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(ô) (Irish) A grandson, descendant. Plural: ui. # 166
Few trees have been so widely revered as the oak. The classic composition of the Dianic grove or Nemeton, the residence of the heaven-god who controlled thunder and lightning, the deity of druids and dryads, the oak was duir (D) in the druidic alphabet and represented power. Irish churches used to be called Dairthech, 'oakhouse,' an old druidic name for the sacred grove. # 701 p 468
There are scattered references to oakmen in the North of England, though very few folktales about them: there is no doubt that the oak was regarded as a sacred and potent tree. Most people know the rhyming proverb 'Fairy folks are in old oaks'; 'The Gospel Oak' or 'The King's Oak' in every considerable forest had probably a traditional sacredness from unremembered times, and an oak coppice in which the young saplings had sprung from the stumps of felled trees was thought to be an uncanny place after sunset; but the references to 'oakmen' are scanty. Beatrix Potter in THE FAIRY CARAVAN gives some description of the Oakmen, squat, dwarfish people with red toadstool caps and red noses who tempt intruders into their copse with disguised food made of fungi. The fairy wood in which they lurk is thrice-cut copse and is full of bluebells. THE FAIRY CARAVAN is her only long book, and is scattered with folktales and beliefs. It is probable that her Oakmen are founded on genuine traditions. In Ruth Tongue's FORGOTTEN FOLK TALES OF THE ENGLISH COUNTIES there is a story from Cumberland, 'The Vixen and the Oakmen', in which the Oakmen figure as guardians of animals. This rests on a single tradition, a story brought back by a soldier from the Lake District in 1948, and may well have been subject to some sophistication, but these two together make it worth while to be alert for other examples. # 100 - 674
# 156: 1. King of the fairies. According to HUON DE BORDEAUX, he was the son of Julius Caesar and Morgan Le Fay, naming his Faery kingdom Momur. Elsewhere it is stated that he was originally an extremely ugly dwarf named Tronc, but the fairies took pity on him, removed his ugliness and gave him a kingdom. He is also called Auberon and is believed to be associated with the dwarf Alberich from German mythology. He was a companion of Ysaie the Sad, Tristan's son who resigned his kingdom to Huon of Bordeaux. Arthur, who had removed to fairyland after his earthly sojourn, protested, as he had expected to receive the crown, but Oberon's treat to turn him into a werewolf was sufficient to silence him. Oberon died shortly afterwards. We are told that Oberon was the father of Robin Goodfellow by a human girl. Spencer makes him the father of Gloriana, with whom Arthur fell in love. In A MIDSUMMER NIGHT'S DREAM Oberon's wife is called Titania. She does not often appear in medieval Arthurian literature, though she does occur in two modern works, Richard Hovey's THE QUEST OF MERLIN (1891) and Reginald Heber's THE MASQUE OF GWENDOLEN (1816).
2. A brother of Morgan in OGIER LE DANOIS (a non-Arthurian French medieval romance. See: OGIER. # 100 - 156 - 202 - 322
Manannan's magical boat. # 562
See: OSLA BIG-KNIFE.
He was a Fomorian who discovered how Diancecht had been able to bring the dead to life by means of the Well of Slaine. Octriallach showed his tribe the place and they filled in the spring. He was killed by Ogma. # 208 - 454
The King of Norway who supported Arthur in his final battle at Camlann and died there. # 156 - 243
The King of Ireland when Arthur went there seeking the cauldron belonging to Diwrnach, the King's supervisor. See: AEDD. # 156
# 454: (d 563) He was one of Columba's companions in his exile on Iona. Legend tells that the monastery of Iona was hampered when the monks attempted to build the first church. Columba had a vision in which it was shown to him that devils were hindering the work and that the building would not remain standing unless a human victim was buried in the foundation. Odhran offered himself and was buried alive in the foundations. After three days Columba dug him up. Odhran was still alive and said: 'There is no wonder in death and Hell is not what it is reported to be.' Columba ordered the earth replaced over Odhran, saying: 'Earth, earth, on the mouth of Odhran, that he may blab no more.' The cemetery was indeed called Reilig Orain (Odhran's Crypt). His feast-day is 27 October.
