Sunday, November 21, 2010

Ciotogachs - Left-handed people

      Left-handed people, or Ciotogachs in Irish, have always comprised 10% of the population. In medieval society they were considered evil, sinister, carrying the mark of the devil, the left hand of God theory. Aiofe, one of the main characters in my work-in-progress novel, is both left-handed and a healer, a juxtaposition in 12th century Ireland. This inaccurate and antiquated belief that right-handed was better carried us well into the 20th century where left-handed children, particularly in European countries, were ridiculed, considered clumsy, awkward and slow.
     Today, we know better. The practice of “encouraging” children to use their right hands has virtually disappeared. Handedness is determined in the womb, runs in families, cannot be changed and gives children an advantage when it comes to spatial relationships although the tie to mathematics, musical ability and art has not been verified.
     In the days of sword and shield, left-handed gallowglass, mercenaries, were considered more valuable. The typical castle staircase was built in a spiral, clockwise design for the purpose of repelling right-handed invaders, thereby giving the defenders the advantage. In Scotland, the clever Kerr family circumvented this practice by training their warriors to fight with their left hands. Whether the Kerrs actually had a predisposition to fight in ciotogach fashion is still to be determined.
     As for my interest in the subject, I’ve always thought left-handed people were fascinating, probably because I am so completely and irrevocably right-handed to the degree that I can’t even pull into a parking space with my non-dominant hand. My father was left-handed, as was my late-husband, as is my fiancé, my closest friend and my brother-in-law. Left-handed people recover from strokes more quickly and completely, they manipulate with their right-hands much better than right-handed people do with their left. They also play a mean game of baseball.


  1. How do you pronounce ciotogach?

  2. The word is pronounced like this: kith'og. The o is long like in "rogue." Irish is definitely not a phonetic language from an English perspective.

  3. okay I got it, did you know there are only 18 letters in the Irish alphabet?