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fili

professional poet in ancient Ireland whose official duties were to know and preserve the tales and genealogies and to compose poems recalling the past and present glory of the ruling class. The filid constituted a large aristocratic class, expensive to support, and were severely censured for their extravagant demands on patrons as early as the assembly of Druim Cetta (575); they were defended at the assembly by St. Columba. Their power was not checked, however, since they could enforce their demands by the feared lampoon (aer), or poet's curse, which not only could take away a man's reputation but, according to a widely held ancient belief, could cause physical damage or even death. Although by law a fili could be penalized for abuse of the aer, belief in its powers was strong and continued to modern times.

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Encyclopedia Britannica, 2008. Encyclopedia Britannica Online.
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