# 678: When Columcille (the dove of the church), the Latin rendering of his name is Columba, arrived on Iona, he found a Christian monastery there, directed by Odhran. This first settler appears to have joined the community founded by Columcille, who told his companions that whoever among them would be the first to die would confirm the Irish right to the island and be assured of an easy passage to heaven. Odhran, weary of the world, apparently consented to be the victim, and Columcille promised that in future years all intercessions must be made through him. The fact that Odhran was buried at the place where Columcille built his abbey is in keeping with that aspect of folklore which demands that a corpse (be it only that of a mummified cat) must be buried in the walls of any new building to ensure good fortune. # 454 - 466 - 678
It seems likely that Odin was the original leader of the Wild Hunt in England, as he was until recent times in Scandinavia, where, however, he chased the harmless little wood-wives instead of the souls of damned men. It was common for Satan to take over the role of any influential god, and Odin, as the leader and chooser of the dead, had a special right to play the Devil's part. Brian Branston, in THE LOST GODS OF ENGLAND, devotes a chapter to Woden and maintains his right to serve as the first leader of the Wild Hunt, the Devil's Dandy Dogs and other sinister routs of the same kind. See also: WODEN. # 91 - 100
According to the life of Patrick written by Jocelyn, Odran drove the cart in which the saint travelled. Realizing that there were threats against the life of his master and that enemies were lying in ambush for him, Odran begged Patrick to drive the horses, while he took the saint's place in the cart. So it was, and the murderers deceived by the change, thrust their spears into Odran, whose soul, Patrick saw, was carried by angels into heaven. Because of the similarity of the name some people have identified Odran with Odhran (q.v.). There is a link in the fact that both men voluntarily sacrificed themselves in order to clear the way so that the work of a greater saint could be carried out. His feast-day is 19 February. # 678
The steward at Arthur's court. # 156 - 346
OENGHUS OENGUS MAC OG
(engus) The Irish equivalent of Maponus is Oenghus. He is son of the Dagda, the greatest Irish god, born of a secret union with Boann, the river goddess. He was called 'in Mac Óc ('the Young Son') for his mother said: 'Young is the son who was begotten at break of day and born betwixt it and evening.' After a playmate had called him a hireling whose father and mother were unknown, Midir, his fosterfather, brought him to the Dagda, who acknowledged him as his son and instructed him how to take possession of Elcmar's lands. He is said to dwell in the prehistoric mound of the Bruigh na Boinne, which he tricked away from his father. Although Oenghus is a bright young god, born of primal powers, he is not associated with therapeutic springs. Oenghus is a figure of great beauty, wit and charm, and is also associated with fatal love in Irish legends. The Scottish poet William Sharp (writing as Fiona Macleod in the nineteenth century with a profound knowledge of Celtic mythology and language) rightly described Oenghus as 'Lord of Love and Death'. In this last context we may see once again a link with the primal Apollo, whose bolt could bless or blast. # 628 p 110
OENGUS, THE DREAM OF
'The Dream of Oengus' is a continuation of the opening episode of 'The Wooing of Etain', wherein Boand and the Dagdae sleep together and Oengus is born. Although the story survives only in a relatively late source, the fifteenth-century Egerton 1782 manuscript, it is mentioned in the Book of Leinster, in a list of preliminary tales to 'The Cattle Raid of Cuailnge'. Even so, 'The Dream of Oengus' does not appear to be especially old. The themes are familiar to Celtic literature: love before first sight (as in the Welsh tale 'How Culhwch Won Olwen'), the initiative of the otherworld woman (as by Rhiannon in 'Pwyll Lord of Dyved' and by Macha in 'The Labour Pains of the Ulaid'), the wasting away of the mortal lover (Gilvaethwy in 'Math Son of Mathonwy', Ailill Angubae in 'The Wooing of Etain'), the unwillingness of the woman's father (as in 'Culhwch and Olwen' and 'The Wooing of Etain') and the transformation of the lovers into swans (Mider and Etain). And Boand and the Dagdae are scarcely recognizable as people of the Sidhe: Boand is unable to help her son at all, and the Dagdae has to ask assistance from the king of the Sidhe of Mumu. The meeting and transformation of Oengus and Caer Ibormeith at Samhain, a time of changes, does evince a genuinely ancient Celtic motif; and the tone of the story, while romantic, is still restrained. The link to 'The Cattle Raid of Cuailnge', however, is pure artifice.
One puzzling feature of this story is Oengus' failure to reveal the cause of his illness. In the Welsh story 'Math Son of Mathonwy', Gilvaethwy falls in love with Math's virgin footholder; in the second section of 'The Wooing of Etain', Ailill falls in love with his brother's wife. Both men fall ill from love, but neither will reveal his guilty secret, and it may be that this idea of silence was transferred. Inappropriately (since Oengus has no cause for guilt), as part of the overall theme of wasting sickness. 'The Dream of Oengus' is the ultimate source of Yeats's poem 'The Dream of Wandering Aengus'. See also: ANGUS MAC OG. # 236
Celtic wine pitchers. # 730
A King of Kent, said to be the son or grandson of Hengist, ruler in the traditional Arthurian period. # 156
The secret fifth has its counterpart in the fifth of the five 'families' (or groups) of five signs each which constitute the Ogham alphabet. The first three groups of five stand for the different consonants, the fourt group for vowels. The fifth set of five, called the 'supplementary family', is said, in the medieval tracts, to denote diphtongs. Early Irish stories contain several references to the use of Ogham to convey secret messages or for divinatory purposes. In one case four sticks are used, in another a four-sided stick. Vendryes, in L'ÉCRITURE OGAMIQUE ET SES ORIGINES in ÉTUDES CELTIQUES, notes the importance of twenty in the Celtic numerical system, and the five 'supplementary letters' (forfeda) are dismissed as a later addition, just as the fifth province has been accounted a later addition. The signs in this fifth group are different in character from those of the four other groups. But are we to consider it an accident that each of the five characters of the fifth group is formed by a cross (single, double or quadruple), a diamond or circular enclosure, or a rudimentary spiral - all apt symbols of the mystic centre? Several hundred Ogamic inscriptions have been found on stones in England and Ireland, most of them in the southwest of the latter country. It has been possible to decipher them thanks to Irish manuscripts of the Middle Ages, such as the Book of Leinster and the Book of Ballymoore, which contains the 'Ogham tract', an exposé of about seventy varieties of Ogamic writing. The name itself is derived, according to some, from the Greek 'ogmos' (furrow), while according to others it comes from Heracles' alternative Celtic name, Ogmios. Ogamic writing has also been found on stones in Spain and North America but it is difficult to date the stones. See also TREE ALPHABET.
