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Ogham Studies - Gort (Ivy)

Posted: 16 Oct 2006, 00:10
by Fitheach

And your input on the wonderful, tenacious ivy plant!


The tenacious, binding Ivy,
Adorns the Winter Queen.
Her crown is dark and lively,
A vibrant Winter Green.

Ivy lays a lovers trail,
To lure sweethearts to the wood,
A wreath to hold Marian’s veil,
While holly adorns Robin Hood,

Broad leaves like roofs in winter dwell,
Cloistered on the ground, with
Tiny treasures: a cup shaped shell,
Proof - a faerie dwelling found!

Posted: 12 Apr 2007, 23:09
by Dryadia2

Re: Ogham Studies - Gort (Ivy)

Posted: 13 Nov 2007, 17:09
by DaRC
I've just been re-reading some of the ogham kennings and this one struck me
'ivy - the Scholars Primer gives the words med nercc, meaning 'abundance of mead'

Which made me think why would Ivy be the abundence of mead? The thought was swiftly followed by a doh! moment...

In my garden and area the Ivy is certainly one of the last to flower abundently.
I've spent many an autumn afternoon enjoying the weakening sunshine and listening to the insects buzzing over our Ivy covered outhouse. I've noticed a few late butterflies, some wasps (depending on how busy a year it's been for wapses) but a lot of bees.
So maybe this is what med nercc is referring to.

Re: Ogham Studies - Gort (Ivy)

Posted: 13 Nov 2007, 19:12
by Beith
Hi Dave,

I'm not sure but I think there may be a transcription error there (in the comments in the Auraicept) - mistaking m for in(ed), because i and n together in most manuscripts can be very easily confused with m due to proximity of the letter strokes.

The thing is that Gort means "field" and not "ivy". The latter is a misnomer of sorts.
I checked Prof McManus Guide to Ogam and the three sets of kennings in normalized* Old Irish for this letter (*without the middle Irish mutations on the words in the mediaeval manuscripts) all back up "field", the first two strongly so and the latter by poetic analogy if you assume a field of grass sates cows as their foodstuff.

Source Kenning Kenning Meaning
Bríatharogam Morainn : Milsiu féraib Sweetest grass
Briatharogam Mac ind Óc: Ined* erc** Suitable place for cows
Bríátharogam ConCulainn: Sásad ile Sating of multitudes

In working out McManus' derivations in the second kenning (which are not given in the book), I think inedis a scribal error or variant of inde which means "paddock" or "stable" and erc actually has a lot of meanings, but none adjectival in the sense of "abundant". It has meanings as a noun for various animals - it is applied to a type of cow, bees, a lizard, a speckled fish. So if one is taking inde erc as the normalized Old Irish, the image is "a paddock for cows" (or bees!)

In Old Irish mead is Mid and is either a masculine or neuter u-stem noun. If taken as neuter noun, this would give the nasalization on the following word erc, shown as nerc (as nasalization puts an n- before a word beginning with a vowel). But if it is a masculine u-stem (and by Middle Irish neuter nouns were reassigned to masculine or feminine as neuter gender was lost), then there would be no need for the nasalisation as masculine nouns don't do this in this case.The doubling of the c at the end of erc (ercc) is common when a consonant is in final position in words and the sound is -C not -G.

So in summary:
I think that med n-ercc is either an intentional wordplay or a mistake in transcription: reading m instead of in in 'ined'/'inde' in whatever manuscript the scribes were copying from, when writing the Auraicept. Such errors are quite common (eg. s and r are often mistaken because they look similar in Irish script, in and m are often mistaken, and so are u and a because of how they can be written in some scripts).

Given the name "Gort" is well known as field in all stages of ancient to Modern Irish language and still in present use as such, the ogham letter name is clear as 'field' and I think I'd go with the "paddock for cows" translation, as per McManus "a suitable place for cows",as a kenning for "field". rather than med n-ercc which doesn't really fit *unless anyone has a derviation for erc as abundance or plenty?)

But Old Irish/Middle Irish language aside, I have to say I like your image based on 'abundance of mead' due to the ample supply of honey from bees. That's a very nice conclusion for a poetic image derived from mead.

best regards

ps. loved the poem Susa!

