A Glossary

 

Brónach (Bro-nakh) - sad, sorrowful

 

Brigid (Bri-jid) - strength, power. The daughter of Dagda, Brigid was a woman of wisdom and the goddess

of poetry.  St. Brigid’s Day, Imbolc (Im-bow-ug), was the ancient Irish festival celebrating the midpoint between the winter solstice and the spring equinox.

 

Conall (Kun-al) - high, mighty, strong wolf

 

Cruit (Crit) - A small harp originally plucked with the fingers and subsequently played with a bow.  The

cruit generally rests on the knee or on a table in front of the musician.

  

Dagda (Dagh-duh) - The god of the earth and ruler of the Tuatha De Danann, (Thoo-a day Da-non), the “people of the goddess Danu.”  He was called Eochaid Ollathair, the “All-Father" and Ruad Rofessa, the

“Lord of Great Knowledge.”  Dagda was the greatest of the De Danann and considered the god of

druidism and magic.

 

Danu (Dawn-a) - Danu was the most ancient of all Celtic gods and the mother of Dagda.  She was the

earth goddess and the divine creator, said to be everywhere and in all things.  Some suggest that the

goddess Danu was both a beneficent, nurturing mother and a strong, dangerous warrior.  It seems the

former is more likely given that Dán in Gaelic means offering, art, poetry, knowledge, and wisdom.

 

Déaglán (Deg-lawn) - full of goodness, heart

 

Deirdre (Dair-druh) - Ancient Irish name of uncertain etymology.  Reputed to be the most beautiful

woman in ancient Ireland, Deirdre was betrothed to the high king, Conchobhar Mac Nessa, but she fell

in love with his nephew Naoise.  After escaping and living together in exile for many years, Deirdre and Naoise returned to their homeland, tricked by Conchobhar who offered forgiveness.  Instead, he slew

Naoise and abducted Deirdre.  Rather than live with the man who had slain Naoise, Deirdre threw herself from Conchobhar’s chariot.  Naoise and Deirdre were buried near each other and it is said that a yew

tree grew from each grave plot.  The trees grew toward one another until their branches intertwined,

joining the two lovers even after death.

 

Diarmuid (Deer-mid) - without envy, restraint; freeman

 

Dumha na nGiall (Doo-ha nu  in-Gee-ul) - A passage tomb or “Mound of Hostages” on the Hill of Tara

where the ancient Irish buried the ashes of their dead.  Built between 3000 and 2500 BC, the tomb’s passageway is aligned with the rising sun, illuminating it, on the astronomical cross-quarter days of

November 1 and February 1.  These two days marked the ancient festivals of Samhain and Imbolc,

respectively.

 

Eire (Air-a) - Ireland.  Ancient Romans called the island Hibernia.

 

Eirnín (Air-nan) - one of knowledge, knowing, experience

 

Eoraip (Ur-up) - Europe

 

Fhianait (Fe-a-net) - the wild place. Small coastal village in County Kerry, Ireland, near the birthplace of

Saint Brendan (484-577 A.D.), the celebrated navigator.  Brendan is thought to have sailed to the Americas nine hundred years prior to Christopher Columbus.  The legend of Brendon’s American voyages did not appear in print until the ninth century and, by the tenth century, two related works chronicling his

voyages, Life and Navigation, were widely circulated outside Ireland.  Though some regard these works as primarily myth, the descriptions seem to have rested on real observations and experiences in the open seas. 

If legend and myth did not always align with historical fact, there is no dispute that the Irish were the first seafarers of the Middle Ages to go out into the North Atlantic.  

 

Fianna (Fe-un-nuh), singular Fian (Fe-un) - The legendary warrior band of Fionn Mac Cumhaill.

 

Fionn (Fyoon) - white, fair

 

Lia Fáil (Lee-a fall) - Stone of Destiny located on the summit of the Hill of Tara where the High Kings

of Ireland were crowned.  Legend has it that the stone would cry out if the rightful king of Ireland touched

it.

 

Murchadh (Moor-uh-chugh) - sea warrior

 

Niall (Nee-ul) - ancient Irish name, could mean passionate, vehement

  

Nuala (Noo-uh-la) - white shoulders, a shortened version of Fionnuala

 

Padraig (Pawd-rig) - of noble birth

 

Rónán (Roe-nan) - seal

 

Romhanach (Row-an-akh) - Roman

 

Rua (Ru) - deriving from ruadh, red

 

Ruaidhrí (Ru-a-ree) - red, red king

 

Samhain (Sow-ahn) - summer’s end.  Known as the feast of the dead, the ancient festival of Samhain

marked the first day of the new year—November 1—and the beginning of winter.  The celebration began

on October 31, when the barrier between this world and the Otherworld was penetrable, allowing the souls

of the dead to roam amongst the living.  Not all of the souls and spirits were benign, and many festival revelers would don masks to disguise themselves and trick those visiting from the Otherworld.  To keep

the spirits from entering their homes, villagers would place food offerings in front of their cottage doors.  Bonfires were lit to help the dead find their way to a new, reincarnated life.

 

Saoirse (Seer-sheh) - freedom, liberty

  

Saraid (Sar-ad) - noble, best

 

Sasanach (Saws-a-nakh) - England, Englishman, lowlander.  Ancient Romans called England Britannia.

 

Tailltenn games (Tall-ten) -  The Tailltenn games were originally held to honor the dead, and, in

particular, Queen Tailté (1600 B.C.) whose tomb was on a hill overlooking the site of the games.  They eventually fulfilled two more important functions in ancient Irish culture—to promulgate laws and to entertain.  The laws were read as lyrical poetry by the Ollamh (Ol-oof), a druid priest of great knowledge. 

The games included an array of physical contests including running, hurling, wrestling, boxing, swimming, horse-racing and archery.  In addition, there were literary, musical, oratorical, and story-telling

competitions.  Goldsmiths, jewelers, spinners, weavers, and makers of shields and weapons of war also displayed their crafts and competed against each other for prizes.  All of this took place amid a great

market and fair with an abundance of food, livestock, and merchandize of all kinds for sale.

 

Tara (Tar-ah)- The Hill of Tara (Teamhair na Rí) was the preeminent ceremonial and spiritual site in

ancient Ireland.  Tara was the sacred home of the gods where kings were crowned and the souls of the dead were granted passage to their next lives.  Saint Patrick is said to have come to Tara to confront the ancient religion of the pagans at its most powerful site.   

 

Tlachtga (Clack-da) - earth spear.  The hill of Tlachtga was the site (12 miles from the Hill of Tara) of the lighting of the first bonfires of the new year by the Druids during the celebration of Samhain.  Tlachtga

was a goddess and the daughter of Mug Ruith, a Druid high priest.  She gave birth to three sons, triplets, Doirb, Cuma and Muach, and then died.  She was buried on the hill that bears her name.   

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