Ben in cluiccín for Domnall...

Ben in cluiccín for Domnall,
ná rup comlann a blíadain.

(strike * the * little bell * on * Domnall /
not * may be * complete * his * year)

Ring the little bell against Domnall!
May he not complete his year!

This curse, portending death within the year to Domnall, is half of a stanza put in the mouth of the cleric Adomnán, in the narrative introduction to “Cáin Adomnáin”. According to the story, when Adomnán promulgated his “Law of the Innocents” in the 7th century, a number of kings took exception to the protections he granted in it to women, and they tried to kill him. He countered their swords with his “little bell”, which he used to curse them. This is one of the curses, which he instructed his young attendant to carry out with the bell on his behalf. A similar formula from the same text is “Ben clucc ar Cellach Carmain, co raib i talmain ría ciunn blíadna!” (Ring the bell against Cellach Carmain, that he may be in the earth before the year’s end!)

Another example of the power of clerical bells is found in Betha Colmáin maic Lúacháin. Colman first pours three “waves” from his bell, Findfaidech, onto the head of Onchú mac Sárán, who recently died. This brings the man back from death. The saint then blesses Onchú at length, and his island as well:

Trí lán ma chluic d’usci úar
do chur esti a n-agaid slúag,
innreth t’innse tairis sin
ní drónfat Gaill is Gædil.

Kuno Meyer, who edited this text, translated this as follows:

Three fills of my bell of cold water
to be cast out of it against hosts—
neither Norsemen nor Gael will invade
thy island against that.

One further example, from the Life of Columba as edited by Whitley Stokes from the Book of Lismore:

Ocus do escain Colum Cille Conall & do benta tri nái ceolan fair, con-asbert aroili duine: “Fogeib Conall cloga,” conadh uadh-sin ata ‘Conall Clogach,’ & roben an cleirech righi fair, & a ciall & a inntlecht acht ancein nobeith ag imtelgadh a cuirp.

And Colm Cille cursed Conall and rang his bell against him 27 times (literally, thrice nine times), which led someone to say, “Conall gets bells,” so that he was known as Conall Clogach (Conall-the-bell-guy). And the cleric also deprived him of his kingdom, and of his sense and reason except while he was defecating.

Topics: Curses & Insults