Sunday 28 February 2016


I am watching the reports on the Irish elections. From constituency to another, the scene is always the same. The representative of the election comity reads the results announcing that someone was elected to the Dáil Éireann (House of Deputies, Parliament) . Then you hear cheering and then the camera swings towards the camp of the successful candidate. There you see a lot of happy people, shouting and laughing. And then two of them would lift the proud new member of the Parliament on their shoulders and carry him around.

What is the root of this custom? Well it is simple really. If you are proud of something, you flaunt it, carry it around, show it off by carrying it around on yourself, wearing it. A rare and expensive item of clothing or jewelry or a rare and expensive gadget thus become status symbols, which distinguish you from the crowd. This is the ultimate example of a something that you carry around to show off: an engagement ring. I got him, I won...

If you are a soldier, you proudly wear uniform of your army and insignia of your unit and the flag of your clan, tribe or country. You proudly carry a good and expensive sword which is not easy to get by and you carry the heads or scalps of the dead enemies that you have killed using that sword or a medal saying that you have killed many enemies (much more practical). And you get to be carried on your comrade's shoulders:

If you are a sportsman you carry a laurel wreath on your head that says you were victorious or a medal or a trophy in a shape of cup or plate. You proudly wrap yourself in the flag of your country and carry it around. And you get to be carried on your supporter's shoulders:

If you are proud of a person, you carry him around on your shoulder. This was a treatment which is reserved for heroes and champions. Having a hero or a champion as a member of your family, clan or tribe becomes a status symbol which makes the family, clan or tribe look good. And what do you do with a status symbol? You carry it around, show it off by carrying it around.

In Serbian and in other South Slavic languages, the word for "to carry, to wear" is "nos". The word "nositi" means "to carry, to wear", "prinos = pri + nos = towards, to us + brings" means yield, "odnos = od + nos = from + brings" means relationship and so on. There is a whole cluster of words built around the root "nos" meaning to carry. And believe or not one of those words is the word for pride: "ponos =  po + nos" which literally means "something you carry on yourself, something you flaunt, something you carry with you to show off"... 

So the people above lifted and carried their political candidate, champion, warrior on their shoulders (po nos), because they, by getting elected, winning championship, killing enemies, became something to be proud of and because of that, something that you can carry around with pride (ponos) because it makes you look good to because you are part of the winning team, army, family, clan, tribe....

Cool, don't you think?

Have a look at another Serbian word built using the root "nos" to carry.  The word "nošnja" means costume, traditional dress, something you carry on yourself to mark yourself as a member of a family, clan, tribe. The traditional dress conveys the customs, manners and style of the tribe. It says this is "us" and we are proud of who "we" are. The most visible part of the traditional dress was always the head dress. No wonder then that caps, hats, helmets, hairstyles, feather dress were often used as symbols of identity which were worn (nos) as sign of clan, tribe, national pride (ponos).

Here as some examples of what I am talking about:

Phrigian cap:

Turkish fes:

Serbian šajkača:

Six nations feather gear:

There are many more examples of traditional clothing items which were used as a distinguishing marks and were worn to show pride of being part of a group. This custom of wearing what you are proud of is very strong even today. 

Wearing a football jersey or scarf of the football team you support is just such an example of carrying (nos) of what you are proud of (ponos).

The same goes for the GAA (Gaelic athletic association). Here the link between belonging to the old tribal supporter group and the new sports team supporter group is clearly visible. The teams are actually linked to a village (clan) and county (tribe) and the players still play dressed in tribal colors wearing tribal crests while the old war flags of their tribes (counties) are waving in the wind. 

If you are a member of a church or a cult, you proudly wear the symbol of your church to show everyone that you are a believer:

If you are a member of a political party, you proudly wear the symbols of the party to show that you belong to it and that you share their ideas:

Even if you are a punk, and you think you are different from anyone else, you are basically proudly wearing punk symbols which show that you are a member of a punk subculture. You also wear badges and symbols of the Punk bands that you are most proud of...


We wear (carry on our self) what we are proud of. And this link is preserved in South Slavic languages through the words "nos" meaning "to carry, to wear" and "ponos" meaning "pride" but literally meaning "to carry, wear on yourself". 

Now what is interesting is that in Irish the word "nós", from old Irish "nós", means custom; manner, style, tradition, fame, renown...

Wednesday 24 February 2016

St Bega

The village of St Bees is just south of St Bees Head, the most westerly point of Cumbria, 50 miles from the Scottish border. 

The name St Bees is a corruption of the Norse name for the village, which is given in the earliest charter of the Priory as "Kyrkeby becok", which can be translated as the "Church town of Bega". It's well known for the Norman St Bees Priory dating from 1120 dedicated to Saint Bega.  

Saint Bega was reputedly a saint of the Early Middle Ages. Her life was described in a medieval manuscript "The Life of St Bega", part of a collection of various English saints' lives that belonged to Holmcultram Abbey and is dated to the mid-13th century. According to this manuscript, she was a virtuous Irish princess who valued virginity. She was promised in marriage to a Viking prince who was "son of the king of Norway". On hearing this, Bega, fearing for her virginity, fled across the Irish sea to land at St. Bees on the Cumbrian coast. There she settled for a time, in a virgin cell which she built herself in a grove, leading a life of exemplary piety. Then, the Viking pirates started raiding the Cumbrian coast, and fearing (again) for her virginity, she moved over to Northumbria.

