Sacred Texts  Legends/Sagas  Celtic  Carmina Gadelica  Index  Previous  Next 
Buy this Book at

Carmina Gadelica, Volume 2, by Alexander Carmicheal, [1900], at

p. 220 p. 221



Abhr, abhra, fat, rich, oily; 'cloimh abhrais,' oiled wool, wool prepared for spinning; 'abhrta,' 'abhrtach,' 'abhrtadh,' a feast, festival, rich entertainment.


Abhr, aur, prayer (?). A place at the, base of 'Beinn Righ Coinnich'--King Kenneth's Mount, or 'Beinn airidh Coinnich'--Ben of Kenneth's shieling, in South Uist, is called 'Auratot,' 'Auratobhte,' prayer ruin. The spot is green and grassy, and contains the remains of an oratory, which was used by seafarers before and after voyaging. A font and other ecclesiastical objects have been found among the ruins. Cf. 'aurtech,' gen. 'aurtige'; 'for bendchopar ind aurtige,'--on the roof of the oratory.--Windisch's Wörterbuch. Perhaps merely a diphthongised form of 'or,' prayer, as in 'abhran,' 'oran.'


Acair, anchor. The anchor in the West is often a stone. A form of anchor in olden times was a cylinder made of heather ropes bound strongly together, closed at one end and filled with stones. This anchor was called 'mogais,' cylinder. At anchor, 'air chruaidh,' lit. 'on hard,' fast.


Adhamhnan, Adamnan. There are several dedications in Scotland to St Adamnan. There is a 'Port Adhamhnain,' port of Adamnan, in Iona, Mull, and Lismore. A cross called 'Crois Adhamhnain,' cross of Adamnan, stood above the port of Adamnan in Iona, and there is a 'Crois Adhamhnain,' cross of Adamnan, in North Uist. This cross is incised on a large ice block at which the saint is said to have stood when preaching the first Gospel message to the natives. The people are said to have cut the cross on the side and set the stone on edge in honour of the occasion. There is a 'Srath Adhamhnain,' Strath Adamnan, in Strathfillan. Near Strath of Adamnan is 'Beinn Chaluim,' mountain of Columba. Adamnan was the successor and biographer of Columba.


p. 222

Ai, sheep. 'Cuir a stigh an ai,' put in the sheep. Perhaps connected with Greek aix, a goat.


Ai, swan. 'Chi mi ai air loch a mhuilinn,' I see a swan on the mill loch. 'Chi mi ai air ailn an eilein,' I see a swan on the loch of the island. 'Ai' seems to mean white, whiteness; perhaps akin to 'aigh,' beautiful.


Aibheis, eibheis, an abyss, a place or person in ruins or unkempt.

'Ged tha thu ’n diugh ad aibheis fhuar,
Bha thu uair ad aros righ.'


Though thou art to-day a ruin cold,
Thou wert once the dwelling of a king.

Aicil, a form of 'faicill,' circumspection.


Aigne, the (bird) swift, anything of unusually quick motion. 'Co luath ris an aigne,' as quick as the swift. 'Co luath ri aigne nam ban baoth,' as swift as the thoughts of the foolish women.


Ailbh, al, rock foundation, anything hard, solid, rigid, immovable.


Ailinde, most beautiful. The people use many forms of this superlative, as 'ailne,' 'ailindeach,' 'aildiche,' 'aluinnde,' and others.

'Ailineachd mna na Greuige.'


The beauteousness of the woman of Greece (Helen).


Aingeal, ainheal, aitheal, athal, light, flame, fire, glowing fire, angel. Cf. 'aithine,' 'athaine,' 'aine,' fire, glowing peat.

'Aingeal' occurs in many place-names, as 'Tom Aingil,' 'Dun Aingil,' 'Cnoc Aingil,' 'Carn Aingil,' in Lochaber, Lismore, Islay, Iona, Muckairn, Uist, Lewis, and other places. As the names indicate, the places stand high. Dun Aingil in Lochaber is situated on the side of a mountain 686 feet above the sea, and is also called 'Cladh Choireil,' St Cyril's Burial-ground. This is the only 'angil' knoll known to me used as a place of burial, though at Muckairn a 'Cnoc Aingil' or 'Tulach Aingil' adjoins the burying-ground, 105 feet above sea-level, called by some 'Cladh Choireil,' Cyril's Burial-ground, and by others 'Cladh Easbuig Earail,' Bishop Harold's Burial-ground. Harold was the first bishop of the see of Argyll and the Isles, disjoined from that of Dunkeld in 1200.

'Cnoc Aingil' in Iona is a green knoll on a sandy plain. In his 'Life of Columba,' Adamnan says that angels were wont to converse with Columba on this knoll, and that during drought the brethren carried the tunic of the saint round the knoll singing psalms and repeating prayers the while, whereupon copious rain

p. 223

fell. Pennant mentions that the people of Iona rode sunwise round 'Cnoc Aingil' on St Michael's Day.

Probably these knolls were places of sun-worship and fire-worship, which were current in the West as they are in the East.

In a poem composed over two centuries ago, 'aingeal' is twice used for fire--

'Bha ’n spor bhearnach, gheur, thana,
Am beul snaip air dheagh theannadh,
Ged dhiult thu dhomh aingeal
     Ri ord.
Nan tugadh tu aingeal
Chuirinn cunnart air anam,
Ged chaillinn ris gearran
     ’S a mhod.'


The jagged flint, sharp, thin,
Was in the snap mouth well bound,
Though thou didst refuse me fire
     To the hammer.
Hadst thou given the fire
I had placed his soul in jeopardy,
Though I had lost by it a garron
     In the moot.

