Pagan adaptations of original source material.

I love the work of Morgan Daimler and Mike Nichols who both published poetry from the Carmina Gadelica converted to a Neopagan version.  This makes sense to me.

What I don’t understand is why we have to change things that are already good.  The example I ran into just this morning is from the “Acallam na Senórach” when Patrick asks  Caílte what kept Fionn Mac Cumhaill’s warrior band going all those years.  His response  is “Fírinde inár croidhedhaibh & nertt inár lámhaibh, & comall inár tengthaibh.” which has been translated in variants: “truth in our hearts, strength of our arms, and constancy of our tongues” or  “truth in our hearts, strength of our arms, and fulfillment of our tongues”.

If you look for this phrase on the internet though you find it written as  “Strength in our arms, truth on our tongue, clarity in our heart” and yet there is no use of this version that I have been able to find in any translation of the AnS yet people cite that it is from the Fennian Cycle.  It’s not but I did find its source.  Turns out it was written by Seán ó Tuathail in 1993 as part of his Foclóir Draíochta – Dictionary of Druidism.   In it he reorganizes the phrase and puts it into Modern Irish as “Neart inár lámha, fírinne ar ár dteanga, glaine inár gcroí”.  Honestly, it is easier to understand than the various translations of the original but why not just clarify the original?

Three points to take away from this brief rant:  1) Why not use original phrases when they don’t contain obvious non-Pagan overtones 2) Be sure you know the source of something before citing it.  3) If you adapt something, cite it properly so we all know its origin.

As Abraham Lincoln said at his 1865 Inauguration Speech – “Just because it is on the internet!!  Does not make it true.”

3 thoughts on “Pagan adaptations of original source material.

  1. Ó Tuathail is increasingly frustrating to me. On the one hand, he did point the way toward some very important sources ("Cauldron of Poesy", for major example), and he did provide some of the first available translations of passages that scholars were ignoring (the roscanna he translated in "Excellence of Ancient Word", for example). Unfortunately, he couldn't keep his hands out of the source materials, and so there are repeated instances of his modifying the material to fit his own preconceptions. In "Foclóir Draíochta", I have been able to confirm most of what he wrote, or at least to see from what perspective he was coming, but there are entries in there which don't really fit into anything I can actually find (though, I should add, I can't find these things yet) in the language.

    What it comes down to, for me, is that his materials can't be taken at face value. One must closely examine the sources which he is drawing upon. In some cases, he may have set us on a wrong path from the outset, and so it is even more important to examine the original materials.

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