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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.

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

Copyright Morgan Daimler

Monday, April 27, 2015

Book Review: Feast of the Morrigan

I’m doing this book review for Christopher Penzcak's Feast of the Morrigan a little bit differently. This is a book that is often brought up and that people really like, and it has its good points for modern practice. The author is very clear that his own approach, and that of the rituals and meditations he provides, is based in Wicca and neopagan witchcraft and for people utilizing that style I’m sure what he offers is quite valid. However there are some important issues with the book, specifically inaccuracies in the mythology, that make it problematic. It also badly needed an editor, preferably one familiar with Irish, but I’ll leave that aside as well, except to say that there are numerous spelling errors throughout. It’s the details from the myths I want to discuss here, with the understanding that the book’s sections on practice and modern experience are not at issue. My approach will be to first offer the passage or comment that is inaccurate and then the correct material with citation.

Chapter 1, page 17 – The author states that the Morrigan is never explicitly called a Goddess in the mythology.
Reality: The Morrigan is called a Goddess at least twice that I am aware of. In the Metrical Dindshenchas, poem 49 which can be found here:
Which says: “dosrocht ben in Dagda;ba samla día sóach” (Arrived the wife of the Dagda; a phantom is the youthful/shapechanging Goddess)  In the Tochmarch Emire we also have this: "‘H-i Ross Bodbo .i. na Morrighno, ar iss ed a ross-side Crich Roiss& iss i an bodb catha h-i & is fria id-beurur bee Neid .i. bandee incatæ, uair is inann be Neid & dia cathæ’. ("In the Wood of Badb, that is of the Morrigu, therefore her proven-wood the land of Ross, and she is the Battle-Crow and is also called the woman of Neit, that is Goddess of Battle,because Neit is also a God of Battle.")  I have quoted them in the original language to illustrate that the word used in is fact “goddess” (dia/dee), however both are also available in English translations, and one of the sources that Penczak has in his bibliography is a dissertation by Gulermovich-Epstein that I know includes the fact that the Morrigan is referred to as a Goddess in the Irish material.

Chapter 1, page 21 – the author states that Tuatha De Danann literally means “Children of Danu”
Reality – Tuatha De Danann most likely means People of Danann (aka Danu) but may mean People of skill as well. Either way the word Tuatha does not mean children.

Chapter 1, page 22 – the author states that the Morrigan had to be petitioned to gain her advice and aid in the second battle of Moytura
Reality – although a very common belief there is nothing in the actual mythology which states this.

Chapter 1, page 23 – the author says that during the Cath Maige Tuired the Dagda sought out the Morrigan and found her washing her clothes with her red hair in 9 tresses. He connects the clothes washing to washer at the ford type activity. 
Reality – In the story, which can be found in English here  the Dagda and Morrigan have an arraignment to meet on the same day every year - Bai dno bandal forsin Dagdae dia bliadnae imon samain an catha oc Glind Edind. (The Dagda was to meet a woman on a day,yearly, about Samain of the battle at Glen Etin.) So he did not seek her out,rather it was a prearranged meeting. She was not washing her clothes but rather was washing her genitals and her hair color is never mentioned.

Chapter 1, page 23 – further on discussing the same story the author says that the Morrigan promised to take“the heart’s blood and testicles” from a Fomorian king – this is repeated in Chapter 6, page 111
Reality – I suspect this confusion comes from a source used by the author, but since none are cited I can only guess. The passage actually says “crú a cride ocus airned a gailie” she will take the blood of his heart and kidneys of his battle-ardor. The crux of this confusion is the word airned which means kidneys, but is used in an idiom for testicles with toile, which means among other things will power and sexual desire (so airned toile, literally sexual kidneys). However, the passage does not say airned toile, just airned – so kidneys is what it means, not testicles.

Chapter 1, page 23 – continuing with the same story, the author states that the daughter of the Fomorian king is name is Boand.
Reality – the Fomorian king’s daughter is never named in the passage in the Cath Maige Tuired.

Chapter 1, page 24 – the author states that the Tuatha De Danann arrived in Ireland as a flock of blackbirds;this is repeated in Chapter 7 page 125
Reality – this is found in the Cath Maige Tuired Cunga here it was a vision of a Fir Bolg king, not an actual occurrence: “He told his wizard, Cesard, that he had seen, a vision. ‘What was the vision?’ asked Cesard. ‘I saw a great flock of black birds,’ said the king, ‘coming from the depths of the Ocean.” This vision is then interpreted as an omen of invasion.

