28 December 2013

On the nature of Time

First, understand that time does not exist apart from the other three dimensions.

Einstein’s acceptance of time as a dimension of space-time along with height, length, and depth negates his own assertion that time is linear and that travel along it is possible in only one direction.  One can go up or down in the dimension of height.  Once can go forward or backward in the dimension of length.  One can go left or right in the dimension of width. 

Therefore, one should be able to go to the future and  to the past when the technology to do so becomes available.  However, I hypothesize that in either direction doing so will be like viewing a “Read Only” file in Word or similar programs.  In other words, one will be able to see both but to affect neither.

Time isn’t really linear; it’s circular.  With thosee other three dimensions of space-time, it’s actually spherical.  Therefore, from any single point in time, the future has already happened, and the past is still yet to be. 

The only point at which we can truly exist is the moment we are at right now; all others are past or future, gone away or yet to be.  But that one moment where we are now is the beginning, and the end, and every moment in between.  In other words, each and every moment we are alive, we are living at the moment of the Big Bang, the moment of Creation, in a manner of speaking.

Belief versus Faith

Belief defines.  Belief about God defines God.  Even the very word “God” defines.  The 19th century Irish poet Oscar Wilde quite correctly noted that “to define is to limit”.  Belief does not demonstrate faith but rather manifests its lack.  As definition, belief is an attempt to control and limit and set conditions on the Other in order to harness its power and influence for oneself. 

When a person asserts humility because of belief or belief because of humility, they are lying.  To themselves as well as to the receivers of their assertion, perhaps, but they are still lying and their subconscious almost certainly knows this.  So to have faith, one must first stop believing.  In anything.  To know is far better than to believe.

Knowledge is not belief, so do not get the two confused.  To put this difference into perspective, knowledge is the data gained from theory, which in science properly means a proposition has been tested several times over with the same or closely similar results.  Like Einstein’s Theories of Relativity, for instance, or Darwin’s Theory of Evolution. 

The proper name of the proposition with which Einstein, Darwin, and other scientists began to experiment until defining their theories is called a hypothesis, which is the “educated guess” of which the uneducated accuse a scientific theory of being because it threatens their beliefs, their attempts to control and limit and set conditions for the Other, their temporal power, their wealth, their service to their own avarice and ambition.

The sincere mystics of nearly all religions acknowledge that “nothing is higher than Allah”, as the story of the raggedy old man crashing the Caliph’s banquet puts it, and the flip side of that is that there is indeed a Nothing higher than “God”.  If there is such a Nothing to believe in, then there is nothing in which to believe. 

It is far better to admit “I do not know”, in essence the same as saying “I know nothing”, than it is to say “I believe”.  Because belief is definition.  Definition is the attempt to control.  Nothing cannot be defined and can therefore not be controlled. 

If you are truly to have faith, you must give up belief.  You must believe in nothing.  In Jesussy terms, you must give up your life in order to save it, so to speak.


26 December 2013

Quick note on O'Dugan and the Delbhna of Connacht

In the 14th century, Ui Maine chief ollamh and historian Seán Mór Ó Dubhagáin, or John O’Dugan, did Ireland and historians all over the world a great service with his topographical poems giving an account of the chiefs, most of whom were kings under early Irish law, and septs and territories of Ireland in the 11th century.  He preserved a picture Gaelic Ireland before the Conquest that would otherwise be lost.

Understandably with a work of this magnitude, he got a few details wrong and left several out, in this latter case many of his vacancies of information filled by historian John O’Hart in the 19th century.  O’Hart, however, preserved most of O’Dugan’s mistakes intact.

One of O’Dugan’s known mistakes was his placing of the O’Fahertys of Delbhna Cuile Fabhair in the territory of Muintir Fathaigh.  The territory so-named was actually that of the O’Faheys of Pobal Muintir Ui Fathaigh, a sept of Ui Maine, which, however, proved as obedient as the MacGregors to the Campbells of Argyll in Scotland.  Since O’Dugan left out the O’Faheys entirely, however, there was no conflict apparent to the less knowledgeable.  By the way, the proper name of the territory of the O’Fahertys was Muintir Faithartaigh. 

To cut O’Dugan some slack on this count, an early 12th century tract on the territory of Muintir Murchada, in whose domain the O’Fahertys were, gives the same name to their territory (Muintir Fathaigh), so O’Dugan could be forgiven that mistake had he also included the O’Faheys.  I suspect that omission was due to O’Dugan’s recognition of the contradiction and lack of desire to deal with it.  Since he was chief ollamh for the Ui Maine, he had to have been aware of their existence and the lack of their presence in his poem could only have been deliberate.

I believe O’Dugan also erred in ascribing the territories of Gno Mor (Gnomore) and Gno Beag (Gnobeg) to the MacConroys and O’Heynys.  This is probably an anachronism, and the more likely origin of the two territories lies in the division of the former territory of the Delbhna Tir Da Locha between the two sons of Brian na nOinseach O’Flaherty (Murrough and Gilleduff) in the mid-13th century. 

The poet, O’Dugan, composed his magnum opus in the mid-13th century, by which time the two territories had been defined for a century.  The lands in question lie between Loch Orbsen (Loch Corrib) and River Galway to the east and Kilkieran Bay to the west, with Loch Orbsen and the Partry Mountains to the north and Loch Lurgan (Galway Bay) to the south. 

That they were one territory under one ruler is evident from the death notice in the Annals of the Four Masters from 1142, that notes the death of the Mac Mheic Conraoi (the title of the chief of the MacConroys), who is called “lord” (or “king” in the original source) of Delbhna Tir Da Locha.  Then there is the holy well in the Rahoon parish townland of Knocknacarragh named Tobar Mac Conraoi lying midway between Barna and the town of Galway.  Since surnames were at the time of the notice only a recent innovation, the holy well probably dates from the same period, and its existence argues against the south of the afore-defined territory being split.

While the O’Heynys of O’Dugan were an influential family, they were probably not “of Gno Beag”.  Nor was their name properly “O’Heyny”, or “O’hAdhnaidh”.  That they possessed wide lands is not improbable if they were erenaghs of Ballynspiddal, where St. Enda of Aran had founded an abbey which had at least three daughter churches in the immediate area.  The name O’hAdhnaidh (“descendant of the wise one”) in that form seems to be a poetic invention of O’Dugan.  Other than in his poem and the writings of those who followed his lead, no record exists with the names O’hAdhnaidh or O’Heyny.  As erenaghs of Ballynspiddal, if so they were, the name would much more likely have been written O’hEannaidh (the Irish form of Enda is “Eanna”) and anglicized as O’Heaney.

The other major family of the Delbhna Tir Da Locha were the MacAneaves, from Mac Giolla na Naomh.  Clearly of clerical origin, these may have been erenaghs of Cloghmore, an abbey founded by St. Colmcille of Iona, or of Portnacrossan, the most likely site for the abbey founded by St. Cuimin Fada which became the chief church of the MacConroys.  The MacAneaves may have also functioned as brehons and dalaighs, though that is only speculation.


17 December 2013

Tripartite Eucharist and the Real Meaning of Communion

Sacred cows make the tastiest hamburger.” – Abbie Hoffman

While lay people and even most clergy in the Church use the terms Eucharist and Communion as if they were virtually interchangeable, this is not the case.  The word Eucharist derives from ancient Greek for “Thanksgiving” and refers most accurately to the central prayers of the service at which attendees partake of Communion, the actual wine and bread. 

I stress “wine” because despite the pretensions and self-delusions of a wide section of American Protestant fundamentalism, when it says “wine” in the Bible, it means WINE, and, in fact, wine that was usually two to three or even more times stronger than most wine these days.  So strong that those drinking it almost always diluted it with water before doing so. 

The anti-alcohol theme only arose as part of the American temperance movement of the 19th century, and among Christians is unique to the fundamentalist sect and its offshoots.  The proposition of Jesus and his disciples drinking nonalcoholic wine, or even its very existence, in the times in which the events in the gospels are set is a ludicrous myth.  Only someone with complete ignorance of the meteorological climate of Palestine, of science, of the process of fermentation, and of the practices of Judaism could believe that.

