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From: Charles DeVane <[log in to unmask]>
Reply-To:Scholars and students of Old Irish <[log in to unmask]>
Date:Wed, 12 May 2004 01:38:00 -0400

text/plain (45 lines)

> Charles scríbas:
> > I've always found the name Bealtaine to conote "a mouth of fire"
> > as in the opening between the two fires of Bealtaine.
> The problem with that explanation, if you mean it by way of
> an actual etymology, is that the vowel of the first syllable
> of "Beltaine" (modern "Bealtaine", Sc.G. "Bealltainn") is
> historically short, while the vowel of "bél" (modern "béal",
> Sc.G. "beul") is always long.  A change in vowel quantity in
> a stressed syllable would be highly unusual, I think.  David
> can speak to this, if I'm mistaken.
> The only exception I know to Beltaine having a short vowel
> is Keating's artificial spelling in his reprise of the Sanas
> Cormaic explanation, which is quoted from "Foras Feasa ar
> Éirinn" in DIL:
>    "ón teinidh sin do-níthí i n-onóir do Bhéil ghairmthear
>    Bealltaine don fhéil uasail ar a bhfuil lá an dá apstal
>    mar atá Pilip agus Seamus; Bealltaine .i. Béilteine nó
>    teine Bhéil"
> Dennis

MacBain has it: 

May-day, Irish béalteine, Early Irish beltene, belltaine, *belo-te(p)niâ 
(Stokes), "bright-fire", where belo- is allied to English bale ("bale-fire"), 
Anglo-Saxon bael, Lithuanian baltas, white. The Gaulish god-names Belenos and 
Belisama are also hence, and Shakespeare's Cym-beline. Two needfires were 
lighted on Beltane among the Gael, between which they drove their cattle for 
purification and luck; hence the proverb: "Eadar dà theine Bhealltuinn" - 
Between two Beltane fires. 

Dineen offers these alternative spellings:

Béaltaine (Meath) and Beáltaine (Connacht and Donegal)

I've also seen the spelling of Béilteine in a listing of various Irish month 
names int he different Irish language forms (i.e. Béarla na Feinne, Béarla  na 
bhFilí, Béarla  Eadarscartha, Béarla  Teibhide, and Gnáith  Bhéarla.


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