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Tailtiu

29 Jan

There is a well-known body of Irish placename lore called the Dindshenchas, which can be found in several different Irish manuscripts. The best known Dindshenchas tales are perhaps the Metrical Dindshenchas, which were translated by Edward Gwynn, and these can be found online in four volumes. There are also prose versions, which Whitley Stokes translated in a further four volumes. The following Dinnshenchas tales are from the lesser-known Edinburgh manuscript, which is dated to the fifteenth century. The selection of tales I’ve chosen relate to several well-known gods of the Irish landscape and also offer slightly different versions of the Dinnshenchas, some of which can only be found in the Edinburgh manuscript.

This tales recounts the tragedy of Lug’s foster-mother Tailtiu, and the origins of Lugnasad, ‘the assembly of Lug’. Tailtiu is identified with Teltown in Meath.

Mag Tailten, whence is it ?

Not hard (to say). Tailltiu, daughter of Maghmor, King of Spain, wife of Eochaid the Rough, son of Dua the Dark-grey. She was Lugh mac Ethlenn’s foster-mother, and ’tis she that used to dig the plain. Or ’tis there that she died. On the first day of autumn her tomb was built, and her lamentation was made and her funeral game was held by Lugh [whence we say Lughnasadh, “Lammastide”. Five hundred years and a thousand before Christ’s birth was that, and that assembly was held by every king who took Ireland until Patrick came, and there were five hundred assemblies in Tailtiu from Patrick down to the Black Assembly of Donnchad, son of Flann, son of Maelsechlainn]. And these are the three tabus of Tailtiu: crossing it without alighting; looking at it over one’s left shoulder when coming from it ; idly casting at it after sunset. Whence Magh Tailten, “Taltiu’s Plain.”

Taltiu, slow Magmor’s daughter,
‘Tis she that cut down the forest.
Lugh’s foster-mother, men declare,
The place of this assembly (is) round Tailtiu.

Whitley Stokes, ‘The Edinburgh Dinnshenchas‘, in Folklore IV, 1893, p486-487.

 
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Posted by on January 29, 2012 in Uncategorized

 

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