'Saig in Machai Fothúaid': On the Application and Extent of ‘the Macha’ in North-west Armagh

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Abstract

The seventh-century Patrician documents in the Book of Armagh, and other early sources such as Bethu Phátraic, contain references to the toponym Macha, which has been identified by the Dictionary of the Irish Language with either the ecclesiastical centre of Ard Macha or the ‘royal seat’ of Emain Macha. This article examines the evidence for the name in the sources and illustrates that Macha applies primarily to the plain in which both Ard Macha and Emain Macha are located. It is to be identified with Mag Macha ‘the plain of Macha’, familiar to us from the Dindshenchus, and further evidence of the organic potential of a given toponym is witnessed in later sources where the plain is referred to as Mag/Machaire na hE(a)mna ‘the plain of Emain’ and Machaire Aird/Arda Macha ‘the plain of Armagh’. The extent of Macha is difficult to establish with certainty, but it seems very likely that it stretched north to the River Blackwater as well as south towards Slíab Fúait.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)111-129
Number of pages19
JournalÉriu
Volume60
Issue numbernull
Publication statusPublished - 2010

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