Story Archaeology

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Lug Comes to Tara

from Cath Maige Tuired, edited by Elizabeth Gray

This is our first encounter with Lug in our text.  The main part concerns Lug’s listing of his crafts, with the door-keeper’s counter-listing of the craftspeople already in Tara.  It is beautifully formulaic, and an opportunity for the storyteller to list many of the dramatis personae of the Túatha Dé Danann.

Since it is so formulaic, I will provide short notes after each question and answer regarding the terms used for the different crafts and the names of the craftspeople who practise them.  Notes on names and phrases from the rest of the text appear at the end of the piece as usual, and appear in bold in the main text.

To read Elizabeth Gray’s translation of these sections, visit CELT or buy the Irish Texts Society edition.

ll 230 – 302; SS 52 – 74

230] Imtúsa immorro Túaithi Dé is ed imma cesnaidther sund.

52. Regarding the Túatha Dé, moreover, that is questioned here.

[imma cesnaidther = i gceist in Modern Irish > “under discussion”]

231] Buí Núadhae doridesi tar éis Brese a ríge for Túaith Déu.

53. Núada was returned to his kingship over the Túatha Dé after Bres.

Buí mórfleg ocu-side di Túaith Déi a Temraig a n-inbaid-sin.

The Túatha Dé had a great feast for themselves at Tara at that time.

Boí dano oruli ógláech og saighid de Temraid, Samhildánach a ainm-side.

Now there was some warrior seeking Tara, Samildánach was his name.

234] Bótar dorrsaidi for Temraig a n-inbuid-sin, Gamal mac Figail & Camald mac Ríaghaild a n-anmonn-sidei.

There were doorkeepers at Tara at that time; Gamal mac Figail and Camall mac Riagail were their names.

A m-boí-side and, adcí a ndírim n-anetarcnaidh na docum.

While he [i.e. the latter] was there, he saw the unknown host approaching him.

Ógláech cóem cruthach co n-imscigg ríog a n-airenuch na buidne-sin.

A handsome, shapely young warrior with a royal robe was at the front of that band.

238] Atbertatar risin dorrsaid ara n-indiset a Temruich a tíachtai.

54. They said to the doorkeeper to announce their arrival in Tara.

239] Atbert in dorsaid, ‘Cía fil and?’

The doorkeeper said, “Who is it there?”

240] ‘Fil sunn Luch Lonnandsclech mac Cíein meic Díen Cécht & Ethne ingine Baloir.

55. “Lug Lonnansclech is here, the son of Cían son of Dían Cécht and of Ethniu daughter of Balor.

Dalta siden Tailltine ingine Magmóir rí Espáine & Echtach Gairuh meic Duach.’

He is the foster son of Tailtiu the daughter of Magmór, the king of Spain, and of Eochaid Garb mac Dúach.”

243] Rofíoarfaig ion dorsaid do tSamhilldánuch, ‘Cía dán frisa ngnéie?’ al séi, ‘ar ní téid nech cin dán i Temruid.’

56. The doorkeeper replied to Samildánach, “What craft do you practice? For no one without a craft goes into Tara.”

245] ‘Déne mo athcomarc,’ ol sé. ‘Am sáer.’

57. “Question me,” he said. “I am a carpenter.”

246] Friscort an dorsaid, ‘Nít-regaim i leas. Atá sáer lenn cenu .i. Luchtai mac Lúachadhae.’

The doorkeeper answered, “We do not need you. We have a carpenter already, Luchta mac Lúachada.”

Craft # 1         = sáer

This term is most usually translated as “carpenter” within our text, but the root meaning of the word has nothing to do with saws or hammers.

At root, it is an adjective meaning “free”, and is paired with its opposite daer, “unfree, bound, base”.  In legal contexts, it is often used as a substantive with the meaning “freeman”, someone with independent legal standing.  It then became used as a term meaning “noble”, and eventually implying being skilled or learned.

It comes to mean “artificer, craftsman”, and only later narrows to mean “carpenter”.

