Texts

Dinnshenchas of Mag Muirthemne

  • Middle Irish
  • prose
  • Dinnshenchas Érenn, Dinnshenchas
Prose text on the dinnshenchas of Mag Muirthemne, which is found exclusively in RIA MS D ii 2. Etymologising the placename as ‘Plain of the Darkness/Cover of the Sea’, it offers two explanations that account for this name, one concerning a post-diluvian sea, the other concerning the Dagda’s encounter with a sea monster. The same anecdote is related in Tochmarc Emire.
Context(s)The (textual) context(s) to which the present text belongs or in which it is cited in part or in whole.
Language
  • Middle Irish
Form
prose (primary)

Classification

Dinnshenchas Érenn

Subjects

Mag MuirthemneMag Muirthemne

No description available

Contents

Two accounts

Summary:
Muirthemne appears to be explained as a compound consisting of muir + te(i)me, meaning ‘darkness of the sea’ (temhe in mara), or ‘(it is) under the sea’s roof’ (fo scemil mara h-é). Two different accounts are offered for this etymology:
  1. It was covered by sea for 30 years after the Flood.
  2. It was once covered by a magic sea (muir draidechta) that was inhabited by a sea-monster described in Irish as a muir-selche. It could suck in any armed warrior and put him inside its treasure-bag (autsad-bolg). One day, however, the Dagda struck his club of wrath (lorg anfaid) on the creature and in a chant told it to disappear. The sea receded along with the creature.
» Comments: The meaning of muir-selche and the nature of the monster referred to by this term, if anything specific was intended, are uncertain. In his translation, Gwynn renders the term as ‘octopus’, explaining in his notes that “muir-selche, lit. ‘sea-snail’, must be a monster cuttle-fish”. Jacqueline Borsje, however, argues that the nature of the text defies secure translation into familiar English terms.

The same anecdote is told in the long version of Tochmarc Emire, with which it shows a number of verbal correspondences. Gwynn suggests that the story in the present text was, in fact, borrowed from TE.

For further discussion, see Jacqueline Borsje, From chaos to enemy (1996): 46–48; 145. » People: The Dagda » Places: Mag Muirthemne » Events: The Flood » Textual sources: Tochmarc Emire » Keywords: mythological monsters » Irish keyword(s): muir-selche

Sources

Primary sources Text editions and/or modern translations – in whole or in part – along with publications containing additions and corrections, if known. Diplomatic editions, facsimiles and digital image reproductions of the manuscripts are not always listed here but may be found in entries for the relevant manuscripts. For historical purposes, early editions, transcriptions and translations are not excluded, even if their reliability does not meet modern standards.

[ed.] [tr.] Gwynn, E. J. [ed. and tr.], The metrical dindsenchas, 5 vols, vol. 4, Todd Lecture Series 11, Dublin: Hodges, Figgis, 1924.
CELT – edition: <link> CELT – translation: <link> Internet Archive – vol. 4: <link>
294–295 [id. 99. ‘Mag Muirthemne’] Prose. direct link direct link direct link

Secondary sources (select)

Gwynn, E. J. [ed. and tr.], The metrical dindsenchas, 5 vols, vol. 4, Todd Lecture Series 11, Dublin: Hodges, Figgis, 1924.
CELT – edition: <link> CELT – translation: <link> Internet Archive – vol. 4: <link>
454 [id. 99. ‘Mag Muirthemne’] direct link
Contributors
Dennis Groenewegen
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