17 November 2007 SOL Gathering of the Lights 2007
7 Songs of the Maol Odhran: Presentation outline text
David Riggle, Lodge of the White Dove and Lodge Bride
Odhran -- a Personal View
A poet once said: “In difficult times we came to understand that everything is
either personal or it’s fable.” That’s certainly been true with Odhran for me.
In fact, the first thing I would say is that if it wasn’t for Odhran I wouldn’t be here
with you all today. That sounds a bit dramatic, but encountering Odhran for the
first time changed my life. I can also say that without Odhran, i would never have
met Eugenie. It was September 1982 -- a scary 25 years ago -- that I first heard
about ‘St. Oran’ from a good friend in Pennsylvania with an Iona connection that
went back to the 1950s. He’s been with me since, and a couple years ago was
chosen to be (or chose to be) the patron of Lodge of the White Dove with Heather
as Magus. That has allowed the connection with Odhran to deepen even more.
So what is this story of Odhran’s? It’s closesly linked with the Columba story and
Columba’s attempt to build his first church on Iona in 563 AD.
I’ve found at least half a dozens versions of what is reported to have happened,
but it seems the walls kept falling down. The monks would build them up and
they would just come down again over night. The stories say Columba had ‘divine
intimation’ -- or a conversation with a huge black seal called MacOdrum -- that the
problem was deep and that one of their number should be sacrificed to appease
the ancient energies of the island.
“...In the earliest known rendering, "Colum Cille said to his people: 'It is well
for us that our roots should go underground here'; and he said to them, 'It is
permitted to you that some one of you go under the earth of this island to
'Odran rose up readily, and thus he said: 'If thou wouldst accept me,' he said, 'I
am... ready for that.' . . . Odhran then went to heaven. Colum Cille then founded
the Church of Hii."
In some versions of the story, Odhran was buried standing up in his monastic robes,
in other versions he was sitting down.
And exactly who Oran was is equally vague. In some versions, he’s Columba’s
brother (Dobhran), in other’s he’s just one of the 12 companions who came with
Columba from Ireland, in other’s he was perhaps a Druid and was already here
when Columba arrived. There’s also a documented Irish saint Odhran who had a
well known monastery in Latteragh, County Tipperary in the 5th or 6th c. who may
or may not have some connection.
The Basic Odhran Myth
The episode that first occurs in an ancient Irish life of St. Columba avers that three
days after the monk Oran was entombed alive (some say in the earth, some in a
cavity), Colum opened the grave, to look once more on the face of the dead
brother, when to the amazement of the monks and the anger of the abbot himself,
Oran opened his eyes and exclaimed, "There is no such great wonder in death, nor
is Hell what it has been described."
“At this, Colum well known words, "Earth, earth on Oran's eyes, lest he further
blab", (In Gaelic "Uir, Uir, air sùil Odhrain! mun labhair e tuille comhraidh") -- and
then covered up poor Oran again lest he should blab further of that uncertain
world whither he was supposed to have gone [Fiona MacLeod with some
Here’s another version from the Gaelic in the notes of the Carmina Gadelica
tranlated by Alexander Carmichael:
After being buried for 3 days, Columba had Oran dug up:
“On the opening of the eyes to him Oran said:--
"Nor is heaven as is alleged,
Nor is hell as is asserted,
Nor is the good eternally happy,
Nor is the bad eternally unhappy."
When Columba heard the words and language of Oran, he called:--
"Earth! earth on the eye of Oran,
Before he wakes more controversy,
Lest scandal should be given to the faith,
Lest offence should be given to his brethren."
The earth was again placed upon Oran, and he was buried permanently.
'Columba wept sorrowfully, heavily, and shed the tears showeringly, generously,
because Oran tender, lovable, faithful, and earnest, went to death.
Fiona MacLeod concludes that “...It is not improbable that the whole legend is a
symbolical survival, an ancient teaching of some elementary mystery through some
real or apparent sacrificial rite.”
And here’s another part I always found interesting:
As just reward to Odhran for having volunteered and then gone through with this
burial, Colum is reported to have told him, “I shall give you the kingdom of God,
and I shall give you this: That no one who makes a request at my tomb or my
resting-place will be granted it unless he first seek it of you.” So, If you pray to St
Columba, the request has to go through Odhran first -- even though Columba
supposedly had him re-interred.