# 768: The origin of the Ogham alphabet is ascribed in the BOOK OF BALLYMOTE to Ogma, one of the learned men of the mythical Tuatha De Danaan race, and in a manuscript in the British Museum (Add. 47830) Breas mac Elathan is said to have been the inventor. Oghams are continually referred to in the Irish manuscripts, such as the BOOKS OF LEINSTER, BALLYMOTE, LISMORE, and the LEABHSAR na UIDRE, generally as being carved on sepulcral monuments, but sometimes on objects of metal. The inscriptions on the Ogham pillars, and the nature of localities in which they are found, prove conclusively that they were originally erected to commemorate the dead. The point we have now to determine is how far they are Christian.
Two of the authorities who have written on the subject come to diametrically opposite conclusions. Sir S. Ferguson, in 'Ogham Inscriptions' says, "I shall be able, I think, to show reasonable grounds for believing that the bulk, if not all, of our Ogham monuments are Christian; that some of them represent, perhaps, as old a Christianity as has been claimed for the Church in either island." Mr. R. Rolt Brash believes that the Ogham alphabet is of pagan origin, and that most of the stones inscribed with this form of letter belong to the pre-Christian period. # 548 - 730 - 768
A hero of Carolingian romance who was the son of Godfrey, a Danish duke. He features in the romance OGIER LE DANOIS. His historical prototype may have been Otker, advocate of Liège in Charlemagne's time. At Ogier's birth, Morgan Le Fay said she would eventually take him to Avalon, which she did. He stayed there for 200 years and then returned to aid assailed Christendom, finally going back to Avalon. He and Morgan had a son called Meurvin. The Danes regarded Ogier as a Danish hero named Holger. He was given the sword of Tristan by Charlemagne and he called it Curetana. Other traditions are that he slept with his men in a cave in Denmark or that he perpetually wandered about in the Ardennes. According to Mandeville's TRAVELS (1356-57) he was an ancestor of Prester John. # 156
(og'ma) A distinguished warrior and strong man of Nuada of the Silver Hand. He was the son of Dagda, to whom Dagda gave one of his Brughs when he was forced to take refuge underground before the advance of the invading Milesians. The whole incident is to be found in the LEBOR GEBAR (Book of Battles), which is one of the ancient books of Ireland. Ogma was the husband of Etain, and father of Tuirenn. He was oppressed by Bres and the Fomorians whom he overcame in battle, as leader of the Tuatha de Danaan. He captures the speaking sword of the Fomorian King Tethra. He is credited with inventing the ogham alphabet which the Irish used in inscriptions, but not for writing. (The druidic prohibition on writing down knowledge persisted until very late in Ireland's history: its professional teachers, poets and judges all conned their art by heart.) Analogous to Gaulish god Ogmios. See also: OGMIOS. # 100 - 264 - 265 - 454 - 709
Ogmios was an old man, bald and wrinkled, and in Romano-Celtic carvings, carrying a club and a bow. The latter to show his strenght in his field which was eloquence. He was the god of the binding strenght of poetry, of the power of the poetic word, charm, incantation or image. In Ireland the god Oghma is the equivalent of Ogmios. Oghma is significantly credited with the invention of Ogham, the Celtic alphabet, but he is also a strong champion. A Gaulish god. There is a native inscription to him as 'Ogmia' where he appears wielding the whip of the Invincible Sun and with his hair raying out in the manner of a sun-god. There are likely connections here with the native cults of Maponus/Apollo. See also: OGMA and, TREE ALPHABET. # 265 - 454 - 563 - 628 p 122 ff - # 709
A cave near Llandebie. See: CRAIG-Y-DINAS. # 156
OGOF LANCIAU ERYRI
The cave in North Wales where Arthur's men were said to be awaiting his return. A shepherd was thought to have seen him there. # 156 - 554
The coming of Brighid, Feile Bhride, or Brigit's feast - that was springlambing (Oimelc means 'sheep's milk') and the combat between the Caillech of Winter and her rival, the Spring Maiden. Celebrated on 1 February. It is told in an obscure text how Brigit's lamb fought against the Cailleach's dragon. Scottish Gaelic regions still celebrate her feast in remembrance of a gentle mystery cycle about Brigit's imminent appearance, while in Ireland, people make Bride's Crosses woven of rushes or withies and in the shape of a three or four-armed cross. This custom may derive from an earlier fireceremony in which this cross would have been ignited and cast into the winterskies of February to hasten the coming spring. The combat of Brigit with the Cailleach can still be traced in some extant folkstories. # 438 - 454
(ush'een) Otherwise Little Fawn. Son of Finn and Sadbh; greatest poet of the Gael; father of Oscar; the only hero, apart from Caoilte, to survive the Battle of Gabhre, at which most of the Fianna died; Keelta and Oisin resolve to part, and together they bury Oscar; loved by Niamh of the Golden Hair who, during the battle lured him into Tir na n'Og (Land of the Youth, the Otherworld where time doesn't exist), where he intended to stay only for a short time, however, it was first after 300 years has passed in earthly time he was satiate and became homesick. Niamh gave him a steed to go and see Ireland once more, telling him not to touch the ground with his foot, but when he met people who needed his helping hand he forgot the geise and became instantly an aged man. St Patrick attempted to baptize him, and obtained from him the history of the Fianna so that it might be recorded for later ages. See also: NIAMH. # 267 - 454 - 504 - 562
OISIN IN THE LAND OF YOUTH