The place where she fled was Bassenthwaite, only a short distance away from St Bees peninsula, in the Lake District, where we find church dedicated to St. Bega. 

The Bassenthwaite church of St Bega's is located on the shores of Bassenthwaite Lake. Legends tell that St Bega settled at Bassenthwaite, and may indeed have been buried in this spot. The architectural history of the church offers more mystery. There are large, uneven stones in the north and east walls, which suggest a Roman building. In the interior, a simple, rounded chancel arch supported on thick pillars certainly suggests a pre-Norman date. The most likely foundation of the current building, then, is about 950, but it is possible that the current church was created on the foundations of a much earlier building. The large arch between the chancel and north aisle is 12th century, and a later 14th century arch is located in the nave. Sadly, Victorian restoration has done away with any earlier evidence that might illuminate the history of the church. The simple font at the west end of the nave dates to about 1300. Above the south doorway hangs a royal coat of arms dating to 1745. It was erected, we are told, after the rebellion of Bonnie Prince Charlie, and was meant to remind citizens of where their loyalties should lie.

When Saint Bega fled the Cumbrian coast and moved to Northumbria, she allegedly left behind her one worldly possession, a bracelet. The writer of the Life of Saint Bega relates that St Bega was given a bracelet in Ireland by a heavenly being. which she left behind in St Bees when she travelled to Northumberland. It was described as having a holy cross upon it, which fits a style of the 9th and 10th centuries. The bracelet is mentioned several times in the charters of St Bees Priory; one instance is in the middle of the 13th century, when an oath was taken by John of Hale "having touched the sacred things ... and upon the bracelet of St Bega". An account roll from as late as 1516/1517 records offerings of 67s. 9d to the bracelet of St Bega; so the cult and the relic were still a going concern at that late time.

The phraseology of the early charters indicates a pre-Norman church at St Bees dedicated to St Bega. At the granting of the first charter of the Benedictine priory one of the witnesses was Gillebecoc; meaning devotee of Beghoc, indicating a Bega cult already in existence when the Norman-era Priory was built in St. Bees in the 12th Century, around 1120. The remains of a 10th century high cross from the graveyard of the St. Bees church confirm that the Norman-era Priory was built on the site of an older church, pre Norman church. 

Cult or person?

Present day scholarship tends to treat St Bega not as a historical personage but a cult. As one scholar states; "The discovery of inconsistencies between these medieval texts, coupled with the significance attached to her jewellery (said to have been left in Cumbria on her departure for the north-east), now indicate that the abbess never existed. ... More plausible is the suggestion that St Bega was the personification of a Cumbrian cult centred on 'her' bracelet (Old English: beag)". The 1999 edition of the Dictionary of National Biography includes an article (by Professor Robert Bartlett) that treats St Bega as a mythical figure. A 1980 paper by John Todd offers a comprehensive review of the historical references to that date, including a discussion on her existence. He finishes with the words "We must search for the historical St Bega, not in the glorious years of the Northumbrian Kingdom, but the dark years of its fall. But our search may well be disappointed".

So cult or person?

I would suggest person, or even better persons. 

In Serbian we have this word cluster:

beg, begstvo, bijeg, bježanje, bižanje - escape, running away
begaj, bjež, biž - go away, run away, escape
begati, bežati, bižati - to escape, to run away
beganje, bežanje, bižanje - escaping, running away
bega, beži, biži - runs away
bega, pobegulja - the one (feminine) who ran away
beganija, bežanija - exodus, refuge
izbegati, izbegnuti, izbeći - avoid, to find refuge
odbegnuti, odbeći - to run away from
pobegnuti, pobeći - to escape, to be safe

So lets go back now to the legend about Saint Bega. She run away from Ireland and she was a refugee in Cumbria. She was the one who is on the run, which is in Serbian the one who "bega, beži, biži (beeži)". She landed on a peninsula which is now called Bees (beez) and the place where she originally lived was called Bega and Bees (beez).

Do you think that this is a Coincidence? Is it possible that the legend of Saint Bega actually records an exodus from Ireland of a group of people who ran away (bega, beži, biži) across the see to Cumbria? The question here is who in this scenario would have used the word "bega, beži, biži" to describe the refugees? Refugees themselves or the locals from Cumbria?

“Origin of the Anglo – Saxon race” is a book published in 1906 by Thomas William Shore, author of 'a history of Hampshire,' etc, Honorary secretary London and Middlesex archaeological society; honorary Organizing secretary of the Hampshire field club and Archaeological society. In it the author gives detailed analysis of the “Anglo Saxons”, and shows us that both Angles and Saxons were just terms used for complex federations of south Baltic Germanic, Norse and West Slavic tribes. He describes the late Iron Age and early medieval northern central Europe as a melting pot where future great nations of Franks, Angles, Saxons, Danes, Norse, Slavs, were being created from tribal federations of mixed Germanic and Slavic ethnic, linguistic and cultural origin. I presented all the parts regarding the Slavic tribes in my post about this book

If you read this post you will see that one of the tribes which comprised the Anglian confederation forces were Wends, and among them Sorbs, the Baltic Serbs. These same Serbs were also part of the later Danish Viking confederation forces which included a lot of South Baltic Slavs. I believe that later the Serbs were also part of the Norse forces which were a direct descendants of the Danish West Slavic Viking confederation. Serbs were always described as darker than the other Slavs, and the book "Origin of the Anglo-Saxon race" says this about them among the Angles and the Danes of the Early Medieval time:

"...This consideration of the probable origin of the great proportion of brunettes in two of the south midland counties of England leads us to that of the colour-names as surnames and place-names, which may probably have been derived from their origin settlers. For example, there is the common name Brown. This has been derived from the Anglo-Saxon brun, signifying brown. It is not reasonable to doubt that when our forefathers called a man Brun or Brown, they gave him this name as descriptive of his brown complexion. The probability that the brunettes were common is supported by the frequent references to persons named Brun in Anglo-Saxon literature. Brun was a name not confined to England in the Anglo-Saxon and later periods. On the contrary, we find that it was common name in ancient Germany. The typical place-name Bruninga-feld occurs in a charter of AEthelstan dated A. D. 938, `in loco qui Bruninga-feld dicitur.` Bruesham, hants, is mentioned in a charter of Edward `the Elder` about 900. Brunesford is another suggestive name. Bruman is mentioned as a personal name in Anglo-Saxon records of the eleventh century, and examples of the name Bruning are somewhat numerous in documents of the same period. At the present time old place-names, such as Braunschweig or Brunswick, are common in Germany. The custom of calling people by colour-names from their personal appearance, or places after them, was clearly not peculiar to our own country. It is probable that the name Brunswick was derived from the brown complexion of its original inhabitants. The map published by Ripley, based on the official ethnological survey of Germany, shows that parts of the country near Brunswick have a higher percentage of brunettes than the districts further north. Beddoe also made observations on a number of Brunswick peasantry, and records some remarkable facts relating to the proportion of brunettes among those who came under his observation.

The name Brunswick appears to be one of significance, and the Wendish names in that part of Germany, Wendeburg, Wendhausen,and Wenden, may be compared with the Buckinghamshire Domesday names Wendovre, Weneslai, and Wandene, and with Wenriga or Wenrige in hartfordshire. The probable connection of the Wends – some tribes of whom, such as the Sorbs, are known to have been dark – with parts of Germany near Brunswick, and with parts of Herts and Bucks, is shown by these names. Domesday Book tells us of huscarls in Buckinghamshire, and of people who bore such names as Suarting, Suiert, Suen, Suert, and Suiuard, among its land- owners, and it is difficult to avoid the conclusion that such names refer to people of dark complexions. Among the lahmens of Lincoln, a very Danish town, there were also apparently some so-called Danes of a dark complexion, for Domesday Book mentions Suartin, son of Gribold ; Suardine, son of Hardenut ; and Suartine Sortsbrand, son of Ulf.

In view of this, and the evidence relating to the use of the Anglo-Saxon word brun in English place-names,we are not, I think, justified in deciding that all English names which begin with brun, modernized into burn in many cases by the well-known shifting of the r sound, have been derived from burn, a bourn or stream, rather than from brun, brown. Such names as Bruninga-feld and Brunesham point to the opposite conclusion, that Brun in such names refers to people, probably so named from their complexions. If a large proportion of the settlers in the counties of Buckingham and Hertford were of a brown complexion, it is clear that they would have been less likely to have been called Brun or brown by their neighbours than brunettes would in other counties, where such a complexion may have been rarer, and consequently more likely to have attracted the notice of the people around them. It is not probable that people who were originally designated by the colour-names Brown, Black, Gray, or the like, gave themselves these names. They most likely received them from others.

The evidence concerning brown people in England during the Anglo-Saxon period which can be derived from the place-names Brun is supplemented by that supplied in at least some of the old place-names beginning with dun and duning. Dun is an Old English word denoting a colour partaking of brown and black, and where it occurs at the beginning of words in such a combination as Duningland, It is possible that it refers to brown people or their children, rather than to the Anglo-Celtic word dun, a hill or fortified place.

As regards the ancient brown race or races of North Europe, there can be no doubt of their existence in the south-east of Norway and in the east of Friesland. There can be no doubt about the important influence which the old Wendish race has had in the north-eastern parts of Germany in transmitting to their descendants a more brunette complexion than prevails among the people of Hanover, Holstein, and Westphalia, of more pure Teutonic descent. We cannot reasonably doubt that, in view of such a survival of brown people as we find at the present time in the provinces of North Holland, Drenthe and Overijssel, which form the hinterland of the ancient Frisian country, numerous brunettes must have come into England among the Frisians. It would be as unreasonable to doubt this as it would to think that during the Norwegian immigration into England all the brown people of Norway were precluded from leaving their country because they were brunettes, or that the Wends, who undoubtedly settled in England in considerable numbers, were none of them of a brunette type.
The survival of some people with broad heads and of a brown type in parts of Drenthe, Gelderland, and Overijssel appears unmistakable. They present a remarkable contrast in appearance to their Frisian neighbours, who are of a different complexion in regard to hair and skin, and are specially characterized as long-headed.

It was in Gelderland that ancient Thiel was situated, and the men of Thiel and those of Brune were apparently recognised as different people from the real Frisians, for in the later Anglo-Saxon laws relating to the sojourn of strangers within the City of London it is stated that `the men of the Emperor may lodge within the city wherever they please, except those of Tiesle and of Brune.