Theologians and liturgists refer to the central prayer, or set of prayers, of consecration as the Anaphora, and its parts have been more or less standardized since the 4th century, though there is some slight variation on the order and in the West prayers vary in wording according to the season.  In general, the order of an anaphora is this: Sursum corda, Preface, Sanctus, Benedictus, Post-Sanctus, Words of Institution, Anamnesis, Oblation, Epiclesis, Intercessions, Doxology.

The Sursum corda is a series of versicles and responses between celebrant and congregation at the opening of the anaphora.  The Sanctus and Benedictus are canticles.  The Anamnesis is the statement of remembrance of the sacrifice of Jesus.  The Epiclesis is the invocation of the Holy Spirit upon the bread and wine.

Before the 4th century, things were a bit less regular.

Holy Communion has been part of Church practice since the beginning, its significance altered, corrupted, twisted, and contorted out of all recognition the further away in time from the events which it is supposed to commemorate and the further away in culture from that in which the Church was born and incubated.  Its meaning has been given as anything from ritual symbolic cannibalism, to merely a memorial meal, to a magic ceremony which supernaturally transforms bread and wine into actual human flesh and actual human blood to make the cannibalism actual rather than merely symbolic, to a ritual in which communicants are able to have their god-cake and eat him/it too.

Out of the context in which the practice arose, the ritual and symbolism lost all real meaning, becoming inscrutable and seemingly magical.

When I first started thinking about this, I realized that perhaps one of the best ways to glimpse that lost past was to find the earliest liturgy possible.  One of the first suggestions for that which I came across was the Liturgy of St. James the Just.  He was the brother of Jesus who was bishop of Jerusalem and main ideological antagonist of Paul of Tarsus.  However, it was immediately apparent when I found a copy of the rite that the claims about it were seriously mistaken.

A better candidate, also from the East (the St. James liturgy is used by the Syriac churches), was the Liturgy of Addai and Mari, which lacks several of the key parts of modern anaphoras, such as there being no Anamnesis, no Words of Institution, and no Epiclesis.  This rite is also used by Syriac churches, both their Oriental Orthodox and Uniate versions.  Rome requires its Uniate churches to insert the Words of Institution into the anaphora of the liturgy so that the magical ritual will not be incomplete.

There is another, even better, candidate, from probably the early 3rd century of the Common Era (C.E.), that has nearly all parts of modern anaphoras, but before I get to that, I want to discuss what is perhaps the earliest set of Eucharistic prayers known.

One of the earliest works of the Christian Church is a catechistic tract titled The Teaching of the Twelve Apostles to the Heathen, but more commonly known as the Didache.  Probably written around 50 CE (some scholars date it later, to around the late first or early second century), it is older than most of the books of the New Testament, at least in the forms in which we have those.

Primarily an instructional treatise on Christian living and rites and some aspects of church government, it is organized into sixteen chapters.  For this essay, the most relevant chapters are 9 and 10, which begin with the phrase, “Concerning the Eucharist”.

First concerning the Cup, We give thanks to you, Father, for the holy vine of David your servant, which you made known to us through your servant Jesus; to you be glory forever.

And concerning the broken Bread: We give you thanks, Father, for the life and knowledge which you made known to us through your son Jesus. To you be glory forever.  
As this broken bread was scattered upon the mountains but was brought together and became one, so let your church be gathered together from the ends of the earth into your kingdom, for yours are the glory and the power through Jesus Christ forever.

But after you are satisfied with food, thus give thanks: We give thanks to you, holy Father, for making your holy name dwell in our hearts, and for the knowledge and faith and immortality which you have given us through Jesus your son. To you be glory forever. 
You, Lord Almighty, created all things for your name's sake, and gave all humanity food and drink for our enjoyment, that we might give thanks to you, but you have blessed us with spiritual food and drink and eternal light through your son. Above all we give thanks that you are mighty. To you be glory forever.
Remember, Lord, to deliver your church from all evil and to make it perfect in your love, and gather it together in holiness from the four winds to the kingdom which you have prepared for it. For yours are the power and the glory forever.
Let grace come and let this world pass away. Hosannah to the God of David. If anyone be holy, let them come! If anyone be not, let them repent: Maranatha, Amen.

No Words of Institution, no Anamnesis, nothing much that even remotely resembles any modern anaphora, other than the lack of the same in the Liturgy of Addai and Mari.  Most scholars studying the Didache have found themselves puzzled by the apparent reversal of the order of the blessing of bread and wine.  This is largely because they are looking at it out of its proper context, despite the fact that they have an explanation staring them in the face.

It was not until I attended services for a year at the local Conservative synagogue (Bnai Zion in Chattanooga) that I got it, and even then only after attending a First Shabbat dinner.

The ceremony began with the Sanctification of the meal over a cup of wine, with the rabbi saying the following, in Hebrew, of course:

Blessed are you, O Lord our God, King of the Universe, who create the fruit of the vineAmen.

The rabbi’s sanctification of his own cup sanctified those of all the attendees.

Next came the Benediction, pronounced over a loaf of bread, by which all the food to be eaten at the meal was blessed (though modern Jewish prayers exist for other foods):

Blessed are you, O Lord our God, King of the Universe, who bring forth bread from the earth.  Amen.

After the meal came the Thanksgiving, pronounced once again over a cup of wine:

Blessed are you, O Lord our God, King of the Universe, who sustain the entire universe with your goodness, grace, and mercy.  Blessed are you, O Lord, who sustain all.  Amen.

We give thanks  to  you, O Lord our God,  that you prepared for our fathers a good land and brought us out of Egypt, and gave to us the Covenant, Torah, and all the food we could want. 

Blessed are you, O Lord, for the land, and for the food.  Amen.

O Lord our God, have mercy upon Israel your people, upon Jerusalem your city, and upon that house that is called by your Name.  May you restore the kingdom of the house of David your Messiah to its rightful place.  Blessed are you O Lord our God, who build Jerusalem.  Amen.

May he who makes peace in the celestial heights create peace for us and for all Israel, and let us say, Amen.  Amen.

Blessed are you, O Lord our God, King of the Universe, who create the fruit of the vine.  Amen.

These prayers have existed and been used for more than two millennia, dating from well before the turn of the era.  That these were the prayers said by Jesus at the Last Supper before his pronouncements recorded in the gospels (and in the First Epistle of Paul to the Corinthians) was taken for granted by those of that time.

When the Eucharistic prayers of the Didache are viewed in their proper context, the solution to the seemingly odd reversal of the blessing of the bread and wine becomes obvious.  The text clearly states that the third prayer comes after the meal, which Jewish Christians and Gentiles familiar with Jewish practice knew was supposed to be pronounced over a cup of wine.

If one goes by the accounts of the Last Supper in the Gospel of Matthew and/or in the Gospel of Mark, both of which have only a blessing of bread then a blessing of wine, even this might not bring clarity.  However, read the account from the Gospel of Luke (22:17-20), which is what I mentioned earlier as the example staring scholars in the face:

And he took the cup, and gave thanks, and said, Take this, and divide it among you: For I say unto you, I will not drink of the fruit of the vine, until the kingdom of God be come

And he took bread, and when he had given thanks, he brake it, and gave to them, saying, This is my body, which is given for you: do this in the remembrance of me.

Likewise also after supper he took the cup, saying, This cup is that new Testament in my blood, which is shed for you.

Here in one of the Synoptic Gospels is the answer that could have explained for theologians what to them was the incomprehensible tripartite Eucharist in the Didache.

The text is from the 1599 edition of the Geneva Bible.  The “Authorized Version” published in 1611 is not, as many assume, the first complete translation of the Bible into English; that place belongs to the 1560 Geneva Bible translated by John Knox.  The only significant difference between that edition and the one in 1599, also by Knox, was the addition of footnotes throughout the whole book, well before the advent of the 20th century’s Scofield Reference Bible. 

Being of Calvinist origin, which favored congregational or presbyterian polity, Knox’s translation was deemed insufficiently supportive of the Episcopal government favored by the Court of James I of England.  Thus, despite its predecessor’s superior clarity and excellence, we got the “King James Version”, largely plagiarized from the Geneva Bible, but with select passages rewritten to show more support for Episcopal government and others rendered opaque by use of words and language archaic even then.

