Chair: Eliott Lash
In early Irish society, fosterage played an important role, providing fostered children with a natural set of allies and strengthening political alliances between families (Kelly 2016, Patterson 1991, Ní Chonaill 1997, Parkes 2004). Cú Chulainn has a plethora of comaltai (foster-brothers) mentioned in Recensions 1 and 2 of Táin Bó Cúailnge, and much academic thought has gone into exploring Cú Chulainn’s relationships with these comaltai (Rutten 2013, 231-239; Sheehan 2009, 54-65; Hollo 1998, 13-22; Wong 1993). However, not much has been written on the different ways in which Cú Chulainn’s comaltai are related to him and how these differences in relationship affect their behaviour and loyalties during Medb’s cattle raid. And while O’Donnell explores some general differences in the comalta tie in Recension 1 compared with Recension 2, there are no comprehensive examinations of these differences (O’Donnell 2016). In this paper, I will compare Cú Chulainn’s relationships with his comaltai in Recensions 1 and 2 of the Táin. I will examine the idea that in Recension 1 comalta relationships are often of quite low priority, with agreements between larger political units taking precedence over ties between individuals, while in Recension 2 the comalta relationship has more variability in its place in a loyalty hierarchy, and it is frequently chosen above other loyalty considerations. This emphasis leads to a greater centering of the narrative around Cú Chulainn in Recension 2.
In the well-known section of the Táin Bó Cúailnge known as the boyhood deeds of Cú Chulainn, there appears an odd sentence (text from the Stories from the Táin):
cotn-éicnigedar Cú Chulainn íar suidiu co táirled forsin sligid do chelebrad donaib maccaib "7 condom bendachtais in maicc"
'Cú Chulainn compels him [the chariot-driver] then to go on the road in order to bid farewell to the boys "and so that the boys might bless me".'
The switch from indirect to direct speech is rather awkward, as is the fact that the verb in the direct speech is in the past subjunctive. This paper explores these difficulties and then offers a very simple solution to them. Though it sounds too good to be true, the solution does not even require a different reading of the text, simply a different interpretation of what is already there.
Many of the Cassite king names are relatable to the names of Vedic deities. In Šagarakti-Šuriaš (1245—1233 BC) the name of the Cassite sun god Šuriyaš is transparently cognate with the name of the Vedic sun god Sṹriyaḥ. The king name Nazi-Maruttaš (1307-1328 BC) gives a further cognate equation for the Cassite and Vedic gods. Although the Cassites did not speak an Indo-European language their rulers may have. The fact that the Enūma Eliš has been dated to around 1250-1150 BC makes it credible that the epic was “composed” during a period when an Indo-European speaking king ruled in Babylon. Perhaps it would be better to suggest that rather than being composed, the epic was adapted into Babylonian repertoire at this date to advance the theogony of Marduk. If so it would not be far-fetched to see it as a variant of another Indo-European epic preserved in seventh-century Archaic Irish poetry, Táin Bó Cuailnge. I have argued elsewhere that this epic is given narrative portrayal on a great silver bowl of Venetian origin dating to 70 BC, the Gundestrup cauldron. The Babylonian New Year Festival occurred for 11 days around the first day of spring. The festival reinacted Marduk’s role in the Creation of the Universe as outlined in the Enūma Eliš. Here I shall argue that Tablets 2-5 of the Enūma Eliš actually are taken from an Ur-Indic version of the tale which crops up later in Ireland as the Táin, culminating on the first day of spring.