'Aingeal' meaning fire is current in some districts though obsolete in others. The word is borrowed into Scots and applied to the hearth, as 'ingle,' 'ingle-neuk'--neuk being from 'an iuc,' '’n iuc,' the corner, the angle.

The idea of an angel guarding the door is not unknown to literary art. At an inn visited by Burns an angel was painted above the door. The house was kept by a husband and wife whose names were Peace and Grace. When Burns revisited the place he found the angel gone, the husband dead, and the wife more gracious than graceful, on which he composed the following lines:--

'When Peace and Grace lived in this place,
  An angel kept the door;
Now Peace is dead, the angel's fled,
  And Grace is grace no more.'


Airil, the angel Ariel. The people speak of 'Airil nan og,' Ariel of the youth; 'Airil ail nan og,' Ariel beauteous of the youth, and other endearing terms. Those who were under his care enjoyed perpetual youth and perpetual beauty. Ariel is called the 'city of Judah,' 'the strength of God,' 'the lion of God,' and other favoured names.


Āis, milk, milk preparation; dainty, delicacy, nectar, ambrosia.


Āis, wisdom. 'Ais na mna sithe,' the wisdom of the fairy woman. (See 'cnoc.')


Alc, fhalc, falc. In some districts 'alc' is applied to the razor-bill (alca torda), and in some to the guillemot (uria troile). The razor-bill and the guillemot resemble one another closely, and at some

p. 224

distance can only be distinguished by the practised eye. In Cornwall both birds go by the name of 'mum' from the sounds they emit. The guillemot, however, is slightly larger and more graceful, and its bill is long, pointed, and smooth, while that of the razor-bill is shorter, more rounded, and more furrowed towards the point. The eggs, like the birds, resemble one another in shape, size, and markings.

A crofter in Lewis, a shrewd, sensible man, went under the name of 'Alcag,' Little 'Alc.' He had come to Lewis from Mull. Mackenzie of Lewis and he had frequent wit-combats, generally to the discomfiture of the former. On one occasion Mackenzie, with whom the man was a favourite, and a friend met the 'Alcag' returning from Stornoway with a pot on his head, when Mackenzie said, 'I will pay you the price of the pot if you will allow me to make a rune upon you without retorting,' and proceeded:--

'Thainig thugainn, air muir a nail,
Eoin fiadhaich air sgadan cuain
A Muile, ’s ge fada thall,
B' olc an dream, daibh bu dual.

An Alcag a braigh a Chaolais
Caobaidh i fear a h-araich,
Asgartach nan daoine baotha,
Aircleach, aoireach, mi-narach.'


There came to us over sea hither
Wild birds after ocean herring
From Mull, and though far away,
Bad the breed, to them hereditary.

The Little Alc from the head of the Sound
Will peck at the hand of its rearing,
The refuse of all ill men found,
A needy, shameless satirist.

To this Mackenzie's friend added:--

'A phoit dhona gun ro-fheum,
B’ fhearr a ceannach air an fheill,
’S ge h-uallach foi’ do cheum,
Cha d’ fhuair thu i reis gun toibheum.'


Wretched pot of little worth,
Better to have bought it in the market;
Though lightsome be; thy step beneath it,
Thou hast not got a span of it without reproach.

The man replied:--

'Is cubhaidh do gach saoidh nach socrach,
A bhith na fhulangach, sar-fhaclach,
Is buinidh a dh’ fhear a bhios na airc
A bhi ’n eisemeil fear dha chomhnadh.

Is gilide am bord a chailc,
Cha mhiside a chruaidh a h’ aghart,
Eisemeil is tu ’s an airc,
Cha taiside do laoch a tobhart.'


It behoves the man who is not secure,
To be enduring and choice-worded,
And the man who is in straits
To defer to him who aids him.

The board is the whiter for the chalk,
The steel is not the worse for being tempered,
Deference and thou in straits,
Is not weakness in hero to give.

[paragraph continues] Combats of this kind were frequent between chiefs and clansmen, probably to the advantage of both.


p. 225

Altaich, nurture, nourish, bring up.

'Ach a Thi is mor gloir,
Altaich fein an siol og,
Ta gun tagsa, gun sgor
               A cuil daibh.'


But Thou Being of great glory,
Nurture Thou the young seed,
Reft of prop, and of rock
                   Behind them.
                   --St Kilda song.


Amadan-De, butterfly, God's fool. In some districts the term is 'amadan-leith,' grey fool. Sometimes applied to giddy, foolish children.


Aon, Aona, Aoin, Aoine, Fast, Friday. (See 'Di.')


Arna Moire, kidney of Mary; 'tearna Moire,' saving of Mary. This is a square, thick Atlantic nut, sometimes found indented along and across, the indentations forming a natural cross on the nut. It is occasionally mounted in silver and hung round the neck as a talisman. Every nurse has one which she places in the hand of the woman to increase her faith and distract her attention. It was consecrated on the altar and much venerated.


Arrais, evil, wicked, demon. Cf. 'arracht,' spectre.


Ath-aodach, athaodach, second clothing, second-hand clothing. A person wearing a new suit is addressed:--

'Meal an greann,
Paigh an sainns,
Is cuir an nall
An t-athaodach.'


Enjoy the clothing,
Pay the hansel,
And send thither
The old clothing.

[paragraph continues] With some people 'athaodach' means new cloth, the explanation being that the wool is first 'aodach na caora,' the sheep's clothing, and afterwards man's clothing:--

'Meal is caith an t-athaodach,
Sguiridh tathaich an taileair.'


Enjoy and wear the second clothing,
The tailor-visiting shall cease.


Next: B