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Carmina Gadelica, Volume 2, by Alexander Carmicheal, [1900], at


Naoi, naodh, nine. The number nine often occurs in these and other Gaelic compositions,--three, seven, nine, and occasionally five, being the mystic numbers. The following are some examples of the use of nine:--

An ainm Airil ’s nan aingheal naodh.'


In name of Ariel and the angels nine.

'Naodh conair, is naodh conachair,
Is naodha ban seanga sith.'


Nine paths and nine shouts,
And nine slender fairy women.

'Bi-sa taingeil leis an aon te
Ge do robh an naodh air an t-snamh.'


Be thou thankful with the one (duck)
Though there should be nine on the swim.

'Chaidh Moire thar na naodh maranan
A bhuain an torranain.'


Mary went over the nine waves
To pluck the figwort.

'Naoi tobraiche Mhic an Lir.'


The nine wells of the Son of Lear.

In North Uist there is a sandy plain called 'Sail Dharaich,' Oak-log. A beam of oak lay there, from which the people produced the 'tein-eigin,' neid-fire. This was done by 'naoi naoinear ciad ginealach mac,' nine nines of first-begotten sons, these being in the estimation of the people the most sacred and enduring.

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In the Glenlonain cross, which is evidently pre-Christian, there are nine radii from a central ring or boss.

The girdle the fairy girl gave the man was to bring his wife back from death to life, 'ge do bhiodh na naoi bais na beul,' though the nine deaths were in her mouth.

The sword of Connal 'could cut nine nines hither and nine nines thither.'

Luas-lurgan, the sister of Cumhal, taught Fionn the son of Cumhal to swim so well that he could 'swim over the nine waves and be ashore before herself.'

Oscar threatened to send the 'spear of the nine enchantments' through Cairbre.

In a story of great dramatic power dealing with an old belief that seals were metamorphosed human beings, the number nine occurs.

A boat from Uist was 'dorghadh,' 'dorathach,' hand-line fishing, at Cousmal when a sudden storm arose and drove it, according to one version, to Lewis, according to others, to Mull, Tiree, or Scandinavia. The Uist crofters were hospitably entertained and their boat repaired. Their host was a big grizzly-bearded man, whose face, hands, and feet were full of scars and mended bones, as if he had fought his way through some desperate battle. According to Celtic custom the names of the guests were neither given nor asked till they were leaving. When the host heard the name and residence of his leading guest, he pointed to his scars and mended bones and addressed the man:--

Iogain! Iogain! Iogain!
Iogain a thainig a nall
Air bharr nan naodh caogada tonn,
Fhir a bhrist fiacla mo chinn
Is fiata liom t’fhaicinn ma-rium,
Iogain! Iogain! Iogain!
Ged a thug mi bithidh dhuit
Im, is cais, is feoil,
Air a dha laimh, Iogain,
’S tu chuir an gath am spoig.'


Iogain! Iogain! Iogain!
Iogain who came hither
On the crest of the nine fifty waves,
Thou man who didst break the teeth of my head,
Roused am I to see thee with me,
Iogain! Iogain! Iogain!
Though I gave thee food,
Butter and cheese and flesh,
By thy two hands, Iogain,
'Twas thou drove the dart through my paw.

'Iogan' (probably a diminutive of 'Iain'--John, possibly an old native name), was struck with terror and remorse, for this was a big seal who, with his wife and children and many other

p. 334

metamorphosed seals, had been visiting the homes and graves of their submerged fatherland in the Atlantic, when they were attacked, and some of them slain, by the Uist men, among whom was Iogan. Iogan gave vow and word by his own hand and his father's hands that he would never again kill a seal.

A 'seoltaiche,' cunning man, went about lifting the 'toradh,' substance, from the nine best glens in Scotland. Killinn was the last glen to which he came. He lifted the substance of Killinn on his back, and was moving away, when a man more shrewd than his fellows cut the wizard's withy with his knife, and the luck of the whole nine glens fell to the ground. And that is how Killinn is the most fertile glen in Scotland, flowing with milk and honey.

The Killinn meant is that in Stratherrick, near Lochness.

Nine times nine is the number of straw joints required in the manipulation of 'Eolas nam foineachean,' the charm of the warts, and nine in 'Eolas nam mam,' the charm of the mumps. There are nine orders of angels, and nine choirs of archangels, according to the Christian hierarchy of the Fathers.

The fairies are said to possess nine ages, with nine times nine periods of time in each. These are the periods:

'Naodh naodhanan a deothal chioch,
Naodh naodhanan cliabastach cli,
Naodh naodhanan urra-chasach luth,
Naodh naodhanan murra-chasach dluth,
Naodh naodhanan lasgarrach donn,
Naodh naodhanan cosgarrach conn,
Naodh naodhanan coidheanach ciar,
Naodh naodhanan roibeanach liath,
Naodh naodhanan ri uchd-bualaidh bais,
’S bu dorra liom na naodh naodhana truagh
No gach naodh naodha mi-bhuan a bha.'


Nine nines sucking the breast,
Nine nines unsteady, weak,
Nine nines footful, swift,
Nine nines able and strong,
Nine nines strapping, brown,
Nine nines victorious, subduing,
Nine nines bonneted, drab,
Nine nines beardy, grey,
Nine nines on the breast-beating death,
And worse to me were these miserable nine nines
Than all the other short-lived nine nines that were.


Nathair, serpent, adder. Several terms are applied to the serpent, as 'nathair,' serpent; 'nimhir,' venom; 'beithir,' lightning; 'righinn,' queen; and 'nighean Imhir,' daughter of Ivor, 'dearrais,' perverse. Probably 'nighean Imhir,' daughter of Ivor is a mistake for 'an nimhir,' the serpent, while 'nighean' may be a mistake for 'ruain,' hue, coloured spot.

