I haven't read this book by archaeologist Nick Aitchison
http://www.librarything.com/work/300459, but I understand that he has tried
to show that the present street plan of Armagh city is based on an ancient
processional spiral way. If right, this point to a considerable importance
in the distant past, of a ritual rather than defensive character.
I can well understand scepticism about the persistence of ancient myths or
traditions into the late Middle Ages, but in the context of Ireland such
scepticism is probably overshadowed by scepticism about the possibility of
stories being invented arbitrarily, out of nowhere, to explain features in
the landscape. We have to remember that a historic Earl of Desmond who died
in 1399 plainly adopted much of the character of Finn mac Cumhail
posthumously, and that in oral story-telling recorded in the late 19th
century there appear stories such as the birth of Lugh which also appear in
manuscripts many centuries older, in variants that are different enough to
discount direct literary borrowing from written sources, but plainly
basically the same. And in 17th century Argyll, in Scotland, a bishop
lamented that his flock was more interested in tales of Finn Mac Cool and
the ancient heroes, than in Christianity. In such contexts it may be
alleged complete loss of tradition about the origins of major ritual sites
that would need special explanation, rather than continued transmission, no
doubt attenuated and altered, into early modern times.
From: Old-Irish-L [mailto:[log in to unmask]] On Behalf Of Helen
Sent: 30 July 2011 14:13
To: [log in to unmask]
Subject: Re: [OLD-IRISH-L] Emne < Isamnion, etymology
Coming back to your original question :
>There seems to be some evidence that the PIE root *H1eisH2- also
meant "to strengthen" (Iranian i:s- "strengthening, Greek
"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?
I came to think recently that a healing sanctuary of sorts is precisely
what we should expect at Emain Macha. But its not the great mound at
Navan hill, there a huge wheel of posts was put up, filled with rock, set
alight and a turf mound placed over it, so I don't think it would ever
have functioned as a 'temple' space, as it seems to have all been done
at the one time. The notion of a wheel on a hill named for a horse
goddess - well we've all seen that wheel/horse symbolism before..
But I think what you're after might be located at the other sacred hill,
the one where the Armagh cathedral stands atop today, with all its St
Patrick associations. There is also a fair bit of archaeology around here
too, although nothing I can definitively point to as a healing sanctuary.
But one thing that could start to indicate a healing place is the sacred
pool at the foot of this hill of willows.
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/King's_Stables This area at the base of the
cathedral hill seems to be the centre of later Christian living spaces,
which could suggest a continuation of a sanctuary. But it is also close
to a big ancient fort, http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Haughey's_Fort so the
whole spot is redolent in archaeology. (And doesn't it feel funny to see
things like this, that beside the cathedral is "the former Armagh
Infirmary, dating from 1774" :-) http://www.stpatricks-
But apart from the hill and pool setup (like for example the Hill of Slaine
with Dian Cecht's well near its base), which is weak evidence in
isolation, why I think its likely to have included a healing sanctuary is
the association with Patrick. Now I know that is not an easy statement
and it would take me a book to explain my reasoning why I am
associating a major Patrick dedication with a healing sanctuary, but it
all seems to have to do with connections between Patrick and Slaigne (?
healer) - and our favourite, Esus. This isn't the forum to go into a
lengthy explanation, I'm only needing to tell you this so that you know
this does have some research behind it. And, because I also want to
ask you a question. Well two really. As you know I'm only a linguist
enough to know when I need to ask the experts here. So here goes (and
please don't worry if the answer is no in both cases, I just need to ask):
a) could this "PIE root *H1eisH2- also meant "to strengthen"
(Iranian i:s- "strengthening, Greek ΐάομαι
"cure, heal")" be the stem of
the name Esus?
b) Could then the stem of 'Esus' be part of the name Isamnion?