Remember when your sister jinxed you so you couldn’t talk till your mom said it was okay? A geis is kinda like that, except if you talk you die! A geis (plural geassa) is a soul-binding rule that kills you. We talk geassa and honor in this first episode of our EPIC-length series on the medieval Irish geis!
Co-host: Andre Sólo
Time/place: Ireland, 902 CE
Dead Idea: Geis
A Map of Medieval Ireland, by Adam McKithern
Glossary of Irish Words and Spellings
Note: “KH” should be pronounced like the ending sound of “Bach”
- Aífe (EE-fuh) – a warrior woman in the Táin bó Cúailnge, rival of Scáthach
- aire (EYE-ruh) – lordly class
- brat (BRAT) – cloak
- Caier (KEYE-ur) – king of Connacht in the story Caier and Nede
- coibche (KWIV-khuh) – bride-price
- Conall Cernach (KO-nul KAIR-nakh) – curly blond-haired warrior and favorite of Conaire in The Destruction of Dá Derga’s Hostel
- Conaire (KO-na-ruh) – king of Tara in the The Destruction of Dá Derga’s Hostel
- Connacht (KON-akht) – a kingdom in the middle west of Ireland
- Connla (KON-luh) – son of Cú Chulainn in the Táin bó Cúailnge
- Críth Gablach (KREEH GOW-luhch) – a law-tract featuring 7 ranks of lords, 7 ranks of farmers, and 7 ranks of kings
- Cú Chulainn (KOO KHUH-lun) – hero in the Táin bó Cúailnge
- cúlán (KOO-lun) – men’s hairstyle with shaved front, long back
- cumal (COO-wul) – unit of measurement roughly equal to 34 acres of land or 3 cattle; lit. “slave girl”
- dairt (DEERCH) – a heifer, as in “from a needle to a dairt”, the honor-price of the lowest level of farmer which varies from a needle to a heifer
- Diarmuid (JAR-muhj) – hero in the story of Diarmuid and Grainne
- Drogheda (DRO-hay-duh) – site of a battle against the Vikings in 902 CE
- Emer (EV-ur) – woman wooed by Cú Chulainn in the Táin bó Cúailnge
- féni (FAY-nee) – farmer class, subdivided into 7 ranks according to the Crith Gablach law-tract: 1. 1st fer midboth (FAIR MEE-vuh) lit. “man between huts”; 2. 2nd fer midboth; 3. ócaire (O-keye-ruh); 4. aithech (EYE-chuh); 5. bóaire (BO-eye-ruh); 6. mruigfher (MREE-khur); 7. fer fothlai (FAIR FO-lee)
- fidchell (FEE-khel) – an Old Irish board game, often called “Irish chess”
- Forgall (FOR-gul) – father of Emer in the Táin bó Cúailnge
- fuba and ruba (FOO-buh and ROO-buh) – military service; lit. “attack and defense”
- fuidir (FEE-jur) – transitional slave
- geis (GAYSH) / pl. geassa (GAYSA) – mystical personal injunction
- Grainne (GRAH-nyuh) – woman in the story of Diarmuid and Grainne
- léine (LAY-nya) – tunic
- Mac Cécht (Mak KEKHT) – warrior and right-hand man of Conaire in The Destruction of Dá Derga’s Hostel
- Nede (NAY-thuh) – a satire poet in the story of Caier and Nede
- rath (RATH) – a loan taken from a lord in a clientship contract
- rosc (ROSK) – a nearly untranslatable type of poem with multiple meanings, often signaled in English by ellipses where parts are left untranslated
- Scáthach (SKAH-hakh) – a warrior woman in the Táin bó Cúailnge, mentor of Cú Chulainn
- senchléithe (SHEN-khlay-huh) – hereditary serf
- sét (SET) – unit of measurement equal to 4/5 of a cow
- Táin bó Cúailnge (TOYN bo KOOL-nee) – epic featuring Cú Chulainn; lit. “The Cattle Raid of Cooley”
- Tara (TAH-ruh) – traditional capital of the high kinds of Ireland
- Togail Bruidne Dá Derga (TO-gul BREEJ-nuh da JAIR-guh) – epic featuring King Conaire; lit. “The Destruction of Dá Derga’s Hostel” or “…of the Red God”
- toinal (TEE-nyul) – joint conjugal fund
- Uí Néill (oy NAYLZ) – one of the most powerful clans of medieval Ireland
- Ulster (UHL-stur) – Anglicized name for a kingdom in northeast Ireland
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Maps, pics, references, and more at www.deadideas.net. Music and graphic design by Rachel Westhoff.