The consideration of the evidence that people of Brunette complexions were among the Anglo-Saxon settlers in England leads on to that of people of a still darker hue, the dark, black, or brown-black settlers. Probably there must have been some of these among the Anglo-Saxons, for we meet with the personal names Blacman, Blaecman, Blakeman, Blacaman, Blac`sunu, Blaecca, and Blachman, in various documents of the period. The same kind of evidence is met with among the oldest place-names. Blacmannebergh is mentioned in an Anglo-Saxon charter; Blachemanestone was the name of a place in Dorset, and Blachemenstone that of a place in Kent. Blacheshale and Blachenhale are Domesday names of places in Somerset, and Blachingelei occurs in the Domesday record of Surrey. The name Blachemone occurs in the Hertfordshire survey and Blachene in Lincoln. Among the earliest names of the same kind in the charters we find Blacanden in Hants and Blacandon in Dorset. The places called Blachemanestone in Dorset and Blachemenestone in Kent were on or quite close to the coast, a circumstance which points to the settlers having come to these places by water rather than to a survival of black people of the Celtic race having been left in them.
Among old place-names of the same kind in various counties, some of which are met with in later, but still old, records, we find Blakeney in Glouceatershire ; Blakeney in Norfolk; Blakenham in Suffolk; Blakemere, an ancient hamlet, and Blakesware, near Ware in Hertfordshire. This Hertford name is worthy of note in reference to what has been said concerning the brunettes in that county at the present time. Another circumstance connected with these names which it is desirable to remember is the absence of evidence to show that the Old English ever called any of the darker-complexioned Britons brown men or black men. Their name for them was Wealas. So far as I am aware, not a single instance occurs in which the Welsh are mentioned in any Anglo-Saxon document as black or brown people ; on the contrary, the Welsh annals mention black Vikings on the coast, as if they were men of unusual personal appearance.
There is another old word used by the Anglo-Saxons to denote black or brown-black – the word sweart. The personal names Stuart and Sueart may have been derived from this word, and may have originally denoted people of a darker-brown or black complexion. Some names of this kind are mentioned in the Domesday record of Buckinghamshire and Lincolnshire. These may be of Scandinavian origin, for the ekename or nickname Svarti is found in the Northern sagas. Halfden `the Black` was the name of a King of Norway who died in 863. The so-called black men of the Anglo-Saxon period probably included some of the darker Wendish people among them, immigrants or descendants of people of the same race as the ancestors of the Sorbs of Lausatia on the border of Saxony and Prussia at the present day.

Some of the darker Wends may well have been among the Black Vikings referred to in the Irish annals, as well as in those of Wales, and may have been the people who have left the Anglo-Saxon name Blavmanne-berghe, which occurs in one of the charters, Blachemenestone on the Kentish coast, and Blachemanstone on the Dorset coast. As late as the time of the Domesday Survey we meet with records of people apparently named after their dark complexions. In Buckinghamshire, blacheman, Suartinus, and othersare mentioned; in Sussex, one named Blac; in Suffolk, Blakeemannus and Saurtingus; and others at Lincoln. The invasion of the coast of the British Isles by Viking of a dark or brown complexion rests on historical evidence which is too circumstantial to admit of doubt. In the Irish annals the Black Vikings are called Dubh-Ghenti, or Black Gentiles. These Black Gentiles on some occasions fought against other plunderers of the Irish coasts known as the Fair Gentiles, who can hardly have been others than the fair Danes or Northmen. In the year 851 the Black Gentiles came to Athcliath – i.e., Dublin. In 852 we are told that eight ships of the Finn-Ghenti arrived and fought against the Dubh-Ghenti for three days, and that the Dubh-Ghenti were victorious. The black Vikings appear at this time to have had a settlement in or close to Dublin, and during the ninth century were much in evidence on the Irish coast. In 877 a great battle was fought at Loch-Cuan between them and the Fair Gentiles, in which Albann, Chief of the black Gentiles, fell. He may well have beena chieftain of the race of the Northern Sorbs of the Mecklenburg coast.

The Danes and Norse, having the general race characteristics of tall, fair men, must have been sharply distinguished in appearance from Vikings, such as those of Jomborg, for many of these were probably of a dark complexion. There is an interesting record of the descent of dark sea-rovers on the coast of North Wales in the `Annales Cambriae,` under the year 987, which tells us that Gothrit, son of Harald, with black men, devastated Anglesea, and captured two thousand men. Another entry in the same record tells us that Meredut redeemed the captives from the black men. This account in the Welsh annals receives some confirmation in the Sagas of the Norse kings, one of which tells us that Olav Trygvesson was for three years, 982-985, king in Vindland – i.e., Wendland – where he resided with his Queen, to whom he was much attached ; but on her death, whoses loss he greatly felt, he had no more pleasure in Vindland. He therefore provided himself with ships and went on a Viking expedition, first plundering Friesland and the coast all the way to Flanders. Thence he sailed to Northumberland, plundered its coast and those of Scotland, Man, Cumberland, and Bretland – i.e., Wales – during the years 985-988, calling himself a Russian under the name of Ode. From these two separate accounts there can be but little doubt, notwithstanding the differences in the names, of the descent on the coast of North Wales at this time of dark sea-rovers under a Scandinavian leader, and it is difficult to see who they were if not dark-complexioned Wends or other allies of the Norsemen. It is possible some of these dark Vikings may have been allies or mercenaries from the south of Europe, where the Norse made conquests..."

