The Prophecies of the Brahan Seer (Coinneach Odhar Fiosaiche)
(COINNEACH ODHAR FIOSAICHE).
ALEXANDER MACKENZIE, F.S.A. Scot.,
EDITOR OF THE “CELTIC MAGAZINE”; AUTHOR OF “THE HISTORY OF THEMACKENZIES,” “THE HISTORY OF THE MACDONALDS AND LORDS OF THEISLES,” ETC., ETC.
Fourth Edition—Much Enlarged.
APPENDIX ON THE SUPERSTITION OF
THE REV. ALEXANDER MACGREGOR, M.A.
A. & W. MACKENZIE, “Celtic Magazine” Office.
THE ABERDEEN UNIVERSITY PRESS:
JOHN THOMSON AND J. F. THOMSON, M.A.
DEDICATION TO FIRST EDITION.
TO MY REVERED FRIEND,
THE REV. ALEXANDER MACGREGOR, M.A.,
Of the West Church, Inverness, as a humble tribute of myadmiration of his many virtues, his genial nature, and hismanly Celtic spirit. He has kept alive the smoulderingembers of our Celtic Literature for half a century by hiscontributions, under the signature of “Sgiathanach,” “AlastairRuadh,” and others, to the Teachdaire Gaidhealach,Cuairtear nan Gleann, Fear Tathaich nan Beann, AnGaidheal, The Highlander; and, latterly, his varied andinteresting articles in the Celtic Magazine have done muchto secure to that Periodical its present, and rapidly increasing,popularity. He has now the pleasing satisfaction, in hisripe and mellow old age, of seeing the embers, which he solong and so carefully fostered, shining forth in the full blazeof a general admiration of the long despised and ignoredLiterature of his countrymen; and to him no small share ofthe honour is due.
That he may yet live many years in the enjoyment ofhealth and honour, is the sincere desire of many a Highlander,and of none more so, than of his sincere friend,
Inverness, May, 1877.
The Second Edition of the “Prophecies” has long beenout of print, stray copies of it selling at more than doublethe published price. We now place another edition, considerablyextended, and much improved in every respect,at the disposal of the public, at a lower price.
Fifty Large paper copies are thrown off, printed on thickCrown Quarto, giving a handsome margin, and makingaltogether a handsome unique volume for the Library,or the Drawing-room table, of a work which the Scotsman,and all the press of the country, “recommended to thelovers of the marvellous as a sweet morsel”.
On the 19th of October, 1881, the author of the Appendixon “The Superstition of the Highlanders” passed over themajority, regretted and loved by all who knew him.
Inverness, June, 1882.
|General Introduction—How Kenneth became a Seer—Various Versions||1|
|Prophecies which might be attributed to Natural Shrewdness||9|
|Prophecies as to the Fulfilment of which there is a Doubt||24|
|Prophecies Wholly or Partly Fulfilled||28|
|Sketch of the Family of Seaforth||61|
|The Seer’s Death||77|
|Fulfilment of the Seaforth Prophecy||82|
|Sacred Wells and Lochs||147|
THEPROPHECIES OF THE BRAHAN SEER:COINNEACH ODHAR FIOSAICHE.
The gift of prophecy, second-sight, or “Taibh-searachd,”claimed for and believed bymany to have been possessed, in aneminent degree, by Coinneach Odhar, theBrahan Seer, is one, the belief in whichscientific men and others of the present day accept as unmistakablesigns of looming, if not of actual insanity. We allare, or would be considered, scientific in these days. It will,therefore, scarcely be deemed prudent for any one who wishesto lay claim to the slightest modicum of common sense, tosay nothing of an acquaintance with the elementary principlesof science, to commit to paper his ideas on such a subject,unless he is prepared, in doing so, to follow the commonhorde in their all but universal scepticism.
Without committing ourselves to any specific faith on thesubject, however difficult it may be to explain away whatfollows on strictly scientific grounds, we shall place beforethe reader the extraordinary predictions of the Brahan Seer.We have had slight experiences of our own, which we wouldhesitate to dignify by the name of second-sight. It is not,however, with our own experiences that we have at presentto do, but with the “Prophecies” of Coinneach OdharFiosaiche. He is beyond comparison the most distinguishedof all our Highland Seers, and his prophecies have been knownthroughout the whole country for more than two centuries.The popular faith in them has been, and still continues tobe, strong and wide-spread. Sir Walter Scott, Sir HumphreyDavy, Mr. Morrit, Lockhart, and other eminent contemporariesof the “Last of the Seaforths” firmly believed inthem. Many of them were well known, and recited fromgeneration to generation, centuries before they were fulfilled.Some of them have been fulfilled in our own day, and manyare still unfulfilled.
