech."*

I bind today
strength of sky
light of sun
radiance of moon
brightness of flame
swiftness of light
speed of wind
depth of ocean
steadfastness of earth
firmness of rock.


*Old Irish found here http://www.daltai.com/cgi-sys/cgiwrap/daltai/discus/show.pl?tpc=12465&post=10574#POST10574



Thursday, March 12, 2015

A Bit More Translation

A couple more tidbits of translation for you:

Belltaine .i. bil tene .i. tene ṡoinmech .i. dáthene dognítis druidhe tria thaircedlu...móraib combertis na cethrai arthedmannaib cacha bliadna cusnaténdtibsin (MARG-L eictis na cethra etarru)
Sanas Cormaic B102

Belltaine that is lucky fire that is fire of prosperity that is a festival held with two fires Druids made with incantations...making the offspring of the herds receive blessing every year against illness (left hand marginalia - they needed the herds between)

In other words: "Bealtaine, meaning lucky fire or fire of abundance, a festival with two fires made by Druidic incantations...made for the young herds to receive blessing every year against illnesses (note - the herds need to be driven between the fires)
  ***********************************************************

"Badb is Macha mét indbáis,
Morrigan fotla felbáis,
Indlema ind ága ernbais,
Ingena ana Ernmais."

- Book of Leinster, folio 5

Badb and Macha, important treasure,
Morrigan, wealth of spells,
Surrounding death by sword's edge*
Rich daughters of Ernmas"
*this line reads "Compassers pointed battle iron-death" = ernbas, literally iron-death, a poetic allusion to death by sword or spear in battle. I have rendered it slightly more poetically here

***********************************************


‘Os tusa, a Morrighan’, ol Lug, ‘cia cumang?’
‘Ni anse’, ol si; ‘ar-rosisor dosifius, dosselladh arroselus, ar-rosdibu nosriastar’.
 - Cath Maige Tuired

"And you, oh Morrigan," said Lugh, "what ability?"

"Not hard," said she, "Pursue what was observed, pursue to strike down, I control bloody destruction."

This passage is often not translated or handled very loosely because the Old Irish presents some challenges here typical of the CMT. To give you an idea of my approach to translating such difficult passages and how I arrive at the translations I do:
cumang - power, ability, skill

ar-rosisor - ar before, rosisor possibly a form of rossair evidence
dosifius - form of do-seinn, pursues, drives, hunts
dosselladh - form of do-seinn pursues, drives, hunts
arroselus - possibly a form of ar-roselt a form of sligid slays, defeats, strikes down
ar-rosdibu - ar before, ros form of rondid reddens, dibu form of di-ba destruction  - ar-diben act of cutting
nosriastar - no verb modifier probably srianad controlling, restraining related to riar will, demand, dominion

