Jisei: Haunting Japanese death poems from history

Japan has a long history of jisei, or death poems. Jisei is the “farewell poem to life.” These poems were written by literate people, often monks, royalty or courtiers just before their death.  A Jisei from Prince Otsu in 686 BC is one of the earliest recorded death poems. Not all death poems are writtenContinue reading “Jisei: Haunting Japanese death poems from history”

Ancient word of the day: Dægeseage

The ancient word of the day is Dægeseage. This is an old English word for daisy. The origin of Dægeseage is literally daisy or day’s eye. Which makes sense when you think about the quaint little flower and its tendency to follow the arc of the sun through the sky from dawn to dusk, soaking in as much light and goodness as possible.

Ancient word of the day: Bóithrín

The word bóithrín comes from small (ín) Cow (bó) path. This is a path can either be man-made or created by cow meandering. Bóthar for road and botharín for small road – in the diminutive form. This became boreen or bohereen in Hiberno-English.

The ancient and elusive fairisle of Hy Brasil

Hy Brasil is a mysterious phantom island that was thought to exist off the west coast of Ireland in the Atlantic Ocean for hundreds of years. The area being nautically challenging for seafarers, it was an elusive and mysterious place, hailed in pre-Christian times as being the Celtic Elysium or land of promise. During ChristianContinue reading “The ancient and elusive fairisle of Hy Brasil”

Ancient word of the day: Hedgehog

The ancient word for today is hedgehog Erinaceus europaeus. In the Middle Ages, writers didn’t make reference to hedgehogs, but to urchins. A term still favoured in some English dialects. It’s also associated with the sea urchin, which is literally a sea hedgehog. The word urchin came over to England with the Norman invasion andContinue reading “Ancient word of the day: Hedgehog”

Top Ten Greatest Old Man Insults

Put the kettle on and start eating some water crackers with lard on them. Just to get in the mood for this one… Nincompoop: Is said to come from the Latin legal and medical term Non Compos Mentis meaning ‘not of sound mind’. This evolved into nincompoop meaning a stupid or dumb person. Flibbertigibbet: A flightyContinue reading “Top Ten Greatest Old Man Insults”

The Viking Imagination: Medieval Cartography of Scandinavia

Just because I love cartography, here’s a couple of remarkable Scandanavian medieval maps. Note the dominance of several kraken and sea monsters off the Norwegian coast and how each country is barely hanging on by a thread because of these menacing beasts. Here be magic, Vikings and mysterious beasts. Velleius Islandia by Abraham Ortellius (1603)Continue reading “The Viking Imagination: Medieval Cartography of Scandinavia”

11 Archaic Words That Deserve Full Revival

Here are eleven words that I have collected in much the same way as other people collect smooth stones from a riverbed or iridescent shells from a beach. With so many words and shells floating around, how can you be sure that you have the prettiest ones? Here are eleven of my favourite ancient words,Continue reading “11 Archaic Words That Deserve Full Revival”