When fundamentalists and evangelicals vehemently condemn all other versions of the Christian Bible and uphold the KJV as the only true translation, they are in effect affirming the polity of the Anglican Communion and its branches.  As an Episcopalian, I have to say, “Thank you for your endorsement.”

The “Authorized Version”, by the way, along with the older Geneva Bible, included translations of the works recognized as sacred by the Roman and Eastern churches yet rejected as such (though still held to be inspired) by Protestant and Reformed leaders.  Therefore, those Bibles that lack the Apocrypha which nearly all the preachers from the Church’s fundamentalist and evangelical wings thump should be titled “King James Bible, Abridged Version”.

Getting back on topic, it is apparent from the Didache that early Christians partook of Communion during a meal, following the form inherited from its Jewish precedent, with a tripartite eucharist, or thanksgiving.  The predecessor of this kind of meal among Jews was called a chavurah (fraternal) meal; among Christians it came to be called an agape (unconditional divine love) meal.  That such was the case is also evident from Paul’s discussion of the “Lord’s supper” in the eleventh chapter of his First Epistle to the Cornithians (11:17-33).

One reason the concept of a tripartite eucharist may elude most theologians is that the Words of Institution in most modern anaphoras is based on this passage in 1 Cor. 11:23-26, again from the 1599 Geneva Bible:

 For I have received of the Lord that which I also have delivered unto you, to wit, That the Lord Jesus in the night when he was betrayed, took bread.  And when he had given thanks, he brake it, and said, Take, eat: this is my body, which is broken for you: this do ye in remembrance of me. After the same manner also he took the cup, when he had supped, saying, This cup is the New Testament in my blood: this do as oft as ye drink it, in remembrance of me.  For as often as ye shall eat this bread, and drink this cup, ye show the Lord’s death till he come.

Here, the Eucharist is only two-fold.  This, in spite of being in the middle of a discussion of “the Lord’s supper” in the context of a communal meal, possibly already being referred to as an agape meal, for which we have an account from the Didache of a threefold eucharist.  This part of the passage about “the Lord’s supper” may be a much later interpolation. 

Many textual analysts opine that the two letters of Paul of Tarsus to the church at Corinth in their present form have been mashed together from four originals, with possibly a fragment of a fifth added to the mix.  The earliest form in which we have these two letters comes from Marcion of Sinope, who brought to Rome in 140 CE the seven agreed-upon as genuine letters of Paul (Romans, 1 and 2 Corinthians, Galatians, Colossians, 1 Thessalonians, Philemon) along with an early version of what is now called the Gospel of Luke which he named the Gospel of the Lord.

Losing the initial cup of wine was Christians’ first step away from the foundation of Holy Communion in its journey from its original design of a shared communal meal eaten in homes inherited from a Jewish antecedent to what became for all intents and purposes magical rite of transformation of common elements into the body of a god at a sacrificial altar presided over by a priest to whom was ascribed the keys to the gates of heaven.

Now, these mystery aspects of Communion are not without antecedent themselves, not in Judaism but rather in the pagan Mystery Cults, many of which had stories of a dying and rising god similar to the later doctrines of Christianity.  The oldest of these was the cult of Osiris in Egypt.  His communion used beer and barley bread rather than wheat bread and wine.  After the conquests by Alexander and subsequently by Ptolemy, a new cult arose based on Osiris but in the form of a new syncretic god named Serapis.

Serapis derived from the merging of the Egyptian gods Osiris and Apis, but in Greek form, and was later further endowed with the healing aspects of the Greek god Asclepius.  There was a Serapeum, a shrine to Serapis, just outside of the walls of Jerusalem next to the Fortress Antonia in the time of Jesus; the Gospel of John places one of his miracles there.  Another Serapeum stood in the city of Samaria.

Other popular Mystery Cults of the last two centuries BCE and the first three centuries CE were of Dionysus, Attis, Adonis, and Mithras, but the list is hardly exhaustive.  And don’t just take my word for the similarity between Christianity and the Mystery Cults; the 2nd centuries Christian theologians Justin Martyr and Clement of Alexandria both discussed it in their writings.  Justin Martyr condemned the similarities as a trick of Satan.  Clement of Alexandria offered those same similarities as proof of the validity of Christianity in debate with pagan philosophers.

The anaphora in the late 2nd century/early 3rd century Apostolic Tradition, a work that has been often mistakenly ascribed to Hippolytus of Rome but more likely originated in the East of the empire, represents a midway point in the transition:

The Lord be with you.
And with your spirit.
Lift up your hearts.
We lift them up unto the Lord.
Let us give thanks to the Lord.
It is meet and right.

We give thanks to you God, through your beloved son Jesus Christ, whom you sent to us in former times as Savior, Redeemer, and Messenger of your Will, who is your inseparable Word,
through whom you made all, and in whom you were well-pleased, whom you sent from heaven into the womb of a virgin, who, being conceived within her, was made flesh, and appeared as your Son, born of the Holy Spirit and the virgin. It is he who, fulfilling your will and acquiring for you a holy people,extended his hands in suffering, in order to liberate from sufferings those who believe in you.

Who, when he was delivered to voluntary suffering, in order to dissolve death, and break the chains of the devil, and tread down hell, and bring the just to the light, and set the limit, and manifest the resurrection, taking the bread, and giving thanks to you, said, "Take, eat, for this is my body which is broken for you."  Likewise the chalice, saying, This is my blood which is shed for you. Whenever you do this, do this memory of me.

Therefore, remembering his death and resurrection, we offer to you the bread and the chalice, giving thanks to you, who made us worthy to stand before you and to serve as your priests.

And we pray that you would send your Holy Spirit to the oblation of your Holy Church. In their gathering together, give to all those who partake of your holy mysteries the fullness of the Holy Spirit, toward the strengthening of the faith in truth, that we may praise you and glorify you, through your son Jesus Christ, through whom to you be glory and honor, Father and Son, with the Holy Spirit, in your Holy Church, now and always, Amen.

In this we have nearly all the elements of the later anaphora that we have today, the notable exception being the lack of the Sanctus.  However, the text still contains elements that connect Communion to a meal, providing additional prayers for the sanctification of oil (presumably to dip bread in), of cheese, and of olives:

Sanctify this oil, O God, with which you anointed kings, priests and prophets, so as to grant health to them who use it and partake of it, that it may bestow comfort on all who taste it
and health on all who use it.  Glory to you, with Holy Spirit, in the holy church, both now and always and world without end.   Amen.

Sanctify this milk that has been united into one mass, and unite us to your love. Let your loving kindness ever rest upon this fruit of the olive, which is a type of your bounty, which you caused to flow from the tree unto life for them who hope in you.  Glory to you, with Holy Spirit, in the holy church, both now and always and world without end.   Amen.

Cheese and olives plus bread do not make a hearty meal, but who doesn’t enjoy a good wine and cheese party?  As for the oil, ancient Christians must’ve thought Jesus tasted better that way.

In addition, though the prayers are not included, the Apostolic Tradition prescribes that after receiving the bread the newly baptized be given water, then milk with honey, then the wine, which preserves the idea of a meal in smaller form.

Sometime between this and the 4th century, the meal aspects of the service disappeared entirely, leaving a rite that was only a shadow of its former self, hollowed out of any connection to its original meaning and intent.  From this we got silly practices such as parading around with a staff enshrining a piece of bread as if Christians worship food. 

Holy Communion is not about worshipping food.  The Real Presence has never been in there, but in the “two or more gathered in my name”, sharing a meal in love and fellowship, even if that meal is usually limited now to bread as a tasteless wafer and a tiny sip of wine.

APPENDIX:  The anaphora of Addai and Mari

In the Liturgy of Addai and Mari still used by Assyrian and Chaldean and some Thomasine Christians, the anaphora of dates back to 3rd century CE Edessa.  In its original form, presented here in English translation, it lacks the Words of Institution.  It is the oldest anaphora in use in all of Christendom.

The grace of our Lord Jesus Christ and the love of God the Father and the fellowship of
the Holy Spirit be with us all, now and at all times and forever and ever.  Amen.