The story of the visit of Oisin son of Finn to Fairyland, the Happy Otherworld of the ancient Irish, belongs less definitely to the heroic tradition than the other Finn tales printed in this group. The central motif, of course, belongs to the oldest period (cf. THE ADVENTURES OF CONNLA THE FAIR,) and CORMACH'S ADVENTURES IN THE LAND OF PROMISE, but the form present in Cross and Slover's ANCIENT IRISH TALES dates only from the eighteenth century, when it was written by the poet Michael Comyn. The dialogue form in which Patrick acts as interlocutor shows the influence of THE COLLOQUY OF THE OLD MEN. The translation, which is very free, aims to reproduce the complicated system of alliteration and internal rhyme used in Irish bardic poetry. The events of the story are supposed to have taken place just after the celebrated battle of Gabra, in which Finn's band met its final defeat, but the introduction of the Rip Van Winckle motif carries the action through many years to a period long after the decline and ruin of the celebrated fian. The story furnishes an explanation of the tradition that Oisin survived Finn and the rest of the fian long enough to converse with St Patrick, as in THE COLLOQUY OF THE OLD MEN. The fact that the return of Oisin is used as a basis for parts of THE COLLOQUY OF THE OLD MEN is an indication of the antiquity of the theme. See also: OISIN - and - COLLOQUY OF THE OLD MEN, THE # 166
Geoffrey Chaucer (1340-1400) did not write in Old English. Nor did Sir Thomas Malory, the fifteenth-century compiler of the stories of King Arthur and his Round Table in LE MORTE D'ARTHUR, write Old English. Certainly William Shakespeare did not write in Old English; both he AND Malory, in fact, wrote in modern English. Nor are the various illustrated (or 'illuminated') manuscript pages or imitations thereof often sold in gift shops Old English. - Old English is, in fact, a language completely different from Chaucer's, or that of anyone else mentioned in the preceding paragraph. It's a foreign language in spite of its name; Chaucer himself probably could not read it, though Chaucer was a proficient enough linguist to write in French and to translate from Latin and Italian. A student setting out to learn Old English today would expect to spend at least as much time mastering it as if he were to train himself to read German or Russian. - Scolars divide the history of the English language into three broad periods: Old English (AD 450-1100); Middle English, the language of Chaucer (1100-1500); and modern English (1500 to present). The language of Malory is often called Early Modern English, sometimes abbreviated eMnE. The dates are approximate; the historical factors which determine them are the invasion of England by the Angles, Saxons and Jutes, who brought their Germanic tongue with them, usually dated AD 449; the Norman Conquest, which occurred in 1066; and the introduction of printing to England by William Caxton in 1476.
The only manuscript of any length that survives from the real Old English period is that of BEOWULF- and it is sheer luck that it does survive, since it was very nearly destroyed by a fire in the library of Sir Robert Bruce Cotton, a well-to-do antiquarian and collector of Shakespeare's time. One can still see the charred edges of the manuscript today. That Old English bears little resemblance in the popular conception is amply demonstrated by the original text from that manuscript.
A literal translation of a highly inflected (or, as linguists say, 'synthtic') language like Old English into an 'analytic', or noninflected language like modern English is almost impossible. But at least it will show how very different Old English is from the YE OLDE GIFTE SHOPPE variety so often miscalled Old English. Transliterated into ordinary modern type without utilizing any special characters, following are all but the last few words of the first four lines of the 'Beowulf' manuscript, with translation. Beowulf mathelode bearn ecgtheowes [Beowulf spoke, son (of) Ecgteow:] hwaet we the thas saelec sunu healfdenes [Lo,we(to) you this seabooty, son (of) Healfdene,] leod scyldinga lustrum brothon tires [Lord (of the) Scyldings (with) joy (have; brought; of glories] to tacne the thu her to locast... [As token which you here at-look (i.e.,look at)...] - Put very briefly, the reason Old English is so unlike today's-or for that matter, Chaucer's Malory's or Shakespeare's-language is that following the Norman Conquest, England officially became a French-speaking nation - and remained so for several centuries. The profound influence of Norman French, the language of William the Conqueror, upon the 'native' Old English brought by the Germanic Anglo-Saxons when they themselves invaded Britain about AD 450, is responsible for the radical alterations which took place in English between BEOWULF and THE CANTERBURY TALES.
In any event, what practically everyone calls Old English today is really Middle English or even Early Modern English. # 118
OLD LADY OF THE ELDER TREE, THE
Of all the sacred and fairy trees of England, the surviving traditions of the elder tree seem to be the most lively. Sometimes they are closely associated with witches, sometimes with fairies, and sometimes they have an independent life as a dryad or goddess. These traditions are not now generally believed, but they are still known to some of the country people. Formerly the belief was more lively. Mrs Gutch in COUNTY FOLK LORE, VOL. V, quotes from a paper given by R. M. Heanley to the Viking Club in 1901: Hearing one day that a baby in a cottage close to my own was ill, I went across to see what was the matter. Baby appeared right enough, and I said so; but its mother promptly explained: 'It were all along of my master's thick 'ed; it were in this how: T' rocker cummed off t' cradle, an' he hedn't no more gumption than to mak a new 'un out on illerwood without axing the Old Lady's leave, an' in coorse she didn't like that, an' she came and pinched t' wean that outrageous he were a' most black i' t' face; but I bashed 'un off, an' putten an' esh 'un on, an' t'wean is as gallus as owt agin.' This was something quite new to me, and the clue seemed worth following up. So going home I went straight down to my backyard, where old Johnny Holmes was cutting up firewood - 'chopping kindling,' as he would have said. Watching the opportunity, I put a knot of elder-wood in the way and said, 'You are not feared of chopping that, are you?' 'Nay,' he replied at once, 'I bain't feared of chopping him, he bain't wick (alive); but if he were wick I dussn't, not without axin' the Old Gal's leave, not if it were ever so.' ...(The words to be used are): 'Oh, them's slape enuff.' You just says, 'Owd Gal, give me of thy wood, an Oi will give some of moine, when I graws inter a tree.' See also: ELDER. # 100 - 276
OLD PEOPLE, THE
