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Scottish Titles (was: Found: matriarchal titles??)

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  • Sharon L. Krossa
    At 9:53 PM -0700 6/20/05, Kevin Myers wrote: A very interesting and informative post, namely... ... I d forgotten about and that it may be originally
    Message 1 of 20 , Jun 22, 2005
      At 9:53 PM -0700 6/20/05, Kevin Myers wrote:

      A very interesting and informative post, namely...

      >--- "Sharon L. Krossa" <skrossa-ml@...> wrote:
      > > With regard to pre-1603 Scottish titles and forms of address, as
      > > always the question is going to depend on exactly when and which
      > > Scottish culture/language -- the answer will be different depending
      > > on whether we're talking 7th century Pictish, 9th century Gaels, 16th
      > > century Gaels, 9th century Cumbric, 10th century Norse, 15th century
      > > Norn, 10th century Anglian, 12th century Scoto-Norman, 16th century
      > > Lowland, etc. (And, indeed, for some of these times/cultures, such as
      > > Pictish in any century, the answer is "We haven't any idea, really".)
      >What about 'Mormaer'?

      I'd forgotten about <mormaer> and that it may be originally derived
      from Pictish when I wrote the above about Pictish, which is kind of
      funny because I *did* have <mormaer> specifically in mind with regard
      to earlier and later period Gaels using different titles...

      So, amend that to: And, indeed, for some of these times/cultures,
      such as Pictish in any century, the answer is "We have very little
      idea, really" -- as one possibly or even probably Pictish title that
      we have no examples of Pictish usage of isn't exactly a lot of
      information about Pictish titles...

      >Reference "The Gaelic Notes in the Book of Deer" by Kenneth Jackson.
      >You can find a copy of the text by going to the CELT website (Corpus of
      >Electronic Texts) which is run by the History Dept. of University
      >College Cork. And to all you Heralds out there--This site is full of
      >name documentation!!!!

      The CELT site is indeed full of name documentation (though more so
      for Irish naming than Scottish Gaelic), and I highly recommend it!

      That being said, a more user friendly, for SCA naming purposes (in
      that it doesn't require using documents written in medieval Gaelic),
      resource for the names in the Gaelic notes in the Book of Deer is my
      article "A Simple Guide to Constructing 12th Century Scottish Gaelic
      and for Irish names from various Irish annals there is Kathleen M.
      O'Brien's "Index of Names in Irish Annals"
      <http://www.s-gabriel.org/names/mari/AnnalsIndex/> combined with my
      "Quick and Easy Gaelic Names"

      >'Mormaer' appears to be a pictish title, roughly equivalent with Earl
      >(maybe we could stretch it to Duke? Since we don't have Earls per se in
      >the SCA).

      As already pointed out, the SCA does have earls -- they're equivalent
      to counts.

      But note that the evidence we have for <mormaer> is not actually
      Pictish language use -- it may be a title originally derived from
      Pictish, but we don't really know the original Pictish form or how it
      was used in Pictish, only how it was used in Gaelic and, if I recall
      correctly, some documents in Latin (though usually in Latin mormaers
      are described as <comes>, the Latin equivalent of English <earl>).
      So, whatever its origins, <mormaer> as we know it is a Gaelic title,
      used to refer to a rough equivalent of earls in a certain period of
      Scottish history.

      Note also that <mormaer> was used in Gaelic (as a rough equivalent of
      <come>/<earl>) in a particular period -- primarily in reference to
      men who lived in the 10th-13th centuries -- and in reference to said
      who were in a particular sub-region of Scotland (the north east). In
      later centuries, the normal word for an earl in Irish and Scottish
      Gaelic was <iarla>, though Jackson claims (and I haven't checked to
      see if there is any actual period examples or this usage) that
      <mormaer> remained around, or at least is used modernly, as <morair>
      meaning "lord" more generally. (I would need to research to see what,
      if anything, was used to refer to a rough equivalent of earls in
      Gaelic for men who were not in the north east in the 10th-13th

      >The reason why it is thought to be pictish is that it is a
      >title that doesn't show up in other Gaelic documents from western Alba
      >or Eire (Jackson talks about this in his book--the URL above only gets
      >you to the text and his translation).