Chapter 2, page 36 – the author states that Badb spread the news of the Gods’ victory after the battle with the Fomorians in the form of a crow
Reality – again from the Cath MaigeTuired
there is no indication of this. Badb is mentioned in relation to spreading the news after the battle, but there is no mention of her doing so in the form of a crow

Chapter 2, page 36 – the author states that badb is also a term for sacrificial victims
Reality – I have never heard of this before and cannot verify it any Irish or Old Irish dictionary.

Chapter 2, page 38 – the author mentions that the lines towards the end of the Morrigan’s final prophecy seem like a “possible admonition against homosexuality”
Reality – again this is less an issue with the author specifically but rather of the translation being misunderstood. The passage says “Ragaid mac i lligie a athar. Ragaid athair alligi a meic.” (The son will go lay down instead of his father. The father will go lay down instead of his son.) Grey gives this however as “the son will enter into his father’s bed. The father will enter into his son’s bed”. The passage is not condemning homosexuality however, which the Irish did not seem overly concerned with, but rather condemning incest. The next lines are:  Climain cach a brathar. Ní sia nech mnai assatigh. (In-law each to his own kinsman. A person will not seek women out of his house.)

Chapter 2, page 43 – the author expounds on Macha’s acorn crop and its possible connection to druids, oaks, and ritual sacrifice.
Reality – Possibly a quibble on my part. Again this is a language issue. There are several words for acorn in Old Irish -  daurgne, dercu, and mesóc,however the phrase the author is discussing – mesrad Machae – is talking about mesrad which is a word that means any nut or tree-produce – although it can and does apply to acorns it is not exclusive to that type of nut and the phrase,which is found in the Sanas Cormac is using mesrad as part of analogy “mesrad Machæ .i. cendæ doine iarna n-airlech” (Macha’s crop, that is men’s heads after the slaughter). It is usually given in English as “mast” but I have seen it translated as acorn, however that is like taking the word nut and saying it means acorn, if you follow what I’m saying.

Chapter 3, page 53 – The author states that the names Morrigan and Morgan sound similar, which supports a connection between the Irish Morrigan and Welsh Morgana le Fey
Reality – the modern Anglecized version of these names do sound somewhat alike. However the names in the original languages do not. I recommend this article for clarification“Concerning the Names
Morgan, Morgana, Morgaine,Muirghein, Morrigan, and the Like” by Heather Rose Jones
The short version would be that in the original languages Morgan was pronounced mor-GANT while Morrigan was pronounced MORE-ih-guhn

Chapter 3, page 57 – the author states that the Tuatha De Danann retreated beneath the land rather than risk it’s destruction in a battle with the Milesians
Reality – when the Milesians arrived they fought an epic battle against the Gods before winning the right to live in Ireland. This story can be found in the Lebor Gabala Erenn, volume 5 which can be read online here

Chapter 4, page 66 – the author states that the flag of Connacht has a griffon on it
Reality – the flag of Connacht has an eagle on it

Chapter 4, page 69 – the author states that the “goddess of the land” meets and marries the invading Gaels
Reality – Again from the Lebor Gabala Erenn, volume 5 which can be read online here
 when the Milesians first arrive they do encounter each of the three sovereignty goddesses in turn and make agreements with them – but there is no marriage involved.

Chapter 4, page 75 – the author states that Connacht has no physical locations associated with the Morrigan
Reality – Uaimh na gCat is located in Connacht and is one of the most well-known sites associated with the Morrigan.

Chapter 5, page 86 – the author states that our knowledge of the animals associated with the Morrigan comes mostly from the Morrigan’s stories and says that justifies looking to other cultures to understand these animals
Reality – we have a fairly rich amount of animal lore from and Irish and Celtic perspective surrounding crows,ravens, wolves, cows, horses, and somewhat less about eels. These animals appear in many myths and stories separate from the Morrigan. Glynn Anderson has a book on Irish birds in myth and folklore and Miranda Green wrote book about animals in Celtic myth, for two examples.