Tuesday, March 10, 2015

Sexuality in Ancient Ireland

  This falls into the category of "frequently asked questions", because I regularly see people wondering what the ancient Irish or Celtic view of homosexuality was. The short answer seems to be that prior to Christianity it was not remarkable. Let's take a look at the long answer:
     There is very little direct mention of homosexuality in the ancient Irish mythology or stories (Power, 1976). Some people might decide this is indicative of a lack of homosexuality in general but it appears that in fact the opposite was the case, that it may have been seen as accepted and unremarkable. Partially we can draw this conclusion because we know that societies that did strongly prohibit same sex pairings for any reason tended to be very vocal about that fact and we find references to being the submissive sexual partner frequently used as an insult against men in such cultures, such as the Norse. However that is lacking in the Irish* and the Celts more generally, indicating that same sex relations were not viewed as shameful or, one may assume abnormal. We can also draw this conclusion using evidence from secondary sources, in this case Greek observers.
    One indicator of the acceptance of homosexuality in Celtic culture is a comment by Aristotle in his "Politics" where he mentions the way that the Celts openly approved of sexual relationships between men (Freeman, 2002). Similarly Diodorus also describes the open way that Celtic men had sexual relations with each other, in a way that seemed to baffle the Greeks because the Celts favored relationships between equals and were not concerned with beauty or age (Freeman, 2002). This is noteworthy because this Mediterranean culture itself engaged in forms of homosexual practice so they would not have included mention of it among the Celts as propaganda implying moral judgment; rather it was mentioned because the classical historians found the Celts lack of discernment concerning partners** and lack of concern about social order - reflected in taking partners among equals instead of younger men - to reflect barbarism. Although this evidence relates to the Gaulish Celts and not the Irish Celts it is indicative of the wider cultural views that seemed to be held within Celtic society.
   We do have some indication within Irish mythology that same sex pairings were accepted and not seen as unusual and this comes from the Tain Bo Cuiligne and the relationship of Ferdiad and Cu Chulain. During the fighting Cu Chulain has set himself up to block the attacking army and is taking on challengers one by one. Queen Medb convinces his foster brother Ferdiad to fight against him, much to Cu Chulain's dismay. When the two first meet on the battle field Cu Chulain says  to Ferdiad "We were heart-companions once; We were comrades in the woods; We were men that shared a bed"; Ferdiad responds that that time was long ago and insists on fighting (Windsch, 1905). We can further see the closeness of their relationship by looking at the mourning poem of Cu Chulain after he kills Ferdiad. He laments Ferdiad's death with these words: "I loved the noble way you blushed, and loved your fine, perfect form. I loved your blue clear eye, your way of speech, your skillfulness." (Kinsella, 1969). He goes on to praise Ferdiad's beauty further as well as his weapon's skill and lament that Feridiad was led to his death by the promise of marriage to Medb's daughter. Many people see in this passage the lament of one lover for another, something that is consistent with the practices discussed by Aristotle and Diodorus of Celtic warriors taking each other as lovers, and with Cu Chulain's own comment that they were "heart-companions" and "men who shared a bed".
   There is also mention of homosexuality in the Brehon Laws. One reason that a woman may lawfully divorce her husband is if he refuses her bed in favor of a male lover (Kelly, 2005). Although this is often taken as prohibitions against homosexuality it is important to understand the passage in context and to realize that it is not homosexuality as a practice that is being spoken against but the denial of a potential child to the wife. It specifies that it is only acceptable grounds for divorce if the husband denies his wife's bed in favor of his male lover's, and this is listed along with infertility, and being too fat for intercourse, making it clear that it is not the sexual preference per se but the lack of fulfilling marriage terms - i.e. providing a child. Additionally it is worth considering that there is a story in the book of Leinster which references two woman who are lovers; one woman becomes pregnant after lying with the other who had just had sex with a male partner (Bitel, 1996). What is most important about this story is that neither woman was punished or shamed in any way for their actions, indicating that women taking female lovers was not seen in a negative way (Bitel, 1996).
    In conclusion what evidence we do have seems to make it clear that sexual preference was not noteworthy until Christian mores took over. Warriors in Celtic Gaul were noted by the Greeks to take male lovers and there are at least echos of this practice in the relationship between Cu Chulain and Ferdiad. The law texts also address this in a way that does not condemn the act itself but only the nullification of a contract as a result of denying a female partner. Looking at the evidence in its entirety, scanty as it may be, I think its safe to conclude that bisexuality was not considered remarkable nor were homosexual relationships.  Marriage was a complex contractual affair regulated by law and intended to produce heirs, but love and sexual relations did not seem to necessarily always share this focus, nor an emphasis on heterosexuality.

*rather in the Irish we see insults aimed at people's ancestry, youth/inexperience, courage, and skill at arms.
** As Diodorus puts it ""The oddest part about the whole business is that young men don't care at all about appearance and will gladly give their bodies to anyone." (Freeman, 2002).