      Actually, Jackson lists a number of Irish documents that use
      <mormaer> (and the Gaelic notes in the Book of Deer are the only
      surviving Scottish Gaelic documents prior to, if I recall correctly,
      about the early 15th century). However, with only one example noted
      as an exception, the Irish and Scottish Gaelic usages are all in
      reference to Scottish individuals. (So, it is not normally a title
      used by the Irish to refer to the Irish.) Further, Jackson says that
      for all the mormaers who are identified by location, with one later
      period example as exception, those locations are all in the north
      east, which remained Pictish the longest. This all supports the
      Pictish derived origin theory for <mormaer>.

      >The Monastery of Deer is in
      >Buchan/Aberdeenshire and was established by St. Colum Cille and St.
      >Drostan in the late 6th century. The last entry of marginal notes in
      >the book is in latin and is a proclamation made by David, King of Scots
      >(12th cent?). The title Mormaer was apparently adopted by the Gaelic
      >nobility that came to rule the territory after the establishment of the
      >kingdom of Alba in the 9th century but was used by the monks at Deer
      >prior to that because they were from the foundation of Iona/ I Colm

      I'm not sure what you're saying here. Although the main text of the
      "Book of Deer" (a Gospel text in Latin) is apparently 9th century,
      and although the first Gaelic note does relate the legend of the
      founding of the monastery at Deer by Saint Columba (who lived in the
      6th century), according to Jackson the Gaelic notes (written in the
      margins) all date to the first half of the 12th century. So the monks
      using <mormaer> in the Gaelic notes in the Book of Deer were using
      the term in the early 12th century, centuries after the disappearance
      of Pictish.

      >The only other title (besides 'Rex') that is mentioned is 'toisech' or
      >chief. And if you look at the ranks given in the Irish law tracts a
      >toisech could be of any noble rank depending on how many tenants he

      There is also a time and context factor here -- how toisech was used
      varied somewhat over the centuries, and what it meant when followed
      by "of clan X", as in the Gaelic notes in the Book of Deer, wasn't
      necessarily exactly the same thing as what it meant when followed by
      "of [placename]" or "of [people]" (well, other than indicating one or
      another kind of leader or person first in rank).

      >As far as feminine titles go,there is very little

      This has been my observation, too, for Gaelic titles -- that is, not
      only are there few examples but that it appears few were used. I
      think the reason is probably simply that women rarely if ever held
      most positions with titles in their own right, and that in Gaelic
      culture the wives of most men with titles weren't normally themselves
      called by titles, though they were sometimes described as the wives
      of men with titles. Another contributing factor may be the style with
      which male titles were used -- that is, most were not <[title]
      [name]>, but rather <[name] [title] of [place/people he was title
      over]>. But this is all stuff I'm still looking into, so I may find
      I'm completely wrong in this when I've done more research ;-)

      There are some exceptions, but they are title, time, and/or culture
      dependant. (As one example, in late period Irish Gaelic there are a
      few women called <An Cuntaois>, "the countess" -- but this of course
      is not a native origin usage. I can't recall specifics offhand, but I
      believe usage of "queen" is another exception, this time more native

      >but there is "Colba/n
      >in morme/r Buchan & Eua, ingen Garnait a ben phu/sta"--Colban the
      >mormaer of Buchan and Eva daughter of Garnat his wedded wife....Women
      >where more often known by either who their father was (X ingen Y) or
      >who their husband was (X ben Y) in Gaelic society

      Note that women *and* men were most often known by who their father
      was (X mac Y or X ingen Y). For example, with regard to women in the
      Gaelic notes in the Book of Deer, as I note in my article: "Only two
      women are mentioned in the Gaelic notes in the Book of Deer, one of
      them twice. In two out of the three instances, they are identified by
      a single given name followed by a single patronymic byname. In the
      third instance, the woman (who had been mentioned previously) is
      identified only by her patronymic byname."

