While scouring the Annals of Inisfallen, one entry caught my notice and, as
it has potentially some relevance to my current purpose (annal references to
natural events), I'd like to get some opinions if I may on the exact meaning
of the entry:
Digal choi[t]chend i nHerind isin bliadain sin coro mill na toirthi
Universal retribution in Ireland in the above year, and the crops were
(Seán MacAirt trans.)
It is the first two words that matter here - digal choitchend. The basic
meaning of the words themselves is not at issue - they seem plain enough;
its the overall sense of the two together that is significant.
To me, this statement can be read as saying that this vengeance or
retribution was universal across Ireland. The problem with this reading is
that we need to find some terrible act for which vengeance might be taken.
None of the entries for that year or the previous year seem to hold any
great significance. Kings die, battles fought, a church burned down by the
Uí Maine, various holy men died. Nothing particularly striking here. It also
begs the question of why retribution might be taken against all of Ireland,
and who would have the capability to achieve this anyway.
An alternative possibility is that the retribution is divine, which would
certainly deal with that last issue. The only act that seems in any way
likely to have provoked such wrath from above is the burning of the stone
church of Cluain Ferta Brénainn, and the accompanying slaying of Cú Connacht
on the church's lawn - an act of desecration of a holy place, perhaps,
warranting vengeance from God? Alternatively, it could be vengeance for the
general sinfulness of the people of Ireland, and not prompted by any one
particular horriffic act.
Right now, I'm inclined to favour the second possibility, and feel that the
word choitchend here may mean 'Universal' rather than 'universal', and that
the revenge was taken by The Universe (ie God). MacAirt's translation does
not help at all in assessing his own understanding of this peculiar entry as
the translation of the line begins with the word 'universal', which is
naturally enough capitalised as a result. Neither is there any accompanying
note. The Annals of Ulster make no mention of this crop destruction, and
this to me suggests that the universality here is that of the
retribution-taker, and not a reference to the extent of the crop
If this is to be read as an event which was interpreted as a divine act,
then we can (assuming a non-vengeful/ non-interventionist/ non-existent God)
fairly take the destruction of crops as a natural disaster, which makes it
useful for my purpose. If not, I'd be most interested in any evidence that
this was not a natural event.
Wishing one and all a peaceful, just and fear-free new year. Here's