Glossary of Terms for Mark’s Historical Fiction

Irish Celtic culture and history confronts us with its own world, challenging us with unique names, places, and terms that, by themselves, tell us much about that ancient time. What follows are some that I used in The Bonfires of Beltane and The Medallion

  • Amalgaid mac Fiachrae—historical Rí Cóicid, or King of Connacht until 440 AD; reigned 34 years.
  • Beagle’s gowl—the distance of a beagle’s howl; a long ways
  • Bashtoon—Bastard
  • Beltane—pagan celebration of spring, traditionally held on May 1, when the spirits of the Otherworld were active.
  • Irish-Bodhran1

    A Bodhrán

    Bodhrán—[BOW-run] An Irish handheld drum beaten with a stick.

  • Bothach—[BO-thah] lowest group on Celtic class system with no property rights: criminals, unskilled laborers, and indebted farmers.
  • Carraig Beag —[KA-reg beg] (“Little Rock”) Taran’s clan and main village of Inis Creig (fictional).
  • Celts—[Kelts] an ancient race of people existing from about 1200 BC. They ranged from Ireland and Britain through Western and Eastern Europe and even into central Asia Minor (Turkey). By AD 600, the Celts as a people were mostly confined to Ireland.
  • Clabber—sticky, messy pile of mud or cow dung.
  • Coleraine—a village and tuath near the northern coast of Ériu.
  • Comhairle—within Taran’s tuath, the council or inner circle of leadership.
  • Connachta—the people and collection of clans who inhabited the Kingdom of Connacht.
  • Crom Cruach—[KROM krew-ah] historical Irish deity representing the sun god, who required the sacrifice of a firstborn child. His idol was either a large, round mound or a tall obelisk, covered in gold. Twelve upright stones surrounded the original idol. Its archaeological site is in modern-day Killycluggin.
  • Cruachain—historical village holding the palace of the Rí Cóicid, or King of Connacht.
  • Cumal—a female slave; a standard unit of currency, equal to 3 milk cows.
  • Curragh

    A Curragh

    Curragh—[KOOR-ah] An ancient Irish boat made with a wicker frame, covered in hide, stitched with thongs. From 6 to 70-feet long.

  • Danu—mother goddess of the Tuatha Dé Danann, associated with the earth and the land.
  • Doddle (as in “a doddle”)—a short distance or something easily done.
  • Druids—a priestly class of the Celts, worshiping the spirits of forest, mountain, and river, earth, sky, and sun. Skilled in healing, judgment, and sorcery.
  • Emain Macha—[YOO-wen MA-hah] legendary, historical village holding the palace of the Rí Cóicid, or king, of Ulster. Navan Fort in County Armagh is believed to be the historical site.
  • Ériu—[AY-roo] (modern Irish: Éire) ancient name for Ireland; also matron goddess of the land .
  • Fine—the Celtic extended family unit, including grandparents, parents, aunts, uncles, and cousins, who all live together in a single roundhouse.
  • Fir Bolg—one of the original mythical races who inhabited ancient Ériu prior to the Tuatha Dé Danann.
  • Celtic+high+king

    A Celtic High Noble

    Flaith—Celtic noblemen who acquired their greater social position due to personal skill, not inheritance. They often owned property such as fields or cattle. They had responsibilities for clan leadership and protection, including hunting and fighting.

  • Foclut—historical village of Connacht where Pátrick was most likely held as a slave. In this story, it’s also a village with whom the Carraig Beag often traded.
  • Forga mac Dallán—historical Rí Cóicid, or king, of ancient Ulster, died AD 465 (?)
  • Glipe—stupid.
  • Inis Creig—[IN-ish KRAYG] (“Island of Rocks”) island home of Taran and his people (fictional).
  • Killycluggin—historical inland town in north-central Connacht, home of Crom Cruach worship. The archaeological site is in modern-day County Cavan.
  • Laigin—the historical people and the collection of clans who inhabited the Kingdom of Leinster.
  • Leinster—historical kingdom in southeast, ancient Ériu.
  • Lóeghaire mac Néill—[LOO-hair] historical Rí Cóicid of Leinster, a son of Niall of the Nine Hostages. Died 462.
  • Lough (or loch)—an inlet from the sea or a large lake.
  • Lugh—Irish deity and ancient hero of the distant past; god of many skills, jack of all trades.
  • Lughnasa—a Celtic festival held in mid-summer.
  • Lummox—a stupid person.
  • Manannan-mac-Lir-statue

    Statue of Manannán mac Lir

    Manannán mac Lir—[ma-na-nan mac lir] the sea deity, also ruler of the Otherworld.

  • Muiredach Muinderg mac Forga—historical son of Forga mac Dallán, king of Ulster. (Dates of reign are uncertain.)
  • Munster—historical kingdom in southwest, ancient Ériu.
  • Naoú Giall— [nah-OO GEE-all] (ninth hostage) western coastal town of Connacht where Taran landed (fictional).
  • Óenach—[WAY-nock]—a great fair or gathering, called every few years by the Ard Rí to gather the clans in celebration and sometimes to make a decision.
  • Pátrick—or Pádhraig, Patricius (Latin)—(387-460?) Patrick, the Romano-Briton who Christianized northern Ireland beginning in 432.
  • Otherword—the spiritual realm of the druid afterlife, ruled by Manannán mac Lir, the sea god.
  • Palladius—bishop appointed by Rome in a failed attempt to spread the gospel in southern Ireland immediately before Pátrick.
  • Popaeg—ancient name for the poppy plant and the drug that comes from it.
  • Rí Cóicid—Regional King and leader of all the tuatha or clans of a people who originate from the same, ancient origins. A leader standing above all the clans’ Rí Tuatha.
  • Rí Tuath—[REE TOO-ah] the king or leader of a clan (tuath).
  • Sabhall—[Sa-uhl] A village on Strangford Loch in northeastern Ulster, near where some claim Patrick first landed.
  • Samain—(SA-wen) pagan celebration of fall when the spirits of the Otherworld were most active. Ancestor of modern Halloween.
  • IrishBogs

    The bogs of Ireland


  • Stocious—state of drunkenness.
  • Stone—a unit of weight, about 8-12 pounds.
  • Strangford Loch—An inland saltwater lake on the coast of northeastern Ulster, where many think Patrick first landed.
  • Tara—historical village holding the palace of the Rí Cóicid, or king, of ancient Leinster.
  • Tuatha Dé Danann—[tu-ah-thah day dan-ahn] “peoples of the goddess Danu,” a race of people in Irish mythology, conquering the island from the Fir Bolg. The Tuatha Dé were represented as mortal kings, queens, and heroes of the distant past.
  • Tuath—[TOO-ah] (pl., tuatha) clan or tribe, a people of the same origin, composed of many fines.[
  • Ulaid—[OO-laid] the historical people and collection of clans who inhabited the Kingdom of Ulster.
  • Ulster—historical kingdom of northeastern, ancient Ériu.