Craftsman # 1     =  Luchta mac Lúachadae

As we have seen before, (, lucht is a word with nearly as broad a range of meaning as saer.  The usage that has come through to Modern Irish is as a term for a grouping of people.  In this usage, it is followed by a verbal noun in the genitive, an adjective or some other qualifying word or phrase e.g. lucht na n-éisteachta, literally “the folk of listening” i.e. “listeners, audience”.  However, there is another, perhaps older, usage with the sense of “complement, cargo, load”.  This is particularly use in relation to the cargo of boats or ships, although a term such as locht báirc could either mean “ship’s cargo” or “ship’s crew”.  Perhaps this is a point where the meaning shifted from the “stuff” carried by a vessel to the “folk” carried by it.

In this listing, Luchta is called the son of Lúachadae.  This name might relate to the word lóg / lúach, meaning “value, price, fee”.  The name as a whole gives a sense of “valuable cargo”.

248] Atpert-sum, ‘Atum-athcomairc a dorrsoid: am gobhae.’

58. He said, “Question me, doorkeeper: I am a smith.”

249] Frisgart ion dorsaid dóu, ‘Atá gobae liond cenai .i. Colum Cúaolléinech téorae núagrés.’

The doorkeeper answered him, “We have a smith already, Colum Cúaléinech of the three new techniques.”

Craft # 2         = gobae

A smith, particularly a blacksmith.    I can’t come up with any specific etymology, but it is worth noting that the paradigmatic smith is called Goibniu.  In discussing his name, (, I pointed out a possible connection with gob, “beak, point”, transferring from the point of a spear to the smith making the spear.

Craftsman # 2     =       Colum Cúaolléinech

Curiously, it is not Goibniu who is mentioned here.  The name Columb > Colum > Colm is a popular one in Ireland, particularly due to the popularity of Sts. Columba and Colmcille.  It relates to the Latin columbus / columba, “dove”.

There are a number of possibilities for the surname, Cúa[o]lléinech.  It is cited as a compound of cúal in the Dictionary of the Irish Language, without any indication of what the -[l]éinech element may indicate.  Cúal is a bundle or heap, particularly of firewood or kindling.  Léinech seems to be an adjective formed from a noun.  Lén is an injury, damage or defeat.  But “injured / defeated firewood” doesn’t seem a good epithet for a smith, nor for anyone else.  However, if we ignore an extra vowel from the cúaol- element of the name, we could have cúl, meaning “back”.  A smith with an injured back somehow makes more sense.

Although I haven’t come across this character anywhere else, (please get in touch if you have!), he would not be the only injured smith in world mythology.

251] Atpert-som, ‘Atom-athcomairc: am trénfer.’

59. He said, “Question me: I am a strong-man.”

252] Friscart in dorsaid, ‘Níd-regoim a les. Atá tréinfer lend cenu .i. Oghmae mac Ethlend.’

The doorkeeper answered, “We do not need you. We have a strong-man already, Ogma mac Ethlend.”

Craft # 3         =       trénfher

The term trénfher is translated by Gray as “champion”.  The term can be used to imply “warrior”, but I have chosen the more literal “strong man” for two reasons.  Firstly,  Ogma, described as the trénfher, demonstrates his prowess in Section 72 by hurling a great slab out of Tara.  Secondly, the 5th craft named below is nia, which more precisely indicates a warrior or champion.

Craftsman # 3     =  Ogma mac Ethlenn

Ogma is quite a passive character in our text.  When we discuss the Dagda in Episode 4: Ar Shlicht an Dagdae – On the Track of the Dagda, we will examine the relationship between these two characters, described as “brothers” later in our text.

Ogma is here called the son of Eithliu, who is also the mother of Lug and of Óengus Mac Ind Óc with the Dagda.  Don’t try too hard to make family trees link up in Irish mythology – it will give you a headache.

254] Atbert-sum diridesi. ‘Atom-athcomairc,’ ar sé. ‘Am crutiri.’

60. He said again, “Question me.  I am a harper,” he said.

255] ‘Nít-regaim a les. Atá crutiri lenn cenai .i. Auhcán mac Bicelmois, ara-n-utgatar fir trí ndéa i sídoib.’

“We do not need you. We have a harper already, Abcán mac Bicelmois, whom the men of the three gods rescued [?] in the síd-mounds.”