Chapter 6, page 89 – the author states that the Morrigan appears to Cu Chulain as a three teated cow that he drinks from
Reality – in the Tain Bo Cuiligne the Morrigan appears as an old woman with such a cow, but she is not the cow herself.

Chapter 6, page 114 – the author states that in an interaction between the Morrigan and Cu Chulain where she appears with a cow, he challenges her and she disappears but leaves behind a crow
Reality – in that story, the Tain Bo Regamna, the Morrigan transforms into the crow and continues trading insults and incitements with Cu Chulain.  The story an be read here

Chapter 6, page 114 – the author states that the Morrigan attacks Cu Chulain as a wolf who causes a stampede of cows to attack him.
Reality – this occurs in the Tain Bo Cuiligne, but conflates two different events. The Morrigan attacks Cu Chulainin the form of a wolf and injures his arm, and then returns in the form of a cow and causes a stampede. there is a version of the Tain by Dunn which does mention cows stampeding when she attacks him as a wolf, but nonetheless it is the wolf biting him that is the actual attack even in that version, not the wolf driving the cows against him. In the majority of versions I have read the wolf comes against him alone and the cows are a separate event entirely. 

Chapter 7, page 122 – the author states that he cannot find anything in Irish myth about the Morrigan having a son with three hearts filled with serpents that must be killed
Reality – this story appears in the Rennes Dindshenchas under entry 13 Berbas which can be found here

Chapter 7, page 122 – the author states that Badb and Nemain have no children
Reality – Badb has at least two children according to the Lebor Gabala Erenn: Ferr Doman and Fiamain

Chapter 7, page 130 – author states that Bres ruled for 7 years until Nuada’s arm was replaced with one of silver
Reality – although somewhat ambiguous in the Cath Maige Tuired it seems that Nuada’s arm was replaced with a silver arm early. He resumed kingship after the silver arm was replaced with the original, healed, arm.

Chapter 7, page 130 – the author states that the Dagda is not a king
Reality – the Dagda was one of the kings of the Tuatha De Danann and is listed as such in the Lebor Gabala Erenn: "Now Eochaid Ollathair, the great Dagda, son of Elada, was eighty years in the kingship of Ireland."

Chapter 7, page 133 – the author states, and repeats, that Lugh’s mother is the Fomorian goddess Tailtiu
Reality – Lugh’s mother is the Fomorian goddess Ethniu. Tailtiu, who is listed among the Fir Bolg, was Lugh’s foster-mother.This information is found in the Lebor Gabala Erenn. From the source: "Taillte daughter of Mag Mor king of Spain, queen of the Fir Bolg... and Cian son of Dian Cecht, otherwise called Scal Balb, gave her his son in fosterage, Lug to wit. Eithne daughter of Balar was his mother."

Glossary, page 183 – Banba is said to be a goddess who is one of the Morrigan or called Morrigan
Reality – Banba is part of a triplicity of sovereignty goddesses with her sisters Eriu and Fotla. She is a sister to the Morrigan but is never, herself, called Morrigan.

So it should be clear from this that there are many issues with the mythology as presented in this book. There were also some other small points which I did not get into as they may be more issues of interpretation, however I think the ones that are discussed here seriously compromise the value of the book. Sadly I am all too aware that many people will never read the original myths and stories and instead rely on secondary sources such as this book, and I believe it is very important because of that for books like this to strive to be accurate in what they present. These are not, for the most part, issues in how one looks at the stories or what one takes away from them but are problems with the myths and other information being wrong. Inarguably, factually, wrong. We can do better than this, moving forward as Irish pagans. The rituals and modern practical material may very well be fine and speak to many people, but it is vital that we get the mythology and facts correct to go along with them.

Copyright Morgan Daimler

Thursday, April 23, 2015

Bealtaine or Beltane?

