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Subject: Re: Indelb
From: Sean O'Connor <[log in to unmask]>
Reply-To:Scholars and students of Old Irish <[log in to unmask]>
Date:Sun, 7 Oct 2001 13:03:45 -0400

text/plain (32 lines)

I had another thought overnight concerning the description in the DIL to Mo
Chreiche Lenten Cell.  The cell is described as having four walls and I
wondered at first whether the fourth wall (agus cloch ara aghaid) could be
read as being on top as a roof rather than on its front.  I'd like to
suggest that, in fact, Cormac's description is to be read exactly as
written, i.e., Mo Chreiche's four-sided Lenten cell had no roof, for if it
had, it would have been seen as a pagan altar (a dolmen), hardly suitable as
a hermit's retreat.  What Cormac describes is a topless dolmen, but with
four walls, definitely not an altar, but looking sufficiently like to one to
justify his use of the word "indelb".  Think of it as a kind of Irish
hermit's perch built on the ground.

Seán wrote:

> Well, if you ever saw a dolmen, it looks like an altar; three slabs
> walls and one on top.  Cormac could hardly be expected to know that these
> were the remnants of old graves and it's not hard to imagine him thinking
> that they were pre-Christian altars.  What do you think?

This is a very clever suggestion. If Cormac indeed meant
"dolmens" with "indelba", I think it follows that all the information he
gives about the pagan Irish adoring their gods in these places is
just based on his antiquarian preconceptions of the pagan past. He
seems not to have known the original purpose of the dolmens, and
what he did not understand he imbued with a cultic-religious

Maybe in the "figurae solis" are reflected spiral symbols, like the
ones in Brú na Bóinne.


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