The Fabulous Oran
And there are still further paths for Odhran. In the book Iona, Fiona MacLeod
writes about one such path, and this one has stayed with me for over 20 years
now. Here’s an edited excerpt:
“[The Kingdom of the Gaelic Sidhe] “is in the North, under the Fir-Chilsneach, the
Dancing Men, as the Hebrideans call the polar aurora.... Long ago, one of the
monks of Columba sailed there...[and] lived among the Sidhe for three hundred
years. When he came back to Iona, he was asked where he had been all that long
night since evensong to matins. The monks had sought him everywhere, and at
dawn had found him lying in the hollow of the long wave that washes Iona on the
“He laughed at that, and said he had been on the tops of billows for nine years and
three months and twenty-one days, and for 300 years had lived among a deathless
[He said that] “they had four cities at the four ends of the green diamond that is
the world. That in the north was made of earth; that in the east, of air; that in
the south, of fire; that in the west, of water. In the middle of the green diamond
that is the world is the Glen of Precious Stones. It is in the shape of a heart, and
glows like a ruby, though all stones and gems are there. It is there the Sidhe go to
refresh their deathless life.
“The holy monks said that this kingdom was certainly Ifurin (IF-RINN), the Gaelic
Hell. So they put their comrade alive in a grave in the sand, and stamped the sand
down on his head, and sang hymns.....
“This adventurer of the dreaming mind is another Oran, that fabulous Oran of
whom the later Columban legends tell.
I think that other Orans go out, even yet, to the Country of the Sidhe. But few
come again. It must be hard to find that glen at the heart of the green diamond
that is the world; but, when found, harder to return by the way one came.”
To Odhran, an Appreciation
The one who went into the earth at Columba’s urging, who travelled to other
lands and returned, who found more than expected, who sees with a different
vision and who tells us clearly to open our eyes because the Way We Think It Is May
Not Be the Way It Is At All.
Other Clues to Odhran
1) Oran = Song in Gaelic. The Oran Mór, the Great Song:
“...The primordial myth of Creation, common to all people, tells of a mighty
melody – the very breath of the primordial god – that sang Creation into existence.
To the Celts it was known as the Oran Mór, "The Great Melody"1, a melody that did
not cease with the initial creation, but goes on and on and on, inspiring Creation
along its holy pilgrimage of giving and receiving blessing....” Frank Mills, 1998
More Word Play
2) Odhr=En - (OH-rahn)
from odhar "dun-colored"; from an old name for "otter"
Dobhran = Otter St Otteran??
3) Odrun or Oddrun A Point of Secret Lore (Norse Connection)
-- Eleanor Merry, The Flaming Door, the Mission of the Celtic Folk Soul (1936) is the
only one I’ve found so far who uses the variation of his name spelled ‘Odrun’.
An old Norse lexicon breaks that name down like this:
First element (Odd-):Old Norse oddr = 'point (of a weapon)'
Last element (-run):Rune, Runa and their variant forms are originally short forms
of names ending in -run
Old Norse rún = 'secret lore'
4) Odhran: A male Irish name meaning ‘the Pale Green One’
-- This makes me wonder about an Osiris connection? There certainly are
mythological similarities in the basic themes of death. NB: The Isia, festival of Isis
in Egypt commemorating the death/rebirth of Osiris -- some sources say took place
on approx 17–20 Athyr (Alexandria calendar) = approx 28 October - 3 November in
our calendar. In what is now Scorpio at least. Odhran’s feast day is 27 October
and he’s connected to the time between then and the Celtic New Year on Samhuin
at 1 November.
5) Osian Connection
Very reliable sources have pointed to a connection between Odhran and Osian, the
great warrior bard and great poet of Ireland. Osian (little deer) has a host of
Faerie connections and was the son of Finn Macoul (Fionn mac Cumhail) and Saba
(Sadb). His story takes place in the Fenian Cycle of Irish mythology and preceded
Columba by several hundred years at least.
In one story, quoted here http://www.timelessmyths.com/celtic/fianna.html “...A
beautiful Danann woman, named Niam of the Golden Hair, had lured Oisín to the
Otherworld. They became lovers. Later, when he decided to return to the surface,
Niam warned him to not set foot to the surface, but to remain mounted on a
magical horse. He broke this geis, and was transformed into an old man.
Oisin discovered that all his companions were dead for three hundred years.
Oisín then met St Patrick, where he told saint of his life with his father (Finn) and
the adventures of the Fianna. Several adventures are recounted in the Otherworld.
Patrick had Oisin's tales recorded. Before the hero died, he was baptised....”
6) Triad with Bride and Columba
This keeps recurring in meditation: there is a connection between Bride, Columba
and Odhran. A triskele of their own.