 I recently, publicly, made the choice not to use Anglicized versions of certain words, specifically holiday and deity names. There's several reasons for this decision but the core of it is that as an Irish Polytheist who is striving to speak the language it seems disingenuous to publicly use different forms of the words just because they are more familiar to most people.
  This sparks a bit of a debate in some places, partially because people feel that its a judgment on how they are saying the words - and I won't deny that I do struggle with accepting some of the alternate versions of deity names. Also samhain for some reason really irks me to hear mispronounced. But all that aside, it does raise the question of how we decide what is and isn't "correct". Even within Irish there is variation between different dialects, so that we can't find one precise way to say anything. There is always a range. And of course people argue that after a certain number of decades, or even centuries, being used by another language it really does become a word in that other language. Bealtaine is BYAL-tihn-eh or BYAL-chin-eh in Irish, but it entered English via Scots back in the 15th century. After so many centuries Bell-tayn is obviously a perfectly legitimate way to say it, particularly by non-Irish pagans. Samhain is SOW-en or SOW-in in Irish (Sah-vin in Scottish Gaidhlig) but it's been called Sam-hayn for decades among American pagans*. How long does it take before that is a legitimate approach?
   And then there are deity names. How much does it matter if we call Hekate (He-kah-tee) something totally different from the Greek? Like Heh-kate? Or He-kit? What about calling Macha (Mah-kuh, with the ch like in loch) Mah-chuh with a ch like in cha-cha-cha? what about the almost always mispronounced Welsh deities? Blodeuwedd? Llew Llaw GyffesWhen people have never heard these names said, only read them in books, and don't speak the languages they come from, how much does the mispronunciation matter?
  I'm not offering an answer here, just asking you all to think about the subject. I've come to my decision and intend to stand by it. But I think this is one of those little things that maybe isn't so little, that we all often ignore. Whatever you decide to do - to make sure you pronounce things correctly in the language they come from or that it doesn't matter as long as the intent is there - let it be a conscious decision. Let it be a choice, not a default.

*Honestly this would bother me a lot less if the people calling it Sam-hayn would focus on American traditions rather than emphasizing Samhain as an Irish or Celtic holiday. If you want to pronounce it Sam-hayn and focus on seances, the death of a cyclic God, and such more power to you. Just don't talk about the holidays long Celtic history....just like Beltane with a Maypole and marriages isn't Irish.

Copyright Morgan Daimler

Tuesday, April 21, 2015

Several Short Book Reviews

First a couple for the kids or parents with kids:

The Ancient Celtic Festivals: and How We Celebrate Them Today
by Clare Walker Leslie
Overall this is an excellent book to introduce children - and adults - to the basic concepts surrounding the Celtic, specifically Irish, culture and holy days. Some of the information is a bit dated now or controversial - the entry on Beltane is particularly problematic - but in general the content is comprehensive and well researched. I especially liked the amount and quality of illustrations and the inclusion of peripheral cultural information about the Celts that I know my children will enjoy.
I would recommend this book be read to a child by an adult who can explain or clarify the problematic points, and that adults reading for themselves supplement this book with something more in depth such as Kondratiev's the Apple Branch

A Child's Eye View of Irish Paganism
by Blackbird O'Connell
This really is the perfect book to introduce your child or children to Irish Paganism. The author touches on all the basics and important concepts but doesn't overwhelm the reader with too much information. Everything is covered in an age appropriate way and in enough depth to satisfy a child or encourage deeper research. As an adult I liked the book, but what's more important my 10 year old daughter loves it. She enjoyed reading it and has repeatedly asked to do the different activities in the book. I don't think any children's book can get higher praise than that.

Then some more adult books:

Teagasca: The Instructions of Cormac Mac Airt
by C. Lee Vermeers
This is my new favorite version of this classic text. Not only has the author improved the readability of the older translations but he has in many places clarified the meaning. I also really appreciate the extensive footnotes which offer insight into both the author's choices for certain translations and also clarify certain key points of Irish culture. This allows the reader in many cases to gain an alternate view of ways that that line can be understood as well as a deeper insight into the older culture from which the text originated. The book itself is trade paperback sized and so can easily be carried in a purse or bag, and the quality of teh printing is good. More than worth the money and highly recommended.

The Secret Commonwealth and the Fairy Belief Complex
by Brian Walsh
I highly recommend this book to anyone studying fairylore or interested in honoring the daoine sidhe. The author does a wonderful job of taking apart Rev. Kirk's Secret Commonwealth and analyzing every aspect of the material. His inclusion of Robert Kirk's personal history helps put the text in context. He also nicely summarizes the major themes and outlines the basic beliefs of the fairy belief complex in a way that is both straight forward and in depth.