Craft # 4         =       cruitire

Cruit / crott is a harp or lute; definitely a stringed instrument.  Cruitt can also apparently refer to a harper, although it is declined differently to crott, “harp”.  It also seems to have transferred its meaning to a hump or hunch-back, although I wonder if the transference went the other way.  There is apparently a cognate Welsh word (I have yet to study Middle Welsh in detail!) which can refer either to a harp or a womb.

Harpers had a special status, being the only musicians listed as saer, “free”, with all other musicians and entertainers classed as doer, “unfree”.

Craftsman # 4     =  Abhcán mac Bicelmois

Abhcán is a diminutive (sic.!) of abac, “dwarf”.  A number of notable dwarves are named in literary sources, sometimes associated with lucorpán, “leprechaun”. Our Abhcán was “rescued” or “brought back” from the síd-mounds.

He is given as son of Bicelmós.  This name is tricky to analyse, because it seems to be made up of at least 3 elements.  The first element, bic-, is most probably becc, “little”.  This is a common thread in personal names, as with the -án suffix of Abhcán.  The -mós ending may be a poetic term for “music”, although there is little attestation for this sense of -mós.  The central element could be -cel-, -gel-, -el-, ­-elm– etc.  There are two possibilities that I favour; the first relates to éle, “charm, incantation”, and the second to ell[a], “rush of emotion, blush, pang”.  So our harper’s patronym may be either “Little Incantation of Music” or “Little Rush of Music”.  Both quite appropriate.

257] Atpert-sum, ‘Atom-athcomairc: am níadh.’

61. He said, “Question me: I am a champion.”

258] Friscart an dorrsoidh, ‘Nít-regam e les. Atá níad lionn chenu .i. Bresal Echarlam mac Echdach Báethláim.’

The doorkeeper answered, “We do not need you. We have a champion already, Bresal Etarlam mac Echdach Báethláim.”

Craft # 5         =       nía

This term seems to refer to a professional class of warrior, often one in attendance on a king.  It therefore seems more appropriate to translate this term as “champion” rather than the term trénfherNía is, however, a more poetic and literary term, and there is an instance in the Book of Leinster of nía being glossed with the term trénfher {nia (.i. trenfer)}.

Nía[dh] is also a common element in personal names and soubriquets e.g. Crimthan Nía Nár; Níad in Chairnn, “the Champion of the Cairn”,  (sobriquet of Cormac Conloinges).  There is another distinct usage of nía with the meaning “nephew”, specifically “sister’s son”.  This relationship between a man and his sister’s son had a particular significance, and Cú Chulainn is often described as the sister-son of the Ulster king, Conchobar.

Craftsman # 5     =  Bresal Echarlam mac Echdach Báethláim

Bresal seems  to have the same root as Bres, “strife, din”.  It is the more popular personal name, with a number of people named Bresal recorded in annals and genealogies.  His soubriquet, Echarlam, can be read as a compound of ech, “horse”, and airlam, “ready, prompt”.  A champion with a ready horse seems a fitting part of a king’s retinue.

He is given as son of Echdach Báethláim, “Horseman Reckless-Hand”, or less charitably, “Horseman Silly-Hand”.

260] Atbert-sum íarum, ‘Adum-athcomairc, a dorsaid. Am file & am senchaid.’

62. Then he said, “Question me, doorkeeper. I am a poet and a historian.”

262] ‘Níd-regam i les. Atá file & senchaid cenai lenn .i. Én mac Ethomain.’

“We do not need you. We already have a poet and historian, Én mac Ethamain.”

Craft # 6         =  file & senchae

These are the only two crafts listed at once and with a single named practitioner.  File is usually translated as “poet”, although its root, fil, relates to seeing.  It is the same root that gives us dependent forms of the substantive verb, at-tá, “to be”: ní fil, “it is not”, seems to derive from a literal “it is not seen”.  Senchae is a historian, with senchas, the second element in dindshenchas, being “history”.  It has come down into Modern Irish and English as seanchaí, which means, at best, a story-teller.

Craftsman # 6     =  Én mac Ethomain

Én is most probably simply “bird”.  Birds were highly significant to our forebears; they could serve as emblems on battle-standards or as pets.  Fergus Kelly (Early Irish Farming) suggests that cranes may have been a very popular pet at one time.  There is further the poetic concept of én baile, “bird of ecstacy”, which were said to be the kisses of Óengus Mac Ind Óc.  Very fitting for the name of a poet / historian.