So at the time of the arrival of the Saint Bega to Cumbria, Dark Vikings, probably of Danish Slavic (Serbian) origin, were in Controll of Dublin, but they were at war with the White Vikings, probably of Norse origin. These Dark Vikings were also the ones who attacked Cumbria during the same period and Settled there as well. At the same time when these Dark Danish Slavic Vikings were in the East of Ireland and plundering Cumbria, Cumbria was part of the Angle kingdom which, according to the Origin of the Anglo-Saxon race, had a large Dark Wendish (Serbian) minority population.

This is what we can find in the history of Cumbria and Northumbria:

"At the end of the period of British history known as Roman Britain (c. A.D. 410) the inhabitants of Cumberland were Cumbric-speaking native "Romano-Britons" who were probably descendants of the Brigantes and Carvetii (sometimes considered to be a sub-tribe of the Brigantes) that the Roman Empire had conquered in about A.D. 85. Based on inscriptional evidence from the area, the Roman civitas of the Carvetii seems to have covered portions of Cumbria. The names "Cumbria", "Cymru" (the native Welsh name for Wales), "Cambria" (the medieval Latinization of Welsh Cymru) and "Cumberland" are derived from the name these people gave themselves, *kombroges in Brittonic, which originally meant 'compatriots'. During the Early Middle Ages Cumberland formed the core of the Brythonic kingdom of Rheged. By the end of the 7th century most of Cumberland had been incorporated into the Anglo-Saxon kingdom of Northumbria. The Kingdom of Northumbria was a medieval Anglian kingdom in what is now northern England and south-east Scotland, which subsequently became an earldom in a unified English kingdom. The name reflects the approximate southern limit to the kingdom's territory, the Humber estuary. In 867 Northumbria became the northern kingdom of the Danelaw, after its conquest by the brothers Halfdan Ragnarsson and Ivar the Boneless who installed an Englishman, Ecgberht, as a puppet king. Despite the pillaging of the kingdom, Viking rule brought lucrative trade to Northumbria, especially at their capital York. The kingdom passed between English, Norse and Norse-Gaelic kings until it was finally absorbed by King Eadred after the death of the last independent Northumbrian monarch, Erik Bloodaxe, in 954. After the English regained the territory of the former kingdom, Scots invasions reduced Northumbria to an earldom stretching from the Humber to the Tweed. Northumbria was disputed between the emerging kingdoms of England and Scotland. The land north of the Tweed was finally ceded to Scotland in 1018 as a result of the battle of Carham. Yorkshire and Northumberland were first mentioned as separate in the Anglo-Saxon Chronicle in 1065. In 1092 Cumberland was invaded by William II and incorporated into England."

So it is possible that the "Irish" princess which fled (bega) to Cumbria was one of the Dark Vikings (Wends, Serbs?) of Dublinia. It is also possible that she was a Gaelic princess from Leinster who fled the Viking invasion and who arrived to Anglian coast populated by the Dark Angles (Wends, Serbs?). It is also possible that it could have been both? Either one of these people could have used the word "bega, beži, biži" to describe someone who is escaping, running away, hiding, taking refuge. In this case the dialectic version "beži" of the word "bega" would have produced "bees" (originally pronounced "bez"). So bees would have been "bež", the place of refuge, and "bega" would have been the one who ran away to "bež", the place of refuge.

What is very interesting is that the Norman church of Saint Bega contains several grave stones and grave slabs with a "Serbian cross". 

This is a Serbian cross. It is an ancient symbol first time found among the Vinča symbols. It then inermittentnly pops out in Evroasia and Egypt throughout then next 7000 years until it finally appears on the Serbian medieval heraldry. It is still disputed what the meaning of the four arcs in the symbol is. I will dedicate a whole post to resolving this dispute (hopefully once and for all). 

This one is the symbol of Serbia, from Korenić-Neorić Armorial (1595). 

 And these are carved grave stones and grave slabs from the St Bees priory.

The above stone shows an elaborate version of a "Serbian cross", with at the centre, a six-petalled flower (Perunika, Perun's flower). The slab has been re-used at a later date and a much cruder design was superimposed.

The above stone also has a "Serbian cross", with looped objects, which have been identified as stirrups, in the two upper quadrants of the head centre. Below, a bowman stands on the left of the shaft, with on the right a sword. The bowman, has a quiver slung over his shoulder.

The above stone has a "Serbian cross" formed by four sunk quadrants within a circle, with a cross pate at the centre; on the left of the incised cross shaft is a clasped book, possibly signifying the Gospels. 

The above stone has a "Serbian cross" formed by four embossed arcs tied together to form a cross, with lozenge-shaped buds breaking the circle. On the right of the cross shaft, carved in relief within a sunk panel, is a sword. The stone is chamfered. 

The above stone has a "Serbian cross" formed by four embossed closed arcs tied together to form a cross, with lozenge-shaped buds breaking the circle. Sword on right of shaft, with down-curved quillons. 

The above stone has a cross formed by four overlaping embosed arcs. This is basically a deformed "Serbian cross". This is also a representation of a solar year which is confirmed by the fact that the cross shaft has an overlay with a small disc or ring, which symbolises a solar year, sun circle. 

