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Ness (Nes) [tool:pole] [magical item] [Celtic:mythological cycle]

Neas (Ness)*1 [OIr.], [etymology::"swelling, bump" (glossed cnocc) hence giving rise to nescoit "boil" = ness "swelling" + scoit "liquid", but perhaps another meaning "furnace[?" (glossed as urnisi)]

Name of the pole (crand) according to Cormac's Glossary*1 which was used by Goibniu the smith, apparently to discover and punish whoever the man was, who was acting as his wife's lover(?); and when the smith tapped each man with the hot pole (over which he sang a magical incantation), the pole acted as a test of ordeal by fire, which caused the guilty party to flee and a blistering welt (nescoit) to form on the touched spot.
The episode took place during the ongoing Battle of Mag Tuired, where Goibniu was being commissioned to craft all the spears of the Tuatha Dé Dannan, collaborating with two fellow craftsmen (and, brothers, according to LG) namely Luchtine and Cre[i]dne.

The above is a paraphrase of the probable scenario being described. The elliptic language of the Glossary makes it hard to be certain. For one, it does not say outright that 'adultery' as such had taken place: the actual phrasing is that a charge was leveled against his wife for committing a crime which "was grievous to him, and he grew jealous thereat". For another, it does not say the welt developed on the 'guilty' person, but only says it swelled up on one who "escaped" after being tapped with the (supposedly heated) pole.

Another difficulty is that, beyond it being a pole around which the "furnace of clay is made," little hint is provided as to it use or purpose. Speculation might run that it may have been a poker to rake the furnace, or alternatively, (since the same Irish word crand is used).
But an example of an implement that may well fit this vague description can be found in another source: namely, a vertical pole suspended from the ceiling above a pit of stoked coal-fire, and known as Nethin's spear. Although the latter is described as a meat-cooking spit, it is associated with the name of the royal smith at Tara, (and with Gobiniu as well).

§ The paralleling account in the CMT

The text of the Cath Maige Tuired (CMT*1, "The Battle of Mag Tuired") echoes the Glossary's statement that Goibniu the Smith, Luchtine the Carpenter, Cre[i]dne the Brazier crafted each part of a spear in just a few quick motions, to mass produce the weapons in short order. And subsequently, there is records an episode that seemingly echoes the Ness incident. However, the circumstances described are so entirely different, so as not to lend any corroboration to the Glossary's version.

In the CMT, Goibniu takes the spear directed at him and strikes dead the saboteur who attacked him. The assassin was Ruadán, whose mother was Brigit of the TDD, but whose father Bres was of the Fomori, the enemy at war. Ruadán's death was grieved by the shrieking of his mother, Brígh the daughter of the Dagda, and was the first instance of keening in all of Erin. Goibniu was injured by the spear in the encounter as well, and helped himself to soak in Sláine, the magic well of healing. (See there for the quoted passage from CMT).
It might also be worth mentioning that Goibniu himself was of mixed Formori blood, since both he and Balor the strong-smiter had the same grandfather, named Neit.

Now there is an additional tantalizing tidbit in the CMT's account. This is the statement that a certain woman known only as "Cron, mother of Fianlug" is said to have ground Ruadán's spear, and that her involvement is commemorated in the etymology of the word for the "weaver's beam", namely the gae máthri lit. "spear of the mother-kin,' i.e., "the distaff."
    This woman named Cron has not been elsewhere identified to my knowledge. And the "distaff" or the "weaver's beam" is also of uncertain significance, although an explanation of sorts may be sought here. We begin by realizing that this sartorial rod must have represented the standard measure of length, the ell (approximately the yard used for cloth, etc.) Another name for such rod is the "ellwand". This measure of "ell" derives from the human elbow (length from shoulder to the end of the wrist), and commonly held notion is that it represnts the measurement of the king (as is the case with the "foot" or the "[hand]span"). A curious instance of the connection between the ellwand and kingship is seen in the collection of local Irish names for the Belt Stars of Orion: i.e. King's Rod, the Weaver's Yard, The Lady's Ell, etc. (See Fitzgerald*2, pp.198-9). It is easy to see that the ellwand and kingship were associated in Irish minds due to a pun: the word rig[h] represents both the meanings "ell or elbow" and "king." This dichotomy might be reinforced elsewhere by the Latin word regulum which possesses a similar double-entendre.

§ Similarity to Nethin's spit

In the Triads of Ireland, we read of Nethin's spit, named as one of three things that constitute the blacksmith. Little detail is given here regarding this spit, but another tract dubbed "The situation of Teach Midhchuarta," i.e., of the Royal Banquet Hall at Tara, reveals that this was the spit of Nechin, the chief smith at Tara, and a variant manuscript elaborates that it was was made by Goivnenn and belonged to Deichen, a smith at Tara.

