|TITLE: |Caoineadh os Cionn Coirp: The Lament for the Dead in Ireland |
|SOURCE: |Folklore (London, England) 108 65-82 '97 |
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As poetry performed at crucial turning points in life, lamentation has been a central element of the culture of women in most societies. In Ireland the custom of public improvised poetic lamentation over deceased persons by women is attested from ancient times and persisted into the twentieth century in some parts. This paper gives a brief survey of the lament tradition in Ireland, taking into account evidence from diverse periods and sources, both literary and oral, as well as lament "texts" collected in the nineteenth and twentieth centuries. A backdrop to attitudes to the lament in different sections of society expressed in the sources is provided by consideration of the linguistic, political and, especially, the socio-religious history of Ireland in late-medieval and modern times. In attempting to understand the significance of lamentation to the bereaved individual and community, the structure and content of the traditional lament over the dead, its situation in the scheme of the funeral ritual, its performance, and its effect on the audience are all considered. The pivotal role of the keening woman in this context is also taken into account.
"Laments are poetry of final parting" (Honko 1974, 9). In different parts of the world they have been included in the rites of departure surrounding crucial turning points in life, such as marriage, death, setting off to war and so on. In most societies ritual lamentation has been part of the rôle performance of women and a central element of their culture. In... [continues]
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