Ethomain seems to be the verbal noun of ethaid, “go, move, obtain, take”.  So we may have “Bird son of Movement” in our company at Tara.

264] Atbert-sum, ‘Atom-athcomairc,’ ol sé, ‘Im corrguinech.’

63. He said, “Question me. I am a sorcerer.”

265] ‘Nít-recom e les. Atáut corrguinidh lionn cheno. At imdou ar ndruíth & ar lucht cumhachtai.’

“We do not need you. We have sorcerers already. Our druids and our people of power are numerous.”

Craft # 7         =       corrguinech

Corrguinech is a very curious word, usually translated as “sorceror”.  Linguistically, it seems to start with the element corr, which is most likely a crane (the bird).  There is much speculation about the connection between cranes and magic in the Irish tradition, partly inspired by stories such as Finn Mac Umhal (Fionn MacCool) and the Crane-Skin Bag (corrbolg).  Corr has a primary meaning of “pointed, tapering, swelling”, which could also mean “strange, awkward”.  As a substantive, it could mean a peak, corner or crook.  It could be compounded with nouns indicating “sharp”, so corrguinech could be understood as “sharply wounding”.

Corr is widely used to mean “crane”, or “heron” and “stork”, the last two usually with qualifying words e.g. corr grian, “heron”.  It is probably due to the long, pointed beak that is so distinctive of these wading birds.

The term corrguinech may be related to corrach, which means “shifting, restless” when applied to people.  Or it could be interpreted as corr guinech, “wound-dealing crane” or “wound-dealing point”.

It is interesting that no one “person of power” is named here by the door-keeper.  Either there are so many that they could not possibly need more, or it is not a skill worthy of elevation or specialisation.

267] Atbert-som, ‘Atom-athcomairc. Am liaich.’

64. He said, “Question me. I am a physician.”

268] ‘Nít-regam a les. Atá Díen Cécht do liaigh lenn.’

“We do not need you. We have Dían Cécht as a physician.”

Craft # 8         =       liaig

Liaig is literally a “leech”, hence a physician or healer.

Craftsman # 8     =  Dían Cécht

The meaning and significance of the name of the great Dé Danann healer was explored in depth in Mythical Women Episode 4: The Story of Airmed,  and the accompanying translation of the relevant episode from Cath Maige Tuired ( 08/02/the-story-of-airmed-from-cath-maige-tuired).  His name means “the Eager Plough”, and we will discuss him again in The Battle of Moytura Episode 5: Inna Ceithri Cerd – The Four Craftsmen.

269] ‘Atom-athcomairc,’ al sé. ‘Am deogbore.’

65. “Question me,” he said. “I am a cupbearer.”

270] ‘Nít-regom a les. Atá deogbaire linn cenau .i. Delt & Drúcht & Daithe, Taei & Talom & Trog, Gléi & Glan & Glési.’

“We do not need you. We have cupbearers already: Delt and Drúcht and Daithe, Tae and Talom and Trog, Glé and Glan and Glésse.”

Craft # 9         =       deogbaire

Deogbaire is a cup-bearer or “skinker”, and their role of dispensing drink has key significance in early Irish society and literature.  It is often associated with women, or the daughter of a house.  In Tocmairc Étaíne, “The Wooing of Étaín”, the last sections describes king Eochaid’s assertion that he can distinguish Étaín from her 50 look-alikes by seeing how they all pour drink.  Unfortunately, he chooses his own daughter instead of his wife, and Midir returns to the Otherworld with Étaín.  The significance of dispensing drink may relate to a kind of sexual hospitality that was within a woman’s power to bestow or withhold.

Craftspeople # 9

There are nine cup-bearers named here, clearly grouped into three groups of three, a numerical arrangement popular in early Irish literature.  Their names are indeed interesting and perhaps telling, and I will deal with them as three triads.

Delt & Drúcht & Daithe:

Delt is apparently the name of a river; drúcht is “dew”; daithe is “light”.  These last two are a pairing often found when someone swears an oath, calling various natural elements as their sureties.

