Thursday, April 25, 2013

Animals in river names.

Celtic peoples held lakes and rivers to be sacred as evinced from their mythology. According to the myths the rivers Shannon and the Boyne were created by goddesses. The sacred nature of water is also evident in the archaeological record due to the many finds of votive offerings of precious objects in watery places. Sometimes river names reveal creation myths not by gods but by furrowing animals. It may be indicative of how sacred these animals were once considered.

The pig was one such animal, spending its lifetime furrowing through the earth creating river like meandering channels. It gives its name of the River Suck in Connacht which is one of the main tributaries of the River Shannon. The word derives from the old Irish word for pig ‘socc’ or more specifically the pigs digging instrument the snout. The river, Afon Soch and the village named after it Abersoch in Wales contain the element ‘soch’ which is of Celtic origin and thus related to the Irish word ‘socc’.

In Wales also there is the river Twrch (literally 'hog') in Ystalyfera and Llanuwchllyn are other examples, as is the river Hwch (sow) near Llanberis. Banw, a word for a 'piglet', is apparent in the river names Banw in Montgomeryshire and the rivers Aman (from Amanw) and Ogwen.

Image: River Suck at O’Flynn’s Lock C. Roscommon.

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