Back when birds spoke Gaelic…. that was the age of joy

‘Beast Literature’, stories where human-like, talking animals and birds are the main characters became especially popular in the twelfth century (Salisbury, 1994:124-8).

But the Beast Literature tradition did not invent the concept of talking animals. There was a native tradition in Gaelic and Welsh literature (e.g. ‘Nauigatio Brendani’, ‘Culhwch ac Olwen’) which may have originally been derived from the biblical stories of the Garden of Eden (Genesis 3) and Baalam’s Donkey (Numbers 22). (Harris-Logan, 2007: 88-91).

Actually, the idea of animals learning to talk remains common in Scottish Gaelic folklore to this day. There is a literary saying (seanfhacal) in modern Gaelic. ‘Nuair a bha Ghaidhlig aig na h-eoin ‘s ann a bha linn an aigh’ (Back when birds spoke Gaelic…. that was the age of joy).

The most famous example of speaking animals from Scotland is probably a piece of poetry written by Eoghan MacLachlainn (Ewen MacLachlan) called ‘Dàn mu Chonaltradh’ (English title: The Colloquy of the Birds). It was first published in 1798, but is set in the distant age of joy. The translation I give is from Forbes (1905) and is tentative and literary rather than exact.

When MacLachlainn wrote this poem (c.1795) he was still a young man, working as a tutor at Clunes in Lochaber, south-west Scotland, saving money and hoping to go to university (Mackenzie, 1841:321-3). Perhaps the intended theme is one of hope – the world was once a magical place. Harris-Logan (2007:111) has pointed out that Gaelic poetry which represents birds talking is often written for escapist reasons or out of an aspiration for otherness.



More work on my favourite enigma, from New Earth Lady


Dunsgaich, Dunsgathaich, Dunskahay (1424), etc.

The shadowy fort, fort of gloom. This name, as will be under­stood, has appeared under various spellings, even since above date, while the etymology of the word has also been varied; the shadowy town or fort, the fort of the jutting-out land, sgathaich, branches or brushwood, which no Gaelic scholar would give; even the latter word being pronounced differently should suffice, but worse is to follow in “ the hillock of the skates ” ! One, more probable, cannot be ignored, viz., Sgathach’s Fort, but the queen after-mentioned took her name or title from the fort and not the fort from her; in point of fact, the fort itself took the name from the bay or loch, Sgàth vik, shadow bay, and the district Sgàthavaig is always now in use. The queen above referred to was, according to one account, and accounts vary considerably, she whom Cuchullin fell in love with, the beautiful Aisè, Aoisè, or Aoife (long s mis­taken for /), a daughter to Ardgenny; another account gives it that a school of arms was kept by her (Aisè or Aisi) in conjunction with her father, here named Otha or Uathaidh; see “ Death of the Children of TJsnach.” Again, it is stated that Cuchullin fell in love with Uathach, “ daughter of the princess of the dun.” Anyway, this person seems to have been, as above stated, Aisè, who bore a son to Cuchullin, named Conlach, the word gu, con, it may be noted, appearing in the names of both father and son; this son was slain, in ignorance of whom’ he was, by his father.

Cuchullin came very young to Skye from Ireland, where one of his castles stood; he came to learn the feats taught in the military school kept by Sgatbach the Terrible,” her territorial title. This Cuchullin did so as to win the love of an Irish princess, “ Emer or Eimhir the Lovely,” the daughter of Forgall Manach, Forgall the Monk, also designated “ the wily.” While in Skye, he met Aisè, as above stated, but forsook her; see “ Bàs Chonlaoich,” the death of Conlaoch, as given in the Book of the Dean of Lismore. Cuchullin apparently returned to Ireland, and married Emer, Evir, Awoir, or Ayvir, in modern Gaelic.

Eimhear, for by all these names has she been referred to in ancient script, etc., in one or more of which she is said to have proved as faithless to Cuchullin as he was to Aisè,. or Bragela (Braighe Gheala) (fair-bosom, as a poetical title), and said to have been Cuchullin’s wife also, mother of Conlaoch at any rate, and whom he left to pine in Skye. Going to Ireland, he engaged in many combats there, in one of which he fell; various accounts, as may be understood, are given of this final fight, though an Irish poem has it that his death was due to the arts of magic, Cuchullin was still held as belonging to Skye, for in the Ossianic poems he is designed as “ Chief of the Ielei of Mist.” Among many adventures and feats in Ireland, Cuchullin attacked and slew a king of Munster, and carried off his queen, Blamait or Blathmaid, into Ulster; this, it is believed, he did “ for a friend.”

Queen or princess, “ Sgathach ” lived in the dun or fort with her two sons. Many and wonderful, it is said, were the feats taught in the college here, to which, as said, Cuchullin came as a pupil or student. Along with him, pursuing their military education also, were four grandsons of a certain Druid of the Piets of Ulster, called Cathbad; Cuchullin was one, three sons of Uisneach, and Conall Cearnach, five in all.

This queen or princess, fierce and ruthless warrior queen,” as she is styled in some accounts, or her daughter, Uathach, according to others, was in love with “ Cuchulainn, the son of Learg” ; none fairer had been seen by her or any other woman, though, it is also said, he loved no woman in Skye, though he was loved by “ three times fifty queens ” ! This warrior-queen Sgathach had the second sight, and foresaw the career and early death (at 30) of Cuchullin, who fell at Muirthemne in Ireland, fighting against great odds. Cuchullin was really older than thirty years, that age having been given poetically, as his full strength and his being “ beardless ” made him appear younger.

