taghairm

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English[edit]

Etymology[edit]

A portrait of the Scottish historical novelist, playwright and poet Sir Walter Scott (1771–1832), based on Henry Raeburn’s 1822 painting. Scott mentioned the practice of taghairm in his poem The Lady of the Lake (1810).

Borrowing from Scottish Gaelic taghairm, possibly from gairm (to call, to cry), from Old Irish gairm, from Proto-Celtic *garrman, from Proto-Indo-European *ǵh₂r̥-smn̥, from *ǵeh₂r-, *gʰel- (to call, to cry, to shout); compare Irish toghairm (an invocation, a summons),[1] from gairm, gair (to call; to invoke), ultimately from the same Proto-Indo-European roots.

The Encyclopædia Britannica (3rd ed., 1797) suggests a derivation from Scottish Gaelic ta (a ghost, a spirit) + gairm (to call, to cry),[2] while the editor of an 1871 edition of Sir Walter Scott’s The Lady of the Lake suggested tarbh (a bull) or targair (to foretell).[3] The reliability of these etymologies is uncertain.

Pronunciation[edit]

Noun[edit]

taghairm (usually uncountable, plural taghairms)

  1. (historical, Scotland) An ancient divination method of the Highland Scots involving animal sacrifice.
    1. A method of divination involving sewing a person into the hide of a freshly-killed ox which was then placed beside a waterfall or other desolate place, to enable the person to foresee the outcome of an impending battle; the oracle of the hide.
      • 1797, “NECROMANCY”, in Encyclopædia Britannica; or, A Dictionary of Arts, Sciences, and Miscellaneous Literature; [...] In Eighteen Volumes, volume XII, 3rd greatly enlarged edition, Edinburgh: Printed for A[ndrew] Bell and C[olin] Macfarquhar, OCLC 679731788, page 787, column 2:
        There were different kinds of taghairm, of which one was very lately practiſed in Sky. The diviner covered himſelf with a cow's hide, and repaired at night to ſome deep-ſounding cave, whither the perſon who conſulted him followed ſoon after without any attendants. At the mouth of the cave he propoſed aloud the queſtions of which he wanted ſolutions; and the man within pronounced the reſponſes in a tone of voice ſimilar to that which the obs, or pretended dæmons of antiquity, gave from beneath the ground their oracular anſwers. That in the latter days of taghairm the Gaelic diviners pretended to evocate ghoſts, and from them to extort ſolutions of difficulties propoſed, we have no poſitive evidence; []
      • 1810, Walter Scott, The Lady of the Lake; a Poem, Edinburgh: Printed [by James Ballantyne and Co.] for John Ballantyne and Co.; London: Longman, Hurst, Rees, and Orme, and William Miller, OCLC 6632529, canto IV, stanza IV, pages 146 and lxv:
        [page 146] [L]ast evening-tide / Brian an augury hath tried, / Of that dread kind which must not be / Unless in dread extremity, / The Taghairm called; by which, afar, / Our sires foresaw the events of war. / Duncraggan's milk-white bull they slew, [] [page lxv] Notes to Canto Fourth. Note I. [] The Highlanders, like all rude people, had various superstitious modes of enquiring into futurity. One of the most noted was the Taghairm, mentioned in the text. A person was wrapped in the skin of a newly slain bullock, and deposited beside a water-fall, or at the bottom of a precipice, or in some other strange, wild, and unusual situation, where the scenery around him suggested nothing but objects of horror. In this situation he revolved in his mind the question proposed, and whatever was impressed upon him by his exalted imagination, passed for the inspiration of the disembodied spirits, who haunt these desolate recesses.
      • 1844 December, Gideon Shaddoe, “Recollections and Reflections of Gideon Shaddoe, Esq. No. VI.”, in [Thomas Hood], editor, Hood's Magazine and Comic Miscellany, volume II, number XII, London: Published for the proprietors, by H. Renshaw, 356. Strand; and sold by all booksellers, OCLC 6420002, page 603:
        A country where such traditions could pass current, and in which more unfortunate creatures, perhaps, passed to death through the torturing fire for the imaginary crime of witchcraft under laws framed and administered in the spirit of Moloch himself, then suffered on the same accursed account in any region of similar extent, was a soil well calculated to cherish the Taghairm and Second Sight. [] Those who slept on the skin of the sacrificial lamb at the temple of Amphiaraus, expectant of visions, were, in truth, trying the augury of the Taghairm; []
      • 1911, J[ohn] A[rnott] MacCulloch, “CELTS”, in James Hastings, editor, Encyclopædia of Religion and Ethics, volume III (Burial–Confessions), New York, N.Y.: Charles Scribner's Sons; London: T. & T. Clark, OCLC 3065458, page 300, column 2:
        In the taghairm the seer was bound in an animal's hide and left by the waters, the spirits of which inspired his dreams []. The hide was probably that of a sacrificial animal.
    2. A method of divination in which cats were roasted alive to call up the spirit of the demon cat who would grant the wishes of the torturers.
      • 1824 March 13, “Traditions of the Western Highlands. No. II. The Taigheirm.”, in The Literary Gazette, and Journal of Belles Lettres, Arts, Sciences, &c., number 373, London: Printed by B. Bensley, Bolt Court, Fleet Street; published for the proprietors, at the Literary Gazette Office, Strand, OCLC 276732578, page 172:
        The last time the Taigheirm was performed in the Highlands, was in the island of Mull, in the beginning of the seventeenth century, and the place is still well known to the inhabitants. [] The institution was no doubt of pagan origin, and was a sacrifice offered to the Evil Spirit, in return for which the votaries were entitled to demand two boons. [] The sacrifice consisted of living cats roasted on a spit while life remained, and when the animal expired, another was put on in its place.
      • 1854, Joseph Ennemoser; William Howitt, transl., “The Magic of the Ancient Germans and of the Northern Nations”, in Mary Howitt, editor, The History of Magic. [...] To which is Added an Appendix of the Most Remarkable and Best Authenticated Stories of Apparitions, Dreams, Second Sight, Somnambulism, Predictions, Divination, Witchcraft, Vampires, Fairies, Table-turning, and Spirit-rapping. [...] In Two Volumes (Bohn's Scientific Library), volume II, London: Henry G[eorge] Bohn, York Street, Covent Garden, OCLC 968472094, pages 104 and 105:
        According to Horst's Deuteroscopy, black cats were indispensable to the incantation ceremony of the Taigheirm, and these were dedicated to the subterranean gods, or, later, to the demons of Christianity. [] When the Taigheirm was complete, the sacrificer demanded of the spirits the reward of his offering, which consisted of various things; as riches, children, food, and clothing. The gift of second-sight, which they had not had before, was, however, the usual recompense; and they retained it to the day of their death.
      • 1891, The Zoophilist and Animals' Defender, volume X, London: National Anti-Vivisection Society, OCLC 906999582, page 93, column 2:
        Anthropology and National Psychology can tell us something about such things; we have heard of those horrible Taigheirms, when for days together Highland shepherds roasted living cats in front of a fire uninterruptedly, in order that, intoxicated with their frightful wailings, they might obtain the magic gift of 'second sight;' []