V.  Let your hearts be on high.
R.  To thee, God of Abraham and of Isaac and of Israel, glorious King.
V.  The offering is being offered to God, the Lord of all.
R.  It is meet and right.

Worthy of glory from every mouth and thanksgiving from every tongue is the adorable and glorious Name of the Father and the Son and the Holy Spirit, who created the world in his grace and its inhabitants in his compassion, has redeemed mankind in his mercy, and has affected great grace towards mortals.

Your majesty, O Lord, a thousand  heavenly beings worship and myriad myriads of angels, hosts of spiritual beings, ministers of fire and spirit with cherubim and holy seraphim, glorify your name, crying out and glorifying, shouting and praising without ceasing and crying one to another and saying:

Holy holy holy Lord God of hosts heaven and earth are full of his praises.

And with these heavenly hosts we give thanks to you, o my Lord, even we your servants weak and frail and miserable, for that thou hast given us great grace past recompense in that thou didst put on our manhood that thou mightiest quicken it by thy godhead, and hast exalted our low estate and restored our fall and raised our mortality and forgiven our trespasses and justified our sinfulness and enlightened our knowledge and, o our Lord and our God, hast condemned our enemies and granted victory to the weakness of our frail nature in the overflowing mercies of thy grace.

Do thou, O my Lord, in thy many and unspeakable mercies make a good and acceptable memorial for all the just and righteous fathers who have been well-pleasing in thy sight, in the commemoration of the body and blood of thy Christ which we offer unto thee on thy pure and holy altar as thou hast taught us, and grant us thy tranquillity and thy peace all the days of the world.

Yea, O our Lord and our God, grant us thy tranquillity and thy peace all the days of the world that all the inhabitants of the earth may know thee that thou art the only true God the Father and that thou hast sent our Lord Jesus Christ thy Son and thy beloved. And he our Lord and our God came and in his life giving gospel taught us all the purity and holiness of the prophets and the apostles and the martyrs and the confessors and the bishops and the doctors and the presbyters and the deacons and all the children of the holy catholic church, even them that have been signed with the living sign of holy baptism.

And we also, O my Lord, thy weak and frail and miserable servants who are gathered together in thy name, both stand before thee at this time and have received the example which is from thee delivered unto us, rejoicing and praising and exalting and commemorating and celebrating this great and fearful and holy and life giving and divine mystery of the passion and the death and the burial and the resurrection of our Lord our Saviour Jesus Christ.

And may there come, o my Lord, thine Holy Spirit and rest upon this offering of thy servants and bless it and hallow it that it be to us, o my Lord, for the pardon of offences and the remission of sins and for the great hope of resurrection from the dead and for new life in the kingdom of heaven with all those who have been well pleasing in thy sight.

And for all this great and marvellous dispensation towards us we will give thee thanks and praise thee without ceasing in thy Church redeemed by the precious blood of thy Christ, with unclosed mouths and open faces lifting up praise and honour and confession and worship to thy living and holy and life giving name now and ever and world without end.  AMEN.


16 December 2013

That Hole (poem)

I never knew
About that hole
Until you filled
It up

I never felt
Its emptiness
Until you left
Again

In honour of Nelson Mandela

Mandela was not an unqualified hero, but what's more is that he never pretended to be.  What really made him a hero was that when he realized mistakes, he admitted them openly and was explicit about any change of direction.  Without him at the helm of the anti-apartheid forces when the old regime passed, South Africa would have descended into one of the bloodiest civil wars of the bloody 20th century.

This poem by William Henry Blake, his favorite, is the poem which got him through his 25 years in the tiny cell in which he was imprisoned.


INVICTUS
by William Ernest Henley
Out of the night that covers me,
Black as the Pit from pole to pole,
I thank whatever gods may be
For my unconquerable soul.

In the fell clutch of circumstance
I have not winced nor cried aloud.
Under the bludgeonings of chance
My head is bloody, but unbowed.

Beyond this place of wrath and tears
Looms but the Horror of the shade,
And yet the menace of the years
Finds, and shall find, me unafraid.

It matters not how strait the gate,
How charged with punishments the scroll.
I am the master of my fate:
I am the captain of my soul.




08 December 2013

A Brief Account of the Kingdoms of the O'Flahertys

I first became aware of the O’Flahertys while searching for the few scraps of information available about my own family, the MacConroys of Gnomore and Ballymaconry.  Being historically minded, I was of course fascinated by their story.  Their dynasty actually ruled two different kingdoms at two different epochs.  At first, all I wanted to do with this was to give the details of the 11th century tract regarding the retainers of Muintir Murchada in a manner that made comprehension easier.  Naturally, my distaste for presenting information out of context left me with little chance of not being long-winded, so to speak.

What follows here, then, is indeed an account of the information in that tract, preceded by a brief description of the dynasty’s history in the centuries leading up to that point and followed by a brief account of the family’s fortunes afterward.

Ui Briuin Seola & Muintir Murchada to the 12th century

The first notice in the annals of Ireland of chiefs of the dynasty which ultimately became the O’Flahertys of Iar Connacht was in the mid-7th century, long before the adoption of surnames and before they had moved into the territory for which they first became famous.  Cenn Faelad mac Colgan, chief of a sept of the Ui Briuin dynasty, which was then competing for dominance with the Ui Fiachrach that had displaced the previous Fir Ol nEchmachta rulers of Connacht, was high king of Connacht 668-682.  No member of his sept held the throne of Connacht again until the latter years of the 11th century.

The entry in question, dated 653, treats him as the chief retainer of Maenach mac Baethine of the Ui Briuin Magh nAi in battle against Marcan mac Toma of the Ui Fiachrach Aidne, the dynasty which at the time ruled Connacht.  The Ui Fiachrach Aidne and the Ui Briuin had been alternating in dominance since the 6th century; Loingseach mac Colmain of Ui Fiachrach Aidne was the current high king of Connacht.  The location of the battle, in which Marcan was killed, is given as “Iarthar Seola”, or “West (Magh) Seola”. 

Two things of note here: (1) this is the first mention of the sept in connection with the territory for which it later became known; and (2) the presence of the Ui Fiachrach Aidne in that region indicates that sept may have been overlords of its rulers, the Delbhna Cuile Fabhair, who later became subordinate kings of Cenn Faelad’s descendants.

Loingseach died in 655 and was succeeded by his brother, the famous Guaire Aidne, who ruled until 663, when he was succeeded by his son, Murchetach Nar.  Cenn Faelad must have been part of the derbhine of Ui Briuin Ai since he ascended to the throne of Cruachan in 668 when that sept regained dominance.

The next mention of the sept that ultimately became the O’Flahertys in the annals is the death of Donn mac Cumasgach, called king of the “southern Ui Briun”.  At this time, the territory almost certainly included the lands of the Conmaicne Cuile Tolad and the Conmaicne Dunmore but not the entirety of the southern territory they later controlled.  However, it may have included the actual geographic feature for which that kingdom became known because Magh Seola, the “plain of Seola”, lies in the modern townlands of Caltragh in the parish of Killower and the townlands of Caltragh and Carheeny in the parish of Belclare, both parishes adjacent to Dunmore.

Maelan mac Cathmogha, who died 848, is the first to be called “king of Magh Seola”.  It is from his son, Murchadh, that the dynasty acquired its sobriquet Muintir Murchada, which soon came to be used for their whole territory as well.  Although Roderic O’Flaherty indicates this was the name by which it was known among the sept, and probably its retainers, it never occurs in the comtemporary annals.

The patronymic “O’Flaithbheartach” (nominative) or “O’Flaithbheartaigh” (genitive) derives from a scion living in 970, not the head of the family but certainly of the derbhine.  Its first use in the annals came in the death notice of Muiredach Mor ua Flaithbheartach in 1034.

The title “king of Iarthair Connacht” first appears in the death notice of Urdach mac Muiredach in 945, but the title was not used regularly until Ruadhri O’Flaherty, who died in 1061.  Urdach, by the way, was grandfather to the later king of Thomond and of Munster who became High King of Ireland, the first real King of all Ireland, Brian Borumha.  His daughter Be Binn was wife to Cennetig mac Lorcain, Brian’s father.

