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In these tutorials, we are going to learn how to pronounce words in Old Irish. This is a form of Irish / Gaelic which is seen in the earliest manuscripts (c. 600-900 CE / AD). 

It was preceded by Primitive Old Irish and Archaic Old Irish, the form we see in the Ogam inscriptions (c. 300-600). Old Irish was followed by Middle Irish, which was also used in the manuscripts (c. 900-1200). Next was Classical Irish / Gaelic c. 1200-1600, a form used by poets in both Ireland and Scotland) and finally Modern Irish (c. 1600 to the present). 
 
If you have studied any modern Irish or Scottish Gaelic, you may see some familiar words or forms, as well as some familiar sound changes (which we will get into later). But there are far more differences than similarities between Old Irish and modern Irish or Scottish Gaelic. 
 
Interestingly, Modern Irish is not necessarily closer in form to Old Irish than Scottish Gaelic. A lot of sound, grammar and spelling changes happened over the centuries, so in some cases modern Irish is more similar and in other cases Scottish Gaelic is more similar.
 
The information I am providing is that which I learned at Harvard, where I took all four semesters of Old Irish with Tomás Ó Cathasaigh, a man with a very quick wit, and an amazing storehouse of knowledge. In subsequent years I had mentoring in Old Irish from Professor John Carey and Prof. Neil MacLeod, and have consulted with Dr. Joseph Eska, and Dr. Charlene Eska, among others. 
 
There are several books that have been published as Old Irish tutorials, and there are some differences between them in terms of rules of pronunciation. Some of this occurs if an author tends to follow the pronunciation rules of the modern languages, which would not be accurate. Tomás was widely known for his excellent knowledge of - and pronunciation of - Old Irish, and his insistence on accurate pronunciation in class, so we will follow what he taught.
 
Let’s first take a look at vowels. Each vowel has a short version and a long version, which are pronounced differently. If the vowel has no accent mark over it, it is the short version.  If it has an accent mark over it (also known as a ‘fada’), then it is the long version.Also, the following pronunciation rules generally apply to stressed syllables - we will talk about that a little further on. For now, just acquaint yourself with the following:
 
1) Short a - written: a. 
 
I have been unable to find an English word that contains this exact sound. It is neither the high/bright ‘a’ sound in the English word cat, nor is it the lower/darker ‘a’ sound in the English word father. You will want to listen to the sound clip to hear the short a sound, which is found in the Old Irish word ‘cath’ meaning ‘battle’
 
2) Long a - written: á. As in the English word lawn. Found in the Old Irish word ‘bán’ meaning ‘white’
 
3) Short e - written: e. As in the English word let, and found in the Old Irish word ‘leth’ meaning ‘half, side’
 
4) Long e - written: é. This is the same vowel sound as in the English word say; found in the Old Irish word ‘én’ meaning ‘bird’
 
5) Short i - written: i. As in the English word sit; Found in the Old Irish word ‘mil’ meaning ‘honey.’
 
6) Long i - written: í. This is the vowel sound in the English word see; found in the Old Irish word ‘mí’ meaning ‘month.’
 
7) Short o - written: o. As in the English word on; found in the Old Irish word ‘lon’ meaning blackbird
 
8) Long o - written: ó. As in the English word low; found in the Old Irish word ‘bó’ meaning ‘cow’
 
9) Short u - written: u. As in the English word put; found in the Old Irish word ‘guth’ meaning ‘voice.’
 
10) Long u - written: ú. This is the sound in the English word ‘too’; found in the Old Irish word ‘tú’ meaning ‘you’ (singular / familiar). 
 
In Old Irish, most of the time it is the first syllable in a word that is stressed, as in the OIr word ‘mathair’ meaning ‘mother’ - /MA-ther/. However in certain cases, other syllables may be stressed (as in the case of compound verbs like ‘do-beir’ /do - BAYR/
 
In earlier forms of Irish, unstressed syllables were pronounced according to the guidelines above. But by the time of the Old Irish manuscripts, unstressed vowels are generally pronounced like the ‘e’ sound in ‘the’ (or ‘uh’) 
 
Sometimes we see combinations of vowels, and these can be a little trickier to parse. One of the most common sounds represented by two vowels is seen in the word ‘táin’ meaning ‘cattle raid.’ 
 
It can be represented in writing in a number of ways, including áe, ái, óe and ói. This is a sound not found in English. It can best be understood as /ah + ee/ - spoken all in the same syllable. You can hear this in the sound clip.
 
There are other vowel combinations as well, such as: 
 
uí seen in ‘druí’ meaning ‘druid’
áu as in ‘áu’ meaning ‘ear’
éu / éo as in ‘béo’ meaning ‘living’
íu as in ‘clíu’ meaning ‘fame’
 
These follow the same pattern as above, in which the two vowel sounds are pronounced one after the other, but all in the same single syllable. 
 
In other cases, where we see a broad vowel (A, O, U) followed by a slender vowel (I, E)  it denotes a grammatical change of some kind. In these instances, the broad vowel is still pronounced as above, either long or short... but the palate is then slightly lifted to include a very slight short-e or short-i sound after it, spoken all in one syllable.
 
For example the name ‘Bran’ is spelled ‘Brain’ when it means ‘of Bran.’ It’s a very subtle sound change, inserting an almost imperceptible slender vowel sound after the first vowel. It also very subtly changes the following consonant sound. You can hear this on the sound clip. 
 
Now let’s look at consonants. Most are pronounced basically the same as in English when they occur at the start of a word.  However, consonants change sound when they occur in the middle of a word between vowels, or at the end of the word after a vowel.
 
