Preface (and epilogue) to Amra Senáin

  • Middle Irish
  • prose
  • Medieval Irish literature, Irish religious texts, minor Irish prose tales, prefaces and epilogues, Irish hagiography
A Middle Irish preface and epilogue to the poem Amra Senáin ‘The eulogy of Senán’ mac Geirrcinn, abbot and saint of Inis Cathaig (Scattery Island, Co. Clare), in two parts: (1) a short miracle story which relates how Senán delivered an artisan named Nárach from a monster inhabiting the estuary of the Shannon in which the river island is located, and (2) a short passage, directly before and after the poem (except in NLI MS G 30), attributing the poem to Dallán Forgaill. The first part seemingly derives from a version of the story as it is told in the Commentary to Félire Óengusso (8 March). Both versions take their cue from a reading of two lines in the Félire (Senan Indse Cathaig / crochais écrait n-árach ‘Senán of Inis Cathaig / disabled the enemy with a binding’, for which see Breatnach’s text and translation). The tale of Senán’s encounter is expanded, if without mention of Nárach, in Betha Shenáin.
First words (prose)
  • Ba sanct n-amra inti Senan
  • Middle Irish
prose (primary)


Medieval Irish literatureMedieval Irish literature

Irish religious textsIrish religious texts

minor Irish prose tales (foscéla)Irish narrative literature
minor Irish prose tales (foscéla)
id. 33994

Relatively short prose tales in Irish. In learned discourse from the Middle Irish period and later, a distinction is sometimes made between the longer prím-scél and the shorter fo-scél. See eDIL s.v. ‘foscél’ for some references. In the first two volumes of BILL (1913 and 1942), Best included separate headings for ‘Minor tales’.

prefaces, introductions and epiloguespartial documents
prefaces, introductions and epilogues
id. 32618
Irish and Irish Latin hagiographyIrish literature, hagiographies
Irish and Irish Latin hagiography
id. 35682


Senán of Inis Cathaig
Senán of Inis Cathaig
Senán mac Geirrcinn, patron saint of Inis Cathaig (Scattery Island, Co. Clare)

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Entry reserved for but not yet available from the subject index.

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Dallán Forgaill
Dallán Forgaill
(fl. 597)
early Irish poet, known as the author of Amra Choluim Chille

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Primary sources Text editions and/or modern translations – in whole or in part – along with publications containing additions and corrections, if known. Diplomatic editions, facsimiles and digital image reproductions of the manuscripts are not always listed here but may be found in entries for the relevant manuscripts. For historical purposes, early editions, transcriptions and translations are not excluded, even if their reliability does not meet modern standards.

[ed.] [tr.] Breatnach, Liam, “An edition of Amra Senáin”, in: Donnchadh Ó Corráin, Liam Breatnach, and Kim R. McCone (eds), Sages, saints and storytellers: Celtic studies in honour of Professor James Carney, 2, Maynooth: An Sagart, 1989. 7–31.
9, 13, 15
[ed.] [tr.] Stokes, Whitley, “Amra Senáin”, Zeitschrift für celtische Philologie 3 (1901): 220–225.
Internet Archive: <link>
Based on Leabhar Breac and TCD MS 1336.

Secondary sources (select)

Baumgarten, Rolf, “Creative medieval etymology and Irish hagiography (Lasair, Columba, Senán)”, Ériu 54 (2004): 49–78.
Borsje, Jacqueline, From chaos to enemy: encounters with monsters in early Irish texts. An investigation related to the process of christianization and the concept of evil, Instrumenta Patristica, 29, Turnhout: Brepols, 1996.  
This book deals with the theme of 'encounters with monsters' in early Irish texts. Three texts dealing with this theme are central to this study: the Old Irish Adventure of Fergus mac Leite, the Hiberno-Latin Life of St Columba by Adomnan, and the Old Irish Letter of Jesus. The author's investigation of the theme follows two lines. The first main line is the question of how aspects of the process of Christianization were reflected in early Irish literary texts. The second main line focusses on the development of ideas about evil in these textes. These two lines of investigations generated two approaches: firstly, a study into the origin of the descriptions of the monsters and, secondly, an analysis - by means of a hypothesis - of the ideas found in these three texts on this time. The broad scope of the process of Christianization is narrowed down to an investigation of the origin of the monsters and non-canonical scripture, encyclopedic Latin works such as Pliny's Naturalis Historia and Isidore's Etymologiae, related Latin and Old English material, Hiberno-Latin, and Old and Middle Irish texts. The author made this comparison in order to ascertain whether these descriptions were derived from sources and to classify the monsters according to three categories: "native", "imported", or "integrated". The author did this to determine if and how Christian idead influenced the symbolisation of evil in the form of monsters. In order to analyse the ideas about evil, the author distinguishes between two forms of evil: firstly, non-moral evil - evil that occurs without anyone inflicting it intentionally uppn the victims, and secondly, moral evil - evil done intentionally. According to the author's hypothesis, the monsters are said to belong originally to the realm of non-moral evil but, under the influence of Christianity, they also begin to personify moral evil. [...]
Plummer, Charles, “A tentative catalogue of Irish hagiography”, in: Charles Plummer, Miscellanea hagiographica Hibernica: vitae adhuc ineditae sanctorum Mac Creiche, Naile, Cranat, 15, Brussels: Société des Bollandistes, 1925. 171–285.
Utrecht University Library: <link>
223 [id. 177.]
Dennis Groenewegen
Page created
January 2018, last updated: January 2024