The devil Caincuile in Armagh

  • Early Modern Irish
  • prose

Short medieval Irish story about a demon called Cain Cuile, who used to visit Armagh to keep a record of the sins committed by its clergy as well as the lay folk. He had two books in his keeping: in the small one, he would erase the sins of the clerics who regularly confessed while in the bigger one, the sins of unrepenting laymen would pile up. 

Initial words (prose)
  • Caincuile .i. demon bai i nArd Macha
  • Early Modern Irish
prose (primary)
Textual relationships
The notion of a devil’s book recording the sins of the sinner is a medieval commonplace. As discussed by Ó Cuív (1962), the idea that sins can be erased from such a book if one does penance, may find parallels in the final quatrain of a devotional poem beg. Dera damh, a Coimde, in which the reprenting speaker expresses hope that letters may disappear from the devil’s book.



Cain CuileCain Cuile
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Ard Macha
Ard Macha ... Armagh
County Armagh
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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.] Meyer, Kuno [ed.], “Stories from the Edinburgh MS. XXVI (Kilbride Collection No 22)”, in: Bergin, Osborn, R. I. Best, Kuno Meyer, and J. G. O'Keeffe (eds.), Anecdota from Irish manuscripts, vol. 3, Halle and Dublin, 1910. 7–10.
Celtic Digital Initiative: <link>
[tr.] Translation wanted.

Secondary sources (select)

Ó Cuív, Brian, “Some early devotional verse in Irish”, Ériu 19 (1962): 1–24.
Dennis Groenewegen