Friday, July 16, 2010

Name research


What is your name?

Máel Brigde inghean Áeda (pron. mayl-BREE-the EEN-yen Ay-a ) [pronunciations may be modern]

"Máel Brigde" is a bit of a argument based on possibly flawed logic.

The name "Máel Muire" shows up in the Irish Annals for the first time in 905 CE, and again in 913 CE, for the same woman; the second date marking her death. She is Mael Muire ingen Cinaedha m. Ailpin (Known in English as Kenneth MacAlpin, King of the Picts). She was recorded elsewhere as the wife of Áed Findliath mac Neíll, King of Tara*.

As her father died on the 13th of February, 858 CE, she could have been born no later than November of that year, making her of an age with my persona (currently living in the 880's and about 30-ish years old).

The name is dated to at least c.879 in Ó Corráin & Maguire's Irish Names. This is most likely the same woman again, as 879 CE is when Áed Findliath died.

This part isn't really under question, we known that at this time the "Máel ____" name construction was used for women at least in Scotland, at least for "Máel Muire".

The Academy of St Gabriel states elsewhere on their site (under Scottish names) that they "believe that in this early period given names common in Gaelic Ireland were likely to have been used in Gaelic Scotland as well", so the name Máel Muire is plausible for Ireland as well, even though all other instances of the name in Ireland are later.

The problem with me using "Máel Brigde" comes in here. There's only two "Máel ____" name constructions listed for women (Máel Muire 6 times in the Irish Annals, for four different women, the other three dating from 923-1021 CE), and Máel Fabaill in the Irish Annals in 884 CE. This construct appears frequently for men, starting from Máel Dúin, in 606 CE, and including Máel Anfaid, Máel Bresail, Máel Brigde, Máel Cianáin, Máel Ciaráin, Máel Corgis, Máel Dúin, Máel Fábaill, Máel Fothartaig, Máel Martain, Máel Míchíl, Máel Muire, Máel Pátraic, Máel Petair, Máel Ruanaid, and Máel Tólai.

So is it that the "Máel ____" construct was highly unusual for women? Or is it that there's a vast disproportion of women mentioned in the Annals and elsewhere, and there merely happens to be few females with "Máel ____" constructs recorded? At least one other ancient Irish name site (not documetation-worthy as it shows no provenance) has a number of "Máel ____" constructs listed and only Máel Muire is listed as M/F, all others being only M.

My argument for the construct for Máel Brigde as a plausible name for a female is that there is no reason in the name itself for it not to have been used for women as well as men. "Máel Muire" and "Máel Fabaill" are identically constructed for male and female. And while "Máel Dúin" means "warrior of the fortress", all other male names using the "Máel ____" construct with the name of Jesus, Mary or one of a number of saints means "devotee/servant of _____". And in particular case of St Brigit, a patron saint of infants, midwives, and nuns, there's an especial reason they might well be named so.

The problem is, I have no idea if this is considered a weak argument for plausibility for the heralds who register names within the SCA.

An additional example in literature to the above; Melkorka, an Irish slave who appears in Laxdaela Saga and Landnámabók, believed to be "Mael Curcaigh" in Irish; Curchach (Curcaigh is probably a grammatical alteration to the name, like Brigde is to Brigit), being the name of one or more female saints in Ireland. Melkorka claimed to be the daughter of Myr Kjartan (Muircheartach), a king in Ireland (there were several minor kings and princes by this name around this time, it has never been established which one it might have been). She was said to have been abducted at age 15 from Ireland and was bought by Hoskuld Dala-Kollson (from a Rus merchant in Norway) who took her as his concubine while away from his wife in Iceland. That winter she gave birth to a son, Olaf, who is recorded to have been born in 938.

Assuming the most conservative possibility, that she was abducted, taken straight to Norway and promptly sold, it would likely have taken about a year to get from Ireland to Norway (where she was sold during the summer), and on to Iceland and Olaf's birth in the winter. So she would have been at least 16 at Olaf's birth putting her likely date of birth c.922 at the latest, which is a little later than my persona, but not too far. And establishes a precedent for the idea that; one, there were more possibilities for "Máel ____" constructs as names for women; and two, that they might well be "Devotee/servant of [female saint]"

What does it mean?
Máel Brigde means "devotee/servant of Brigit"
-inghean Áeda means "daughter of Áed"

How did you get your name? Why were you given that name?
My father was particularly devoted to St Brigit, and met my mother, whose family were lay servants at Saint Brigit's Abbey in Kildare, when he traveled there for the fairs. He promised to devote his first born child to St. Brigit's service in thanks for the wife he took from it.

Brígiða is what I have been called since I first left the Abbey and began dealings with those speaking Northern tongues. They had difficulty pronouncing it and when they understood it's meaning, one of them decided they should just call me Brígiða, a name they have gotten from our Saint and begun using to name their daughters. I must not be very devout, for I find it bothers me less than my upbringing says it should, to be named so straightly after a Holy Saint.

They later named me Vadesbana (Woad’s Bane) as a nickname given due to my propensity towards blue hands, and messing with woad vats.

How would you be addressed by non-family members of equal rank? Higher rank? Lower rank?
SCA Answer: Formally, Bantiarna by the Irish, Fru by the Norse
Real answer: still working on that;

Additional answers on the theme of names, which go in other sections:

Who is your father? What is his name?
Áed mac Dúnlainge, a younger son of minor nobility with ties of kinship to the kings of Osraige through his mother

Who is your mother? What is her name?
Eithne inghean Máele-Brigte; the daughter of lay-servants of the Abbey at Kildare.

What are the names of those you were given in fosterage to? Who are they?
Cináed mac Riacáin and Bébinn inghean Flainn

* Yeah, yeah, I know, Wikipedia. But he's a well known figure in history and not actually important here except that a known Máel Muire was married to him and we know when he died. Also, I'm too lazy to find a better link right now.

1 comment:

  1. "They later named me Vadesbana (Woad’s Bane)" -- was wondering about doc. for "vad" for woad.

    can't find it in Cleasby & Vigfusson, granted they're not so great about women's terms. ... OK, an hour or so of thrashing around the internet and C&V and Himself (Meistari Gerekr fjarsjandi) says... the form you probably want for woad in Old Norse is váð, and in the 9thC there wouldn't yet be a combining form for the genetive, so it would be just