Despite the fierce character of this Queen Sgathach, she had other attractions, being passionately fond of music, especially of a melodious nature; she possessed a three-stringed magical harp, one string of which, when tuned, caused laughter and dancing, “ Geantraighe,” gean, good’ humour, cheerfulness, and traigh, strength; a second, crying or weeping, etc., “ G-ultraighe,” gul, guil, weeping, and trcdghe; while the third, “ Suantraighe,” suain, suaine, sleep, and tmighe, caused heavy, balmy sleep.

Queen Sgathach, in addition to the training to arms, etc., inculcated lessons of mutual friendship and fidelity, and bestowed prizes or gifts of arms upon at least two of her favourites, viz., Cuchullin and his friend Ferdagh; these two went to battle, after surmounting many diffi­culties, on behalf of the three amazons, Sgathach and her two daughters, Uathach and Aisè, while Cuchullin called the queen his “ tender tutoress/’ which apparently she was to him!

The faithlessness of Emer, Emire, Evir, etc., above referred to, is strongly questioned by Irish writers, and reference may be made to her “ Lament for Cuchulainn,” who is there designed Mhic Subhalt, Shubhailt, Shual- tain, also Mhic Sheimhi, in Irish, of course. In the notes to the 1760 “ Trànslation of Ossian’s Poems,” Cuchullin is designed as son of Semo, grandson of Cathbat, a celebrated Druid; there it is stated that he was married very young to Bragela, daughter of Sorglan, at his castle or palace at Dunsgaich; all these accounts conflict, and still another account has it that he married Uathach, the other daughter of Queen Sgathach, but had a son previously (Conlaoch) by her sister, Aoife (Eva); and, on his return to Ireland, he married the before-mentioned Emer or Eimer. All this took place in the first century a.d .

Aife, Aoibhe, Aoive, Aoisè, Aisè, or by whatever name she was known, gave Cuchullin, while in Skye, a model of a fatal—or at least deadly—spear called the “Gath Bolg ” or balg, a bag, etc., made from the bone or bones of some “ monster ” animal. See “ Tain Bo Chuailgne” a mythical tale; the bull referred to here supposed to have been a god.

One of the chief “ Captains ” of Queen Sgathach was “ Maev (Maebh) the Strong,” a warrior woman; there were at least five score of these female warriors, and on one occasion they executed twenty Vikings or Norse seamen, who had escaped drowning in the loch (Loch Scavaig.), by tying the long hair of each to the down-caught boughs of an oak, on which, being let go, the men swung till dead.

In more than one account of this famous fortress (Dunegàich) it is described as being on the “ North-east coast of Scotland,” also “ in the east of Alba ” (by Alba is meant Ireland), and a famous writer described it as a “ foreign academy ” !

Cuchullin’s name is more immediately associated with Dun Sgàthaich than any other place. In Skye to this day (as elsewhere), his very name is proverbial, “ Cho laidir ri Cuchulainn” and another of his names or titles was “ Setanta,” which was his first name, and which an authority says “ indirectly suggests British ancestry in his case” ; he was designed by another authority as a “ daughter’s son of Cathbad, Conchobar’s famous Druid, who had three daughters; the other two were mothers of Conall Cernach (Cearnach) and Naoise, thus cousins of Cuchullin.”

Many are the tales, traditions, and rumours, local and otherwise, as to this interesting castle, now in ruins; it was one of the most primitive, the keep having been, added about 1266. In an Act *of James V. occurs, “ donaldo gromych mcdonald gallich de dunskàwich,”u long, it should be noted. These tales, etc., are, however, vague and not to be depended upon, as, for example, the statement has been made that its origin has been attributed to the Homans, or even to giants, etc.! There are traces of a burial-place near the castle, but no exhumation of bodies or human remains have been made so far as known. Right below the castle, or dun, and resting on a huge flat rock, is a perfectly round stone of a very considerable size and apparent weight; tradition has it that this was the “ putting stone ” (clach-neart) in use by the “ men” of old; it can hardly be raised by two of the strongest “ men ” of this day. This stone, it may be mentioned, is supposed to be nothing more or less than a “ travelled ” boulder of the Ice Age.

In 1514 Dunsgaich was actually seized, and held for a time, by Lauchlan Maclean of Dowart or Duart (Dubhard) black height, and that on behalf of Sir Donald of Lochalsh. The name “Dunskaith” appears in a certain work, and is interpreted “ the fort of mischief” ; this fort, however, is situated on a little knoll on the northern “ sutor of Cromarty,” stated to have been a “royal ” fortress erected by William the Lion, now the site of another fortress; but this by the way.

Dunsgàich proper is shortly described as “ a vitrified fort near Tocavaig, above Gauscavaig Bay.” The present ruins even are thought to be secondary to the original fort built above the “ shadowy ” bay.


Here is earlier Mons Angelorum blog post, 2015, from when I was investigating the Standing Stones….

To stumble across the idea (of a round world) by chance needs an unusual set of geographical features. The only location I have found that the idea can both be proven and stumbled across by chance is at Preseli: At this location, Neolithic constructions of unknown age are located in precisely the correct locations to show how this might have been found.

Immediately below these locations is the possible quarry that some archaeologists say is the source of the bluestones used at Stonehenge. Using the Geocentric Hypothesis, Stonehenge is a model of our Cosmos which shows, amongst other things, that the Earth is round (the circle of Stones representing our world).

This entry was posted in Uncategorized. Bookmark the permalink.

580 Responses to Back when birds spoke Gaelic…. that was the age of joy

Comments are closed.