Taei & Talom & Trog:

Taei is the act of giving birth; talom is the groud, the earth; trog is also about birthing and parturition.

Gléi & Glan & Glési:

Glé[i] is “clear” or “bright”; glan is “pure” or “clean”; glési is “apparatus, contrivance”, or could be for glésse, “brightness”, the abstract nou of glé.

272] Atbert, ‘Atom-athcomairc: am cert maith.’

66. He said, “Question me: I am a good brazier.”

273] ‘Nít-regom e les. Atá cert lind cenu .i. Crédne Cerd.’

“We do not need you. We have a brazier already, Crédne Cerd.”

Craft # 10       =       cerd

As with saer above, cerd is a broad term.  It can quite well be translated as “craft” in the modern sense of the skill of making or shaping, and can also refer to the maker or shaper – the artisan or craftsperson.  While it can be used of crafts such as pottery, it is most often some kind of metal-worker.  Indeed, Culann the smith, from whom the hero Cú Chulainn (“Hound of Culann”) gets his name, is often called “Culann cerd”, and Cú Chulainn himself has been called “Cú na Cerdda”.  However, these particular appellations are somewhat poetic, and have a lot to do with alliteration.  Much of the time, especially in our text, a blacksmith (working with iron) is termed gobaCerd as a specific profession is usually associated with working with gold, silver and bronze.  Given the exquisite examples of early Irish metalwork on display in the National Museum, it is not surprising that their creators should have been highly esteemed.

Craftsman # 10        =     Crédne Cerd

As we have seen before, (, Crédne has his profession as part of his name.  I suppose this could be seen as equivalent to Goibniu having the surname “Smith”?!

The Crédne element is somewhat trickier.  This is discussed in detail in the article on The Story of Rúadán.  I propose it as a melding of créda, “earthen”, and crett, “framework, chassis”.  The welding of these two meanings seems appropriate to the craftsman who takes unformed earth and transforms it into the rivets for weapons.

274] Atbert-som aitherrach, ‘Abair frisind ríg,’ al sé, ‘an fil les óeinfer codo-gabai ina dánu-sae ule & má atá les ní tocus-sa i Temraig.’

67. He said, changing [tack] “Speak to the king” he said, “does he have a single man who assumes all these crafts, and if he has I cannot proceed into Tara.”

277] Luid in dorsaid isin rígtech íar sudiu co n-éicid dond ríogh uleí.

68. The doorkeeper went into the royal house after that to call [out] everything to the king.

278] ‘Tánic ócláech io ndoras lis,’ al sé, ‘Samilldánach a ainm; & na huili dano arufognot det muntir-si, atát les ule a óenor, conedh fer cecha dánai ule éi.’

“A young warrior has come into the doorway of the fort,” he said, “Samildánach is his name; and all the crafts which serve your people, he has them all himself, so that he is the man of each and every craft.”

281] As ed atbert-som go rocurit fidhcelda na Temrach dia saigidh-sium ann sin, & gou rug-som a toichell, conad and sin dorigne an cró Logo.

69. Then he said that they should bring him the fidchell-boards of Tara which he sought there, and he took their stakes, so that it is then that he made [created?] the “Enclosure of Lug”.

(Acht masa i n-uamas an catha Troíanna rohairged in fidceall ní torracht hÉrinn and sin í. Úair is a n-áonaimsir rogníadh cath Muigi Tuired & togail Traoí.)

(But if it was in the time of the Trojan war that  fidchell was bestowed [?], it had not reached Ireland yet, for the battle of Mag Tuired and the destruction of Troy were executed at the same time.)

286] Rohinnised íar sin thrá do Nuadaitt annísin.

70. That was related, after that happened, to Núada.

‘Tuléic isin les,’ ar Núadha, ‘ar ní tánic riam fer a samail-sin isin dún-sa.’

“Let him into the fort,” said Núada, “for never before has a man like that come into this enclosure.”

288] Dolléig íarum an dorrsaidh seca, & luid isin dún, & síasur a suide súad, ar bo suí cacha dáno é.

71. The doorkeeper then let him past him, and he went into the enclosure, and he sat in the seat of the sage, because he was a sage of every craft.

