Friday 29 July 2011

Some Prophecies of the Brahan Seer

Howbeg, South Uist
Many traditional tales of Coinneach Odhar or the so-called Brahan Seer were floating around the isles when Alexander Carmichael was collecting there in the early 1870s. One typical tale, noted down on 3 January 1872, from an unnamed reciter in Gramsdale, Benbecula, tells of how the seer came by his powers of prophecy and then how he eventually threw this stone into Loch Ness. It is said that when this stone is eventually rediscovered that all his prophecies will come true. The reciter then goes on to relate a number of prophecies especially those with a connection to Uist and Barra including the presence of grey geese and white sheep; that a battle would be fought at Claddach Kyles after which the raven would drink the blood of the fallen men from the hill at Clach Mhòr a Che and about MacNeil of Barra and the ‘maor nan òrdagan mòr’ who wrote with his left hand:

Coinneach Odhar is said to have
been born at Howbeag – the son of a
widow. He dreamt & got up & dug the
sand on the strand. Twas tho[ugh]t that he got
derg[?]. He wro[ugh]t hard at this for a long time.
He then got a box & in the box a stone
& in the stone all the prophecy – buai[dh]
He kept the stone & as long as he kept
it he proph[esy]ng. He threw fr[om] him[self] the stone
in a lake at near Lochness. When
this lake is drain[ed] the stone will be
found & then many things will c[o]m[e]
to light. He heard a voice when
he was lifting the box on the strand
Prophecies – Uist (N[orth]) will be fo
gheoi[dh] ghlas us caor[aich] gheala which
is true. A battle will be fo[ugh]t at Clad[d-]
ach & the fi[th]each will drink his fill
of the blood of the slain on the top
of Clachamhor a che Passing
a lake at Oban-cinn lianacleit
he said that Lake (Dig mhor[)]
would yet be the best croce feam[ad]
in Uist. There he proph[esied] about
the Macneills of Barra & the duin[e]
mor 24 meoir, & maor nan ordagan
mora a sgri[obhadh] leis an lai[mh] chearr
This maor went to Barra to sequester
Macn[e]ill. He said a coit bheag
would yet carry all the Macdonalds
in S[outh] Uist when the whole country
was full of these.
Calum Bōdach in N[orth] Uist had
tai[bh]searac[hd] & confirmed many of C[oinneach] Odhars.
The man re[a]p[ed] Clai[dh] Chorcail & then
threw at Ioc[hd]ar] the sheaf of corn at the cow
which began eat[in]g & he left & the owner
of the sick cow was d[y]ing. C[oinneach] Odhar
is the seer me[a]nt in S[aint] Clair of
the Isles.

Clach Mhòr a' Che, North Uist

CW90/94, ff. 9v–10r.
Howbeg / Tobh Beag, South Uist / Uibhist a Deas.
Clach Mhòr a’ Che, North Uist / Uibhist a Tuath.

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Stone whorls WHM 1992 13 2.4

Stone whorls WHM 1992 13 2.4
Stone whorls collected by Alexander Carmichael, held by West Highland Museum (ref. WHM 1992 13 2.4). [©]