References:
Kinsella, T., (1969) The Tain
Freeman, P., (2002). War, Women, and Druids
Kelly, F., (2005). A Guide To Early Irish Law
Bitel, L., (1996) Land of Women
Power, P., (1976). Sex and Marriage in Ancient Ireland
Windisch, E., (1905). Tain Bo Cualgne
  

Thursday, March 5, 2015

Morrigan's Battle Incitement from the Tain Bo Cuiligne

Today's translation installment is a look at an incitement by the Morrigan towards the end of the Tain Bo Cuiligne. She appears to incite what will be the final confrontation between the two armies of Ulster and Connacht. 

Gleoud in chatha
Is hí inn aidchi sin ra dechaid in Morrígu ingen Ernmaiss, go m-bái oc indloch, ocus oc etarchossait eter na da dúnad chechtarda. Acus rabert-si na briathra sa:
Crennait brain
braigte fer
brunnid [fer] fuil.
Feochair cath
mescthair tuind.
Fadbaib luind.
Faib imthuill
nithgalaib
luibnig
lúth fiansa
fethal ferda
fir Chruachna
scritha
minardini
Cuirther cath
bha chossaib aráile.
Ebhlatt ar réim.
Bochin Ultu
bhómair Érno.
Bhochin Ulto.
. . . .
Issed dobert i cluáis n-Erand
Ni firfet anhglé
fail for a cind.
(Windisch, 1905)

Reference:
 Windisch, E., (1905). Tain Bo Cualgne

Settling the Battle
  It was in the edge of the night that the Morrigan daughter of Ernmas turned her attention to something deceptive and divisive, and looked to stirring strife between the two separate encampments. Near there she said this spell:
Ravens devour
throats of men
men's blood flows.
Severe battle
attacking flesh.
Violent spoils. 
Sides swelling
furious combat
deceitful thrashing
powerful warriors
appearance of virility
men of Cruachan
screaming
shattering dignity.
Inviting battle
death marching together.
They will shout.
Cow-plundered Ulster
Cow in the possession of Erna
Cow-plundered Ulster
   - - - 
this is what she put in Erna's ear*
Something done without goodness
in the place of their settlement

*this line alternately may read "this is the evil trick in Erna's ear", depending on whether we take dobert as a form of do-beir, puts, sets, places - which it could be - or whether we see it as dobert an evil trick or evil practice. 


For comparison, and to illustrate why I feel it's important to work on new translations of these texts, this is Joseph Dunn's 1914 translation of the same passage, you'll see there are significant differences in some places:
It was on that night that the Morrigan, daughter of Ernmas, came, and she was engaged in fomenting strife and sowing dissension between the two camps on either side, and she spoke these words:
"Ravens shall pick
The necks of men!
Blood shall gush
In combat wild!
Skins shall be hacked
Crazed with spoils!
Men's sides pierced
In battle brave,
Luibnech near!
Warriors' storm;
Mien of braves;
Cruachan's men!
Upon them comes
Ruin complete!
Lines shall be strewn
Under foot;
Their race die out!
Then Ulster hail:
To Erna woe!
To Ulster woe:
Then Erna hail!
(This she said in Erna's ear.)
Naught inglorious shall they do
Who them await!"

