The Gaelic Alphabet, and Belonging to a Place

17B Heather_9483

This last post from Scotland, before I move onto Australia, is here because I think it demonstrates how essentially connected to the landscape we are. This is the essence of Grounded; that because of this intrinsic connection, perhaps the world might better survive by embracing our environment, connection to place and the traditional cultures that uphold this.

The first morsel that I think demonstrates this is that the connection is even the essence of language: “Scottish Gaelic is written with just 18 letters each of which is named after a tree or shrub”. (Listed below. From Omniglot, the online encyclopedia of writing systems and languages)

(You can learn also about the lore behind each tree in the alphabet at Mandy Haggith’s website)

A – Ailm(Elm)

B – Beith(Birch)

C – Coll(Hazel)

D- Dair(Oak)

E – Eadha(Aspen)

F – Fearn(Alder)

G – Gort(Ivy)

H – Uath(Hawthorn)

I – Iogh(Yew)

L – Luis(Rowan)

M – Muin(Vine)

N – Nuin(Ash)

O – Oir/Onn(Gorse)

P – Peithe(Guelder Rose)

R – Ruis(Elder)

S – Suil(Willow)

T – Teine(Furze)

U – Ur(Heather)

Secondly, from the Visit the Hebrides website:

“A Gael is identified by his or her sloinneadh, an enumeration of ancestors (usually patrilineal descent) and by a home village. The first two questions that any native Gael would traditionally ask a Gaelic-speaking stranger are Có leisthu? and Có ás a tha thu? ‘Who do you belong to’ and ‘Where do you come from’, meaning not where your current residence is, but where you were born and raised. Typical phrases about locale are very interesting, as statements of origin translate in English, for example, as ‘I belong to Glen Uig’. People are conceptualised as belonging to places, not the other way round.”

This concept that people belong to place and not the other way around is the same in Australian Aboriginal culture which I’ll start posting about next.

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