One of the Cornish euphemistic names for the fairies. It was founded on the belief that the Small People of Cornwall were the souls of the heathen people of the old times, who had died before the days of Christianity and were too good for Hell and too bad for Heaven. They were therefore pendulous till the Day of Judgement between Hell and Heaven. This belief was found by Evans Wentz in the early twentieth century to be held by a proportion of the population in most of the Celtic countries which he explored. # 100
The Round Table was originally King Uther's and he too used it to seat knights, fifty in all. There may have been many romances about this original table of warriors in Italian literature where it is mentioned, but, if so, most have not survived. One of the best knights of the Old Table was Brunor. # 156 - 238
OLD WOMEN OF THE MOUNTAINS, THE
An individual member of the Gwyllion of Wales. Her special function seems to be to lead travellers astray. Both Wirt Sikes and Rhys mention the Gwyllion in some detail. # 100 - 554 - 596
(ô'lav) A learned man of the highest rank. # 166
Ollav (a royal person) was a term applied to a certain Druidic rank; it meant a learned man - a master of science. It is a characteristic trait that the Ollav is endowed with a distinction equal to that of a king. The most distinguished Ollav of Ireland was also a king, the celebrated Ollav Fola, who is supposed to have been eighteenth from Eremon and to have reigned about 1000 BC. He was the Lycurgus or Solon of Ireland, giving to the country a code of legislature, and also subdividing it, under the High King at Tara, among the provincial chiefs, to each of whom his proper rights and obligations were alloted. But whether the Milesian king had any more objective reality than the other more obviously mythical figures it is hard to say. He is supposed to have been buried in the great tumulus at Loughcrew, in Westmeath. # 562
She was daughter of the giant Yspaddaden. She is described in one of those pictorial passages in which the Celtic passion for beauty has found such exquisite utterance: 'The maiden was clothed in a robe of flame-coloured silk, and about her neck was a collar of ruddy gold on which were precious emeralds and rubies. More yellow was her head than the flower of the broom, and her skin was whiter than the foam of the wave, and fairer were her hands and her fingers than the blossoms of the wood-anemone amidst the spray of the meadow fountain. The eye of the trained hawk, the glance of the three-mewed falcon, was not brighter than hers. Her bosom was more snowy than the breast of the white swan, her cheek was redder than the reddest roses. Whose beheld her was filled with her love. Four white trefoils sprang up whereever she trod. And therefore she was called Olwen. Her name means 'She of the White Track'. She was the object of Culhwch's love and could not be won from her father without her future husband fulfilling numerous impossible tasks. Although she shares all the usual attributes of a giant's daughter - courage, resourcefulness and beauty - she does not, however, enable Culhwch to fulfil his tasks in accordance with most folk-stories. Whoever she weds will cause the death of her father, and thus it happens, when Culhwch eventually wins her. It is interesting to compare the story of CULHWCH AND OLWEN with the Welsh folktale EINION AND OLWEN, recorded by Evans Wentz, in which Einion, a shepherd, went to the Otherworld to marry Olwen. Their son was called Taliesin. See: WRNACH. # 156 - 272 - 346 - 439 - 454 - 562 - 711
A fairy king, the father-in-law of Lanval. He lived on an enchanted island. # 156
(oona) According to Lady Wilde in her ANCIENT LEGENDS OF IRELAND, Oonagh is the wife of Finvarra, the king of the western fairies and of the dead. She says: Finvarra the King is still believed to rule over all the fairies of the west, and Oonagh is the fairy queen. Her golden hair sweeps the ground, and she is robed in silver gossamer all glittering as if with diamonds, but they are dew-drops that sparkle over it. The queen is more beautiful than any woman of earth, yet Finvarra loves the mortal women best, and wiles them down to his fairy palace by the subtle charm of his fairy music.
Nuala is also said to be Finvarra's wife, but perhaps it is not surprising that so amorous a fairy should have several wives. # 100 - 728
This boar was the possession of Brigit, the Dagda's daughter. It is synonymous with Twrch Trwyth. One commentary gives it as the name for a king, possibly indicating that the boar was a kingly totem to aspire to. # 454
An alternative name for Morgause found in DIU CRôNE. It comes from Orcades, the Latin name for the Orkneys, ruled by Morgause's husband, Lot. # 156
The ruler of Orkney who had been converted to Christianity by Petrus, a follower of Joseph of Arimathea. # 30 - 156
The native form of Orpheus. In Scottish folk-story, Orfeo goes in search of his queen, Isabel, and plays his pipes (or harp) to good effect in the Underworld, thus releasing his lady. The same story is told in a Middle-English text; Orfeo goes in search of Meroudys or Herodis. The same story appears in native tradition in the story of PWYLL and RHIANNON, and of MIDIR and ETAIN. # 150 - 454 - 762
A proud lady who maintained that persistence in courtship and deeds of derring-do were the only things that could lead to fulfilment in courtly love. She is mentioned by both Chrétien and Wolfram, the latter suggesting she had an affair with Amfortas, culminating in his receiving his wound. She eventually gave her love to Gawain. She had once been spurned by Perceval. # 156
The son of Meurvin, grandson of Morgan Le Fay by Ogier the Dane and nephew of Arthur. # 156
ORIGIN OF FAIRIES