Although the name Iar Connacht now applies to the modern baronies of Moycullen, Ballynahinch, Ross, and Aran, all west of Loch Orbsen (Loch Corrib), before it was restricted to the lands on the east of that lake, along with the authority of the O’Flahertys, at least as part of the title “kingof Iar Connacht” used in the annals.

In 1048, during the reign of Amhalgaidh mac Cathal as king of Magh Seola, the forces of the king of Connacht, Aed in Gai Bernaig of the Sil Murray (by then the dominant branch of Ui Briuin Ai), ransacked and destroyed to seat of the Muintir Murchada on Inish Loch Cime (now Lough Hackett).  This was the culmination of a conquest of Conmaicne Dunmore.  The next year, Aed moved his seat from Cruachan to Tuam, the parish of which straddles the modern baronies of Dunmore and Clare.

Aed, who later blinded Amhalgaidh to render him unfit for kingship, took these actions because of the rising power of his sept.  At around the same time, a sept of Sil Murray called Clann Taidg carved out a kingdom from the western territory of the Ui Maine subkingdom of Tir Soghain and the eastern territory of Muintir Murchada.  The latter involved the parishes of Monivea, Kilmoyan, Killererin, Athenry, and possibly part of Cummer, reducing the lands of Muintir Murchada even further.

The O’Flahertys remained a significant force in Connacht, however, and one of their own, Flaithbheartaigh ua Flaithbheartaig became king of Connacht in 1092 after blinding his predecessor, Ruadri O’Connor, in revenge for what had been done to Amhalgaidh, for which he himself was killed in 1098.

To the time of this chief of the O’Flahertys is assigned the tract known in Irish as “Crichaireacht cinedach nduchasa Muintiri Murchada” (in English, “A tract on the Connacht territory of Munitir Mhurchada”).  It is a unique document providing great insight into the workings of a regional Irish kingdom in the High Medieval period.


Muintir Murchada at the dawn of the 12th century

The septs and clans of Muintir Murchada (the territory) and their lands, the retainers of the O’Flahertys, at this time are listed below.  The references to townland and parish mean the modern ones.  The list is more or less north to south.  The names have been anglicized, either from already standard renderings or in versions I worked out myself.

The tract mentioned just above exists in three manuscripts, each differing slightly from the others, and I have used the two translations available to me, each of a different version: the one on Wikipedia, and the other from O’Flaherty’s work .

The O’Flahertys, known as Ui Flaithbheartaigh or Muintir Murchada and earlier as Ui Briuin Seola, were the kings of Iar Connacht, which then meant Muintir Murchada.  Their seat was at Inish Loch Cime (now Lough Hackett) in the center of the modern parish of Donaghpatrick.  Despite its location at the heart of the diocese of Donaghpatrick, governed from the abbey in the townland of Abbeytown, their patron saint was St. Fursey, founder of the abbey at Killursa.

The O’Morrollys were the chiefs of Muinn-in-radain, a name now obsolete meaning “Wood of the Good Road”.  The O’Morrollys were the chief stewards of the O’Flahertys.

The O’Donnells were the chiefs of Ardratha, a name now obsolete.  The O’Donnells were masters of the feast for the O’Flahertys.

The MacGilgannons were the chiefs of Moylislionn, a name now obsolete which means “Plain of the Ale-fort”.  The MacGilcannons were the masters of the horse for the O’Flahertys, meaning commanders of their cavalry.

The O’Mullawills were the erenaghs of Donaghpatrick (“Church of St. Patrick”), of the abbey in the townland of Abbeytown or the church in the townland of Donaghpatrick, but more likely of both.  The abbey was founded by St. Patrick, who left St. Felart as its first abbot.  The abbey was better known as Domnach Mor Seola, or “Great Church of Seola”, an indication of its importance.  Before the reforms of the 12th century, the abbey had a diocese attached to it of the amorphous kind that led to the those very reforms.  The O’Mullawills were also the brehons of Muintir Murchada.

The O’Mealeys were chiefs of Bogogi, a name now obsolete, as well as the erenaghs of Killamanagh and Kilnacoelan, both in the parish of Donaghpatrick.  Killamanagh means “Church of the Monks”, indicating a early abbey other than the one at Abbeytown.  Kilnacoelan means “Church of St. Coelan”.  That name is now obsolete, but was probably in the modern townland of Kildrum (“Church of the Hill”).

St. Coelan was a contemporary of Enda of Aran who had a monastery on the island of Ilaumgarraunmore in the territory of the Delbhna Tir Da Locha.  There was later a church there dedicated to him, and another in Connemara on the island of Croaghnakeela.

The O’Lenaghans were erenaghs of Kilkilvery.  The name Kilkilvery means “Church of St. Kilvery”, about whom nothing is known, except that he had an abbey and church named for him that later gave their name to the parish and the townland.

The O’Mullins were also erenaghs of Kilkilvery.  To have two families as erenaghs of a single territory was not an unusual occurrence where there were vast lands belonging to a church or abbey, or in this case, both. 

The O’Colgans were the chiefs of Ballycolgan, still the name of a townland in the parish of Kilkilvery.  The O’Colgans were the standard-bearers of the O’Flahertys.

The MacBeolans were the erenaghs of Killower (“Church of the Book”), and Keepers of the Black Bell of St. Patrick.  The “Book” in question was a gospel that Patrick carried with him on his missionary journey through the area.  The Black Bell is one of the most treasured relics associated with the chief patron saint of Ireland.  It later passed to MacGeraghtys of Ballinrobe, who used to take it to Croagh Patrick in Tir Umhall every Garland Sunday.  It is now at the National Museum in Dublin.

The O’Duans were the erenaghs of Killursa, probably of both the church and the abbey.  The name Killursa means “Church of St. Fursey”, the patron saint of the O’Flahertys.  St. Fursey later became the first Irish missionary among the pagan Saxons of East Anglia before relocating again to Gaul, where he died.  There was also a church dedicated to Fursey at Ballymacgibbon North in the modern parish of Cong.

The O’Daigens were the chiefs of Ardfintan, still the name of a townland in the parish of Killursa.  They were also stewards to the O’Donnells in their capacity as masters of the feast for the O’Flahertys.

The O’Codels were the chiefs of Ballycodil, a name now obsolete, but their territory was in the area of the parish of Killursa between Headford and Loch Orbsen.

The O’Mulloons were the chiefs of Ballymulloon, a name now obsolete, but their territory was in the area of the parish of Killursa between Headford and Loch Orbsen.

The MacKilkellys were the chiefs of Ceann Druim, Athacind, and Cahernacanally.  The name of the first is obsolete; the second is now the town of Headford in the parish of Kilkilvery; the third is still the name of a townland in the parish of Killursa.  The MacKilkellys were the shanachies (historians, poets, and genealogists) of the O’Flahertys.

The O’Cargises (“Leathcargais” in the tract) were the erenaghs of Rathhindile, which means “Fort of the Cattle”.  Probably the lands of the parish church of Cargin, which had to have been more substantial than previously thought for there to have been erenaghs in 1100.  The O’Cargises were keepers of the tithes for the O’Flahertys, i.e. treasurers.

The taxation records of church lands for Ireland in 1306, by which time it was the seat of the Archdeacon of Annaghdown, name the parish church of Cargin as Rathmyalid (according to Thomas Knox) or Rath-maolid (according to the British Public Records Office), both of which are probably corruptions for Rathhindile, which comes from the tract.

The O’Conloughts were the chiefs of Ballyconlought, still the name of a townland in the parish of Cargin.  The O’Conloughts were keepers of the bees for the O’Flahertys.

The O’Clercins were the chiefs of Rath Bhuidhbh, now rendered Rafwee, still the name of a townland in the parish of Killeany.  The patronym implies they were a clerical family, which is interesting because the Buidhbh in question was a king of the Daoine Sidhe.

The O’Duans were the chiefs of Clooneen, still the name of a townland in the parish of Killeany.  These O’Duans, a different sept from those of Killursa, were the house attendants of the O’Flahertys.

The MacFinnans were the coarbs of Kilcoona, of the monastery and of the church both in the townland of that name in the parish of the same name.  Kilcoona means “Church of St. Cuana”.