Stalking the Goddess

by Mark Carter
This book is an absolutely fascinating dissection of Robert Graves' book the White Goddess, without the usual romanticism or blind-eye to history that many use to view that book. Rather the author uses a variety of tools to take apart the major themes of the White Goddess and explain their sources and ultimate motivations in ways that provide a deeper understanding of the text itself. Stalking the Goddess relies on a wide array of historic Irish and Welsh material as well as authors contemporary to Graves and Graves own words from other works to provide this in depth understanding of the White Goddess, a book that has become the cornerstone - realized or not - of many modern pagan religions. This book has great value, I think, both to modern neopagans who need to understand the roots of the things Graves has made popular but also to those interested in Irish and Welsh material who might enjoy the author's discussion of topics like the Ogham. Definitely an enjoyable and educational read.

Copyright Morgan Daimler

Saturday, April 18, 2015

Translating De Gabail in tSida

De Gabail in tSide

Boí rí amra for Tuathaib Dea i nHere. Dagan a ainm. Ba mór dí a chumachta, ced la Maccu Miled iar ngabail in tíre. Ar collset Tuatha Dea ith ocus blicht im Maccu Miled. Co ndingsat chairddes in Dagdai. Doessartsaide iarum ith ocus blicht dóib. Ba mór dí a chumachtasom in tan ba rí i tossuch, ocus ba hé fodail inna side do feraib Dea .i. Lug mac Ethnend i sSíd Rodrubán, Ogma i sSíd Aircheltrai, Don Dagdu fessin im Síth Leithet Lachtmaige oí asíd Cnocc Báine. Brú Ruair. Síd in Broga dano ba laiss i tossuch, amal asberat. Do lluid dí in Mac Oac cosin Dagda, do chungid feraind o forodail do chách, ba daltasaide dí do Midir Breg Léith, ocus do Nindid fáith, 
"Nimthá duit" ol in Dagda. "Ni tharnaic fodail lemm."
"Etá dam dí" ol in Mac Ooc. "Cid bia co n-aidchi it trib féin. "dobreth dosom ón iarum. 
"Collá dot daim tra" ol in Dagda 
"uaire doromailt do ré Is menand" olse. "is laa ocus adaig in bith uile. Ocus iss ed on doratad damsa."
 Luid dó Dagán ass iarum ocus anaid in Macc Oóc ina síd. Amra dano a tír hisin. Ataat tri chrand co torud and do grés, ocus mucc bithbeo fo chossaib ocus mucc fonaithe. Ocus lestar co llind sainemail. Ocus ni erchranand sin uile do grés.
    - Lebar na Núachongbála

The Taking of the Sí

There was a marvelous king of the Tuatha Dea in Ireland. Dagda was his name. Great was his power, even in the present time when the Sons of Mil have taken the land, on account of the Tuatha Dea destroying the grain and milk of the Sons of Mil, until they made an alliance with the Dagda. Afterwards he preserves the grain and milk for them.
   Great was his power while he was king in the beginning and he distributed the sí to the men of the Gods that is Lug mac Ethne in the sí at Rodrubán, Ogma in the sí at Aircheltra, the Dagda himself the sí Leithet Lachtmaige, sheep-ful the White Mound, Brú Ruair. The sí of Broga then was among his at the beginning, as they say. Then the Mac Oc went to Dagda seeking territory but it was all dispersed; he was a fosterson to Midir Breg Leith and Nindid the Seer.
"There is nothing to go to you", said the Dagda. "Everything has been distributed by me."
"Obtain for me this," said the Mac Oc, "even hospitality with the following night in your own place." This was given  to him afterwards.
"Your time as a guest is over*," said the Dagda.
"Hours consume a man's time, it is evident," he said."It is a day and night in life always. And it is the aforementioned I was given."
 The Dagda went out afterwards and the Mac Oc remained in the sí. Wonderful moreover his land there. There were three trees with produce there on them always, and a pig always in life on its feet, and a pig roasted. And a vessel with distinctive drink. And all these things never fail, always.
   - Book of Leinster

* this is a bit awkward to render in English. Literally it's "Spent is your legitimate guest to you then"