Those inhabitants of Britain who used to believe in the fairies, and that small number who still believe in them, have various notions about their origin, and this variety is not purely regional but is partly founded on theological differences. Folklorists and students of fairy-lore who have not committed themselves to personal beliefs also put forth a selection of Theories of Fairy Origins, which for the sake of clarity can be examined separately. A valuable work of research on the beliefs held about fairy origins among the Celts was published by Evans Wentz under the title THE FAIRY-FAITH IN CELTIC COUNTRIES (1911). In the course of his work he travelled in Ireland, the Highlands of Scotland, Wales, the Isle of Man, Cornwall and Brittany, interviewing first eminent scolars, such as Douglas Hyde in Ireland and Alexander Carmichael in the Highlands, and also people of all classes and types who were believed to have information about the fairies. He found that, among the older people, many of the opinions of the 17th and 18th centuries still prevailed. There seemed to be some trace of the prehistoric beliefs left, though these were not so explicit as the beliefs in the fairies as the dead, or as fallen angels, or occasionally as astral or elemental spirits. Sometimes the particular class of the dead is specified. The Sluagh or fairy Hosts are the evil dead, according to Highland belief. Finvarra's following in Ireland seem to comprise the dead who have recently died as well as the ancient dead; but they are almost as sinister as the Sluagh. In Cornwall the Small People are the souls of the heathen dead, who died before Christianity and were not good enough for Heaven nor bad enough for Hell, and therefore lingered on, gradually shrinking until they became as small as ants, and disappeared all together out of the world. The Fairy Dwelling on Selena Moor gives a good account of this theory. In Cornwall and Devon too the souls of unchristened babies were called Piskies, and appeared at twilight in the form of little white moths. The Knockers in the tin mines were souls of the dead too, but of the Jews who had been transported there for their part in the Crucifixion. In Wales the belief in the fairies as the dead does not seem to have been so common. They were often described as a race of 'beings half-way between something material and spiritual, who were rarely seen', or 'a real race of invisible or spiritual beings living in an invisible world of their own'(Wentz). In the Isle of Man a passage on the 'Nature of Fairies' is something the same: 'The fairies are spirits, I think they are in this country yet: A man below here forgot his cow, and at a late hour went to look for her, and saw that crowds of fairies like little boys were with him. Saint Paul said that spirits are thick in the air, if only we could see them; and we call spirits fairies. I think the old people here in the island thought of fairies in the same way.' (Wentz).
The belief in the fairies as the dead may well come from preChristian times, but with the fairies as fallen angels we come into the post-Christian period. In Ireland, in spite of the lively belief in Finvarra and his host, there is also an explicit belief in the fairies as fallen angels. Lady Wilde contradicts the ususal trend of her testimony in one chapter of her ANCIENT LEGENDS OF IRELAND VOL I, 'The Fairies As Fallen Angels': The Islanders, like all the Irish, believe that the fairies are the fallen angels who were cast down by the Lord God out of heaven for their sinful pride. And some fall into the sea, and some on the dry land, and some fell deep down into hell, and the devil gives to these knowledge and power, and sends them on earth where they work much evil. But the fairies of the earth and the sea are mostly gentle and beautiful creatures, who will do no harm if they are let alone, and allowed to dance on the fairy raths in the moonlight to their own sweet music, undisturbed by the presence of mortals.
From the Highlands, Evans Wentz quotes a lively account of the story behind this, given to him by Alexander Carmichael, who heard it in Barra in company with J. F. Campbell: 'The Proud Angel fomented a rebellion among the angels of heaven, where he had been a leading light. He declared that he would go and found a kingdom for himself. When going out at the door of heaven the Proud Angel brought prickly lightning and biting lightning out of the doorstep with his heels. Many angels followed him - so many that at last the Son called out, 'Father! Father! the city is being emptied!' whereupon the Father ordered that the gates of heaven and the gates of hell should be closed. This was instantly done. And those who were in were in, and those who were out were out; while the hosts who had left heaven and had not reached hell flew into the holes of the earth, like the stormy petrels.' - The greater part of these angels were thought of, like the Cornish Muryans, as 'too good for Hell and too bad for Heaven', but with the growth of Puritanism the view of the fairies became darker and the fallen angels began to be regarded as downright devils, with no miti-gating feature. We find this in 17th century England. William Warner in ALBION'S ENGLAND goes so far as to deny all performance of house-hold tasks to Robin Goodfellow, saying ingeniously that he got the housewives up in their sleep to clean their houses. Robin got the credit of the work, and the poor housewife got up in the morning more tired than she had gone to bed. This is to deprive the fairy character of all benevolence. On the other hand, two of the Puritan divines of the same period allow the fairies to be a kind of spiritual animal of a middle nature between man and spirit. It is clear that there was no lack of diversity between those who believed in the real existence of fairies. # 100 - 711 - 728
In Malory, the Orkney Islands form part of the realm of Lot. This seems a late development. In Geoffrey, Lot is the King of Lothian who becomes King of Norway. In the Middle Ages the Orkney Islands had many Norse associations and these probably led to their being regarded as part of Lot's domain. Geoffrey gives them a separate king, Gunphar, who voluntarily submitted to Arthur. In the sixth century the Orkneys seem to have been organized into some sort of kingdom, itself subject to one of the Pictish kings, for Adamnan's VITA COLUMBAE mentions a petty king (regulus) of the Orkneys. # 156
Son of Ailill and Maeve, slain by CuChulain. # 562
The son of Oisin. He and the High King of Ireland, Cairbry, met in single combat, and each of them slew the other. Oscar dies and Oisin and Keelta raise him on a bier of spears and carry him off under his banner, 'The terrible Sheaf,' for burial on the field where he died, and where a great green burial mound is still associated with his name. His death was prophesied by the Washer at the Ford. He was a reconciler of enemies but was fearless in battle. # 267 - 454 - 504
A Saxon, possibly in origin Octa, the son or grandson of Hengist. His knife, Bronllavyn Short Broad, could be used as a bridge and, when he was amongst Arthur's men hunting the boar Twrch Trwyth, the water filled his sheath and he was dragged underneath. THE DREAM OF RHONABWY says he was an adversary of Arthur at Badon. # 156 - 346
