Monday 12 October 2015

Saint Colum Cille and the Death of Saint Bec Mac Dé

D.Wright, Druidism (1924)
October 12 is the commemoration of Saint Bec Mac Dé, a saint said by the Irish Annals to have lived in the sixth century and who had a reputation for prophecy. He is an interesting figure given that he features in secular mythology playing the role of druid, although his feast day is found on some of the Irish Martyrologies.  Bec is not the only Irish saint to have a reputation as a prophet and in the episode below it is perhaps appropriate that he meets Saint Colum Cille, who helps ease Bec's passing from this world by his own knowledge of prophecy. I have also included this vignette in my account of Saint Bec at my other site here, but the one below is from a different source, the sixteenth-century Life of Colum Cille by Manus O'Donnell:

129. On a certain day Columcille was going to Tara of the Kings, and by adventure he met Bec mac De, the druid of Diarmaid mac Cerbaill, King of Erin. And Bec had the gift of prophecy from God, albeit he was a druid, and he had made no false prophecy ever. But Columcille had foretold that Bec should twice prophesy falsely ere his death. And Colcumcille saluted him, and entered into friendly converse with him.

 And he said : ''Great is thy wisdom and knowledge. Bec mac De, in the tidings thou givest to other folk touching their deaths. Hast thou knowledge also of when thou shalt thyself die ? ''

 "Thereof have I knowledge in sooth," saith Bec. ''There be yet for me seven years of life. '' 

 "A man might do good works in shorter space than that," saith Columcille. '' And knowest thou for a surety that thou hast so much of life still?" 

 Then was Bec silent for a space, and thereafter spake he to Columcille and said, ''I have not. It is but seven months of life I have."

 ''That is well," saith Columcille, "and art certain thou hast still so much of life to come?"

 '' I am not, '' saith Bec, '' and this is a token, Columcille. I cannot withstand the prophecy thou hast made. For thou didst foretell that I should make two false prophecies ere I should die. There is left me but seven hours of this same day," saith he. ''Do thou assoil me and give me the sacrament." 

 ''It was to give thee this that I came hither today," saith Columcille, "for God revealed to me that thou shouldst die today." 

 Then did Columcille succor Bec with the consolation of Holy Church, and gave him the sacrament from his own hand. And Bec died then. And his soul went to Heaven through the goodness of God and the intercession of Columcille. 

Friday 2 October 2015

Saint Brigid and the Little Hostage

October 2 is the feast of Saint Giallán of Killelan, a Kildare saint with an interesting story attached to his name. There is a note appended to the margins of the Martyrology of Tallaght which explains that his name, derived from the Irish for a hostage, giall, was bestowed on him by Saint Brigid of Kildare. Our saint was originally a prince of Leinster called Onme who was given to Saint Brigid by another Leinster ruler to ensure the submission of Onme's father. The scribe's note tells us:
Onme (i.e. simul) or Omne son of the king of Leinster. And he was given as a hostage to the king of Leth Cuind, and he gave him into Brigit's hand that she might on his account obtain submission a patre suo, et aliquo die dixerunt discipulae Brigitae ei: ' 'tis lovely the little hostage (giallán) is to-day,' said they. 'Giallán will be his name for ever,' said Brigit. And that is the one who is in Cell Giallain in Ui Muiridaig.
It seems that the little hostage made quite an impression on Saint Brigid and her household! Professor Pádraig Ó Riain, in his 2011 Dictionary of Irish Saints reveals that the saint is associated with the County Kildare locality of Killelan, probably originally Ceall Ghialláin. October 2 is the second of two feast days recorded for him, the first is at September 6. There is a post on Saint Giallán at my other site here.

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