Just some late night musings here....
Emain Macha is often identified with the Isamnion mentioned in
Ptolemy's Geography. This seems reasonable enough, but I have not come
across much in regards to the etymology of Isamnion beyond the
Heinrich Wagner, "The archaic Dind Ríg poem and related problems",
Ériu, Vol. 28, 1977, p. 1-16, suggested that Isamnion could be
interpreted as "what is moving by itself rapidly, the stream",
deriving it from the Proto-Indo-European root *eis- (*H1eisH2-) "to
move rapidly". This seems like a strong possibility, but I am
wondering if the root, Proto-Irish *isamn-, might have had another
meaning besides "rushing"?
There seems to be some evidence that the PIE root *H1eisH2- also
meant "to strengthen" (Iranian i:s- "strengthening, Greek ΐάομαι
"cure, heal"), so perhaps Proto-Irish *isamn- could mean something
like "healing" and *isamniū or *isamnion was "place of healing"? Is it
possible that places such as Emain Macha and Emain Ablach were
anciently the locations of healing temples?
Note that in the Imram Brain the following is said of Emne Ablach:
Cen brón, cen duba, cen bás
cen nach n-galar cen indgás
is ed etarnge n-Emne,
ní comtig a comamre
"Without grief, without sorrow, without death,
Without any sickness, without debility,
That is the sign of Emne -
Uncommon is an equal marvel"
(Nutt, Voyage of Bran, p. 6)
Of course, there is also Geoffrey of Monmouth's Insula Auallonis,
where King Arthur was taken to be healed and which might be at least
partially based on Irish traditions regarding Emain Ablach.
- Chris Gwinn