290] Focairtt íarum Ogma an márlícc, a rabatar feidm cetri .xx. cuinge, trésan tech co mbuí fri Temair anechtair.  Do cor álgusa for Lucc ón.

72. Then Ogma threw the great slab, which was the work of four-score yoke [of oxen], through [the wall of] the house so that it was outside against Tara. That was to put a challenge to Lug.

Ducorustar Lucc for cúla co mmbuí for lár an ríghthighi; & docorustar an mbloig bert riam amach a táob an rígtigi combo slán.

Lug threw it back so that it lay in the centre of the royal house; and he threw the piece which it had taken before out of the side of the royal house so that it was whole.

294] ‘Seindter cruitt dúin,’ al ind slúaig. Sephaind íarum ant ógláech súantraige dona slúagaib & don rígh an cét oidqui. Focairtt a súan ón tráth co ‘raili.

73. “Let a harp be played for us,” said the hosts. Then the warrior played sleep music for the hosts and for the king on the first night, putting them to sleep from that time till the next [day].

Sephainn golltraigis co mbátar oc caeí & ac dogra. Sephainn gendtraigi co mbátar hi subai & a forbfáilti.

He played sorrowful music so that they were weeping and sorrowing. He played joyful music so that they were in pleasure and overjoyed.

298] Imrordaid íaram Nuadai, ó’t connuirc ilqumachta ina óclagi, dús an cáomnacair dingbáil na daíri díb fo mbátar lasna Fomoiri.

74. Núada then considered, since he had observed the warrior’s many powers, whether he might remove their servitude which they were under with the Fomoire.

Gnísit íarum comuirle im dálai and óglaích. Is sí comuirle arriacht Núadha:  cáemclodh suidi frisin n-óccláech.

So they held a council concerning the warrior.  The decision which Núada reached was to exchange seats with the warrior.

Luid Samilldándach a suide ríg, & atréracht an rí riam co cend .xííí. lá.

Samildánach went to the king’s seat, and the king arose before him until the end of thirteen days.




áilges = áil + geis [?] i.e. wish + geis: some kind of honour-bound challenge or demand


fidchell & toichell & cró Logo:

Fidchell is some kind of board-game, sometimes translated as “chess”, but these days more often left as fidchell.  The name seems to mean something like “wood knowledge”, and was a strategy board game for 2 players.  More than this is hard to ascertain, as there are no detailed descriptions of board, rules, pieces or games.  Further, there were a number of other strategy games, such as brandub, so any archaeological finds would not necessarily give us more insight into fidchell in particular.  However, it crops up in many literary and socio-legal texts, perhaps most crucially in Tocmairc Étaíne, “The Wooing of Étaín”, where Midir wins back his lover, Étaín, by playing her husband at fidchell.

One element that always seems to accompany descriptions of fidchell games is the tochell, “stake”.  This word may include the element -gell, “pledge”, or cíall > céill, “sense, knowledge, skill”, with the prefix do-, “for”.  In literary terms, the function of the fidchell game in a story is the consequence of winning or losing the tochell, “stake”.

The cró Lugo is a tantalising glimpse into the game.  Cró is an enclosure, a prison cell, an animal stall, or an encircling band of warriors in battle.  I always imagined that this was some move on the board equivalent to check-mate in chess, although others (cf. DIL, 1 cró) have suggested it was some kind of hut or container into which Lug put his winnings.  Either way, it clearly means to indicate Lug’s skill and ingenuity at the game, which presumably could be transferred to the battle-field.


Gamal mac Figail & Camall mac Riagail:

Gamal seems to relate to gabal, “fork”, particularly the fork in the tree, though easily transferable to a human crotch.  It especially seems to signify female genitalia, although in this instance,I think the sense is the former.  This is particularly because of the mac FigailFigail is a bit tricky.  It could be a form of figel, “vigil”,  which might suit a night-watchman, although the word tends to be used in more religious contexts.  It could relate to fige, “weaving”.  I am inclined to relate it to fid-, “tree, wood”, compounds, rendering the whole name as something like “Fork son of Tree”.

Camall, I’m afraid, should probably be pronounced to sound like “camel”, but we just couldn’t bring ourselves to talk about a camel in the podcast!  It seems to have a root in cam, “bent, crooked”, which combines nicely with the mac Riagail, “son of Rule”, part of his name.

