The Latin & Irish Lives of Ciaran eBook

This eBook from the Gutenberg Project consists of approximately 167 pages of information about The Latin & Irish Lives of Ciaran.

XXXIV.  HOW CIARAN VISITED SENAN

Senan.—­This is an extremely interesting personality.  His island, Inis Cathaigh (now corrupted to “Scattery”) is said to derive its name from Cathach, a monster (mentioned in LA) which had formerly inhabited it, and which Senan had slain or charmed away.  There are obvious pagan elements in the legends of this saint, and there can be little doubt that the unknown hermit who founded the monastery, of which the remains are still to be seen, has entered into the inheritance of the legends of an ancient deity, most likely worshipped on the island.  This deity was probably the god of the Shannon river:  and the name of the saint is clearly reminiscent of the name of the river.  In their present form the two names are not philologically compatible:  the name of the saint may be explained as an arbitrary modification, designed to differentiate the Christian saint from the pagan river-god.  That pagan names should survive (modified or otherwise) in ancient holy places re-consecrated to Christianity is only natural.

There may be some foundation in fact for apparently supernatural knowledge such as Senan displays in this incident of the personality of a coming guest.  In reading documents such as this, we are not infrequently tempted to suspect that we have before us the record of actual manifestations of the even yet imperfectly understood phenomena of hypnotism, telepathy, “second sight,” and similar psychical abnormalities.

The story of the cloak is told again in the Life of Senan (LL, 2388).  From the version there contained, we learn that Ciaran gave his cloak to lepers.  There is another version of the visit of Ciaran to Senan in the metrical Life of the latter saint (CS, 750).  According to this story, Ciaran was not travelling alone, but with his disciples; and they had no means of transport to the island except an oarless boat woven of osiers.  Trusting themselves to this doubtful craft (as Cybi voyaged in a skinless coracle, Cambro-British Saints, pp. 186, 499), they were ferried over in safety, no water finding its way into the boat.  Then follows the episode of the cloak, omitting, however, Senan’s jest of carrying it secretly.  A glossator has added in LA the marginal note “Priests formerly wore cowls.”  There are slight discrepancies between the versions as to the precise garment given by Ciaran and restored by Senan.

Another episode connecting Ciaran and Senan is narrated in the metrical Life of Senan (though the passage is absent from the CS copy; it will be found in the Bollandist edition, March, vol. ii, p. 766).  Briefly, this tale is to the effect that Ciaran and Brenainn went to Senan for confession.  They were received with fitting honour, but the steward of Inis Cathaigh told his superior that he had no provision to set before the guests.  “The Lord will provide,” answered Senan; and in point of fact,

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