This is an interesting "solar" cross built into the structure of the Norman church. I have no information what period this cross was dated to, but it definitely postdates the Norman church.

 Again you see the four arcs (formed by deep gouges) radiating from the center of the cross formed by the line connecting the five circles.

Coincidence? It is possible that whoever escaped from Ireland and settled in this area of Cumbria and Northumberland, whover was the "bega", used and venerated the "Serbian cross". It is therefore possible that the story about the misterious St Bega's bracelet is a misunderstanding of this old symbol by the later settlers who even called the crosses on the above stones "bracelet heads" and the misunderstanding stemmed from the fact that the old English word for bracelet was "beag". Curiously, this is not the only Norman Basilica which is linked to the "Serbian cross". More curiously the "Serbian cross" is found at the core of the oldest "Anglo-Saxon" crosses. And even more curiously, the "Serbian cross" is found at the core of the oldest "Celtic crosses", both in Britain and in Ireland. These oldest "Celtic crosses" were said to have been "stone coppies of much older wooden originals". Funny that wooden high crosses of both the so called "Serbian cross" type and "Celtic cross" type are found as village crosses in Serbia even today. So what is exactly going on here? I will write about all of this in my future posts.

Until the next time, have fun, stay happy :)

Tuesday 16 February 2016

Dún Ailinne

In my post about the etymology of the word Alps I talked about the Gaelic word "ail" meaning stone, rock, cliff. This post is about a place whose name is derived from the word "ail": Dun Ailinne.

Dún Ailinne is an ancient ceremonial site on the hill of Cnoc Ailinne in County Kildare, Ireland. It is southwest of Kilcullen, near the N78 road to Athy. 

The site is circular, about 13 ha (32 ac) in area, ringed by an earth bank and ditch (or "henge"). As with most henges, the ditch is on the inside, meaning that it was likely to have been symbolic rather than defensive. It is believed that Dún Ailinne was a royal centre and inaugural or ceremonial site for the Kings of Leinster. In terms of its ritual use, the internal structures and layout, and its location and association, is similar to the other royal sites of Tara, Navan Fort and Rathcroghan. Indications of earliest use are from the Neolithic period, but the main activity there was during the Iron Age. It does not seem to have been dwelt in year-round, but was instead mostly used for short-term activity, including ritual. It seems to have been occupied during the Spring/Summer months and there is evidence of cooking, which include a great deal of bone from cows, sheep, pigs, deer and horses. In 1968 a caesium magnetometer survey and a resistivity survey was undertaken that highlighted an area in the low mound, later revealed as areas of intense burning. A La Tène style sword and Roman bronze fibulae have also been found at the site. The artefacts suggested intense activity in the Iron Age and/or Early Medieval period that disturbed a Neolithic occupation phase. While it figures in some early historical references, Dún Ailinne was mostly abandoned about the time the nearby early Christian settlement at Old Kilcullen was established in the 6th century.

This is a drawing showing the results of the geophisical survey of the site. You can see various overlapping features dating to different time periods. 

The images below show a time-lapse sequence of the summer solstice sunset as observed from Dún Ailinne. You can see that the sun touches the top of the Dunmurry hill, and it then proceeds to slide down the side of it, until it finally disappears behind the hill.

What is interesting is that right in front of the Dunmurry hill lies the Long hill, an elongated hill aligned roughly East-West and orientated on a slight E-SE to W-NW axis. On top of that hill lies the Long hill cursus.

Cursus was a name given by early British archaeologists such as William Stukeley to the large parallel lengths of banks with external ditches which they thought were early Roman athletic courses, hence the Latin name cursus, meaning "course". Cursus monuments are now understood to be Neolithic structures and represent some of the oldest prehistoric monumental structures of the British Isles. Long hill Cursos is by some believed to be approximately 1.5km. long and almost 100m. wide, but it is more likely for it to have been just over a kilometre long and approximately 50 metres wide. The OSI map also records clusters of barrows at each end of the Cursus - Cluster 'E' at the W-NW end and Cluster 'F' at the E-SE end (Ref. Pádraig Clancy's study of the ancient monuments of the Curragh).

If we extend the side of the Dunmurry hill along which the sun slides on the eve of the Summer solstice, it touches the east - south east end of the Long hill cursus, while the vertical going through the top of the Dunmurry hill touches the west - north west end of the Long hill cursus.

It seems that the Long hill cursus was deliberately built to create the sacred triangle visible from the Dún Ailinne. In which case Dún Ailinne was not just any ceremonial site but a solar observatory and solar temple. I already wrote about ancient henge solar observatories and solar temples in my post about Henges - Rondel enclosures. The henge was dug to mark the solar observation circle and there was probably a tall stake or a tall standing stone standing somewhere inside the henge circle working as a gnomon. The shaddow cast by the gnomon stone at sunrise was used to determine the exact date. The fact the sun also performed the gliding, or rolling down the Dunmurry hill on the eve of the summer solstice, just made the Dún Ailinne more special. Is there a proof that there was once such a standing stone in Dún Ailinne? There is.

A verse in the Dindsenchas mentions how Dún Ailinne/Alend acquired its name:

Three mighty men made essays of trenchings,
Burech, Fiach, and Aururas:
it is they who without flagging (clear fact!)
dug the rampart of Alend.

