An Tána – or in English, the Táin – is the Old Irish word for a raid or a foray, usually involving attacking a neighbour and carrying off slaves and cattle and whatever else was available, although most wealth in those days involved cattle. The most famous examples are the Táin Bó Fraoch or the Cattle Raid of Fraoch and the Táin Bó Cúailnge, or the Cattle Raid of Cooley (an area in the north east of Ireland).
The latter is the central tale in the manuscripts dealing with what is known as the Ulster Cycle comprising almost eighty tales of heroes. Unfortunately, most of early Irish literature has been lost. Originally, tales were passed down in a strictly oral tradition until the advent of Christianity in the mid fifth century. The mythological and heroic tales were then recorded by scribes in the early monasteries and centres of Christian learning and it is not surprising that they overlaid the pagan tales with Christian overtones. The manuscripts that survive show clear linguistic signs of having been copied from earlier manuscripts, now lost, having been destroyed between the eight and eleventh centuries during the incessant Viking raids of that period. Much of what was saved was then, in turn, destroyed during the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries by the organised policy of the English Penal Laws in a deliberate attempt to destroy Irish culture.
The oldest of the surviving manuscripts is the Book of the Dun Cow, or Leabhar na hUidre, an 11th century manuscript written in the monastery at Clonmacnoise, now preserved in the Royal Irish Academy in Dublin. Unfortunately, the MS contains a rather jumbled version of the Táin Bó Cúailnge, which is augumented by another jumbled account in The Yellow Book of Lecan, a 14th century manuscript now held at Trinity College Dublin.
The origins of the Táin are much older than the surviving manuscripts. The language of the earliest versions of the tales have been dated to the 8th century while some of the verse elements are possibly two centuries earlier. Most Celtic scholars now believe that the tales of the Ulster or Heroic cycle must have had a long oral existence before they were given a Christian overhaul bu monastic scribes.
I just want to let everyone know that my book Raiding Cúailnge will be published on Wednesday 20 April 2016 as a multi-format ebook. As many of you may know, the book is an historical / fiction novel based on Old Irish manuscripts. I hope you’ll take time to take a look at
where you can download the book for free with this coupon YR29P which is valid for one month, when you go to the check-out.
Could you also take a moment to spread the word about my book to everyone you know?
Thank you so much for your support!
PS Of course besides being available (free) on Smashwords.com, my book is also available on
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I wrote a recent post somewhere where I was almost gloating about having cracked this blog thingy and I wrote something just now, destined, I though, for the Book category and then I did something – probably not saved the bloody thing – and it all disappeared. I know if that happened in Word or something like that, I could probably get it back but here, I am a mere suckling in the wilderness.
Anyway, what I had written about was that this day two weeks from now, my first novel , Raiding Cúailnge, will be published. Published, is that the right term?. My novel will be available as an Ebook at all major retailers.
Does that demean, diminish or belittle the work? Does it open the floodgates to vapid twaddle if everyone has a “licence” to write? What do the gatekeepers of traditional publishers feel about the inroads being made into the preserves of the privileged few who landed a contract with a publishers? To tell you the truth, I don’t care. I couldn’t care less about it but Iam just thrilled to have my novel, my brainchild, out there, available online to God knows how many countless millions if they could only just find it!
Ornaments and Jewellery
By the third Century BCE a distinctive and clearly recognisable Iron Age Celtic society emerged. Known for its widespread use of jewellery and ornaments, its common artistic designs were developed first in central Europe by Celts and became known as the La Tène style from the area on the north side of Lake Neuchâtel in Switzerland, where thousands of objects were discovered in 1857.
The Torc is a twisted metal ring usually worn around the neck and could be of gold, bronze or iron. It was almost certainly a symbol of rank. Gold, pretty much like today, was out of reach of all but the nobility and champions. Far more common were bracelets and necklaces of bronze and polished stones or pottery beads.
Examples of Celtic art include torcs, or neck rings, with the two open ends ornamented with animal heads; the silver repoussé Gundestorp cauldron (circa 100 bc, National Museum, Copenhagen); a bronze lozenge-shaped shield with circular medallions and small enamel circles (1st century bc-1st century ad); and a bronze mirror with enameled decoration (1st century bc).
Brooches were made from silver and gold studded with amber and pieces of glass, used to hold a cloak in position.
Glass was made from salt, crushed limestone and sand and coloured by adding powdered minerals. Glass was also used as enamel, a thin transparent layer bonded to metal underneath.
Personal ornaments include pins, fibulae, beads, bracelets and neck ornaments. Simple collars of twisted gold strips are known but there is also the sumptuous gold collar found on the seashore at Broighter, Co. Derry.
Photo credit: <a href=”https://www.flickr.com/photos/peterwright/3385221167/”>dad1_</a> via <a href=”http://foter.com/”>Foter.com</a> / <a href=”http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/2.0/”>CC BY</a>
Celtic Trivia – when & who
Here’s a snippet of info about the Celtic Way of Life. I suppose I had better clarify what I mean by Celtic or rather when and who I refer to.
|Late Bronze Age
||C1300 – 800 BCE (before the current era)
||800 – 600 BCE (Hallstatt Iron Age C)
|Late Iron Age
||600 – 475 BCE (Halstatt iron Age D)
Now I am certainly not an expert or even particularly knowedable about much of these periods but, because of the novel I was writing, Raiding Cúailnge, I found my self adapting background details for my setting of the North East of Ireland circa 400 BCE and while much of the information and backropund information I collected was to do with the widely varying tribes of Celtic people roaming Europe, my tale is firmly set in Ireland during what is known among the manuscripts as the Ulster Cycle, which describe some episodes from the life of my main character, Setanta, aka Cú Chulainn.
Anyway, these are the original documents on which all the known translations are based.
None of the manuscripts contain a complete account of the period so I hope my stitching together of events in my novel will be acceptable, even to the purists.
|The Book of the Dun Cow
||Written in the 11th century. Thought to have been based on texts from the 9th century which in turn were based on texts from 7th century (texts no long extant)
|The Yellow Book of Lecan
||Circa 14th century. Ditto re earlier texts
|The Book of Lenister
||Late 12th century
That’s probably enough for now.