In those cases:
 
b is pronounced /v/ as in ‘aball’ meaning ‘apple tree’
 
 c is pronounced /g/ as in ‘ocus’ meaning ‘and’
 
d is pronounced /dd/ - which represents the ‘th’ sound in ‘other’. (This is different than written ‘th’ which is pronounced as in ‘think’) This sound occurs in OIr ‘grád’ meaning ‘grade, rank, order’
 
g is pronounced like a soft gh in the back of the throat, as in the goddess name ‘Bríg’ (earlier form, prior to Brigid etc)

m is pronounced like /v/ but with a bit more emphasis than happens with b. Add a slight vibration from the lower lip up against the upper lip. This is a very subtle difference and for now you may choose to pronounce it like /v/ in these phonological cases.  This is heard in OIr ‘amal’ meaning ‘as, like’

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Posted by on in SageWoman Blogs
How Were Those Eclipses for You?

So, how's the last month been? Was it intense? If not for you, then for acquaintances, social circle, family members?

Or maybe not. One thing I have learned as I have saged with age, is that the more you become conscious - mindful of all the various strands and strains, as well as the bigger issues - less dramatic happenings, well, happen to you personally. Some people need the neonlit drama to din in the meaning or life lesson that has been avoided.

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Posted by on in Culture Blogs
Nectar of the Gods

Woe, I cry, woe: five long years, and never a good tomato.

Either it got too hot, and the tomatoes languished.

Or it didn't get hot enough, and they never ripened.

We didn't have enough rain, and so they were tough-skinned and bitter.

Or we had too much rain, and they swelled up obese and flavorless, red water balloons.

Oh, but this year: this year the gods have been good.

Earth and Your two boon husbands, Sun and Thunder: thank You, thank You All.

Firm, sweet, kissed by the Sun: at every meal tomatoes, and you never get tired of them.

Glory to the gift of the Aztecs, best of Nightshades! But in every good tomato year, you always reach glut: the point at which they're coming in so fast that you can't keep up, no matter how many you eat.

That means that it's time for the Nectar of the Gods.

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Recent Comments - Show all comments
  • Steven Posch
    Steven Posch says #
    Stand aside, avocado toast. You're hopelessly outclassed.
  • Murphy Pizza
    Murphy Pizza says #
    Need someone to unload tomatoes on? Tomato toast for breakfast now. Just sayin '.

Posted by on in Culture Blogs
Blessed Are the Doubters

If, as they say, belief is a gift, I didn't get much.

Fortunately, I'm a pagan, so it doesn't matter.

Of course, there are believing pagans out there. Well, better an honest believer than a dishonest unbeliever.

But I suspect that most of us straddle that hedge, with one foot in belief and the other in doubt. And that I can respect.

I reached the crisis of faith early on in my pagan career. I loved the Old Gods passionately, but I realized that I couldn't be intellectually honest with myself and say that I actually believed in them.

I was working as a night watchman that summer, so I had many opportunities for dark nights of the soul. Finally, one night, the hag came down and we wrestled.

All night we wrestled.

In the morning, the Sun came up. Out of that struggle, I had won myself a realization.

Belief is moot.

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Recent Comments - Show all comments
  • Steven Posch
    Steven Posch says #
    Blessed be They.
  • Kile Martz
    Kile Martz says #
    Brother speaks my mind. And this: Sun, Moon, Earth do not require belief to make them real, or, for that matter, mythical and divi
  • Mark Green
    Mark Green says #
    YES!

Posted by on in Culture Blogs
Stones That Soothe and Heal

If you suffer from stress-induced symptoms, try these calming crystals: Lapis lazuli has been used to treat headaches for millennia. My dear friend Abby suffers from migraines and cluster headaches. I gave Abby some earrings with lovely blue lapis settings to help her with this chronic condition, and she has reported great success. These headaches can have many causes and triggers; my beloved amber essence oil was one until we figured that out! The main causes are stress, anxiety, and various food triggers. Oddly enough, amber in crystal form alleviated Abby’s heinous headaches, seemingly absorbing the negative energy. Amethyst and turquoise are also good for this. Several stones are good for stomach illness; citrine and moonstone create calm. There is certainly no shortage of stress out there in the world so do yourself a favor and pick up these soothing stones to have at the ready. These crystals are a vital part of your sacred self-care.

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Posted by on in Paths Blogs

 

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Recent Comments - Show all comments
  • Carol P. Christ
    Carol P. Christ says #
    Beautifully written, made cry for poor Tahlequah and all mothers who struggle to raise their children in a world where so much is
  • Carol P. Christ
    Carol P. Christ says #
    Beautifully written, made cry for poor Tahlequah and all mothers who struggle to raise their children in a world where so much is

Posted by on in Paths Blogs
Minoan Pottery: It's NOT all Greek to me

One of the more frustrating aspects of practicing Modern Minoan Paganism and studying ancient Minoan culture is that we can't read Linear A, the script the Minoans used to write their native language. So we have to rely on the fragments of Minoan myth and history that have trickled down to us via the Greeks (the Minoans weren't Greek - they were their very own independent Bronze Age culture).

This means we don't even know the words the Minoans used for ordinary objects like cups and bowls. The archaeologists who first excavated Minoan sites had backgrounds in Greek history, myth, and culture, so they simply used the Greek terms for the pottery they unearthed. That's why libation pitchers from ancient Crete are called rhytons (or rhyta, if you want to use the Greek plural); rhyton is the Greek word for this kind of container.

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