Bécán, ní rab ilar a thrétán...

ní rab ilar a thrétán!
Oiret rab grian ar deiseal,
ní rab seiser d’óib Bécán!

(Bécán / not * may be * multitude * his * little herd /
as long as * may be * sun * on * sunwise course /
not * may be * six persons * of * descendants * Bécán)

may his herd not be numerous!
So long as the sun follows its course,
may Bécán not have six descendants!

This curse is found in “Acallam na Senórach” (519). When Bécán, although wealthy, refused hospitalilty to St. Patrick’s clerics, Patrick brought death upon him and his cattle and all his people with these words. The CELT edition (= Whitley Stokes, “Acallamh na Senórach” in Irische Texte) has “tredan”. Tomás Ó Cathasaigh retained this with the meaing “fasting” in his edition and translation in the article “Curse and Satire” in Éigse xxi. Amending this to “trétán”, a diminutive of “trét = herd”, gives a better meaning in the context, and a much better rhyme with “Bécán”. Dooley and Roe take this meaning in their translation in Tales of the Elders of Ireland. A further emendation of the initial consonsant to ‘th-‘ is required by the masculine possessive pronoun “a”.

Topics: Curses & Insults