      People do sometimes also get described by who they are married to,
      but this really doesn't seem to be treated as part of their name in
      the same way patronymics are. The above example is a good
      demonstration of what I mean by described but not part of their name
      -- <Eua ingen Garnait a ben phusta> "Eva Garnaitsdaughter _his_
      wedded wife", where the wife part is a contextual description which
      only makes sense in the particular context of her being mentioned
      with her husband (and her husband being mentioned first). This
      appears to be rather like modernly someone describing my brother and
      sister-in-law as <Dwight Krossa and Nancy Bick his wife ...>, or my
      sister-in-law alone as <Nancy Bick, Dwight Krossa's wife> (or even
      <Nancy, Dwight's wife>).

      >(How it was in
      >Pictish is unknown). Sorry. Bean-uaisle goes a long way--'noblewoman'.
      >Of course people make claims about Pictish Matriarchy but we've no
      >direct evidence of it--The Irish annalists only ever mention kings of
      >Pictland, no queens.

      The people who go on about Pictish _matriarchy_ are simply completely
      wrong -- there is no evidence or suggestion of it at all. The Irish
      references and, if I recall which non-Irish guy correctly, Bede, are
      to a claim of _matriliny_, not _matriarchy_ -- that is, to men
      inheriting leadership positions (from maternal male relatives)
      through their mothers, not to women holding leadership positions. And
      even if we accept these claims at face value (and there are reasons
      we should think twice before doing so), at least one (and possibly
      both, that is, Irish and Bede/whoever) indicates that such
      matrilineal inheritance was only to take place if there were no
      suitable heirs in the normal (i.e., patrilineal) fashion.

      >Mormaer is the only Pictish title/rank I've ever seen. The Irish annals
      >that mention pictish kings refer to them with Irish or Latin titles for
      >'King'--Ri or Rex--it is possible that Pictish used the same titles or
      >they could have used something more Brythonic. Is anyone conversant
      >with Old Cumbric or Welsh? Anyone? Bwllyr?

      Unless there is some usage in the surviving Pictish inscriptions (or
      possibly some non-Gaelic, non-Brythonic term used in Gaelic or
      Brythonic sources only for Picts, or a situation similar to that of
      <mormaer>), we simply have no way of knowing what the Picts used for
      titles, other than possibly some form of <mormaer>.

      >I'm not going to get into the ranking system enumerated in the Crith
      >Gablach (an early Irish law tract) at this time.

      But those who want to pursue very early period Gaelic titles would
      probably want to look into the various law tracts that touch on it.
      Which reminds me that there is at least one book that might be useful
      for the topic (so I was mistaken when I said before I didn't know of

      Patterson, Nerys. _Cattle Lords & Clansmen: The Social Structure of
      Early Ireland_. 2nd ed. Notre Dame & London: University of Notre Dame
      Press, 1994.
      Note some sample pages are available for viewing at

      Although talking specifically about Ireland, it is reasonable to
      speculate that very early Gaelic Scotland was much the same.

      Sharon, ska Euphrick

      PS A reply to the original poster's specific question about Scottish
      Gaelic titles 1200-1350 and laird vs. chief, laird, lady, etc., is in
      the works, but may take a bit more time as I have some deadlines
      coming up... remind me if you don't hear anything within a week.
      Sharon Krossa, skrossa-ml@...
      Resources for Scottish history, names, clothing, language & more:
      Medieval Scotland - http://www.MedievalScotland.org/
    • Todd Wilkinson
      Sharon -- I am not the best in reading tones in e-mails, so sometimes I assume (and we know what happens then, eh?) that someone may be upset with me because
      Message 2 of 20 , Jun 22, 2005
        Sharon -- I am not the best in "reading" tones in e-mails, so sometimes I assume (and we know what happens then, eh?) that someone may be upset with me because I cannot "hear" their tone -- as you said, I was only throwing it out as a general reference for the question of titles in general, and I should have prefaced it that way.