Although the spit is associated with the names of smiths, the tract describes them as having another purpose, for they were installed in the royal banquet hall of Tara for roasting swine. The spit of Nethin was a pole that "reached from the roof to the fire", which meant that it was a vertical pole overhanging above the stoked furnace.

The same tract describes how the feasting men, according to their rank and profession, were assigned their rooms and seats, and there were also exacting rules regarding the carving of the swine, and who received the "champion's portion", the bard's portion, etc.
Compare the mythological passages that mention Goibniu's Feast where the TDD were served portions from Manannan's pigs, which had qualities of an elixir of long life. Although the sources give scant mention of Goibniu's role in them, from comparison with what went on in Tara, it is reasonable to surmise that Goibniu performed the task of cooking the pig on the spit, and perhaps carving out the portions.

§ The Ordeal by Fire type motif in other tales

The ordeal or test to subject the accused to fire or extreme heat to divine the truth has other examples in Ireland.
The Scél na Fír Flatha ("The Tale of the Ordeals" or "The Tale of the Ordeals") names twelve ordeals to divine the veracity or falsehood of the accused, and includes the use of instruments akin to the Ness, including:
  • Mochtae's Adze (tál Mochtai) heated red hot and applied to the tongue,
  • The Iron of Luchta (iarnn Luchta) also heated red hot and applied on the hand,
  • The Cauldron of Truth (Coire Fír) made of gold and silver, and the accused was made to put his hand in its boiling water.

The test of grabbing the jarknasteinn in scalding water (Guðrún's third lay ) is another well-known test by intense heat, used to discern an adulterer from the innocent, and/or a slanderer from a truthful accuser.

[owner/three craftsmen]
Goibniu
Goibniu, Góibniu Luchtine Credni (Sanas Chormaic)
Goibnenn Luchtaine Crédne (CMT) [OIr.] Goibend Luicne Creidne(LG ¶314), Goibnend Creidhne Lucra (¶343 ER), Goibniu Creidne Luchne (¶343 D),
Gaibneand Luchraidh Credhn (¶366);
≈? Engoba na Hiruaithi "the one smith of Hiruath" (¶368)

Goibniu the Smith [goba], Luchtine the Carpenter [sær (Sanas Chormaic), sóer (CMT), säer (LG ¶314) saor/saer (¶343) ] Cre[i]dne the Brazier ( cerd).

These three and Dian Cecht the leech are mentioned as a foursome in Lebor Gabála ¶314, 343, 366, but only in the last instance (Third Redaction) are they named as siblings, the four sons of Esarg s. Net s. Indai (ceitri meic Easairg meic Neid meic Indai). Curiously,another list of siblings replace Goibniu with "the One Smith of Hiruaith".
According to Poem XVI of Macalister's edition of LG, Dian Cecht and "Goibnenn the smith" fell from the plague, and Luighne the wright was killed by a "strong fiery dart". Creidne was drowned in a lake fetching golden treasures brought from Spain to Ireland.

In preparation to overthrow their Fir Bolg oppresors, the TDD had their artisans Goibniu the smith, Cerd the gold- and silversmith and brazier, and Creidné the carpenter forge a stockpile of lance, to be used in the coming battle, the CMT.
O'Curry (Manners and Customs II, 246) says that according to an ancient tract in his possession, the forge of Goibniu the Smith (Cerdcha Ghaibhinn) during those years was located deep in the forest of Glenn Treithim, somwhere near the hill of Mullach Maisten (Mullagh Mast) in Co. Kildare, or east of it towards the river Lifé (Lffey), placing it in the NE part of the present county of Wicklow.

[belt and hook]
The belt and hook of the smith god Goibniu were among the contents of the crane-bag of Finn or Mannanán. (accord. to MacKillop's Dict., still to be researched).

----- pole -----
*1 Sanas Chormaic = Cormac's Glossary by Cormac mac Cuilennáin, king of Cashel (836-908). The O'Donovan edition (see below) is used.

*2 A redaction also occurs in T.C.D. ms. 1336 (H.3.17), col. 859, l.19 "Explanation of the word Nescóit, and a story about three Tuatha Dé Danann armourers (quoted from Cormac's Glossary) " (Catalogue, ed. T. K. Abbott and E.J. Gwynn).

----- CMT -----
*1 Cath Maige Tuiread, "The Battle of Moytura". See under the well of healing, Sláine for the quotation of the paralleling episode.

