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Some Irish words with Norse Origins

The year 795 AD  saw a new force arrive on the Irish political scene, the Vikings. These seaborne warriors were to have a significant impact on Irish life. Their attacks on religious centres and propensity for warfare are well documented, as is their contribution to the development of urban centres and new trade routes.  However, something which […]

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River liffey

The River Liffey, its ancient name

Although now called the Liffey[i], in ancient times Dublin’s famous river was known by a different name, An Ruirthech. This loosely translates as ‘the stampeding one’[ii], a name which reflected the watercourse’s propensity to sudden floods of fast flowing water. This was a result of the river’s relatively short distance from source to the sea, […]

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Pangur Bán

Pangur Bán is probably the most famous surviving poem from Early Ireland[i]. Composed by an Irish monk sometime around the 9th century AD, the text compares the scholar’s work with the activities of a pet cat, Pangur Bán. It is now preserved in the Reichnenau Primer at St. Paul’s Abbey in the Lavanttal, Austria. The version detailed below is Robin Flower‘s translation […]

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Skull

The Curious Tale of the Mouse, the Skull and the Saint’s Curse

In 1070 AD[i] the forces of Turlough O’Brien (Toirdhealbhach Ua Briain), king of Munster, raided the great monastery at Clonmacnoise in Co. Offaly[ii].  The target of their attack, however, was not the monastery’s riches of gold and silver, but instead something far more macabre. On arrival, Turlough’s men forced their way into the great church […]

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Sacred Trees in Early Ireland

I recently described how the forces of Brian Bóruma, king of Munster, attacked and destroyed a sacred grove of trees  belonging to the Vikings of Dublin. This wood appears to have been associated with Thor, the Viking god of thunder, and its destruction by Brian Bóruma was probably an act imbued with both religious and […]

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16th century Irish Hipsters

I recently spotted what appeared to be remarkably modern looking haircuts in Albrecht Druer’s woodcut of 1521 AD[i]. This image shows a group of Irish soldiers[ii], most likely mercenaries, who were fighting on the European continent during the early 1520s. I soon discovered that, far from being unusual, this distinctive hairstyle was actually very popular […]

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Treasure into ashes: A 19th century cist burial discovery

I recently came across an interesting 19th century account describing the discovery of a Bronze Age cist burial at Mullaun, Co. Wexford. Written by George Henry Kinahan, a geologist with the Geological Survey, it gives a valuable insight into the folklore and superstitions surrounding these early archaeological discoveries. His description reads: ‘Here some years ago […]

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