Some notes on origin of motif of the Ulaid’s false beards in Cáth Áenaig Macha and Cóir Anmann

  • Mikhail Kiselev Lomonosov Moscow State University


The text that is called Cáth Áenaig Macha tells us a story of the battle between mythological Ulaid’s heroes and the Vikings, in which the Irish used a stratagem: they put on fake beards. In tract named Cóir Amnann, this story is used to verify folklore etymology of Ulaid from the word ulcha ‘beard’. This case is clearly rooted in local Irish social traditions. But my guess is that it origins not only from here, but also in continental written tradition. Almost the same plot we can find in several texts from continent, and in theory, scholars of Ireland are very likely to be familiar with at least one of them. Main candidate for this role is Historia Langobardorum of Paul the Deacon. Despite of it I consider motif of Ulaid’s fake beard in Cáth Áenaig Macha and Cóir Amnann could have been developed not only from local tradition or only under influence of continental texts. My guess is that here we have an overlay of continental influence over Irish native tradition.

Dec 5, 2018