The O’Coragens were the chiefs of Beagh, still the name of a townland in the parish of Kilcoona.

The O’Caseys were the chiefs of Ballycasey, still the name of a townland in the parish of Kilcoona.

The O’Hanlys were the chiefs of Derry Ui Angli, later rebaned Kilroe (“Red Wood”), still a townland in the parish of Kilcoona.

The O’Kierans were the chiefs of Lischiaran (“Fort of Ciaran”), a name now obsolete but may been been in the parish of Annaghdown since the abbey there was actually founded by St. Ciaran of Clonmacnoise rather than St. Brendan of Clonfert.  The O’Kierans were stewards for the O’Donnells in their capacity as masters of the feast for the O’Flahertys.
           
The O’Lees were princes of Ui Briuin Seola, subordinate to Muintir Murchada, which had become its own dynasty like the O’Connors had done, leaving the MacGeraghtys as kings of Sil Murray.  The O’Lees were also the erenaghs of Annaghdown and medical ollamhs, or physicians, to the O’Flahertys.

The O’Fechins were chiefs under the O’Lees in Ui Briuin Seola.

The O’Balwins were chiefs under the O’Lees in Ui Briuin Seola.

The O’Duffs were chiefs under the O’Lees in Ui Briuin Seola.

The O’Maddens were chiefs under the O’Lees in Ui Briuin Seola.

The O’Callanans were the coarbs of Kilcahill, still a townland in the parish of Annaghdown.  The name Kilcahill means “Church of St. Cathal”.

The O’Dalys were chiefs of Ui Briuin Ratha, a substantial territory covering fourteen townlands.  Clearly another sept branched off of the Ui Briuin Ai, there is little genealogical information about them in historical sources.

The O’Kennedys were chiefs under the O’Dalys in Ui Briuin Ratha.

The O’Duins were chiefs under the O’Dalys in Ui Briuin Ratha.

The O’Innogs were the chiefs of Knockdoe, still a townland in the parish of Lackagh.

The O’Lynans were the chiefs of Lackagh, still the name of a townland as well as the parish.

The O’Canavans were the chiefs of Tobrined, a name now obsolete that represents the even older name of Tuath na dToibrineadh.  The O’Canavans were also physicians of Muintir Murchada as well as of Ui Ailella.

The O’Mulleenys were the erenaghs of Termon Ballycolu, a name now obsolete.  There is a townland of Ballyculloo, but it is in the parish of Kilcolgan in the barony of Dunkellin, well outside the area of Muintir Murchada, by this time part of the kingdom of Ui Fiachrach Aidne.

The O’Duaghs were chiefs of the Drums, possibly the area between Drumbaun and Drumgriffin in Annaghdown.

The O’Dagdas were also chiefs of the Drums, a words meaning “Hills”.

The O’Fahertys were kings of Delbhna Cuile Fabhair, Muintir Fathairaigh, and Fiodh Luaraigh, all three of which probably refer to the same tribe, another substantial territory covering fourteen townlands.  They were distant cousins to the Delbhna Tir Da Locha west of Loch Orbsen, whose kings were the MacConroys.  The O’Fahertys are the only chiefs of a tribe or sept referred to as kings in the tract, other than the O’Flahertys themselves.  Muintir Faithartaigh covered most of the parish of Claregalway.

In his great genealogical poem of topographical names, O’Dugan rendered the tribal name Muintir Fathairtaigh as “Muintir Fathaigh”, a mistake because that was the territory of the Delbhna Nuadat in Ui Maine, whose chiefs were the O’Fahys.  Of course, he left out that group entirely.  Unfortunately, MacFirbis and nearly every writer afterward has followed him.

The O’Hallorans were the chiefs of Clan Fearghail, which was the largest subordinate division of Muintir Murchada containing twenty-four townlands, and were the lead retainers of the O’Flahertys.  Their patronymic surname, “Ó hAllmhuráin” in Irish, means “stranger from far away”, so despite the contortionistiquely fictious pedigree they are given elsewhere in the grand Irish tradition of false pedigrees, their most like origin is Viking, probably Danish.  Clan Feargail covered part of the parish of Claregalway and all of the parish of Oranmore.

The O’Antuiles were the innkeepers of Clan Fearghail, responsible for providing room and board for travelers and temporary lodgers.  In ancient and medieval Ireland, this was a key responsibility, especially in such a crossroads as the territory in which they lay.
           
The O’Ferguses were the erenaghs of Roscam, the lands of the abbey and the church founded there by St. Patrick in the 5th century.

The O’Hugheses were the chiefs of Clan Cosgraigh, a territory that became the parish of Galway in which the medieval town arose.

The MacGowans were chiefs of Meadhraighe, which by this time was reduced to the area of the parish of Ballynacourty.

The MacCarneys were also chiefs of Meadhraighe, which had lost the parishes of Stradbally, Kilcolgan, Killeely, and Drumacoo to encroachment by the Ui Fiachrach Aidne.

The O’Talorans of Conmaicne Cuile Tolad, are not mentioned in the tract, nor are any of their own subject septs.  That indicates they were not vassals to Muintir Murchada at the time the tract was composed, either because they had not yet been conquered or because they were in a temporary state of independence.  There is little doubt, however, that they were subjects of the O’Flahertys soon after.

The MacConroys and the O’Heynys of Delbhna Tir Da Locha west of Loch Orbsen are not mentioned in the lists of O’Flahertys’ retainers either.  Even though they were probably already part of the nascent Diocese of Annaghdown, there is simply no account from any source that they were so subject.


Hereditary officers of the O’Flahertys:

All of these are noted in the entries for the chiefs of septs and retainers above, but to get a better idea of the staff needed for a mid-sized kingdom in early medieval Ireland, it might be helpful to see them in a separate list.

The MacKilkellys of Ceann Druim, Athacind, and Cahernacanally were the shanachies (historians, poets, and genealogists) of the O’Flahertys.

The O’Colgans of Ballycolgan were the standard-bearers of the O’Flahertys.

The O’Morrollys of Muinn-in-radain were the chief stewards of the O’Flahertys.

The O’Cargises of Rathhindile were the treasurers of the O’Flahertys.

These O’Duans of Clooneen were the house attendants of the O’Flahertys.

The O’Donnells of Ardratha were the masters of the feast for the O’Flahertys.  A “master of the feast” was the master of ceremonies at a banquet, which to an Irish lord was of great importance.  The ancient Greeks had a word for the office, “architriklinos”.

The O’Daigens of Ardfintan and the O’Kierans of Lischiaran were stewards for the O’Donnells in their capacity as masters of the feast.
           
The O’Conloughts of Ballyconlought were the bee-keepers for the O’Flahertys.

The MacGilcannons of Moylislionn were the commanders of cavalry for the O’Flahertys.

The O’Mullawills of Donaghpatrick were the brehons of Muintir Murchada.

The O’Lees of Annaghdown and the O’Canavans of Tobrined were physicians of Muintir Murchada; the O’Canavans were also physicians to Ui Ailella.

If you want to see the sources, check out the page on Wikipedia dealing with the tract and/or Hardiman’s Notes at the end of O’Flaherty’s A Chorographic Description…, where it begins at page 368.  You can find the book online by tying in the title and download the entire ebook for free from Googlebooks.com or archive.com.  The book and Wikipedia article are both listed in the sources at the end.


Ecclesiastical nobility of Muintir Murchada:

Reading the list above, one can’t help notice the seemingly extraordinary number of families with status deriving from ecclesiastical ties.  It is a graphic illustration of the influence, and the power, of the early Irish church, in large part due to the nature of Irish law.  Again, culling these into a separate list might give a better view of this.

The O’Callanans at Kilcahill were the coarbs of St. Cathal.

The MacFinnans at Kilcoona were the coarbs of St. Cuana.

The O’Lees were the erenaghs of Annaghdown.

The O’Mullawills were the erenaghs of Donaghpatrick.

The MacBeolains were the erenaghs of Killower and Keepers of the Black Bell of St. Patrick.

The O’Duans were the erenaghs of Killursa.

The O’Ferguses were the erenaghs of Roscam.

The O’Lenaghans and the O’Mullins were erenaghs of Kilkilvery.