Buirech cast from him straightway
across the rampart(no weakling he!) -
a stone he cast from his spear-arm;
and that is the ail in Alend.

This seems to suggest that Buirech placed the Ail (Stone) standing upright on a mound, inside the henge (trenching) that sat at the summit of the Cnoc Ailinne.

Today you will see three very large boulders on the summit, two look like limestone boulders (although it's possible they're both very weathered granite) and an elongated white granite boulder. John O'Donovan's survey of Dún Ailinne in 1837 records only "two rough mountain boulders of considerable size. One of these might be the Ail mentioned in the Dindseanchus as placed in the mound by the hero Buirech......". O'Donovan also records a scattering of stone debris on the summit which he interpreted as a "fort.......much effaced", but Estyn Evans suggests this scatter of stone and the large boulders may have been the remnants of a Neolithic/Early Bronze Age cairn. I would say that the scattering of stones and the remaining boulders are all parts of the original gigantic standing stone after which the Dún Ailinne got its name, and which was deliberately destroyed, possibly during the early Christianization of Ireland and maybe even later.

The images below show the large boulders that now sit on the summit of Dún Ailinne.There'sisible line of drill holes in the large elongated white granite boulder. You can clearly see weathering on one side,but the opposite side shows areas which look significantly fresher,which could suggest it was deliberately broken in recent times. Was this boulder part of a much larger monolith?

Is this what Dún Ailinne might have looked like once?

In Gaelic the word "dún" doesn't only mean military fortification. It means to shut, to close, to enclose, enclosure, fort, fortress, place of refuge, haven, haven for ships, residence, house, promontory fort, bluff...So any enclosed place probably including henge.

In Gaelic the word "ail" means stone, rock.

And in Gaelic the word "linn" means time, period, generation, course.

If there is a possibility that Dún Ailinne was once used as a solar observatory, solar calendar, with the central rock pillar (ail) inside of a henge (dún) and which was used to determine the day of the Summer solstice, the beginning of the solar year, the beginning of a new solar cycle, the new "time period" (linn) is it possible that the name Dún Ailinne actually means "The enclosure of the time stone", the solar calendar?

I would like to thank "bonedigger" for all his great work in exploring Irish megalithic sites and drawing public attention to their possible astronomical features. 

1. Dún Ailinne's Role in Folklore, Myth, and the Sacred Landscape
2. Dún Ailinne, Knockaulin Td and 2. Glebe North Td, Co. Kildare E79 - Unpublished excavations

Monday 15 February 2016


The Alps (Italian: Alpi; French: Alpes; German: Alpen; Slovene: Alpe) are the highest and most extensive mountain range system that lies entirely in Europe, stretching approximately 1,200 kilometers (750 mi) across eight Alpine countries: Austria, France, Germany, Italy, Liechtenstein, Monaco, Switzerland and Slovenia. 

But these are not the only Alps in Europe. In The Balkans we find Dinaric mountains known also as Dinaric Alps. This mountain range stretches along the Eastern Adriatic coast across Albania, Serbia, Montenegro, Bosnia, Croatia and Slovenia. The highest peaks of the whole range are in the southern end which lies in Montenegro, Serbia and Albania. 

The English word alps comes from the Latin alpes which comes from Latin albus ‎meaning white. Latin albus, is said to come from Proto-Italic *alβos meaning white.

The official etymology says that we don't really know where the original word comes from.

Basically we have two theories.

First theory proposes a Proto-Indo-European root for the word Alps. It says that the Proto-Italic *alβos is derived from Proto-Indo-European *h₂élbʰos, *álbʰos, *albʰós ‎meaning white. Cognates include Umbrian ‎alfu meaning white, Ancient Greek ἀλφός ‎(alphós) meaning whiteness, white leprosy and Hittite alpas meaning cloud.

Second theory proposes non-Indo-European origin. According to the English Etymological Dictionary, the Latin Alpes might possibly derive from a pre-Indo-European word *alb "hill, mountain". This theory then proceeds to propose that this supposed  pre-Indo-European word is the root of many Albania mountain areas: Balkan Albania, Caucasus Albania and Scottish Albania (Alban). 

I would like to propose another theory: The word Alps comes from Gaelic and means "white stones, white cliffs, white peaks".

The first clue that the word Alps could be of a Gaelic (Celtic) origin can be found in a comment made by Maurus Servius Honoratus, a late fourth-century and early fifth-century grammarian, who in his time had a reputation of being the most learned man of his generation in Italy. He said in his commentary on Virgil (A. X 13) that: "all high mountains are called Alpes by Celts".

The second clue is the fact that in Latin the word "albus" is used primarily to mean "white" that is dull or matte which would mean more grayish white than bright shining white.

The third clue is the fact that in Ancient Greek the word ἀλφός ‎(alphós) means whiteness, white leprosy, lichen white, again grayish white, not bright shining white.

The fourth clue is that the German word Alp or Alm (meaning "seasonal high mountain pasture", from Old High German alpa, alba) was originally identical to the name of the Alps (German Alpen) itself.

Have a look at these two pictures.

Alps (grayish white rocks towering over green high mountain pastures)

Dinaric mountains (Alps) (grayish white rocks towering over green high mountain pastures)

So what does this have to do with Gaelic?

