Well, if you don't mind thinking outside the box, here's my opinion. Don't
Folklore/folk-memories such as songs, rhymes etc are archaeological traces.
Going back we don't know how long, there's been a folk tradition among
English speakers that the little lamb whose fleece was white as snow was
pretty sure to go just about wherever Mary went, and I daresay when. So who
was Mary when she was in England?
I can't show you anything yet, and I don’t know of anyone else working in
this area, but I'm getting up some distribution maps in chronological
sequence of a small number of frequently occurring syllables and their
variants in place names, personal names and the names of significant things
etc and finding the Mar syllable in conjunction with various affixes from a
wide range of languages extending from the eMIRates of the Middle East, the
hoMER of Greece, through to the Brythonic MER- Merlyn and Merddyn, including
the god Mars, the virgin Mary, and perhaps significantly for sheep
migration, the eMER who MARried Cu Chullain. You can include the old
ballad's Four Maries, the French mari, meaning husband, and look also at
words like MERchant, commerce, MERcredi, etc. Throw in aMERigo, MERino
sheep, aMERica and aMERgin, and then consider that we haven't much looked
outside England yet, and the syllable is as richly represented in most other
European countries, appearing more frequently as B-R in some areas, and
mutating to F-R/V-R in others. These words are often to do with commerce,
miracles and visionary religious attitudes (MARian) and the sea, suggesting
an international MARitime comMERce with potentates ancestral to modern
emirates, mer-s, mayors mercantile organizations etc.
The -lin part of Mer-lin occurs in conjunction with a world-famous cloth
industry; and words very similar to lin, such as lawn, line, leine, laine,
gwlan etc occur within the linguistic mélange that sustains the Merlin
legends. So there's evidence of a well-established linen and woollen cloth
industry for the merlin to be mer of if the MER of eMER IS the MER of
MERlin, (at least as big as the tin industry that MERdhyn/MERddyn of
TINtagel was probably MER of) which while not necessarily as far back as
you're looking for, are unlikely to have become established overnight.
Compare MERlin in the south with the Scottish and French Verlaine, and the
I'm wondering if Cu Chullain's marriage to Emer was not one of those big
mass-marriages they used to have, with the eMER culture supplying not one
bride but many brides to the Cu Chullain militia, not just its captain (as
in Tirant Lo Blanc) and she brought her snow-white fleeced (breed of)lamb
with her as a kind of dowry.
If you repeat the rhyme to yourself, it seems either meaningless or full of
hidden important meaning - why else celebrate it so mindlessly for so many
generations? And it's old enough and its roots are obscure enough for it to
have come down to us unchanged from a time when those who sang it well
remembered the 'Mary' whose little lamb's fleece was such a miracle of
whiteness. You wouldn't make such a fuss about it if you were used to seeing
sheep's fleeces being white. Of course you've still got questions about when
and how Cu Chullain and Emer got to Ireland...
From: CELTIC-L - The Celtic Culture List.
[mailto:[log in to unmask]] On Behalf Of Fhiona MacGhilleRhuadh
Sent: Monday, 25 August 2008 3:48 PM
To: [log in to unmask]
Subject: Re: sheep
Thinking outside the box is good. And as I am basically a light hearted
individual with (I hope) a pretty good sense of humour, I try not to take
things too seriously- even really really really obvious snarkiness. (Most of
it goes over my head...no ripples on my pond today ;-)
Lists like these are important- because they make you think, consider other
viewpoints and ideas...and stretch your mind. :-) Thats the whole reason for
being on them isnt it? And good mind bending discussion doesnt occur if ppl
are busy sniping. ;-/ Besides, its much easier just to get along and much
more conducive to good conversation.
btw your "objectionable signature" as you referred to it, did not appear on
the email, so I assume you were able to safely remove it. ;-)
--- On Fri, 8/22/08, Bruce E. Wright <[log in to unmask]> wrote:
> From: Bruce E. Wright <[log in to unmask]>
> Subject: Re: sheep
> To: [log in to unmask]
> Received: Friday, August 22, 2008, 2:29 PM
> Please don't go too deeply. This and your last comments
> about migration
> present really useful ways to think about these questions
> that some of us
> might not come up with on our own.
> I hope my objectionable signature doesn't appear here
> since I don't know
> how to eliminate it from "reply to all." I think
> it doesn't go there but
> I'll see what I can do here. If I fail, please
> don't be too harsh.
Be smarter than spam. See how smart SpamGuard is at giving junk email the
boot with the All-new Yahoo! Mail. Click on Options in Mail and switch to
New Mail today or register for free at http://mail.yahoo.ca
You can unsubscribe yourself by logging in on the list archives page at
selecting the 'join or leave Celtic-L' link and going through the
unsubscription routine there.
You can unsubscribe yourself by logging in on the list archives page at https://listserv.heanet.ie/cgi-bin/wa?A0=CELTIC-L&X=36DAE1476AF514EF73, selecting the 'join or leave Celtic-L' link and going through the unsubscription routine there.