Category Archives: Gaelic

Back when the birds spoke Gaelic

Species: A tawny owl (Strix aluco) and magpie (Pica pica) have a battle of wits and it gets UGLY. An ambiguous grey bird is the judge.

Source: ‘Dàn mu Chonaltradh’ (English title: The Colloquy of the Birds).

Date: Modern! First published 1798, and written a few years before.

Highlights: Once upon a time, long ago, birds could speak Gaelic. Here’s the most famous example.

Magpies from Addition MS 26968 fol.282v. Owl from Harley 2887, fol.29. Both images are in the public domain because of their age.

Magpies from Addition MS 26968 fol.282v. Owl from Harley 2887, fol.29. Both images are in the public domain because of their age.

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Book Review: ‘The Natural History of Ireland’, edited and translated by Denis O’Sullivan

The Natural History of Ireland by Philip O’Sullivan Beare.

O’Sullivan D (2009) The Natural History of Ireland by Philip O’Sullivan Beare. Cork University Press.
Display of this cover comprises fair-use under the 1988 Licenses, Designs and Patents Act.

Species mentioned: ALL OF THEM, except silly invertebrates.

Source: The ‘Natural History of Ireland’ by Philip O’Sullivan, a man who really hated Gerald of Wales too much.

Date of Source: 1626 A.D. (post medieval)

Highlights: This is a review of the modern edition and translation by Denis O’Sullivan. Ultimately the book is a truly amazing one for historians and ecologists but may not be a reliable guide to Ireland’s contemporary fauna. The translation needs to be used with caution.

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The otter (Lutra lutra) and raven (Corvus corax) in ‘Aided Con Chulainn’ (The Death of Cú Chulainn)

Raven at Tower of London, Image ©Lee Raye, 2012.

Raven at Tower of London, Image ©Lee Raye, 2012.

SUMMARY

Species mentioned: One poor excuse for a water-dog (Lutra lutra); one not-quite god among ravens (Corvus corax).

Source:  ‘Aided Con Chulainn’ (The Death of Cú Chulainn). The story of a hero who nearly broke death.

Date of Source: Existing story sixteenth century, but probably first told in the eighth century. Some fragments in a twelfth century manuscript.

Highlights: Two animals try to eat the dying hero. Cú Chulainn won’t accept that, even when he’s dying. The otter shares his name, so should have known better. The raven is an immortal, but still gets mocked, even whilst the hero dies of his wounds.

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