Ferr cach maín mainbthig mifhocal már marta.

Ferr cach maín mainbthig mifhocal már marta.

(Better * (than) * every * treasure * rich * evil word * of death)

A great killing curse is better than any opulent treasure.

At one point in the law tract “Bretha Nemed Dédenach”, which was edited by Stephen Gwynn in Ériu xiii under the title “An Old-Irish Tract on the Privileges and Responsibilities of Poets”, Athairne, the great mythical satirist par excellence, asks:

“Cía háithemh éo?”
“What is the sharpest of points?”

His immediate answer is “acais dhlighidh”, which is glossed as “aor no mallacht” (satire or curse). A bit further along we are treated to the Vodemortian maxim above, which was spelled “Ferr gach maoin mainbthigh miofhocal már marta” in the late medieval manuscript in which it survives. Despite the modernized spelling, the maxim is in classical Old Irish, with the prepositionless dative used to express comparison.

Topics: Curses & Insults Maxims & Wise Counsel