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Female Irish Saints

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Female Irish Saints,Irish Saints, Females, irish saint names,irish catholic saints

The Irish language is a descendant of Common Celtic, an early stage of a branch of the Indo-European language family in which features specific to later Celtic languages became apparent. The Celts come to light in the first millennium BC and are known from two main archaeological strands: the Hallstatt Culture (c 800-450 BC) from Austria and the La Tène Culture (c 450-100 BC) from Switzerland. The earliest linguistic remains of Celtic are to be found in inscriptions from Gaul and the Iberian peninsula. The forms of Celtic which developed on the British Isles from the first few centuries BC onwards can be divided into P-Celtic (later Welsh, Cornish, Breton) and Q-Celtic (later Irish, Scottish Gaelic, Manx). In Britain, varieties of Celtic – called Brythonic – were spoken throughout the entire island (including the north as can be seen from names like Cumbria). These came under pressure after the Roman invasion in 55 BC and later on after the Germanic invasions which began in 449AD, according to historical tradition.

For those interested in the Indo-European family, the Celtic languages form an interesting subbranch. They developed means of compensating for the loss of inherited inflections from the proto-language. In Celtic, low-level phonetic changes at the beginning of words came to be functionalised and signalled such essential grammatical categories as number and gender with nouns as well as tenses and mood with verbs. These changes are known as initial mutations. Furthermore, the etymologies in Irish vocabulary are interesting as they are a mixture of inherited Indo-European items and clearly non-Indo-European ones. There has been much speculation about the possible sources of the latter and linguists are still not agreed about these.

The Irish language is the oldest vernacular, i.e. not Latin or Greek, to be found in northern Europe from the first centuries AD. Up to this most writing was done by monks who wrote in Latin. The very first forms of Irish are found as interlinear glosses in manuscripts written on the continent of Europe (chiefly in the regions which were later part of Germany, Austria, Switzerland and northern Italy). The Irish words were translations of Latin written into holy texts. These texts are called after the places where the manuscripts were probably compiled, e.g. the St. Gallen or the Würzburg Glosses. Later secular poetry came to be written in Irish, the most famous short piece is probably Pangur Bán, a tribute by an early monk to a cat.

There are a number of Old Irish law tracts from the 7th to 9th centuries which have been brought together as the Corpus Iuris Hibernici ‘Corpus of Irish Law’. These cover issues of inheritance and family status/liability. They also deal with questions of honour and retribution for crimes committed where the status of the injured parties was crucial. Celtic Ireland was divided into many small kingdoms which were usually dominated by single families. Genealogy was thus important for questions of succession and ownership of land. In the pre-Norman era the genealogies of great Irish families were traced back to the origins of the Gaels (a subject matter found in the Lebor Gabála ‘Book of Invasions’) and later manuscript collections from the late 14th and early 15th centuries such as The Book of Ballymote and The Yellow Book of Lecan contain important genealogical information.

Writing lives of saints – hagiography from Greek hagios ‘saint’ – constitutes an important part of early Irish writing. Lives were written of the two foremost male and female Irish saints: there are two lives of Saint Patrick in The Book of Armagh and there is a life of St. Brigid (late 5th / early 6th century) – Vita Brigitae – by the Kildare monk Cogitosus. Another famous life is that of St Colum Cille by Admonán (7th century monk and abbot on Iona), the Vita Columbae. Because these lives were written by monks, they are generally in Latin but are there versions or parts in Old Irish, e.g. a life of St. Brigid.

The history of Irish, from the 7th century onwards, is accompanied by varied literature, both fictional and non-fictional. From the Middle Ages there is religious and visionary literature along with poetry, some of this by people of Old English (Anglo-Norman) stock such as Gearóid Iarla ‘Gerald the Rhymer’, the Third Earl of Desmond (1338-1398).

Later on, in the early modern period, literature appears which is concerned with portraying native Irish culture and defending it against hostile English views. Above all one should mention here Foras Feasa ar Éirinn ‘Foundation of knowledge about Ireland’ by (Geoffrey Keating / Seathrún Céitinn, c 1580-1644) and Annála Ríoghachta Éireann ‘Annals of the Kingdoms of Ireland’ by Micheál Ó Cléirigh (1575-1643). Later the latter work came to be known as Annals of the Four Masters because of the three scholars who assisted Ó Cléirigh.

The early modern period is known for single works like Cúirt an Mheán-Oíche (‘The midnight court’, c 1780) by Brian Merriman (?1745-1805) and the Lament for Art O’Leary written by the widow of the individual in the poem’s title. There was also much quality poetry by many different authors, chiefly from the south-west of Ireland. There are also bilingual works from Dublin such as Stair Éamuinn Uí Chléire ‘The story of Eamonn O’Cleary’ (c 1715) by Seán Ó Neachtain (?1650-1729).

Irish literature in the twentieth century is often taken to have begun with the novel Séadna (1904) by the priest Peadar Ua Laoghaire (1839-1920). During this century, much dialect literature arose, for instance surrounding the Blasket Islands in Co. Kerry, e.g. Tomás Ó Criomhthain (1856-1937) An tOileánach ‘The islander’ (1928), Muiris Ó Súileabháin (1904-1950) Fiche bliain ag fás ‘Twenty years agrowing’ (1933) and Peig Sayers (1873-1958) Machnamh seanmhná ‘An old woman’s reflections’. Seosamh MacGrianna (1901-1990), author of Mo bhealach féin ‘My own way’, was a prominent writer from Co. Donegal while Liam Ó Flaithearta (1897-1984), author of many works in English and Irish including Dúil ‘Desire’ (1953), and Mairtin Ó Cadhain (1907-1970) author of many books including Cré na cille ‘Soil of the churchyard’ (novel), An braon broghach ‘The dirty drop’ (short stories) are major writers from the Aran Islands and Connemara respectively. The twentieth century has also seen much poetry written in Irish, e.g. by poets such as Máirtín Ó Direáin (1910-1988), Seán Ó Ríordáin (1917-1977) and Máire Mhac an tSaoi (1922-).

There is also much literature on the folktales and folklore of Ireland which has been assembled by such collectors and writers of the late 19th and early 20th century as Douglas Hyde (1862-1949), P. W. Joyce (1827-1914) and the American-born Jeremiah Curtin (1835-1906).