Tuesday, March 3, 2015

Beauty Among the Irish Celts

  Beauty is such a wonderfully subjective thing. In our modern times what is considered beautiful has changed from one decade to another, as fashions shift and with it our ideas of what is attractive. In January there was a fascinating video that became popular called "Women's Ideal Body Types Throughout History" which looked at different perceptions of female beauty in a variety of cultures over the last 3,000 years. It included the ideal body type from ancient Egypt to Renaissance Italy to modern America, and noted the increased rate at which our perception of beauty has begun shifting with modern technology and communication. As I watched it I began to wonder about the ancient Celtic and Irish standards of beauty, and so I decided to explore those a bit here.
   In general we know that a broad forehead and small chin were considered attractive, as was fair skin and blond hair (Joyce, 1906). Blond hair was so strongly favored that it was a practice among the Gauls and British Celts to bleach their hair with lime, something that we know about from the writings of Diodorus (Wilcox, 1985). Irish women were also known to color their eyebrows black using berry juice (Joyce, 1906). From this we can see that the Irish were not opposed to creating the look they desired though artificial means, preferring light hair and dark eyebrows even if they were achieved cosmetically.
   Both men and women wore their hair long and loose, although warriors were noted to sometimes plait their hair on either side of their faces (Thomson, 2011). The hair was brushed every day after the person bathed, and curling the hair was noted among the Irish nobility with elaborate hair styles seen in most early Irish artwork and illuminations (Joyce, 1906). Long hair was seen as a mark of great beauty and conversely to have the hair cut short, unless required by the person's particular job, was a mark of great shame (Thomson, 2011). In this case the length of a person's hair was quite literally a measure of their beauty by societal standards.
  The hands were also a feature that was focused on as a measure of beauty with pale hands that were fine with tapering fingers being preferred (Joyce, 1906). The fingernails were rounded and painted red on women, and for men to have rough fingernails was seen as disgraceful (Joyce, 1906). This tells us that the state of the hands was important for both men and women, and was a universal measure of beauty, although men were not noted to color their nails as women did. Facial makeup however including painting the eyelids and cheeks was noted on both genders (Joyce, 1906).
  In many of the tales a strong physical form is described as attractive, but other than that we don't see much focus on physical descriptions - rather clothing is emphasized, as we see in the description of Fedelm from the Tain Bo Cuiligne: "She had yellow hair. She wore a vari- coloured cloak with a golden pin in it and a hooded tunic with red embroidery. She had shoes with golden fastenings. Her face was oval, narrow below, broad above. Her eyebrows were dark and black. Her beautiful black eyelashes cast a shadow on to the middle of her cheeks. Her lips seemed to be made of partaing. Her teeth were like a shower of pearls between her lips. She had three plaits of hair: two plaits wound around her head, the third hanging down her back, touching her calves behind..." (O'Rahilly, n.d.)
  From this we see that Fedelm fits the usual mold of beauty, having "yellow" hair, dark eyebrows, a broad forehead and narrow chin, and long hair, but we are given very little description of her body type. We see a similar description in the Tochmarche Ferb: "Very beautiful and splendid was the young prince whom they accompanied; long were his cheeks, radiant and broad was his countenance. Long, curling, and golden was his hair, and it fell to his shoulders; proud and glowing were his eyes, blue, and clear as the crystal. Like to the tops of the woods in May, or to the foxglove of the mountain, was each of his cheeks. You might fancy that a rain of pearls had fallen into his mouth, and that his lips were twin branches of coral. White as the new-fallen snow of the night was his neck, and such was the fashion of his skin" (Jones, n.d.)
 Once again we see an attractive person described by hair color and length, facial shape, and fairness of complexion but no mention of physical body type. Even Cu Chulain who is often said to be the fairest man in Ireland is described in the Tochmarch Emire mostly by his clothing and chariot, with only his fair and flushed cheeks, dark eyebrows, and white teeth mentioned as personal descriptors of his beauty. From this we may, perhaps, conclude that how well one dressed was in fact a significant factor of personal beauty among the ancient Irish, along with the aforementioned facial shape, hair and eyebrow color, and hair length. 
   Beauty is often in the eye of the beholder, but it is also a matter of cultural views. What our culture finds beautiful will influence the formation of what we find beautiful as well. For the ancient Irish that meant being well dressed, having a broad forehead and narrow chin, dark eyebrows and blond hair, fair skin, and long hair - the longer the better. Very different, perhaps, from our modern standards. 


Reference:
Joyce, P., (1906) A Smaller Social History of Ancient Ireland
Wilcox, P., (1985) Rome's Enemies
Thomson, C., (2011) All About That Celtic Hair
O'Rahilly, C., (n.d.) Tain Bo Cualnge
Jones, M., (n.d.) Tochmarch Ferb