*2 Fizgerald, David, Esq., "Early Celtic History and Mythology," in: Revue Celtique 6, (1883-5), p.193- [books.google]

----- cognate motifs -----
*1 Stokes, Whitley, ed. tr., Scél na Fír Flatha, Echtra Chormaic i Tír Tairngiri ocus Cert Claidib Chormaic (the Irish Ordeals, Cormac's Adventure in the Land of Promise, and the Decision as to Cormac's Sword ) Irische Texte III, 1 (Leipzig 1891) 183-229.
Also see bibl. & summary by Dan M. Wiley @ Hastings U.

----- personage -----
*1 Sanas Chormaic, op. cit.

*2 CMT = Cath Maige Tuired

*3 LG = Lebor Gabála Eirenn

§ Cormac's Glossary [Sanas Cormaic] (d. 908)

The name of Goibnu's spear-shaft is mentioned under the glossary of the word nescoit or "boil":
Nescoit .i. ise senchas nan Gædel. intan tuccad cath Muige Tuired boi Goibniu goba isincerdcha oc denam nanarm do Tuathaib d. d. [Dé Domnannl] & boi Luchtine sær oc denam nacrand isnagáib & boi Credni incerd oc denum úemand isna gáib cetna. Dicunt autem Scoti Góibniu goba faciebat hastas fri teora grésa & bafeth in gres dé­dinach. Dognid tra Luctine nacranna friteora snassa & ba féith insnass dédinach. Sic et Creidne faciebat na semanda. dobidgad Góibne asintenchar nagæ´i conglendais isinursain. doleced Luchtine na crandu inandíaid & ba lór dianindsma. dobidgad Creidne ina semunda agobaib (na) tenchaire & ba lór dianindsma. Cein tra boi Goibniu oconnisin lítear bine for a mhnái sium. atchess dosom annsin comba sæth lais inscél & édaig imbe. issed dosgni fris .i. boi crand inaláim intan atcúas do ascél .i. Neas aainm & is uime dognither an urnise criad & dichan brichtu din forsan- crandsin & cach fer dothiged chuige doberead fnasma ind doncrandsin. Madellad iaram in duine [pag. 8. col. 1.] do thurgbad iaram cnocc lan do lindchro & gur & foloiscead in duine amail tenid. arbahe fuath incraind dian[ad] ainm Ness nobid forsincnucc. 7 is aire roainmnigestar onainm­ sin Nescoit.
Ness tra .i. cnocc & scóit lind. Ness din cetharda fordingair .i. ness ainm in anmunda. ness (nomen) do crand. ness nomen do urnisi...
Sanais Chormaic [codex A], from Three Glossaries, p.32
NESCOIT (' a boil') i.e. This is a story of the Gael. When (the) battle of Moytura was being fought Goibniu (the) Smith was in the forge making the weapons for the Tuatha Dé Danann, and Luchtine (the) Carpenter was making the shafts for the spears, and Creidne (the) Brazier was making rivets for the same spears. Dicunt autem Scoti [It was also said by the Irish] that Goibniu the Smith faciebat hastas [made spears] by three actions, and the last action was the finish. Then Luchtine made the shafts by three cuts and the last cut was the finish. Sic et Creidne facielat [And that Creidne made] the rivets. Goibniu used to fling the spearheads from the tongs, and they used to stick in the jamb. Luchtine used to cast the shafts after them, and (this) was enough to insert [?] them. Creidne used to fling the rivets from the jaws of the tongs, and (this) was enough to insert [?] them. Now while Goibniu was at this thing, a crime is charged against his wife. It was seen in him then that the story was grievous to him, and he grew jealous thereat. This is what he does. There was a pole in his hand when he heard the story: Ness was its name, and it is about it the furnace of clay is made; and he sings spells over this pole, and to every man who came to him he gave a blow of this pole. Then if the man escaped a lump full of gory liquid and matter was raised upon him, and the man was burned like fire, for the form of the pole called Ness was on the lump, and therefore was it named Nescoit. [from that name, ] Ness then i.e. a swelling and scoit 'liquid'. Ness also means four things: ness [' weasel'] the name of the animal: ness a name for a pole: ness nomen for a furnace [?] ...
—Donovan tr., p.123
*1 O'Donovan, John, ed. Sanas Chormaic. Cormac's glossary. (Calcutta: O. T. Cutter 1868.) [Irish Archeological and Celtic Society] [attributed to Cormac mac Cuilennáin, King of Cashel, 836-908.] [archive] [books.google] [copy 2]


*2 Stokes, Whitley, 1830-1909, ed., Three Irish glossaries : Cormac's glossary, codex A, (from a manuscript in the library of the Royal Irish Academy), O'Davoren's glossary (from a manuscript in the library of the British Museum) and A glossary to the calendar of Oengus the Culdec (from a manuscript in the library of Triity College, Dublin) (London : Williams and Norgate 1862) [archive]

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