The Maol Odhran?
First time I notice them was a couple years ago when reading ‘The Driving’, a
song/poem in recorded in the Carmina Gadelica. I would sometimes be sung
before releasing sheep to new pasture. One stanza goes:
The encircling of Maol Odhrain be yours, (Mul Oran)
The encircling of Maol Oighe be yours, (Mul O-yu) (Virgin)
The encircling of Maol Domhnaich be yours, (Mul Donach) (Sabbath)
To protect you and to guide you,
To protect you and to guide you.
This led to speculation as to what this Maol Odhrain might be who are called to
encircle in blessing. It turns out they are 'The Tonsured Ones of Odhran,’ in other
words his followers. Maol' directly translates to “bald”. One source notes that
servants in ancient times wore close cropped hair so the word Maol, when applied
to a person, was commonly used to mean a servant. Looking more closely at some
of the old Irish texts, the word ‘Maol’ (pronounced Mul) comes up relatively
frequently. An interesting survivial of this into modern names is ‘Malcolm’ which
would translate at a follower/servant (Mal) of Columba or ‘colm’. I am now
coming to realise that we are part of the current Maol Odhrain.
7 Songs of the Maol Odhran
The title came first in a meditation, after being asked to do this talk: Seven Songs
of the Maol Odhran. When I asked what that might mean, I saw a 2-dimensional
diamond shape with a triskele in the middle.
A couple weeks later, I saw/heard a series of tones/chants sent out away from the
centre at each of the 4 quarters of the diamond. The ending note of each
quarter-chant was then directed inward towards the triskele in the middle,
which began to spin. Then, the 3 spiral-points of the triskele sent out a
note/tone of their own, in response to and/or in harmony with the other four
Something about this combination allowed the triskele to open into a double spiral
(vortex?) from the middle of the diamond, branching out in 3-dimensions to above
and below. At first, it looked like above and below spun differently, but the
movement of the spirals became continuous, spinning from the top down to the
bottom and then back up again.
The message also was clear that the shape changing into 3-D opens pathways (to
where i'm not sure) and can be used for travel. In a later meditation, I got that
the triangle -- the 3 points in the triskele -- provides outlets for the energy in the
4-sided diamond, so perhaps each point relates to a different path.
A couple weeks ago, Heather Goodhand, Magus of Lodge of the White Dove,
mentioned something else in relation to all this that makes sense to me: the
I didn't know much about the Merkaba, although i'd heard of it, and so had some
fun research with sacred geometry and all all. It seems it is a term that means
'chariot' in Hebrew, generally depicted as dual spinning tetrahedrons, one pointing
up and the other down. After further investigation, it looked and felt about right
and the 'vehicle for travel' is spot on for what came through to me.
Star & Spiral Exercise
Heather's other comments also sparked further thoughts and connections and will
share some of them. She mentions the ‘Star & Sprial’ exercise Dolores talked
about in a Masterclass in 2000: "This was to do with a protective exercise used
by a now defunct Order, one of whose tasks was to ‘feed’ the ancient Egyptian
tomb guardians. As these guardians were trained to draw energy from any who
approached them---to keep themselves going, the priests who ‘fed’ them needed
to protect themselves. The exercise known as the star and the spiral was
excellent for psychic protection. This uses the solar plexus and points above and
below the body -- seated in the god-form position, a straight line passing vertically
through the body. The diagram shows that the energies have an outward
spiral from the solar plexus point, and from this spiral 4 lines of energy rise and
descend to the points above and below, to form a diamond. There is also the
vertical spiral movement. The diamond spins---through all the colours of the
chakras. It is a vehicle that can take you through time and space."
Since the key to making the triskele spin in my initial vision were the tones focused
upon it, a good bit of time was spent investigating which tones would be the
‘right’ ones. This opened many more doors than I expected and a vast store of
potential for further experimentation.
For this talk, the simplest and most coherent set of tones I found were the
Elemental Calls, as described by R.J. Stewart in his book Music and the Elemental
Consciousness. These are based on four basic tones he deciphered from a magical
square given to him by Wm. Gray. The tones are repeated in a different sequence
for each elemental direction and have a very good effect. I first heard them at
Caer Aengus, the outer court of Lodge Bride, when Morag Cameron introduced
them several years ago. We have used them repeatedly since, and they work very
well. There are many other possibilities here, far to numerous to go into in
depth, but hopefully leading to other fruitful research.
So now it’s time to ask you to join in a little experiment to offer a gift to our
School and see what’s become of all this. ENDS (to pathworking)