The Cardinal Points in Ancient Ireland

From A Smaller Social History of Ancient Ireland 1906

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CHAPTER XXVI....continued

7. The Cardinal Points.

A single point of the compass was called aird, which is still used in Scotland in the form of airt: "Of a' the airts the wind can blaw, I dearly like the west" (Burns). The four cardinal points were severally designated by the Irish in the same way as by the ancient Hebrews and by the Indians; for they got names which expressed their position with regard to a person standing with his face to the east.

The original Irish word for the east is oir [ur]; which however is often written soir and thoir [sur, hur]. Our ancient literature affords ample proof that these words were used from the earliest times to signify both the front and the east, and the same double application continues in use at the present day. Iar [eer] signifies the hinder part, and also the west. Deas [dass] means literally the right-hand side; and it is also the word for the south, as the right hand lies towards the south when the face is turned to the east. The word is used in both senses at the present day; and this was the case in the very earliest ages. It is often written teas [tass]. Tuath, tuaith [thooa], means properly the left hand; and as deas is applied to the south, so this word is used to signify the north.

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