One of the forms of divination mentioned in Irish romance.
In the Bretha Nemed, Utraicecht Becc and the Macgnímartha Finn (among other texts), it is mentioned with imbas forosnai and dichetal do chennaib as the three skills of a seer. It is included in "Cethri srotha déc éicsi (The Fourteen Streams of Poetry)" in the Book of Leinster, as well as other texts dealing with bardic instruction. According to Chadwick, it is also mentioned in Thurneysen's Metrical Tractes, specifically in reference to that which is learned in the fili's eighth year of schooling.
I've seen it defined on the internet as "understanding gained through the writing of poems", but on what grounds I'm not sure. Kuno Meyer apparently translated it as "illumination of song", so this may be the origin of that particular definition. Others have translated it as "breaking the marrow" (a literal translation), while saying that this may be a type of kenning for chewing hazel-nuts, a legendary source of wisdom.
Supposedly, St. Patrick outlawed this form of divination, but there is little evidence that he was successful.
Chadwick, Nora. "Imbas Forosnai." Scottish Gaelic Studies, vol 4, part 2 Oxford University Press (1935). WWW: Clann na Fhaoil-Choin. URL: http://www.fhaoil-choin.org/imbasforosnai.htm. (c) 2005.
Kelly, Fergus. A Guide to Early Irish Law. Early Irish Law, v.3. Dublin: Dublin Institute of Advanced Studies, 1988.
"The Boyhood Deeds of Finn mac Cumaill." Ancient Irish Tales. ed. and trans. by Tom P. Cross & Clark Harris Slover. NY: Henry Holt & Co., 1936
Back to "T" | Back to JCE
Mary Jones © 2006