        No offence here, though.


        "Sharon L. Krossa" <skrossa-ml@...> wrote:
        At 6:12 PM -0700 6/20/05, Todd Wilkinson wrote:
        >Apologies, Sharon -- didn't mean to offend you by posting this site
        >for general reference.

        You didn't offend me, and I don't quite understand why you think you
        did, given what I posted.

        >Next time I will preface the link with a

        In general it is a good idea to always give some indication of what
        people will find at a URL when posting it. That way people can decide
        for themselves whether they should take the time to visit the URL or
        whether it isn't really something they're interested in and so don't
        need to spend the time investigating it.

        In this particular case, the context in which you posted the URL in
        question (that is, the quoted posts you included and previous
        discussion) made it appear that you were offering it as an answer to
        a question that seemed to be about pre-1603 Scottish titles (and,
        indeed, the original questioner has now confirmed explicitly that was
        the intended question). So, since when I checked the URL I discovered
        it was actually about modern British (mainly English) titles, I
        posted pointing this out, so those who were looking for pre-1603
        Scottish titles would be alerted that it doesn't address this issue
        (which action, of course, also serves to alert those who _are_
        looking for info on modern British/English titles that that the web
        page _does_ address that issue).

        I have no way of knowing, and I really don't care, whether you
        intended your post as an answer to what you thought was a question
        about pre-1603 Scottish titles or whether you intended it as an
        answer to what you thought was a question about modern (rather than
        pre-1603) titles or whether you just intended it as an interesting
        reference about modern titles since the wider issue of titles had
        come up. Whatever, I assume you offered the information in good
        faith, just as I offered my additional information in good faith.
        There is no need to give or take offense over it.

        Sharon L. Krossa, skrossa-ml@...

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        Scotland c. 503-1603 AD.

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      • Mai Christy Thao
        Thank you, Margaret. You ve just answered my most pressing questions. Much appreciated, Christy From: Julie Stackable, SCA Margaret Hepburn
        Message 3 of 20 , Jun 22, 2005
          Thank you, Margaret. You've just answered my most pressing questions.

          Much appreciated,

          From: "Julie Stackable, SCA Margaret Hepburn" <malvoisine@...>
          Reply-To: albanach@yahoogroups.com
          To: albanach@yahoogroups.com
          Subject: [albanach] Re: Found: matriarchal titles??
          Date: Wed, 22 Jun 2005 04:55:45 -0000

          Laird is simply another way to say 'Lord' & means basically the same
          thing. From the Dictionary of the Scottish Language again....

          3. A landowner who was a tenant-in-chief of the sovereign, a baron
          or a freeholder; after the 14th c., chiefly or only one of the
          smaller barons or landowners
          From an early date applied only to the `smaller barons' or smaller
          landowners generally, as opposed to the greater or titled barons
          or `lords' (Lord n.): see espec. Dickinson Carnwath Baron Ct.
          (S.H.S.) xliv f.

          This is what is probably the most common meaning for Laird now.

          Master and Laird would be virtually interchangable, I think, for the
          usage you want. Laird & lady and Master & Mistress would be correct
          terms of address. Mistress, in Scotland, is specifically a title of
          respect for the wife the Laird or Master.

          In the context you are using, there is no title for head of the
          septs - that's not really a position at all. Septs are just
          offshoots of the main clan & they would still hold their allegiance
          to the Clan Chieftain.

          I highly recommend this online Dictionary to you Christy. It's very
          easy to use and like the OED, has citations for words going back to
          the earliest Scottish Literature.

          Margaret Hepburn

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