Voyages from I to Thou.

Location: Skellig Michel, Ireland

Friday, February 04, 2005

Columba and HIs Two-Faced Past

In St. Columba's encounters with his pagan past, darkness and light are like a magical seam. He meets Black Angus on the shore of Iona -- an ugly seal-man who is Judas and married to Lilith, a sea-witch ("Columba and Angus MacOdrum, Feb. 1, 2005 posting) ; and he also meets on that shore Manannan in the form of a shapely youth. Oran -- of the clan MacOdrum and he who travels on in search of Manannan -- is Columba's unconscious persona who remains connected to the Otherworld.

In an anecdote of Colum Cille in "Sancti Columbae Hiensis cum Mongano Heroe Colloquium" (ed. Grossjean), a mysterious youth appears to Columcille at Carraic Eolairc on the shores of Loch Foyle. When asked by Columcille about the original form of the lake, the youth gave a description from his own experience. The youth describes the prosperous country which the lake has covered, and says that he has at various times been a deer, a salmon, a seal, a wolf, and a man. Carney: "The mysterious youth came to be identified with Mongan mac Fiachna, but I would suggest tentatively that in the original composer's mind, although preserved without identification, he probably came out of the water and may have been a manifestation of Manannan Mac Lir.


Columba's curiosity about his past is weirdly echoed in a tale in which a chalice used by the Iona abbey is broken. It is taken by one of the monks to the sea-god Manannan, who magically restores the chalice by blowing on it. He sends it back to Columba with a question: would he achieve Christian immortality? "Alas," says the ungrateful saint, "there is no forgiveness for a man who does such works as this!" The message is returned to Manannan, who breaks out into an indignant lament. "Woe is me, Mannan-mac Lir! For years I've helped the Catholics of Ireland, but I'll do it no more, till they're weak as water. I'll go to the gray waves in the Highlands of Scotland."


Post a Comment

<< Home

Hit Counter
Internet Service Provider