The O’Cargis were the erenaghs of Rathhindile.

The O’Mealleys were the erenaghs of Kilmanagh and Kilnacoelan.

The O’Mulleenys were the erenaghs of Termon Ballycolu.


Church-related hereditary offices

Coarbs were the leading heirs of a particular saint.  If the saint founded several institutions, the only abbot designated as coarb would be the one at his or her chief abbey.

Erenaghs were the managers of the lands of an abbey and/or church.  Like the office of coarb, this too became hereditary.  While the existence of a coarb definitely implied a present or former abbey, this is not necessarily the case with an erenagh.


Irish territorial divisions

Simplistically put, modern Ireland is divided into thirty-two counties.  Each county is divided into several baronies.  Each barony is divided into four to seven parishes.  Each parish is divided into an average of thirty townlands.  Theoretically, anyway.

In reality, many parishes are split between baronies, because parishes originated with the ecclesiastical reforms of the 12th century while baronies were laid out in the Late Middle Age to serve the needs of English administration.  A few of the baronies have lands in two or more counties.  Some parishes—Claregalway, Athenry, Ballinchalla—have lands in two baronies; the parish of Ballinrobe has or had lands in three baronies (Ross, Kilmaine, and Carra) and two counties (Galway and Mayo).

The modern townlands of Ireland were defined in the 16th century, and since then many have subdivided, others disappeared, some newly created.  These were much smaller units than the townlands mentioned in the Muintir Murchada tract and are roughly equivalent to the ancient ballyboes (from the Irish “baile bo”, meaning “cow place).  Ballyboes were subdivisions of the basic territorial unit, the ballybetagh, or baile biatagh, meaning “victualler’s place”.  Each ballybetagh represented the territory of an Irish sept, and was composed of anywhere between eight and sixteen ballyboes.  Where the text of the Muintir Murchada tract mentions townlands, this is the unit to which it is referring.

Thomas Larcom, director of the Ordnance Survey in the 1840’s, developed this table to describe how land was divided up in Ireland as it was standardized in the 11th and 12th centuries.

            10 acres = 1 gneeve
            2 gneeves = 1 sessiagh
            3 sessiaghs = 1 ballyboe
            2 ballyboes = 1 carrow, or seisreagh (i.e., “ploughland”)
            4 carrows = 1 ballybetagh (or “townland”)
            30 ballybetaghs = 1 triocha cet

These measurements were not hard and fast, and there was considerable variation in both size and nomenclature across the island, but this meant the average.

As previously mentioned, parishes were based largely on tuath, or septs, or tribes.  The ideal was one parish per tuath, but often there were two or more, depending on the size of the tuath.

The triocha cet mostly served a military function, being the area of land from which 3000 warriors could be raised.  Later, these served most of the basis for the baronies instituted by the London government.


Later fortunes of the O’Flahertys

For Muintir Murchada, the 12th century was dominated by war with the O’Briens, with some trouble from their sometimes allies, sometimes enemies at Tuam, the O’Connor king of Connacht.  This futile conflict involved major invasions and counter-invasions in the years 1117, 1132, 1137, 1145, and 1150, possibly more, in which the O’Briens and the forces of Thomond thoroughly ravaged Connacht at least four times.

In another arena, the Synod of Rathbreasail in 1118 recognized the dioceses of Tuam based in the religious center of their O’Connor rivals as well as the Diocese of Cong to the north, but failed to do so in the case of the O’Flahertys’ own Diocese of Annaghdown.  The spurned diocese did not meekly cease to function, however.

That same year, Ruadri O’Connor, king of Connacht, died, and his place was taken by Turlough O’Connor, destined to become the greatest High King of Ireland of all time other than Brian Borumha.  One of his fist steps was to curb the power of the O’Flahertys, who had apparently been pushing north, casting them out of Conmaicne Cuile Tolad as well as re-establishing a second regal residence at Cong.

In 1124, in response to the troubles with the O’Briens, the O’Flahertys built a castle at the mouth of the River Galway, which in time acquired its own hamlet, then village.  This settlement was the basis for the medieval town of Galway.  It was destroyed twice during the wars.  Meanwhile, to the north, the O’Connor built a castle at Shrule at the border between Muintir Murchada and Conmaicne Cuile Tolad as a check on the O’Flahertys.

These internecine wars over petty causes continued throughout the century until the arrival of the Cambro-Normans in 1169, followed by that of the Anglo-Normans in 1172, gave them bigger things to worry about.  As well as new potential allies to turn against each other.

Prior to those events, the Synod of Kells in 1152 raised the see of Tuam to an archdiocese, the seat of the province of Connacht, but again did not recognize the Diocese of Annaghdown, even though the Diocese of Cong was converted into the Deanery of Shrule.

When the English first invaded Connacht in 1777, they ended up fleeing prior the arrival of a united force of Connacht and Munster warriors who had been called up against them.

Two years later, in 1179, the Diocese of Annaghdown finally received acceptance as one of the dioceses of the province of Connacht.

In 1225, Henry III ordered the Lord Lieutenant of Ireland to deliver the province of Connacht into the hands of Richard de Burgo, ancestor of the Clanrickard and MacWilliam Burkes.  With the help of the O’Connors, the English forced the O’Flahertys to leave several of their castles, including the ones on Loch Orbsen and the one at Galway.  However, the latter remained in Castle Galway east of the lake for another decade.  The O’Flahertys were finally forced to yield, after which they removed west across Loch Orbsen.

The Burkes and their allies proceeded to cover Muintir Murchada and nearby territories with castles to prevent their return.  Their territory, known as Clanrickard, took in the later baronies of Clare, Dunkellin, Athenry, Loughrea, Kiltartan, and Leitrim; in effect, all the lands previously belonging to Muintir Murchada and Ui Fiachrach Aidne and part of that held by Ui Maine.

In their new home

To the immediate west of the lake, south of the Party Mountains between Loch Orbsen and Kilkieran Bay, the MacConroys ruled Delbhna Tir Da Locha based in Kilcummin (now the townland of Lemonfield) in the north, while a junior sept of the tribe, the O’Heaneys were the erenaghs of Spiddal, and possibly also of Cloghmore, in the south.  Another family, the MacAneaves, were (possibly) erenaghs of Portnacrossan, and may have served as brehons for all Delbhna Tir Da Locha..

O’Dugan’s topographical poem of the mid-14th century assigns the territory of Gno Mor (Gnomore) to the MacConroys and that of Gno Beag to the O’Heaneys, but this is probably an anachronism well over a century since the Delbhna Tir Da Locha occupied the country.  When the annals note the death of the chief of the MacConroys in 1142, they call him “king of Delbhna Tir Da Locha”, not “of Gnomore”.  The more likely source of those territories is below.

In the mountains to their north, a country then known as Ui Orbsen, lived the Partraige an-t Sliebh, who were previously ruled by a sept of the Conmaicne Cuile Tolad and may have still been at that time.  Their chiefs were the O’Kynes.

West of Kilkieran Bay to the Atlantic Ocean, with their territory between Tir Umhall and the Partry Mountains in the north and Loch Lurgan in the south, were the Conmaicne Mara, whose chiefs were the O’Cadhlas, or O’Kealys.  Their subordinate septs were the MacConneelys, the O’Devaneys, the O’Clohertys, and the O’Falons, the last serving as the brehons and dalaighs for Conmaicne Mara.

When the O’Flahertys came west, they brought with them the O’Hallorans, the O’Lees, the O’Duans of Killursa, the O’Canavans, and the O’Donnells, possibly others.

The chief, Hugh Mor, settled at Ballynahinch in the territory of the Conmaicne Mara, and from him come the western O’Flahertys.  Their line, the senior branch whose chief held the titles of The O’Flaherty and king of Iar Connacht, became known as Sliocht Eoghain.  The western branch spawned the septs of the MacDermotts, the O’Connors, the MacHughes, and the MacDonoughs.

