Tuesday 5 April 2011

Blood Brotherhood

John Ewen (Iain Eòghann) MacRury from Torlum, Benbecula, took down a note about ‘goitseachd’. Under the heading ‘goistidheachd’, Dwelly’s dictionary glosses the word as: ‘Office or duty of a godfather. 2 Gossiping. Ri goistidheachd, assuming the office of a godfather; cleamhnas am fagas is goistidheachd am fad, affinity at hand and sponsorship afar off.’ It seems that this definition does not take into account all its meanings, for it is rather interesting what MacRury reveals about this word by the way in which he offers some social contexts behind the word:

I remember when a
school boy of Goist-
eachd being a common
saying with us,
If I were bristeadh
rudan with another
and blood issuing
from the knuckles
of either of us the
one producing blood
put it on the bare
skin of the other and
say roinn mi
goisteachd riut,
signifying that we
were friends in all
plays henceforth, but
very often the friend
ship did not last very
long, for as soon
as play commenced
every one so positive
we were sure to fall
out, and ultimately
end the dispuit with
blood which very
often produced more
blood than on the
occasion on which
we made the goist
eachd. However there
was something in it
as the goistidhean
showed a warm
side to each other
“an am cruaidh chais[”]
in time of hardship,
If I were to put the
blood on the bare
hand of a girl for
it was mostly on
the back of the
hand the blood was
put “air cul an
duirn[”] then they
would say “roinn
thu goisteachd rithe”
and that signified
that she was to be
one of my Godmother[s]
and if I were to fall
in love with her I
dared not say a word
to her for my life
as goisteachd was made
with her, It was a
common occurrence
for boys to put a
drop of their blood
on the hands of
girls that were not
nice looking signify-
ing that they would
not have anything to
do with them as their
lovers. Nice young
girls did the same
on coarse wild boys.

CW1/70, fos. 35v–38r.
Dwelly, Edward, The Illustrated Gaelic-English Dictionary (Glasgow, 1994), p. 516.
Image: Drops of Blood.

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Stone whorls WHM 1992 13 2.4

Stone whorls WHM 1992 13 2.4
Stone whorls collected by Alexander Carmichael, held by West Highland Museum (ref. WHM 1992 13 2.4). [© carstenflieger.com]