Alternative forms[edit]

References[edit]

  1. ^ taghairm” in W[illiam] Grant and D[avid] D. Murison, editors, The Scottish National Dictionary, Edinburgh: Scottish National Dictionary Association, 1931–1976, OCLC 847228655; reproduced on The Dictionary of the Scots Language, Edinburgh: Scottish Language Dictionaries, 2004–, OCLC 57069714, retrieved 30 January 2017.
  2. ^ “NECROMANCY”, in Encyclopædia Britannica; or, A Dictionary of Arts, Sciences, and Miscellaneous Literature; [...] In Eighteen Volumes, volume XII, 3rd greatly enlarged edition, Edinburgh: Printed for A[ndrew] Bell and C[olin] Macfarquhar, 1797, OCLC 679731788, page 787, column 2.
  3. ^ Walter Scott (1871) The Lady of the Lake [...] With Notes and Analytical and Explanatory Index, Edinburgh: John Ross and Company, OCLC 3991613, page 216.
  • M[artin] Martin (1703), “The Ancient and Modern Customs of the Inhabitants of the Western Islands of Scotland”, in A Description of the Western Islands of Scotland, London: Printed for Andrew Bell, at the Cross-Keys and Bible, in Cornhill, near Stocks-Market, OCLC 745277293, pages 111–112: “The ſecond way of conſulting the Oracle was, by a Party of Men, who firſt retired to Solitary Places, remote from any Houſe, and there they ſingled out one of their Number, and wrap'd him in a big Cows Hide which they folded about him, his whole Body was covered with it except his Head, and ſo left in this Poſture all night until his inviſible Friends reliev'd him, by giving a proper Anſwer to the Queſtion in hand, which he received, as he fancied, from ſeveral Perſons that he found about him all that time, his conſorts return'd to him at break of Day, and then he communicated his News to them, which often proved fatal to thoſe concerned in ſuch unwarrantable inquiries. / There was a third way of conſulting, which was a Confirmation of the ſecond abovementioned. The ſame Company who put the Man into the Hide, took a live Cat and put him on a Spit, one of the Number was imployed to turn the Spit, and one of his Conſorts enquired at him, what are you doing? He anſwered, I roaſt this Cat, until his Friends anſwer the Queſtion, which muſt be the ſame that was propoſed by the Man ſhut up in the Hide, and afterwards a very big Cat comes attended by a Number of leſſer Cats, deſiring to relieve the Cat turned on the Spit, and then anſwers the Queſtion: If this Anſwer prove the ſame that was given to the Man in the Hide, then it was taken as a Confirmation of the other which in this caſe was believed Infallible, []
  • Andrew E. M. Wiseman (2010), “Caterwauling and Demon Raising: The Ancient Rite of the Taghairm?”, in Scottish Studies: The Journal of the School of Scottish Studies, University of Edinburgh[1], volume 35, Edinburgh: Oliver and Boyd, ISSN 0036-9411, OCLC 611153728, archived from the original on 9 May 2016, pages 174–209.

Further reading[edit]


Scots[edit]

Pronunciation[edit]

Noun[edit]

taghairm (plural taghairms)

  1. taghairm

Scottish Gaelic[edit]

Pronunciation[edit]

Noun[edit]

taghairm f (genitive singular taghairme, plural taghairmean)

  1. taghairm