The serpent is now small and rare, though once large and numerous, in the Highlands. One was killed at Bailemonaidh,

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in Islay, in the early years of the century, measuring nine feet in length and eighteen inches in circumference. Much warm milk was abstracted every night from the milk-cot attached to the summer sheiling. After much searching, traces of milk were found leading to a grassy knoll in the neighbourhood. On the summit of the knoll a serpent lay coiled sunning itself in the summer sun and fast asleep. It immediately awoke, and, poising its head high in the air, hissed and lunged about in great fury. When shot, its enormously distended stomach was found to contain several twites, buntings, pipits, larks, and thrushes, and an incredible quantity of milk.

Only a few years ago a larger serpent than this was killed in a turnip-field in Easter Ross. The presence of the reptile was indicated by the fear and anxiety displayed by a pair of well-trained horses working in the neighbourhood. Nothing could be seen, but the horses trembled violently, and, with nostrils distended and eyes staring, showed symptoms of great fear and could hardly be kept from running away from the men about them. When after some delay and difficulty the serpent was found and killed the horses quieted down, but for some days showed the effects of their fear.

A product called 'clach-nathrach,' serpent stone, is found on the root of the long ling. It is of steel-grey colour, has the consistency of soft putty when new and of hard putty when old, and is as light as pumice-stone, which it resembles. It is of a globular form, and from one to three inches in diameter. There is a circular hole, about a quarter of an inch in width, through the centre. This substance is said to be produced by the serpent emitting spume round the root of a twig of heather. The 'clach-nathrach' is greatly prized by the people, who transmit it as a talisman to their descendants.

There are many sayings dealing with the serpent:--

'Tha e ann an grath na nathrach dhuit.'


He is in the spirit of the serpent towards thee.

'Tha nimh na nathrach aig dhuit.'


The venom of the serpent he has towards thee.

'Cho carach ris an nathair nimhe.'


As twistful as the serpent venomous.

'Cleas na nathrach cur a chraicinn.'


The trick of the serpent changing the skin.

'Cochull nathrach is ole a dh’fheumadh tu.'


The sheath of the serpent badly wouldst thou need.


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'Nead ri beul an uisge,' a nest by the mouth of the water (vol. i. p. 314). The nest of the black-throated diver is that indicated. The black-throated diver is known among the people as 'learg,' diver; 'learg mhor,' big diver; 'learg dhubh,' black diver; 'learg choilearach,' ringed diver; 'learg choilearach dhubh,' black-ringed diver; 'giadh gaob,' rain goose. The last name is in reference to the belief that certain peculiarities in the cry and flight of the bird indicate rain. The bird is familiar in the West of Scotland, although rare or unknown in other parts of Britain.

During development the black-throated diver and the great northern diver are similar, although in maturity dissimilar. In course of incubation nature provides birds with great heat, rendering them liable to great thirst. To obviate absence from the eggs and retardation of hatching, the black-throated diver makes her nest near water, generally on the bank of a lake, occasionally on the edge of a stream. The nest is simply a depression in the moss within reach of the water. Should drought occur, and the water subside below her reach, the bird flies about hither and thither uttering cries of concern. The people have rendered these utterances of the bird into human language:--

'Deoch! deoch! deoch!
An loch a traghadh!
Deoch! deoch! deoch!
An loch a traghadh!
Burn! burn! burn!
Mo luth ’m fhagail!
Burn! burn! burn!
Mo luth ’m fhagail!'


Drink! drink! drink!
The loch is drying!
Drink! drink! drink!
The loch is drying!
Water! water! water!
My strength failing me!
Water! water! water!
My strength failing me!

These imitations differ more or less in different districts. The preceding imitation prevails in North and South Uist, the following in Harris and Lewis:--

'Bir! bir! bir!
An lir a deabhadh!
Bir! bir! bir!
An lir a deabhadh!
Burn! burn! burn!
Burn! burn! burn!
Burn! burn! burn!
Mo luth ’m threigsinn.'


Rain! rain! rain!
The lake is drying!
Rain! rain! rain!
The lake is drying!
Water! water! water!
Water! water! water!
Water! water! water!
My strength’s failing me!

When the reverse occurs, and the risen lake submerges the nest, the cries of the hapless bird, flying hither and thither, are extremely distressing, and strikingly like the unavailing cries of

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a human mother. The people have rendered these cries into the following words:--

'Mo chreach! mo chreach!
M’ eoin is m’ uibhean.
Mo chreach! mo chreach!
M’ eoin is m’ uibhean.
Mo dhith! mo dhith!
Mo linn ’s an tuilinn.
Mo dhith! mo dhith!
Mo linn ’s an tuilinn.'
  M’ urragan!
  M’ ulagan!
  M’ eoin!
  M’ uibhean!
  M’ ulaidh!
  M’ eislean!'


My sorrow! my sorrow!
My chicks and my eggs.
My sorrow! my sorrow!
My chicks and my eggs.
My grief! my grief!
My brood in the flood.
My grief! my grief!
My brood in the flood.
  My chicks!
  My gifts!
  My birds!
  My eggs!
  My treasures!
  My troubles!


Neamh, heaven. Old people pronounce this word 'neamh,' 'neomh,' 'neoph,' 'neob,' 'nof,' 'nef,' and other forms.


Ni, neat, nowt, cattle, extended to flocks and herds of all kinds.


, nōd, nōdh, nōdadh, knowledge, intelligence, information; 'Ni bheil nōdh agam air,' I have no knowledge of him.


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