Mistress, Dame or ?

There has been some discussion on Facebook recently about the title choices for SCA Peers. I thought I would share my thought process, in the hopes that is will explain my choice. I would like to thank Dame Mari ingen Briain meic Donnchada for her assistance digging up period examples and her assistance with Gaelic grammar!

There is a list of approved alternate title provided by the College of Heralds, however the Irish Gaelic options are too late for my persona. In fact, during my period of interest there isn’t any evidence that the cultures I study (primarily the Irish Gaelic and Norse) used titles as we use them in the SCA (ie, what you would call someone when speaking to them). The only evidence is for descriptions or ranks placed after the name when referring to the subject (a construction called a descriptive byname). I decided that form would be useful as part of my signature on correspondence.

From Dame Mari’s research, the term <suí> means ‘sage or scholar’ and <ecnaid> is defined as ‘wisdom, knowledge, enlightenment’ which is ‘also applied to human learning in its widest sense: of acquired knowledge; rarely intelligence, skill’

She found several examples from the Annals of Ulster where these two terms are used together to describe scholars:
Aedh Treoiti, suí ind ecnai & i crabad
19th C translation:
Aed of Treóit, paragon of knowledge and piety

Ciaran sui ecnaidh Erenn
19th C translation:
Ciarán, eminent sage of Ireland

M. Gorman fer leiginn Cenannsa & sui ecna Erenn.
19th C translation:
The son of Gormán, lector of Cenannas, and sage of Ireland, died.

Cormac H. Mael Duin sui ind ecnai & i crabad
19th C translation:
Cormac ua Mael Dúin, eminent for wisdom and piety

Mael Isu H. Brolcan sui in ecna & in crabaid & i filidhechti m-berlai cechtardhai
19th C translation:
Mael Ísu ua Brolcháin, eminent in wisdom and piety and in poetry in both languages

Cathalan H. Forreidh sui ind ecnai & in crabaidhi
19th C translation:
Cathalán ua Forréidh, eminent in wisdom and in piety

Murchadh H. Flaithecan airchinnech Arda Bó sui ecnai & enaigh & fhairchituil in perigrinatione suam .i. in Ard Macha feliciter obiit.
19th C translation:
Murchad ua Flaithecán, superior of Ard Bó, eminent in wisdom and honour and teaching, died happily on his pilgrimage, i.e. in Ard Macha.

Flannacan h-Ua Dubhtaich, epscop na Tuath Sil Muiredagh, sui ecnai & senchais Iarthair Erenn uile, i Cungu ic ailithri mortus est.
19th C translation:
Flannacan Ua Dubhtaich, bishop of the Tuatha (Sil-Muiredaigh) [Elphin], the master of wisdom and history in [lit., of] all the West of Ireland, died in pilgrimage at Cunga.

Mael Isu .i., mac in chleirigh cuirr, espuc Uladh, suí ecna & crabaidh, plenus dierum in Christo quieuit.
19th C translation:
Mael-Isu (namely, son of ‘the Stooped Cleric’), bishop of Ulidia [Down], master of wisdom and piety, rested full of days in Christ.

These are grammatical variations on description “knowledgeable scholar.” According to Dame Mari, several of the period examples that use <suí ecna> would be grammatically correct as <suí echnaid>, so possibly ecna was an abbreviation.

So in formal correspondence, my signature is

Ciar ingen Daire, suí ecnaid

Oh, but what should you call me??? Ciar is fine 🙂


edited to add – the pronunciation is something along the lines of SUH-ee EHK-nay-ed