Oaths

Rotbia lim greim Dé fodéin...

Rotbia lim greim Dé fodéin,
rotbia m'ordan co glanléir,
grían ocus ésca 'mole,
muir is tír, drúcht is daithe.

(you will have * with me * grip * of God * (him)self
you will have * my honor * with * bright-clear
sun * and * moon * along with it
sea * and * land * dew * and * light)

You will have from me God's own grip.
You will have my honour bright,
the sun and the moon as well,
sea and land, dew and light.

This quatrain from part 30 of "Saltair na Rann" is an oath that takes God, personal honor, and the elements as sureties. It is more or less equivalent to "I swear by all that is holy".

Bíaidh do berad ar ndee 7 ar dtoicthe dúin.

Bíaidh do·berad ar ndee 7 ar dtoicthe dúinn.

(will be * might bring * our * gods * & * our * fortune * to us)

We will have whatever our gods and our fate bring us.

This pagan sentiment is put in the mouth of the Danish chieftain Horm in the Fragmentary Annals (p. 92).

Fír na cétnae 7 na n-airrad!

Fír na cétnae 7 na n-airrad!

(truth * of the * first ones * & * of the * guarantors)

The truth of the principal men and of the sureties!

In other words, "You can depend on it!" This is Midir in "Tochmarc Étaíne" telling Eochaid that his wife will definitely be returned to him the following day. The implication of this asseveration is that the promise is as firm as one backed up by formally appointed sureties or guarantors. In early Irish law, the "airrad" (also "aurrae, aurrad, urrad") was a free landholding member of the túath who was thus qualified to guarantee that the terms of a contract would be fulfilled; to "cosign" as it were.

It é rátha tucsat ind...

It é rátha tucsat ind
nem talam ésca grían grind.

(are * they * pledges * they gave * into it /
heaven * earth * moon * sun * sharp)

The pledges that they gave for it were
heaven, earth, moon, and the sharp sun.

This is a half-stanza from the poem "Sóerchlanda Érenn uile", edited by Thurneysen at ZCP 11.57. As Fergus Kelly remarked in EIL (p. 198), "Early Irish legal systems rely heavily on the magical power of an oath. Old Irish sagas make numerous references to the practice of swearing by the elements: anyone who broke such an oath could expect to be punished by the elements themselves." In the tale "Comthoth Lóegairi" in LU, Lóegaire vows to the Leinstermen that he will never again seek tribute from them, taking as his pledges or guarantors "grían 7 éasca, usci 7 aer, lá 7 adaig, muir 7 tír" (sun and moon, water and air, day and night, sea and land). When he later breaks his oath, the elements kill him. The most elaborate such list of guarantors is found in the Metrical Dindshenchas of "Carmun", where it runs to two full stanzas, and is worth quoting for its very length, beginning with "heaven, earth, sun, moon, and sea", and ending with "day and night, shore, heavy tide", with various horses, ears, swords and fruits in between!

Nem, talam, grían, esca, is muir,
toirthe tíre ocus turscuir,
beóil, clúasa, súli, selbtha,
cossa, láma, láech-thengtha.

Eich, claidib, carpait cáine,
gái, scéith is drecha dáine,
drucht, mess, daithen la duile,
lá 's adaig, tráig, trom-thuile.

The expressions "Thug sé grian is éasca air féin" (He vowed by the sun and moon) and "Dar bhrí na gréine is na gealaí" (By the power of the sun and the moon) are still found in Modern Irish.

Tiur-sa bréthir...

Tiur-sa bréthir ná scuriub-sa co brunni brátha 7 betha coro scuirea Amargin.

(I give * word * that not * I will desist * until * brink * of judgment * & * of life * until * may desist * Amargin)

I swear I'll never stop until Amargin stops.

So says Cú Ruí to Medb in the LL Táin, while he and Amargin are still engaged in assaulting one another with boulders. Cú Chulainn also uses this formula, "tiur-sa bréthir" (I give [my] word), elsewhere in the text. The other formulaic expression in this quotation, "co bruinni brátha ocus betha" (to the brink of [the last] judgment and of life), is likewise found elsewhere in the heroic literature. Fallamain, for example, uses it in the LU Táin when he promises not to return to Emain without Ailill's head. The expression "go broinne an bhrátha" is still used in Modern Irish.

Dar ar mbréthir...

Dar ar mbréthir trá isatt áilsiu damsa 7 bidat áil hi céin bat béo.

(upon * our * word * indeed * you are * desire * with me * & * you will be * desire * in * length * you may be * alive)

I give my word that you are my desire and you will be as long as you live.

Spoken by Cú Chulainn to Emer when she invites him back after he has strayed with Fand ("Serglige Con Culainn" 724-5).

Tongu-sa fom chumachta 7 tar in mac n-óengine.

Tongu-sa fom chumachta 7 tar in mac n-óengine.

(I swear * under my * powers * & * by * the * son * one-born)

I swear by my powers and by the only-begotten son.

An oath quoted in DIL (s.v. "tongaid" and "tar"). A similar ecclesiastical oath from "Páis Georgi" in "The Passions and Homilies from Leabhar Breac" is "Toingim torum fen, & tar mh' aingli" (I swear by myself and by my angels).

Dar fír ar cubais!

Dar fír ar cubais!

(by * truth * of our * conscience)

Upon our conscience! By what we deem right!

The first thing that Fergus exclaims upon hearing Medb's plan to wipe out a company of her own allies at the beginning of the Táin, before going on to tell her "Over my dead body!" ("Ní dingnea bás dóib-siút acht intí dogéna bás dam-sa!") Keating uses the expression "Dar mo chubhas" in an Early Modern Irish poem, and the modern version of the same is "Dar mo chúis!" For another example of the Early Irish use of the potent word "fír" (truth), see "For fír th'ainich ocus t'anama!"

Tongu do día toinges mo thúath!

Tongu do día toinges mo thúath!

(I swear * to * a god * that swears * my * tribe)

I swear by the god my tribe swears by!

Variations of this oath are common throughout medieval Irish literature.

For fír th'ainich ocus t'anama!

For fír th'ainich ocus t'anama!

(on * truth * of your honor * and * your soul)

Upon the truth of your honor and your soul!

Said by Ailill to Fráech in "Táin Bó Fraích", demanding that he give a truthful reply.

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