Like other secondary sources, Henry's and McLaughlin's books have nothing
new about Athirne, only what's in the Book of Leinster and Three Irish
Glossaries. In Henry I found this:
p. 34 Nede made a venomous satire (áer) of death and destruction on Caier
that raised three blisters of reproach (aithise) on his face, “on agus
ainimh agus easpa, i.e. dearg agus glas agus bán”.
p. 64 Athirne and his two sons confronted Luaine. Each one put the glám
dícenn on her that put three blisters on her face: “on agus ainimh agus
aithis – black and red and white” – as happened to Caier.
eDIL: on = blemish; ainimh = blemish; easpa/esba = idleness; aithis =
blemish (eDIL s.v. aithis, dil.ie/2716)
How do the colours come into it?
Athirne's "father", Chief Ollamh Ferchertne, has supporting roles in a
number of stories and is credited with being one of the authors of the
Auraicept na nÉces; alternatively, the original author, with Cenn Faelad
rewriting it in the 7th century. I wonder if there was a historical
Ferchertne who was duplicated or whose name was borrowed by self-promoting
unknown writers to get wider readership for their works. Somehow he or at
least his name became well known, so it is logical that a fictional Athirne
would be given him as his father by those who wanted a recognisable figure
Martin said: "I should think that the spelling should ideally be Aithirne
..." I find that spelling frequently, but Athirne, right or wrong or just a
variation, seems to predominate.
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