Some years back we had a thread talking about the names Cairbre, Cormac and the element Corb. I’m continuing the thread so that anyone interested can use the ‘previous’ button to follow it back. The discussion didn’t really determine what the possible ‘corb’ element is, whether separately or within possible names. The idea that Cairbre and Cormac hold the base of ‘chariot’ was dismissed as unlikely at the time, but it is still commonly repeated on the web, really because nothing else acceptable seems to be available to better it.
The forms of ogam given by McManus are : CORBAGNI, CORBBI, CORBI, CORIBIRI, CORRBRI, the last two appearing to end as the very common name Cairbre/Cairpre.
Recently, I came across a fascinating piece about the first mythological Cairbre, Cairbre mac Ethne who was chief satirist of the TDD, and who caused Bres’ face to blister and helped defeat the Fomorians, and who first used the glám dícenn, in which one recites a type of satire while standing one-legged as a crane. But he dies like this:
“Cairbre eventually died a druidic death of pure light at the hands of Nechtan during the battle of Segais Well.”
Another version says: “Of a stroke of the pure sun died Cairpre the great, son of Etan: Etan died over the pool of sorrow for white-headed Cairpre.”
Apart from being such wonderful vivid pictures, there are a couple of odd things about this. First is that Cairbre is the son of Ogma and Etan, so he is one of that first rung of TDD deities that we see arriving in Ireland and fighting the Fomorians. And this part of the story is notable in comparison to other stories like the Tain, in that they don’t have horses and chariots. So this seems to suggest that it is right to dismiss the name Cairbre as being ‘charioteer’.
But what’s fascinating is the connection of Cairbre to satire. Cairbre’s father Ogma we know as a god of ‘eloquence’, Etan his mother is said to be a poet of the TDD. And Nectan is the deity that has the well of Segais from which ‘fis’ is gained, usually through hazels and the salmon of wisdom. ‘Fis’ is all about speaking it seems, speech, poetry, poetic inspiration, and foretelling. So what we seem to have here is some 4-way interconnection of speech skills with Cairbre / Nectan / Ogma / Etan).
In other famous Cairbre’s, e.g. Cairbre Lifechair, Cairbre Cinnchait, Cairbre Nia Fer, there is a sort of theme of negativity running through their stories, although it’s not explicitly connected to satire. They just appear as unsatisfactory kings.
So my question (third time lucky?) is about this name Cairbre, from CORBBRI and CORIBIRI. The previous thread talked about the notion that we may be looking at corbbaid dil.ie/12437 v (Lat. corrumpo?) defiles, corrupts, pollutes. But as one poster said, it’s hard to conceive of naming your child such a word. And it really does seem a very negative word in OIr. Perhaps it could be conceived of as a denigrating term for someone like Cairbre Cinn-chait, (Corbbaid Ri?) but it doesn’t really feel a good fit for the satirist of the TDD. But when we start to think of satire and cranes, we do have the word ‘corr’ meaning generally both crane (as in the glám dícenn stance), and more generally sharp, pointed, which is exactly how the ‘sharpness’ of satire is often described as.
So what if for Cairbre mac Ethne the satirist, the CORBBRI is broken as CORR/BRI Is something like that possible? And maybe later it was misinterpreted as CORB/RI for this series of bad kings, just as later again its misinterpreted in glosses as ‘charioteer’ ?