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Tuesday, April 28, 2015

Meiche, Three Hearts, Three Serpents

I'm still doing a lot of translation, and I'd like to keep sharing it but in ways that are interesting to you. So here is the story, as we have it, of the Morrigan's son Meiche and how the river Barrow got it's name:

13. BERBA.

Berba, canas ro ainmniged?
Ni ansa. Meiche mac na Morrigna is and robatar na tri crideda,
corot-marb Mac cecht im-Maig Mechi. Mag Fertaigi
dano a ainm in maige co sin. Amlaidh badar na cride sin, co
ndelbaib tri nathrach treithib. Meni torsed dano bas do Mechi
arforbertais na nathracha ind & focnafed ana faigbet béo i nHérinn.
Roloisc iarum Mac cecht in[na] cride sin im-Maig Luathat,
coro la al-luaith lasin sruth, conid romarb eas in tsrotha,
[&] coro marb cach n-anmanda roboi ann, & coro m[b]erb. Nó
combad i n-Aird Luaithrid [noloisc]. Unde Berba dicitur &
Mag Meche & Aird Luaithrid.
Nó coma[d] Berba .i. ber nó bir & ba .i. balb. Unde Berba
dicitur .i. usce balb.

13. Berba

Berba, why this name?
Not difficult. Meiche was a son of the Morrigan and he had three hearts, until he was killed by Mac Cecht at Maige Mechi. Maige Fertaigi was the name of the plain before that. This way were those hearts, with three forms of three serpents. Moreover if not for the death of Meiche, the serpents would have grown to the end and consumed therefore all life in Ireland. Then Mac Cecht burned the hearts there at Maig Luathat, throwing the ashes in the course of the river, so that the rapids in the stream died, and brought death to every animal there and boiling. Or else he may have destroyed them in Ard Luaithard (or he burned them). So Berba is said and Mag Meche and Ard Luauthrid.
Or its called Berba, that is ber or bir – water – and ba that is balb – silent – whence Berba is called silent water.

   So from this short entry in the Rennes Dindshenchas we learn that the Morrigan had a son named Meiche, and that Meiche had three hearts which contained serpents who, if allowed to grow, would consume all life in Ireland. Serpents often appear in Irish myth as symbols of destruction and the description of the serpents here follows that, since if they are freed from the hearts they will consume and take all life in Ireland (Green, 1992). Because of this Dian Cecht killed Meiche and burned the three hearts to ash, destroying the serpents. Interestingly Dian Cecht appears in other stories also fighting serpents, and in another tales also battles and defeats a monstrous serpent or dragon near the river Barrow (O hOgain, 2006). It is likely that his appearance here, as the person who had to kill Meiche, is significant as well and could indicate that the three snakes may have represented plagues. Even in death though the snakes were deadly and when Dian Cecht threw the ashes into the Barrow river they stilled the waters and killed all the living things in the river, emphasizing the danger they represented.

Reference:
O hOgain, D., (2006) The Lore of Ireland
Green, M., (1992). Animals in Celtic Life and Myth

Copyright Morgan Daimler

1 comment:

  1. Thank you for the translation, I have read similar translations. Incidentally the Barrow rises in the Slieve Blooms about five miles to the south of our home and flows gently about a quarter of mile behind us at the rear of our home; where the occasional salmon can be caught.

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