In Gaelic we have this cluster based on the root word ail - stone, rock:

aill, -e, pl. id., and ailltreacha (Aran), f., a cliff, a rock; cf., an Áill, the "Naul" Co. Dublin (also faill, f., bárr na faille, the top of the cliff).
ailleort - high-rocked; from ail, rock
aill-bhruachach - having steep or rocky brinks. 
ailleadóir- cliff-climber.
ailbhinn - flint, precipice; from ail - rock.

From the same root ail - large stone, rock we have this word:

ailp, pl. alpa - a protuberance, a huge lump, a high mountain; a stout person

In Gaelic we also have this word:

bán - white which comes from Proto-Indo-European "bʰeh₂-" meaning - "white", "shining"

From these two words ail and bán we can make the construct: 

ail bán - alban - rock white - white rocks, white peaks, high mountains

What is also very interesting is that in Irish  the word "ailbh" means "flock, heard, drove".... Is this word derived from the fact that flocks, herds were driven up to the mountain pastures, ailban, alpen, alps, every summer? This is a high mountain pasture from Slovenian Alps.

In A.D. 875 Scotland was still known under its Roman name: Caledonia. Caledonia was in turn divided among the following lands: the Kingdom of Alban, the Northern Islands, and the Borders, which include the Kingdom of Strathclyde, Galloway, and the northern portions of the Kingdom of Northumbria. 

The kingdom of Alban lied mostly along the great Grampian Mountains. These are highland pastures lying under the great Grampian Mountains:

This is a picture of the highland pastures under the Matterhorn peak, Valais Alps, Switzerland.

Do you see any similarity? High pastures with grayish white rocky peaks?

Alba is the Scottish Gaelic name (Pronounced Alpa) for Scotland. It is cognate to Alba (gen. Albann, dat. Albainn) in Irish and Nalbin in Manx, the two other Goidelic Insular Celtic languages, as well as words in the Brythonic Insular Celtic languages of Cornish (Alban) and Welsh (Yr Alban) that also, in modern practice, are the Goidelic and Brythonic names for Scotland; although in the past they were names for Britain as a whole, related to the Brythonic name Albion. The term first appears in classical texts as Ἀλβίων Albíon or Ἀλουΐων Alouíon (in Ptolemy's writings in Greek), later as Albion in Latin documents. Historically, the term refers to Britain as a whole. Is this name derived from the appearance of the white cliff of Dover, which is the first thing anyone crossing the Channel and approaching Britain would see? So when Gaels first approached Britain, and they was the white cliffs, they would have probably named the land they were about to land on "ail bán" = white cliff land. And if later a Greek traveller crossing into britain asked the Gaelic speaking natives what was the name of this new land (pointing at the white cliffs), they would probably tell him "ail bán" = white cliff? And hey presto, we have a name for this new land of white cliffs...(Thank you Tim for pointing this to me)

Gaelic speakers in Scotland used Alba (dative Albainn, genitive Albann, now obsolete) as the name given to the former kingdom of the Picts which lied along the Great Grampian Mountains, which is full of white greyish white rocky peaks covered in snow. Did the name originally just mean "white peaks", "the land of white peaks"? Not too many of those in Ireland, so it must have been some sight for the invading Gaels. So a fitting name for the new foreign land...

In the High Medieval period Alban became re-Latinized as "Albania". This latter word was employed mainly by Celto-Latin writers, and most famously by Geoffrey of Monmouth. It was this word which passed into Middle English as Albany, although very rarely was this used for the Kingdom of Scotland, but rather for the notional Duchy of Albany.
So is Gaelic ail bán - Alban - rock white - white rocks the root of the word Alpen, Alp? What is the relationship of this phrase and the Latin albus, Ancient Greek ἀλφός ‎(alphós) and Hittite alpas? Are they related at all? Is the Gaelic phrase the root of all these other words? Or is all this just a coincidence?

Is it possible that by the early Iron Age, the expression "ail bán", or some of the dialectal versions of this expression, entered Ancient Greek and Latin from Gaelic, or some other dialect of Celtic languages, in the meaning of white cliffs, white rocks, white peaks? And is it possible that this is why Greeks and Romans named the region lying along the Greater Caucaus - Albania?

Caucasian Albania (Latin: Albānia, Greek: Ἀλβανία, Albanía, in Old Armenian: Աղուանք Ałuankʿ (Aguank), Parthian: Ardhan, Middle Persian: Arran; Georgian: რანი, Rani); is a name for the historical region of the eastern Caucasus, that existed on the territory of present-day republic of Azerbaijan (where both of its capitals were located) and partially southern Dagestan. The territory lies on the southern part of the Greater Caucasus range.

Caucasian mountains (grayish white rocks towering over green high mountain pastures)

-ia is a word-forming element in names of countries, diseases, flowers, from Latin and Greek -ia, which forms abstract nouns of feminine gender. In paraphernalia, Mammalia, etc. it represents the Latin and Greek plural suffix of nouns in -ium or -ion. 

So Albania is Alban + ia = ail + ban + ia = the land, country of white clifs, white peaks = Greater Caucasus

And it is the same with the Balkan Albania, which only appeared in records in Early Medieval time. The highest peaks of the Dinaric range are found in its southern part which lies in Montenegro, Serbia and Albania. Viewed from the coast, you see giant rocky peaks covered with snow looming over green pastures. So was Albania used here just as a name for the land of white cliffs, white peaks?

Let me know what you think about all this.