(isheen) 'Ossian' has been the usual Highland spelling of the Irish Oisin since the time of James Macpherson's poem OSSIAN, loosely founded in the Highland Ossianic legends. J. F. Campbell, in his discussion of the Scottish Ossianic legends in his POPULAR TALES OF THE WEST HIGHLANDS, VOL. IV, well establishes the widespread knowledge of the Ossianic poems and ballads in 18th-century Scotland and of the Fingalian legends. All over the Highlands, Ossian was known as the great poet and singer of the Feinn, who survived them all and kept the memory of them alive by his songs. Many of the Fenian legends survived in these songs, and in such early manuscripts as THE BOOK OF LEINSTER. 'The Death of Diarmid' and other tragic stories of the last days of the Feinn were deeply remembered and the tragic plight of Ossian, old, blind and mighty, is the most vivid of all. What is not recorded in the Highlands is his visit to Tir na n' Og and the happy centuries he passed with Niamh of the Golden Hair. # 100 - 130
1. In Dryden's KING ARTHUR, the King of Kent who opposed Arthur and who, like Arthur, loved Emmeline. Arthur defeated him and expelled him from Britain. No King Oswald of Kent is known to history. 2. (d. 642) King of Northumbria. He became a Christian while in exile on Iona. When reinstated as king, after the death of Edwin the Usurper, Oswald gave Lindisfarne to Saint Aidan. He united Bernicia and Deira, but was killed at the Battle of Maserfield. Aidan had once prayed that the king's generous hand never become corrupted. Indeed, his body was mutilated on the orders of pagan King Penda who ordered Oswald's head, arms and hands to be displayed on stakes. He was buried at Oswestry (Oswald's Tree) but his relics were scattered throughout Christendom - the remaining incorrupt. His feast-day is 5 October. # 156 - 454
The Otherworld is subtle described in some of the Celtic knotwork. The Celts of old never tired of producing it. For them, the design represented the essential nature of earthly existence. Two bands this world and the Otherworld - entwined in dynamic, moving harmony, each band dependant upon the other, and each complimenting and completing the other.
The ancient Celts didn't distinguish between the 'real' and the 'imaginary'. The material and the spiritual were not separate or self-limited states: both were equally manifest at all times. An oak grove might be an oak grove, or it might be the home of a god or both simultaneously. Such was their way of looking at the universe. And it inspired a great appreciation and respect for all created things. A respect born of a deep and abiding belief. The concept of one object or entity being somehow more real, simply because it possessed a material presence, would not have occurred to them.
And they were seeing bridges or gateways from the manifest world to the other world at hollow mounds, caves or at a sea-shore where standing in the waves at the shore you actually are in two worlds. At land and at sea at the same time. - They were very much aware of the great ocean which contains mountains and valleys, and there the mountain top rises above the water, at our isles, they saw the places where the Otherworld pokes through into our world, and whenever they discovered such 'isles' or openings they marked them with cairns, stone circles, standing stones, mounds, and other enduring markers. But they marked the doorways so that people would stay away from them much the same way as we mark thin ice or quicksand. Danger. Keep out! The ancients wanted these places to be distinguished clearly, because they knew that only the true initiate may pass between the worlds safely. Stories abound of unsuspecting travellers stumbling into the Otherworld served to warn the unprepared to avoid the unknown.
Such 'unaware travellers' have only come out again if they exercise courtesy and carry iron, the metal inimical to Fairies. The Fairies themselves are fond of musicians and poets, and will willingly entertain such artists, teaching them new skills, tunes and rhymes. Those who have returned often find that time has slipped by in the mundane world, while they may have enjoyed only a couple of days in Faery. - The Otherworld is a sort of Supernature, a separate, invisible OTHER nature, the Form of forms, from which all earthly or natural forms derived. It is from the Otherworld all our thoughtsparks are kindled into higher consciousness or imagination. Its the source of the REAL Archetypes. Its the storehouse of archetypes that inform and shape our own phenomenal world. Take the trees that grow all around us in our own world: in the Otherworld they grow perfectly, without blight or frost to kill them. They have a luminous life, which is stronger and 'more real'.
# 774: Before the coming of Christianity, the Celtic peoples of Western Europe had strong and singular beliefs about the future life. In fact, it was their preoccupation with the beyond, which extended even to the making of loans to be settled in the 'other world,' which the Romans regarded as their most striking feature. In the fourth century AD, Procopus wrote that on the coast opposite the Island of Britain there were many villages whose inhabitants grew crops, but were also fishermen. Subject to the Francs, they were free from payment of tribute because a certain service which, they said, they had been performing since ancient times. This service, they claimed, was the transport of souls. At night, they would suddenly be awakened by a loud knocking at the door, and a voice outside would call them to their task. They would get up in haste and a mysterious force would drag them from their homes towards the beach, even against their will. There would be boats there, not their own, but others. They would look empty but, in reality, they would be loaded almost to the point of sinking and the water would be up to the gunnels. They would climb in and take the oars. An hour later, despite the invisible passengers' weight, they would reach the Island (of Britain) although the voyage would normally have taken a day and a half. Scarcely had they touched the coast than the boats would rise up without their seeing the passengers disembark, and the same voice that had called them would be heard. It was that of the conductor of souls presenting the dead one by one to those qualified to receive them, calling the men by their father's names, women, if there were any, by their husbands' names, and describing what they did when they were alive.