Copyright Morgan Daimler

Tuesday, April 14, 2015

The Morrigan The Dagda, and Unions

If there is one story in Irish mythology relating to the Morrigan that the most people are familiar with it is probably the scene in the Cath Maige Tuired where the Morrigan and the Dagda meet at a river, join, and then plan strategy for the coming battle with the Fomorians. There are several interpretations of this incident but possibly the most common are that it shows the Morrigan as a goddess of sex and that it is a case of the Dagda trading sex for victory. 
  Probably not surprisingly to anyone who has read my blog, particularly my previous blog on the story of Dian Cecht and Miach, I have a different opinion. First let's look at the actual story:
"Boi tegdus den Dagdae a nGlionn Etin antuaith. Bai dno bandal forsin Dagdae dia bliadnae imon samain an catha oc Glind Edind. Gongair an Unius la Connachta frioa andes. Conaca an mnai a n-Unnes a Corand, og nige, indarna cos di fri Allod Echae .i. Echumech, fri husci andes, alole fri Loscondoib, fri husce antuaith. Noi trillsi taitbechtai fora ciond. Agoillis an Dagdae hi & dogniad oentaith. Lige ina Lanomhnou a ainm an baile osin. Is hi an Morrigan an uhen sin isberur sunn."

Itbert* si iarum frisin Dagdae deraghdis an Fomore a tir .i. a Maug Scetne, & aragarudh an Dagdae oes danu Erionn arocendsi for Ádh Unsen, & noragad si hi Scetne do admillid rig na Fomore .i. Indech mac Dei Domnann a ainm, & douhéradh si crú a cride & airned a gailie uad. Dobert-si didiu a dí bois den cru sin deno sluagaib batar oconn idnaidhe for Adh Unsen. Bai Ath Admillte iarum a ainm ond admillid sin an riog.
~ Cath Maige Tuired

not in Ireland

"The Dagda had a house at Glenn Etin in the north. The Dagda was to meet a woman on a day, yearly, about Samain of the battle at Glen Etin. The Unish of Connacht calls by the south. The woman was at the Unish of Corand washing her genitals, one of her two feet by Allod Echae, that is Echumech, by water at the south, her other by Loscondoib, by water at the north. Nine plaits of hair undone upon her head. The Dagda speaks to her and they make a union. Laying down of the married couple was the name of that place from then. She is the Morrigan, the woman mentioned particularly here.

Afterwards she commands the Dagda to strip his land, that is Mag Scetne, against the Fomorians, and told the Dagda to call together the aes dana of Ireland to meet at the Ford of Unsen and she would go to Scetne and injure with magic the king of the Fomorians, that is Indech mac De Domnann is his name, and she would take the blood of his heart and kidneys of his battle-ardor from him. Because of that she will give to the gathered hosts the blood in her two palms, striking, groaning, warlike by the Ford of Unsen. Ford of Utter Destruction was its name afterwards because of the magical injury done to the king." (translation mine)
 Now it has been argued that she does this because he slept with her, in a sort of trade, but lets take a closer look at a few things. Firstly this meeting is said to be "dia bliadnae" or on a day yearly, which implies that the two meet every year about that time. We have hints from other material that the Morrigan may be the Dagda's wife, specifically the Metrical Dindshenchas: 
"ben in Dagda,
ba samla día sóach. Mórrígan mórda,
ba slóg-dírmach sámda."
- Metrical Dindshenchas: Odras

the wife of the Dagda
a phantom was the shapeshifting goddess
...the mighty Morrigan
whose ease is trooping hosts"

