The second speaker on Thursday was Paul Gosling (GMIT) who presented a paper titled, ‘Wading in Drumly Waters: placing rivers and river-names in the Táin Bó Cúailnge.’ As always, if you were present and have anything to add to these, please do so in the comments section.
Discoveries are made on the edge of disciplines. (QOTD)
He began by giving a breakdown of rivers and river names mentioned in each edition of the Táin:
River Names Rivers
Windisch ’05 36 36
Dunn ’14 44 42
O’Rahilly ’67 32 32
O’Rahilly ’76 29 28
From this data, he decided to work with the idea of 44 rivers being mentioned in the TBC (Táin Bó Cúailnge), and those being 1 or 2 syllable names.
Paul’s interest is in the geography of the rivers. He mentioned that hitherto, place name studies have had a philological approach, focusing on structural patterns and role in the narrative, but infrequently as geographical and location information. This is of personal interest, since I feel strongly that sacred myths are seated within their landscape, with Place itself acting as an animating element.
Mary Hutton, Gene Haley, and Thomas Kinsella were mentioned as having done work on place names in the Tain, but have not received enough recognition.
A very intriguing mention was made of the ‘curative’ rivers, that seem to be part of the process of healing. A list of names is given, and it is stated that these were visited to ‘heal’ someone, yet no work has been done to determine what these names mean. Might they reveal details of a process that was undertaken for curative benefit?
Random note: a noun without an article gives the oldest stratum of name.
Meaningful to some; he outlined how the River Nith is NOT the River Dee, that the Colptha is the Ryland River, and that Bernas Bó Cuailnge is NOT the windy gap.
He also mentioned the fact that non-navigable rivers are more likely to have different names along the path of the river, while navigable rivers are likely to have the same name throughout the rivers course, from source to mouth.
A differentiation was made between ‘fording’ points and ‘bridging’ points, and the significance of fords, in general, was discussed. He mentioned that there have been no academic papers covering fords or wells in relation to geography, and this is an area of research that should be addressed.