Not so much with the view of protecting ourselves fromthe charge of a belief in such superstitious folly (for wewould hesitate to acknowledge any such belief), but as aslight palliation for obtruding such nonsense on the public,we may point out, by the way, that the sacred writers—whoare now believed by many of the would-be-considered-wiseto have been behind the age, and not near so wise and far-seeingas we are—believed in second-sight, witchcraft, andother visions of a supernatural kind. But then we shall betold by our scientific friends that the Bible itself is becomingobsolete, and that it has already served its turn; being onlysuited for an unenlightened age in which men like Shakspere,Milton, Newton, Bacon, and such unscientific mencould be considered distinguished. The truth is that onmore important topics than the one we are now considering,the Bible is laid aside by many of our would-be-scientificlights, whenever it treats of anything beyond the punycomprehension of the minds and intellectual vision of theseomniscient gentlemen. We have all grown so scientificthat the mere idea of supposing anything possible which isbeyond the intellectual grasp of the scientific enquirer cannotbe entertained, although even he must admit, that inmany cases, the greatest men in science, and the mightiestintellects, find it impossible to understand or explain awaymany things as to the existence of which they have nopossible doubt. We even find the clergy slightly inconsistentin questions of this kind. They solemnly desire toimpress us with the fact that ministering spirits hover aboutthe couches and apartments in which the dying Christian isdrawing near the close of his existence, and preparing tothrow off his mortal coil; but were we to suggest thepossibility of any mere human being, in any conceivablemanner having had indications of the presence of theseghostly visitors, or discovering any signs or premonitions ofthe early departure of a relative or of an intimate friend,our heathen ideas and devious wanderings from the safechannel of clerical orthodoxy and consistent inconsistency,would be howled against, and paraded before the faithfulas the grossest superstition, with an enthusiasm and relishpossible only to a strait-laced ecclesiastic. Clerical inconsistencyis, however, not our present theme.
Many able men have written on the Second-sight, and tosome of them we shall refer in the following pages; meanwhileour purpose is to place before the reader the Propheciesof the Brahan Seer, as far as we have been able toprocure them. We are informed that a considerable collectionof them has been made by the late AlexanderCameron of Lochmaddy, author of the “History andTraditions of the Isle of Skye,” but we were unable todiscover into whose possession the manuscript found itsway; we hope, however, that this reference may bring it tolight.
Kenneth Mackenzie, better known as Coinneach Odhar,the Brahan Seer (according to Mr. Maclennan), was born atBaile-na-Cille, in the Parish of Uig and Island of Lews,about the beginning of the seventeenth century. Nothingparticular is recorded of his early life, but when he had justentered his teens, he received a stone in the followingmanner, by which he could reveal the future destiny ofman:—While his mother was one evening tending her cattlein a summer shealing on the side of a ridge called Cnoceothail,which overlooks the burying-ground of Baile-na-Cille,in Uig, she saw, about the still hour of midnight, thewhole of the graves in the churchyard opening, and a vastmultitude of people of every age, from the newly born babeto the grey-haired sage, rising from their graves, and goingaway in every conceivable direction. In about an hourthey began to return, and were all soon after back in theirgraves, which closed upon them as before. But, on scanningthe burying-place more closely, Kenneth’s mother observedone grave, near the side, still open. Being a courageouswoman, she determined to ascertain the cause of thissingular circumstance, so, hastening to the grave, andplacing her “cuigeal” (distaff) athwart its mouth (for shehad heard it said that the spirit could not enter the graveagain while that instrument was upon it), she watched theresult. She had not to wait long, for in a minute or twoshe noticed a fair lady coming in the direction of thechurchyard, rushing through the air, from the north. Onher arrival, the fair one addressed her thus—“Lift thydistaff from off my grave, and let me enter my dwelling ofthe dead.” “I shall do so,” answered the other, “whenyou explain to me what detained you so long after yourneighbours.” “That you shall soon hear,” the ghost replied;“My journey was much longer than theirs—I hadto go all the way to Norway.” She then addressed her:—“Iam a daughter of the King of Norway; I was drownedwhile bathing in that country; my body was found on thebeach close to where we now stand, and I was interred inthis grave. In remembrance of me, and as a small rewardfor your intrepidity and courage, I shall possess you of avaluable secret—go and find in yonder lake a small roundblue stone, which give to your son, Kenneth, who by it shallreveal future events.” She did as requested, found thestone, and gave it to her son, Kenneth. No sooner had hethus received the gift of