Re: Ogham Studies - Gort (Ivy)

Posted: 14 Nov 2007, 13:44
by DaRC
Thanks Beith I thought it would draw out a great linguistic explanation :)

So the next question I have relates to the linking Gort with Ivy; is this effectively a modern (i.e. post 17th Cent) mis-translation?
In which case what is Ivy in Old Irish?
Is this common throughout our understanding of the Ogham?

I'm glad you like the poetic thought :grin:

Re: Ogham Studies - Gort (Ivy)

Posted: 15 Nov 2007, 11:49
by DaRC
HI Beith :blink: sheesh I'm denser than a blackthorn thicket sometimes... had a bit of an awen moment in the bath last night!

The whole mead - field - paddock thing; well I dunno about where you live but here in the Sussex Weald:
a Mead is a Field is a Paddock!
Indeed my home address has Mead rather than Street.
In modern parlance most people would use meadow but a lot of addresses here, particularly the council properties built in the post war period, refer to the name of the field or Mead where they were built. So my primary school address was Furners Mead.

Now the dictionary has mead from the Old English maed, the question is whether Old Irish has a similar meaning such that it could be used for kenning / wordplay.

Re: Ogham Studies - Gort (Ivy)

Posted: 15 Nov 2007, 15:01
by Beith
HI Dave!

LOL...I love those 'eureka!' moments ...alas they happen too infrequently. Maybe we need to spend more time in the bath! (err...not together! grin)

On your questions above:

(1) Eiden(n) (sometimes a second n is put at end of word) is IVY in Old Irish

(2) I don't think there is a word in Old or any later Irish that would derive the same meaning as meade/paddock/field as Mead the drink and the n-ercc is not an adjective meaning 'abundance' but rather a noun with a nasal mutation 'n-' on it. I'd think that it's more likely that the in of inde/ined was mistaken for m 'med' by the copying scribe, because this happens quite frequently and I come across it now and then in some of the manuscripts I'm currently working on, which have m's instead of in's (and s instead of r )-they look similar and so a slip of the eye when transcribing a word can make a big difference to the understanding of a line of text and ultimately you have to figure it out from context and affect on the following words. I haven't seen the text in the actual Book of Ballymote (in which the Auraicept na nÉces is copied) but I'm guessing that the scribes writing the BB in 1391 and copying from older source texts containing the 7th-8th C ogham tracts read m for 'in' as it's so easily done, especially as ink strokes fade a bit over time and make some closely written letters indistinct.

But! following your 'Eureka moment' , I was standing in the shower this morning (!) and thinking that maybe the 'ivy' of the manuscripts was a mediaeval misunderstanding of a more archaic word éit/ éiti which means a herd of cows. In middle Irish (9-12thC) they often replace the Old Irish t with d in some words due to changes in orthography. So I'm wondering whether éit/éiti may have been written in the original text which by the time of coping in 14th C could have been written as éidi/éide and the scribe misunderstood it for Old Irish Eiden 'ivy'? It's about the best possibility I can think of for word confusion of cows and ivy! Also the other kennings point to "field" and the word Gort is very well attested as field throughout all eras of Old, Middle, Classical and Modern Irish right into present day use, and is not used for ivy at all. Eiden is the word for that from Old Irish Eiden all the way into modern day Eidhneán.

Thanks for the discussion - it's so nice to get different ideas on things. If I do find anything that could give a wordplay for mead/paddock I'll come right back on it.

All the best!


(I guess there's something indeed about the filid's belief that inspiration comes when one is close to water. I'll have the rubber-ducky and loofah primed and ready for our next discussion! :grin: )

Re: Ogham Studies - Gort (Ivy)

Posted: 16 Nov 2007, 13:45
by DaRC
:hiya: Yes my missus often laughs at my suggestion that I was in deep meditation rather than sleeping in the bath

Re: Ogham Studies - Gort (Ivy)

Posted: 07 Dec 2010, 09:40
by Serpentia
Three years later... are you two still in the tub? :oops:

Ivy is a very common plant in Germany; we find it a lot in gardens, in cemetaries, along the roadside - it really is all over. You often find it covering complete walls of houses, sometimes with only the windows cut out of it. It is often found crawling up on trees and I wonder.. is that parasitic, symbiotic or neutral? There are some people who claim Ivy can kill the tree, and they pull it down. ... s_01_g.jpg

Then there is also the old story of Tristan and Isolde - in English, The legend of Tristan and Iseult, an influential romance and tragedy, retold in numerous sources with as many variations. The tragic story is of the adulterous love between the Cornish knight Tristan (Tristram) and the Irish princess Iseult (Isolde, Yseult, etc.). The narrative predates and most likely influenced the Arthurian romance of Lancelot and Guinevere, and has had a substantial impact on Western art, the idea of romantic love and literature since it first appeared in the 12th century. What does the Ivy have to do with them: one legend tells that the lovers were buried on opposite ends of the church, to separate them forever - and ivy grew on their graves, up over the eaves and roof of the church, where they came together again.

In old Greece Ivy was a symbol of cheer, power, and eternal youth. In Greek mythology, the maenads, female followers of Dionysus, would "dress in fawn skins and carry a thyrsus, a long stick wrapped in ivy or vine leaves and tipped by a cluster of leaves; they would weave ivy-wreaths around their heads, and often handle or wear snakes." Wild women and Ivy seem to go together well...

First Gawain, now Tristan.. seems like it's time to search for my knight in shining armor..


Re: Ogham Studies - Gort (Ivy)

Posted: 07 Dec 2010, 12:26
by DaRC
We'd be incredibly wrinkly if we were still in the tub and the water would be soooo cold! :huh:

Anyway the Ivy, around trees, is usually considered parasitic in that it does eventually (if uncontrolled) strangle the tree,
before that time it can be beneficial and the same is true of it clambering over buildings - it encourages wildlife, often protects the wall from the weather but it does need to be controlled and be careful when removing it as the suckers can pull down the mortar. It's main point of damage on buildings is prising open gaps in woodwork and pipes.

So you're looking for a hero (it reminds me of an 80's power ballad) :grin:

Re: Ogham Studies - Gort (Ivy)

Posted: 07 Dec 2010, 12:55
by Serpentia
Em, never mind... :whistle: sometimes I forego the truth for the sake of a good closing line. I've seen enough knights fall off their horses and turn out to be frogs for this lifetime around, I think I'll pass on the next one :oops:

And off she goes to see if that ivy is getting too big for the elderberry already..


Re: Ogham Studies - Gort (Ivy)

Posted: 09 Jan 2011, 00:36
by MiriamSPia ... 3008px.jpg

I actually thought of this other ivy. It turns out there are 12 types within the same genus. They have a number of qualities in common but the shape of the leaf, thickness of the vine, and character of the flowers are quite different between types.

This one is more familiar to me. I simply have experienced it more, as both a good and bad plant. The ivies make excellent ground covers where grass cannot handle the conditions, but the pine trees tend to drive them off more than the leaf bearing trees. I love how they climb and they make wonderful boundary plants except that they require tremendous maintaintence or they overgrow their planned locations and end up really all over the yard or in fact taking over and strangling a tree rather than simply adding beauty to some section of the garden. They are shallow plants and their runners are quite impressive. Once they take on the level, if you lose control of them, one can be hard pressed to stop their migration without having to till the whole bloody area - but that's not good either because they spring back if you leave much of them in the ground. I did put in 2 years with a spiritual gardener for wealthy people and thanks to that spent several hours at least once finding out that the ivy had in fact set runners two inches under the soil across ...well lets say it was only 45 feet beyond the 'outer boundary' of where it was supposed to be beautifying the lawn....Its incredible what can happen in just a few weeks of the growing season to a God...mutter mutter, druidry yes, oh my, insights galore...controlling these things, but I still love how hearty ivy is and like how it is on walls and that makes a nice ground cover when it isn't out of control. Persistent and lovely and hardy, yes. Ivy. :grin:

Hours later: I have seen both one of the English ivies, and one of the other type with which I am most familiar today. The weather in Dorverden is fine and I did pass oak with ivy attached, and beech used as hedge, and silver birch in yards and the soft pine trees, and some fir tree and sharp pines...but not the Scots pine. :old: