Friday, 5 April 2013
Ebb and Flow: The Moon in Gaelic Tradition
Whilst recording in Canna, Calum Maclean took down some interesting material on the 13th of December 1946 concerning the moon in Gaelic tradition from Angus MacDonald, styled Aonghas Eachainn, who resided in nearby Sanday:
Reothart nan Eun a chanas iad ris a’ reothart a bhios ann mu Fhéill Brìde. ’N uair a bhios e seachad faodaidh an t-eun nead a dhèanamh, ’n uair a dh’ fhalabhas e seo. Cha chuir a’ làn dragh air tuilleadh. Tha a’ ghealach a’ freagairst dha na làin gu léir, a’ dol a-mach is a tighinn a-staigh an t-soluist. ’N uair a bhios a’ ghealach ann an toiseach, a’ ghealach ùr a chanas iad rithe. Bhiodh iad a’ deànamh a-mach nach bu chòir dhut a bhith gun rud ’nad lamhan ’n uair a thigeadh i, ’n uair a chìtheadh tu i an toiseach. Bhiodh iad a’ creidsinn gun tigeadh atharrachadh sìde le gealach ùr. Bhiodh iad ag ràdha gum bitheadh an ath-sholust na’s fheàrr. An sin ’n uair a bhitheadh a’ ghealach a’ miadachadh, chanadh iad gun robh ceathramh dhe ’n ghealaich ann, agus an uair sin bhitheadh a’ ghealach làn. Bha i a’ tilleadh an uair sin. Chuala mi iad a’ toirst cunntais air Gealach Bhuidhe an Abaichidh. Bha iad ag ràdha gu fanadh a’ ghealach sin na’s fhaide slàn ’s a’ speur na gealach eile. Gealach Bhuidhe nam Broc a chanadh iad rithe cuideachd. Bhiodh iad a’ buain diasan bruidhe dhe ’n choirce airson “struan.” Bhiodh iad a’ gabhail beachd a robh a’ rionnag teann air a’ ghealaich na fada bhuaithe. Nam bitheadh a’ rionnag teann air a’ ghealach, cha chòrdadh e riutha idir. ’S e comharradh droch-shìde a bha siod. ’S e droch-chomharradh a bha ann buaile a bhith ma ’n a’ ghealaich. Droch-chomharradh a bha ann a’ ghealach fhaicinn is i a’ laighe air a druim. Cha chòrdadh a’ ghealach ruitha nam bitheadh i air a druim. Bhitheadh na cinn aice cho biorach. Bhiodh iad a’ gabhail beachd air a’ speur. Bha rionnagan ann ris an canadh iad an Grioglachan. Tha tòrr de rionnagan eile ann ris an canadh iad an Crann Treabhaidh. Tha rionnagan eile ann agus ’s e an t-Slat Thomhais a bheirte riutha. Trì rionnagan a th’ ann agus sin a’ “form” a’s a bheil iad. ’N uair a bhiodh iad a’ fiachainn ri eagal a chur air a’ chloinn ’n uair a bha iad a’ dol a-mach air an oidhche, bhiodh iad ag ràdha riutha gum beireadh Bodach na Gealaich orra.
And the translation goes something like this:
The Spring-tide of Birds is what they call the tide around St Bride’s day [1 February]. Once it is passed and gone, then the birds may build their nests. The tide wouldn’t then trouble them. The moon completely controls the tides, the ebbing and flowing is controlled by this light. When the moon appears at first, they call it the new moon. They make out that you shouldn’t be without something in your hands when it appears, when you see it at first. They believed that the appearance of the new moon would change the weather. They used to say that the next moon would be better. When the moon waxed, they would then call it the quarter moon, and then they’d call it the full moon. It would then come back again. I’ve heard an account of Gealach Bhuidhe an Abaichidh [The Yellow Harvest Moon]. They used to say that this moon would be fuller for longer than any other moon. They also used to call it the Yellow Moon of the Badgers. They used to harvest spikes of yellow corn to make struan [cakes] as well. They also used to take note of whether the moon had a star close to it or when it was further away. If the star was near around the moon then they wouldn’t like it at all for it was a sign of bad weather. It was a bad sign if the moon had a ring around it. It was also a bad sign if the moon was seen lying on her back. They didn’t like it at all if she [the moon] was seen lying on her back. Its rays would be so sharp. They used to take note of the sky. There was a constellation they called an Grioglachan [The Pleiades]. There was another large constellation they would call an Crann Treabhaidh [The Plough] and also another one they called an t-Slat Thomhais [The Ruler] which had three stars and that was their formation. When they tried to scare children when they were going out at night they would say to them that Bodach na Gealaich [The Old Man in the Moon] would catch them.
NFC 1029: 342–44; Courtesy of the National Folklore Collection / Cnuasach Bhéaloideas Éireann, University College Dublin.
A’ Ghealach Ùr / The New Moon