Hugh Mor’s brother, Brian na nOinseach O’Flaherty, took over the territory of the Delbhna Tir Da Locha.  His sons split the territory between them, Murrough, the eldest, taking Gnomore while the younger, Gilleduff, took Gnobeg.  This was probably when those names came into existence, and O’Dugan assumed they had always been there.  Their septs were called Sliocht Murchaidh and Sliocht Giolla Duibh, respectively

As for their followers, the O’Duans erstwhile of Killursa resettled in Renvyle.  The O’Lees at first lived along the western shores of Loch Orbsen until mid-century, when the Burkes seized the shores along that side of the lake to stop raids by the O’Flahertys and they were forced to relocate to Renvyle with the O’Duans.  The O’Hallorans settled both Gno Mor and Gno Beg, and later Renvyle also.  The O’Canavans and the O’Donnells also made their homes among the eastern O’Flahertys between Loch Orbsen and Kilkieran Bay.

If the newcomers offered any resistance to the takeover of their country, no record survives; the gentry and many of their followers removed elsewhere.  Most of the MacConroys headed west with a sizable contingent to establish themselves in the land between Mannin and Streamstown Bays, giving the name Ballymaconry to that whole region.  A smaller group sailed south across Loch Lurgan and settled its shores in the parish of Drumcreehy among the Corco Mruad in Thomond, the territory of the O’Briens, giving their name to Ballyconry there.

The O’Heaneys went the same direction, at first inhabiting the Cleggan and Renvyle Peninsulas, later heading east across River Galway to settle next to their distant cousins in Claregalway, the O’Fahertys of Delbhna Cuile Fabhair, where they became loyal retainers of the Clanrickard Burkes.

Of the Conmaicne Mara, only the sept of the chiefs, the O’Kealys, are known to have removed elsewhere, going east and north to Ui Orbsen.  The MacConneelys definitely stayed, and so did the O’Falons, who continued to serve as brehons to the western O’Flahertys until ancient Irish law was abolished in Iar Connacht (as well as in Tir Umhall) in 1625.

After the O’Flahertys’ seizure of the area for resettlement, the name Iar Connacht became restricted in meaning to these territories, despite the fact that in the earliest mentions of the annals it referred to the entire geographic area, also including not just Muintir Murchada but Tir Umhall (the baronies of Burrishoole and Murrisk in Co. Mayo) as well.

The village of Galway around the castle became the Town of Galway, which eventually gained its dependence from the by-then Gaelicized Burkes of Clanrickard.  Its fourteen ruling families, known as the Tribes of Galway, never played a part in local affairs, keeping to themselves, speaking English and governing themselves by English law.

Around the year 1283, Thomas de Joys, a Cambro-Norman knight fleeing from the aftermath of a failed rebellion in Wales, landed in Iar Connacht after pausing for a while in Thomond where he married an O’Brien daughter.  The O’Flaherty gave him Ui Orbsen in exchange for an oath of fealty, and the area became known as Joyce Country from that time.  The marriage of his son to an O’Flaherty daughter added most of what is now the parish of Ballynakill to the territory.

Going native, with one important exception, the Joyces adopted Irish patronyms, their chiefs becoming the MacThomases and their cadets the MacTybods.  The exception was a branch of the family that kept the name Joyce and became one of the Tribes of Galway.

The O’Kealys of Conmaicne Mara, who had relocated to Ui Orbsen to escape the O’Flahertys, found their new overlords much more agreeable.

In the early 14th century, the western O’Flahertys granted Omey Island just west of Ballymaconry (Kingstown) Peninsula to a group of O’Tooles fleeing fratricidal warfare in their native Leinster.  Later in the century, some of the Fitzhenrys of Co. Wexford settled in Gnomore as vassals of Sliocht Murchaidh, where they became known as the MacHenrys

The O’Flahertys did regain control of the western shores of Loch Orbsen not long after they were taken, and even became masters of the lake again, though that was often challenged by the Burkes and the Joyces.  By the mid-14th century, they had even regained some lands along the eastern side of the lake, at least in Annaghdown, where they built the castle of that name about this time in addition to its cathedral.

This then was the kingdom of the O’Flahertys after they were forced to move their seat west of Loch Orbsen.  From here they played little part in the affairs of the national scene.  Much of their times was spent fighting the Burkes, the Joyces, the O’Malleys of Tir Umhall, or the MacTeige O’Briens of the Aran Islands.  Their favorite foes, however, were each other, usually the eastern O’Flahertys fighting the western O’Flahertys, but the O’Flahertys of Gnomore and the O’Flahertys of Gnobeg were bitter rivals of each other also.

In 1582, they added the Aran Islands to Iar Connacht after invading the Inishmore and expelling the MacTeige O’Briens.

In the Indenture of Composition of 1585 for “O’Flaherty’s Country”, besides the heads of the various branches of the eastern and western O’Flahertys, only five chiefs of name are listed:  MacThomas, O’Halloran, MacConroy (the name given as “McEnry”), MacDonough, and MacConnor, the last two being septs branched off of the western O’Flahertys.  There are seven other persons mentioned, but only as individual “gentlemen”, absentee freeholders of the Tribes of Galway living inside the walls.

The same indenture created the barony of Moycullen from Gnomore and Gnobeg, the barony of Ballynahinch from Connemara, the barony of Ross from Joyce Country, and the barony of Aran from the islands.

An Inquisition in the barony of Ballynahinch in 1607 listed the leading chiefs of that region as O’Flaherty of Bunowen, MacEnry (MacConroy again), MacConnor, MacDonough, O’Duan, O’Lee, and MacConneely.

The end came after the failed Irish Confederate Wars of the mid-1600’s against Cromwell in which they had taken an active part along with the MacThomas Joyces, the Burkes, the O’Malleys, even the Tribes of Galway.  Even though many O’Flahertys managed to retain some smaller holdings, they were no longer masters of Iar Connacht.  The Tribes, like all the other rebels, were transplanted, some to holdings they had bought in nearby Gnobeg and Gnomore late in the previous century.

The Martins, for example, took up residence on land they had held for decades near Loch Lonan on what had formerly been the border between Gnomore and Gnobeg, now  in the barony of Moycullen.  Their home, Ross House (for which the lake was renamed Lake Ross) near the site of the former Ohery Castle of the O’Hallorans, which had been seized by the O’Flahertys of Aughnanure (those formerly called “of Gnomore”) late in the 16th century.

Upon being transplanted from Westmeath, Art MacGeoghegan (a sept of the southern Ui Neill) was granted Bunowen on Ballyconneely Peninsula; his descendants later became Protestant and adopted the surname O’Neill. 

The Brownes and the D’Arcys, like the Martins formerly of the Tribes of Galway, were resettled on Omey Island, overwhelming the unfortunate O’Tooles.

The Martins of Lake Ross in Moycullen soon acquired the nearly all the remainder of the barony of Ballynahinch, becoming the largest landowners in the British Isles, with more than 250,000 acres in all.


Main Sources:

The Chieftain Clan O’Flaithbheartaigh, Kings and Queens of Connemara.  Webpage.  http://laffertyhistory.webs.com/successionofthekings.htm

Clare County Library website.  “Old Territorial Divisions and Land Measures”. 

Clare County Library website.  “Units of Land Measurement”.  http://www.clarelibrary.ie/eolas/coclare/history/territorial_divisions/units_land_measurement.htm

“Crichaireacht cinedach nduchasa Muintiri Murchada”, or in English, “A tract on the Connacht territory of Munitir Mhurchadahttps://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Crichaireacht_cinedach_nduchasa_Muintiri_Murchada

Crichaireacht cinedach nduchasa Muintiri Murchada, a tract listing the territories and chiefs of Muintir Murchada before the expulsion of the O’Flahertys, c. 12th century.  Text in Hardiman’s Notes to O’Flaherty’s book.

Roderic O’Flaherty.   A Chorographic Description of West or h-Iar Connaught, 1684.

James Hardiman.  “A Chorographical Description of West or H-IAR Connaught Written A. D. 1684, Edited, from a Ms. In the Library of Trinity College, Dublin, with Notes and Illustrations”, Journal of the Irish Archaeological Society, 1848.

John O’Hart.  Irish Pedigrees, or the Origin and Stem of the Irish Nation, 1892.



Public Records Office of Northern Ireland website.  “Local History Series: 1, The Townland”.  http://www.proni.gov.uk/local_history_series_-_01_-_the_townland.pdf