The above is a summary of the story given by Procopus; it is the most complete account of the Celtic legend of the dead that we have from the writings of Classical Antiquity. There can be little doubt that many of the beliefs, practices and customs associated with the Celtic cult of the dead passed into early Celtic Christianity. In Ireland, for example, so many Christian monasteries appeared so quickly after the conversion by Saint Patrick, as to imply the wholesale conversion of Druidic colleges. # 383 p 88 ff - # 437 p 11 ff - # 774
# 161: In Celtic art Cernunnos, as Lord of Animals, is depicted as accompanied by an otter, bear and wolf.
# 454: The otter is a strange magical animal whose genus totally baffled Celtic clerics who were always arguing whether it was flesh or fish and therefore edible during Lent. Anciently, the otter or waterdog was a transformatory beast. It is one of the guises which Ceridwen assumes when she chases Gwion (Taliesin). In the many wondervoyages or 'immrama' which Maelduin, Brendan and others take, they usually meet with a helpful otter who provides food for them or which performs this service for a hermit. Otter-skin bags also served as waterproof covering for harps in Ireland. #161-454
An Elizabethan variant of ELF. It does not appear to be in common use now, but is to be found in literature. # 100
Son of Urien of Rheged and Modron (Morgan). A historical character, (in French: Yvain) he succeeded Urien and fought on the side of the northern British against the Angles which he defeated about AD 593. Although he lived later than the traditional Arthurian period, he and his father were drawn into the sagas around Arthur in which he is the son of Urien by his wife, Morgan Le Fay, Arthur's sister. He was the hero of THE LADY OF THE FOUNTAIN and THE DREAM OF RHONABWY, in the latter while Arthur and Owain were playing Gwyddbwyll (a board game), Owain's ravens fought with Arthur's men and were nearly defeated until Owain ordered his flag to be raised and they set on their attackers with renewed vigour. As his mother, Modron (identical with Morrigan) often assumes the shape of a raven and promises to aid Urien and his family when they are in need in this shape, we can assume that the Ravens are not warriors, but in fact otherworld women in the form of ravens. In later medieval versions of this story, YVAIN by Chrétien we learn how Owain, hearing of a wondrous spring in the Forest of Broceliande, went thither and defeated the knight Esclados who defended it. He chased him home to his castle where he died from his wound. As Owain was trying to enter the castle, he became ensnared between the portcullises, but was rescued by Lunete, the sister of Laudine the widow of the slain knight. Owain fell in love with Laudine, and Lunete persuaded her to marry him. When Arthur and his followers arrived, Owain went with him, but promised his wife that he would return in a year at the latest. He did not keep an eye on the time, failed to honour his promise and Laudine rejected him. He became a madman in the forest and it took a certain ointment to cure him. He went to the aid of a lion fighting a serpent and the lion became his companion - hence his nickname, the Knight of the Lion. Welsh tradition made Owain the husband of Penarwan and Denw, the latter being Arthur's niece. # 104 - 152 - 156 - 243 - 272 - 346 - 439 - 453 - 454 - 604
OWAIN THE BASTARD
The half-brother of Owain, whom Urien begot on the wife of his senechal. He was a sensible character and a Knight of the Round Table. He was killed in a joust with Gawain who had not recognized him. # 156 - 434
Foster-son of Manannan and a Druid, father of Ainé. # 562
Son of Duracht; slays Naisi and other sons of Usna. # 562
Despite his close links with the English monarchy, Owen Glyndwr rebelled against Henry IV and started consolidating treaties with neighbouring barons which might well have set up a separate Welsh state if he had succeeded. A long drawn-out border-war swept the Marches of Wales and England. However, having shown himself a capable commander and man of foresight, Owen found his forces defeated, his family imprisoned and his hopes deferred. He remains one of the greatest of Welsh heroes who attempted to draw together the shattered links of British pride once more. He was credited with magical powers and, like Arthur, his death was obscure so as to give foundation to myths of his returning to aid the Cymru once again. # 454-735
OWENS OF ARAN
Ailill derives from the sept of Owens of Aran. Maelduin goes to dwell with Owens of Aran. # 562
# 161: The owl is prominent in Celtic lore, being a sacred, magic bird; it appears in early times as an owl-goddess and is depicted frequently in La Tène figures, preceding the cult of Athene. It is chthonic, the 'night hag' and 'corpse bird', and is an attribute of Gwyan or Gwynn, God of the Underworld, who ruled over the souls of warriors slain in battle.
454: It has long been considered to be a bird of ill-omen, especially if sighted during the day. Blodeuwedd's transformation into an owl, effected by Gwydion, is a punishment for having betrayed her husband, Llew; the story-teller comments that this is why owls bear the unlikely name of 'flower-face', which is the meaning of Blodeuwedd's name. In Scottish Gaelic, the owl is called 'cailleach', or the old woman, and shows it to a bird under her protection. # 161 - 226 - 454
OWL OF CWM CAWLWYD
One of the very old beasts who help Culhwch in his tasks in CULHWCH AND OLWEN. # 562
# 161: Among the Gaels this bird is an emblem of St. Bride, who carried one in each hand. It bears the form of a cross on its plumage as it once covered Christ with sea-weed when his enemies pursued him. # 454: It is called Brid-eun, 'Bride's Bird' or Bigein-Bride, 'Bride's Boy', in Gaelic. # 161 - 225 - 454