The pair together stand like the door-posts into Tara: the Fork of a Tree acting in clear “yes / no” fashion, with the Bent son of Rule giving the petitioner a bit more wiggle-room.

Lug Lonnansclech son of Cían son of Dían Cécht and of Ethne daughter of Balor; foster son of Tailtiu the daughter of Magmór, the king of Spain, and of Eochaid Garb mac Dúach:

Lug clearly has to give full account of his lineage and family connections in order to enter Tara legitimately.  I’ll take the elements one at a time.

Lonnansclech seems to be made up of lonn, “fierce, strong”, and aindsclech, “combative”.

Cían is Lug’s father, although Lug is more often named mac Eithlenn, using his matronym.  Cían as a name is declined exactly as cían, “far, distant, enduring”, and so seems to carry the sense of being long-lived, or of coming from afar or even from the past.   Cían is given as son of Dían Cécht, (the “Eager Plough”; see above), but is not mentioned in the episodes where Dían Cécht is working with (or against!) his other children; Míach, Airmed and Ochtrial.  However, Manannán Mac Lir is not counted as one of the Children of Lir in the tale Cloinne Lir, so Cían’s absence from these episodes may not signify.  He is, however, central to the story of the Sons of Tuirenn, as it is Cían’s death at the hands of Brían, Iuchar and Iucharba that brings Lug to send them on their mortal quest.

Eithliu daughter of Balor is a character we discussed in detail in Mythical Women Episode 3: Tales of Eithliu.  Her name and role seems related to seed-kernels and conception.  As for Balor, I cannot come up with a good Irish etymology for his name, and feel that his name, at least, may be borrowed or constructed from Norse figures.

It is interesting that Lug’s foster-parents are a key part of his lineage and status.  I have pointed out before that the fond forms aite, “daddy”, and buimme, “mammy”, are applied to foster-parents rather than birth-parents.  This indicates the deep attachment and importance of the institution of fosterage in early Irish society.  What is more, the term aite soon came to signify “teacher”, and it has come into Modern Irish as oide, “teacher, professor”, with dalta, “foster-child”, coming to mean “pupil”.  Buimme or muimme came to mean “nurse”, and this gives us insight into the nature of fosterage.  It was another means of tightly knitting communities, and of demonstrating and reinforcing status.  In literature, heroes are given powerful foster-parents, with Óengus Mac Ind Óc appearing as Diarmait’s foster-father in Tóraíocht Dhíarmata ocus Gráinne, “The Pursuit of Diarmuid and Gráinne”.

Lug’s buimme is Tailtiu, for whom he is supposed to have instituted the festival of Lugnasad.  According to Thurneysen, the name, Tailtiu, is a back-formation from Tailtenn, Teltown in Co. Meath or Telton in Co. Roscommon.  Tailtenn would derive from tul, “swelling, protruberance, prominence”, and tenn, “strong, mighty”.  Mag Mór, whose daughter she is, means “great plain”, so that she is “Mighty Hill, daughter of Great Plain”.  Given that she is also often cited as one of the Fir Bolg or even earlier races, her connection to formation of the Irish landscape is appropriate.  The description of Mag Mór as rí Espáine, “king of Spain”, is an indication of his position as an Otherworld character.

Eochaid Garb mac Dúach is the “Rough Horseman son of Daui”.  Dau(i) is an ancient name, probably equivalent to Gaulish DAVOS.  I am no scholar of Gaulish, but my best guess is that this is a term related to burning or singeing.


sam = “united”; il = “many”; dánach = “crafted”

súantraige & golltraigis & gendtraigi

These are known as the “three strains” of Irish music.  Súan is “peace, stillness”, gol is “weeping” and gen(d) is “laugh, smile”.  The -traige element seems to me linked to traig, “descendents, offspring”, with a sense of the music as the originator of peace, weeping or laughter.  We meet these three strains later in the story when the Dagda goes to retrieve his harp (and / or his harper) from the Fomoire in S 164.  Other parts of the tradition say that there were three strings on the Dagda’s harp corresponding to these three strains.  It is certainly a pleasing pattern representing the power of the harp’s music.

Isolde Carmody

December 2012

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