Ar mìosan ainmhidheach – Animal months

The English calendar is based on the Roman model, but the Gaelic names for the months of the year are closely linked to Scotland’s environment and our Celtic heritage. Three of them recall animals, both wild and domesticated, as Ruairidh MacIlleathain explains. Read the full Gaelic version below.

Wolf in Highland Wildlife Park near Kincraig. ©Lorne Gill

Madadh-allaidh aig Pàirc Fiadh-Bheatha na Gàidhealtachd faisg air Ceann na Creige. Wolf in Highland Wildlife Park near Kincraig. ©Lorne Gill

The Gaelic calendar is strongly linked to both the Scottish environment and our Celtic heritage. Only one month (Am Màrt/March) has anything in common with the English names for months, with both being based on the Roman style of naming.

Three Gaelic months are named after animals. January is Am Faoilleach (sounds like um FOEUIL*-yuch, where * is similar to the vowel sound in the French oeuf). This is the ‘wolf month’, when these wild animals were reputedly at their most dangerous because of hunger.

The following month is An Gearran (un GYAR-un). The word gearran originally meant ‘gelding’, but has become applied to Highland ponies and entered the English language as ‘garron’. The old Gaels recognised a series of winds in the late winter and spring that were important for calculating when to carry out farming activities. They named these winds after animals. The ‘horse wind’ has survived into modern times as the Gaelic for February.

Finally, October is An Dàmhair (un DAAV-ur), the time of the ‘deer rut’, a very apt descriptive name for that month in the Scottish Highlands.

Red deer stags fighting during rut. ©BertieGregory/2020VISION

Damh-dàir. Red deer stags fighting during the rut. ©BertieGregory/2020VISION

Tha mìosachan na Gàidhlig gu math eadar-dhealaichte bhon fhear Bheurla. Tha ainmean nam mìosan ann am Beurla stèidhichte air mìosachan nan Ròmanach. Tha na mìosan ann an Gàidhlig ainmichte, anns an fharsaingeachd, air rudan co-cheangailte ri àrainneachd na h-Alba no ar dualchas Ceilteach. ’S e an aon mhìos aig a bheil cumantas eadar an dà chànan Am Màrt/March air a bheil ainm stèidhichte air Mars, Dia a’ Chogaidh aig na Ròmanaich.

Tha Am Faoilleach’ a’ ciallachadh ‘mìos a’ mhadaidh-allaidh’. ’S e ‘faol’ seann fhacal a tha a’ ciallachadh ‘madadh-allaidh’ agus bha Faolan cumanta o shean mar ainm fir. Bha Naomh Faolan (Saint Fillan ann am Beurla) gu math ainmeil uaireigin agus tha an cinneadh MacIll’Fhaolain (MacLellan) ann am bith fhathast. Cha robh na Gàidheil leotha fhèin ann a bhith ag aithneachadh gum b’ e toiseach na bliadhna an t-àm as miosa airson mhadaidhean-allaidh, leis gun robh na creutairean sin acrach (ged a bha am Faoilleach o shean a’ gabhail a-steach air an dearbh mhìos); ghabh Sasannaich na seann aimsire wolf month air an dearbh mhìos..

Rum Pony. ©Laurie Campbell/SNH

Pònaidh Rumach. Rum pony. ©Laurie Campbell/SNH

Tha dàrna mìos na bliadhna, ‘An Gearran’, ainmichte airson each a chaidh a spothadh (no a ghearradh) agus tha am facal – a tha an-diugh a’ ciallachadh ‘each beag dùthchasach’ – air a dhol a-steach don Bheurla mar garron. Eadar toiseach na bliadhna agus toiseach an t-samhraidh bha sreath de ghaothan a bhiodh na seann daoine ag aithneachadh; bha iad air an ainmeachadh airson diofar ainmhidhean. ’S e an Gearran an aon tè dhiubh a chaidh a ghlèidheadh mar ainm mìosa anns a’ mhìosachan nodha.

’S e ainm an deicheamh mìosa ’s dòcha am fear as motha a tha a’ sanasachd nan dlùth-cheanglaichean eadar ar cànan is ar n-àrainneachd oir ’s e sin ‘An Dàmhair’. Tha sin a’ tighinn bho ‘damh-dàir’, an t-àm nuair a bhios na dàimh ruadha a’ dàireadh leis na h-èildean. Chan eil àm nas tarraingiche na sin ann an Alba, le dathan is solais an fhoghair a’ cur ri bùirich iongantach nan damh air beanntan na Gàidhealtachd.

Dh’fhaodamaid a ràdh cuideachd gu bheil na mìosan a leanas a’ riochdachadh àrainneachd no aimsir na h-Alba gu ìre: ‘An Giblean’ (nuair a tha beathaichean gibeach às dèidh a’ gheamhraidh), ‘An Cèitean’ (‘toiseach an t-samhraidh’), ‘An t-Ògmhios’ (nuair a tha na lusan is beathaichean òg agus a’ fàs), ‘An t-Sultain’ (nuair a tha sult air an sprèidh às dèidh an t-samhraidh) agus ‘An Dùbhlachd’ (nuair a tha an saoghal a’ fàs dubh dorch).

Gheibhear tuilleadh sgeulachdan air ar làraich Ghàidhlig.

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