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Tuesday, October 21, 2014

Translating the Untranslated

If you read the English version of the Cath Maige Tuired, whether its the Stokes or Grey translation, and you compare the English versions to the Irish version you will see that several passages have not been translated at all. It may be because these sections are more difficult to understand, or lacked a poetry that the translators were aiming for, or it may be that these sections - all dealing with prophecy and battle magic - were a bit too pagan for the translators. For modern polytheists studying the material I believe these passages do have great value and so I have undertaken to learn Old Irish and attempt to translate them myself.
  For example in E. A. Gray's translation of the Cath Maige Tuired there is a section she translates as:
 "Then she said to him, "Undertake a battle of overthrowing," The Morrigan said to Lug, "Awake...." (Gray, 1982). The ellipses at the end indicate that there is an untranslated section of Irish that followed, which Gray, for whatever reason, chose to not to include. The Whitley Stokes version omits the entire passage. 
This is the passage in Old Irish from Gray's Irish Texts edition:
"Arfolmais cath mbrisi." Conid dei atppert an Morrigan fri Lug, "Diuchetrai cein cuild ansaim slaidither truasfidir troich tarret brothlach mbodhmhou indraither tuatha do agath diuchtra..."
 The following is my own translation of this passage:
"Undertake a battle of overthrowing," so sang the goddess Morrigan turning to Lug, "Awake, make a hard slaughter, smiting bodies, attacks boiling, greatly burning, devastating, the people to a man crying out..."
- Cath Maige Tuired, translation M Daimler (aka amateur)
 A less word-for-word and more poetic version might be: 
"Undertake a battle of overthrowing," The goddess Morrigan chanted to Lugh, "Awake, make a hard slaughter, smiting bodies with furious attacks, the sound of battle deafening, devastating the people who cry out to the last man..."

There are several more like this, including Lugh's battle magic chant and the Morrigan's prophecy at the end of the battle. My goal is to translate these myself and offer my versions here for anyone who might be interested in them, with the understanding that they are being done on a purely amateur basis. However even on that level I think the material has value and is worth studying and considering.   

*edited after publishing for better translation

Gray, E., (1982). Cath Maige Tuired, Irish Texts Society

Further reading:

Stokes, W., (1891). The Second Battle of Moytura. Retrieved from


  1. Yeah, that's a weird one. Old Irish. It's one of the fun ones in the language:

    It's a version of as-beir.

  2. excellent - I'm going to edit the blog to reflect that but for continuity the word in question was *atppert - I haven't had any luck translating this word. If at- is meant to be ath- which often shifts to att- at the start of a word it would indicate "another" or a "second [of something]" which could make sense in this context but I have no idea what pert might mean.
    and my original translation was:
    "Undertake a battle of overthrowing," so the Gods (word unclear*), the Morrigan turned to Lug, "Awake, make a hard slaughter, smiting bodies, attacks boiling, greatly deafening, devastating, the people to a man crying out..."