Sacred Texts  Sagas and Legends  Celtic  Index  Previous  Next 


Music formed the chief part of education in ancient Ireland as in Greece, where the same word signified a song and a law. Laws, religion, sciences, and history were all taught in music to the Irish people by the Ollamhs, or learned men. The Poets chanted the Ros-Catha, or song of battle, to incite the warriors to deeds of bravery. The Bards recited the deeds of the chiefs, or pleasant tales of love, at the festivals, and struck the harp to sustain the voice. The Brehons intoned the law in a recitative or monotone chant, seated on an eminence in the open air, while all the people were gathered round to listen. The Senachie chanted the history, genealogies, and traditions of the tribe, and the female mourners were instructed by the poets in the elegiac measure, or funeral wail over the dead.
The poet-power was also believed to confer the gift of prophecy; and no great expedition was undertaken by the tribe without the advice and sanction of the bard, and especially. of the poet-priestess of the tribe. Thus Ethna the poetess stood on a bight stone at the battle of Moytura, and gave inspiration by her chants to the warriors of the Tuatha-de-Dananns, and stimulated their courage by her prophecies of victory; and the stone she stood on is in existence to this day on the plain of the battle, and is still called by the people "the Stone of the Prophetess."

Next: Poet Inspiration--Eodain the Poetess