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teinm laída

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[Ir., chewing or breaking open of the pith (?)].

An incantation of divination used by the fili and other poets in early Ireland. In the Fenian Cycle it is invariably associated with the powers Fionn mac Cumhaill gains by chewing on his thumb and chanting; T. F. O'Rahilly (1946) felt that it was Fionn's prerogative alone. The 10th-century Sanas Cormaic [Cormac's Glossary] cites teinm laída as one of the three ways of acquiring prophetic or hidden knowledge, along with díchetal do chennaib and imbas forosnai. Earlier speculation that teinm laída is derived from the Norse teinar-laigðir [thorn staves] and thus is anticipated in Tacitus’ Germania is now rejected. At present there is no learned agreement over just which procedures would bring teinm laída into motion, but some commentators argue that fios [occult knowledge] and teinm laída combine in imbas forosnai. As with other forms of divination, St Patrick banned teinm laída as ‘giving offerings to demons’. See also DIVINATION; SHAMANISM.

See T. F. O'Rahilly, ‘Teinm Laeda’, in Early Irish History and Mythology (Dublin, 1946), 336–40;Edward J. Gwynn, ‘Athirne's Mother’, Zeitschrift für celtische Philologie, 18 (1927), 156.

Subjects: Religion

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