One might note that the same word "ben" is used in both the Dindshenchas and Cath Maige Tuired passages. Whether or not we give that any weight, we should at least consider that the two do have a connection outside this single story. So we see a yearly meeting with two deities who are associated with each other outside of this story as well. The two meet at a pre-arraigned location where the Dagda finds the Morrigan straddling a river washing her genitals. The Dagda says something to her - about what we don't know. After making this union - one may assume having sex, although the word oentaith can mean either a physical union or a pact or agreement - the Morrigan tells the Dagda to strip his land, a common military ploy, in the place the Fomorians will be and to gather the armies of the Tuatha De Danann, and then promises to go out herself and destroy one of the Fomorian kings with magic, which she subsequently does, bringing back two handfuls of blood as proof. At no point does the story explicitly state that a deal is made between them, or that the Morrigan's actions are in any way a response to or payment for the Dagda's. We can say with certainty that she never makes an offer to him, although we do not know what he says to her when he first sees her. 
   My personal take on this is simple. The Dagda and the Morrigan meet every year and this particular year their meeting falls just before a major battle. After having sex the Morrigan tells the Dagda exactly what he is to do and what she herself will be doing until he gathers the armies. Anyone who is married or in a long term relationship should appreciate the interpersonal dynamics going on here.
  Is the Morrigan a goddess of sex? I don't think so, and certainly not based on this incident. It would be easier to argue for the Dagda as a God of sex, given the frequency with which he engages in the activity in stories...
  Did the Morrigan grant her aid to the Tuatha De Danann in trade for the Dagda's attention? There's really no indication of that either in the text. The Morrigan is a member of the Tuatha De Danann, daughter of Ernmas and Delbeath according to the Lebor Gabala Erenn, and had every reason to assist the Tuatha De without payment. We also need to keep in mind that before this meeting the Morrigan had already gone to Lugh and chanted a battle incitement to encourage him to rise up and fight, so she herself was clearly both in favor of the battle and already encouraging it and acting for the Tuatha De.
   It's an interesting passage and full of important information about both Gods, but I think we need to be cautious in rushing to interpret it, especially through a modern lens. Instead I think we need to look at what's actually going on and being said, and what happens, and let the story speak for itself.    

* I'm translating itbert, which is a form of as-beir, as commands, although it has nuanced meanings. It can mean says or speaks, but in a sense of orders which I believe is what the Morrigan is giving here it means commands. It can also mean singing or chanting

Copyright Morgan Daimler

Tuesday, April 7, 2015

the Morrigan's Satire Poem

I have done another version of the Morrigan's satire poem from the Tain Bo Regamna but I thought it would be interesting to show you all the differences between the two versions. The previous one is the von Egerton version. The following is the Yellow Book of Lecan version:

  Doernais namgaib
Gaib eiti ablatutar
ie n Muirrthemne
(daruber .i. arg mag Murthemne).
Moracrat romleic diamaigi
fiachanma amanse
nach cach do arbiur
Ardbae aen marb
maigi Sainb (daruber .i. Ai)
Cerda croichengach
cochbith metsin glinni
lat les find fir itho is de
buaib brethai treth
tuasailc os do marai
airdde cechlastar
Cnailngi a Cuculainn fri
burach mbuaid ar
cuailgi a Cuchulainn cair.
Buidi ben basa claen
cuil arm deisi ar saegal
dian taith .i. cluas armgreta.  
- Irische Texte mit Übersetzugen und Wörterbuch 

Slave-bound you grab
Take a herd driven
Gifts of Muirrthemne
(that is noble plain of Muirrthemne)
Great misery, chief stone, mighty lamentation,
Fierce ravens
Not each to you brings
Great fearsome glory.
High-profit a unique death

the plain of Sainb (that is Ai)
Skilled each-skin
World-warring judgment glens
Half severed, bright men hunger and you
arrogant decide a herd
Above demands and your existence
Your direction, every burning 
Cuiligne, oh Cu Chulainn, towards
Furious victory from
Cuiligne, oh guilty Cu Chulainn.
Gratitude a woman unjust death
Violating weapon, hosts against a lifetime
True binding, that is hear weapons-strikes

The alternate von Egerton version is:
Doermais nomgaib
gaib eti eblatar
tairichta muirtemniu
morochrat romlec dianedim
 fiach amainsi nachach
toarbair adomling
airddhe oenmairb
maige sainb croí chengach
cocbith mestin-
glinne let leiss
finn frithoiss dobeoib
 brectith reth
tuasailg osdum arai
airdd cechlastair
cuailngne achuchuluinn.

"Low-born-foundation you grab,
 Take a herd driven,
 Eastward-blown Muirrthemne,
 Great misery, chief stone, hurrier,
 Raven fierce but not
 Bringing great floods
 Peak of fame unique death
 Plain of Sainb heart, every head
 World-warring judgment
 Half a glen severed
 Bright wild place, your life
 Deceitful arrival runs
 Over poet's-demands
 Over mound's messenger
 Your direction, every burning
Cuilnge, oh Cu Chulain..."

Copyright Morgan Daimler