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


Ōb, ōba, ōbi, spell, charm, incantation; gen. 'oib,' 'oibe'; pl. 'obagan,' 'oibeagan '; dim. 'obag,' 'oibeag.' Also 'ub,' 'uba'; gen. 'uib,' 'uibe'; pl. 'uibe,' 'ubagan,' 'uibeagan'; dim. 'ubag,' 'uibeag.' 'Oban,' pl. 'obanan,' wizard, also 'uibean,' pl. 'uibeanan,' 'fear uibe'; 'obag,' dim. 'obagag,' pl. 'obagan,' witch, also 'uibeag,' 'uibeagan,' 'bean uibe.' 'Mairi bhreac nan ob,' spotted (or pock-marked) Mary of the spells. 'Bis i ris na h-ob'--She practises spells. 'Tha na h-ob a dol as'--Spells are going out of use.

The Gaelic 'ubadh' occurs in the glosses of Klosterneuberg, Austria (eighth-ninth centuries) as 'auphtha.'

It is curious that a spell used in British Central Africa for the evil eye is also called 'obi.'


Od, oda, odaidh, race, racecourse, the scene of the athletics of the men and the racing of the horses. Possibly connected with the Norse at, horse-fight; hesta at, horse-driving; etja hestum, horse-driving, horse-battle.

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In Norway, the horse-fight took place in August, on Lovisæ Dag, the horse-combat finishing up the sports of the festival. By a curious coincidence, the horse-races of Norway and the principal horse-race of the Western Isles, that of South Uist, ceased in the same year, 1820, and in two succeeding months.

A plain near Loch Snizort, a plain near Glendale, and a plain in Minginis, Skye, are called 'odaig,' racecourse, horse racecourse.

The last great 'oda' occurred in Barra in 1828, in South Uist in 1820, in Benbecula in 1830, in North Uist in 1866, and in Harris in 1818. In the Small Isles the 'oda' continued later, while occasional 'oda' have been held in all these places since the years mentioned.

In Barra the 'oda' was held on the 25th September, being the Day of St Barr, the patron saint of the island; in all the other places on 29th September, being the Day of St Michael, the patron saint of horses and of the Isles.

In Barra the sports were held on 'Traigh Bharra,' Strand of St Barr; in South Uist, on 'Traigh Mhicheil,' Strand of St Michael; in Benbecula, on 'Machair Bhaile-mhanaich,' plain of the townland of the monks; in North Uist, on 'Traigh Mhoire,' Strand of St Mary; and in Harris, on 'Traigh Chliamain,' Strand of St Clement.

All these places are singularly adapted for man-racing, horse-racing, and other sports.

'Oda nan gillean,' race of the youths; 'oda nan each,' race of the horses; 'each oda,' racehorse; 'ramh oda,' 'oda ramh,' oar-race.

Horse-racing, 'grafand,' pl. 'graifne,' formed part of the sport at the ancient Irish gatherings (Joyce, Social History, II., 462).


Odharan, Odhran, Odran, Oran, Oran, St Oran; also the name of St Patrick's charioteer.

There are several places named after Oran, as 'Killoran' in Colonsay; 'Tiroran,' the land of Oran in Mull.

The principal burying-ground in Iona is called 'Reilig Odhrain,' the burying-place of Oran. It is also called 'Reilig nan Righ,' the burying-place of the kings. The people tell a tradition how this place came to be named after St Oran. Versions of the tradition were taken down in places widely apart.

'Dhuisg carmasg agus connspuinn eadar Calum-cille agus

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[paragraph continues] Odhran mu dheighinn mathas neamh agus mi-mhathas ifrinn, suamhnas nan saoi agus duamhnas nan daoi. Thubhairt Odharan gun cuireadh easan a chuis gu deuchain ann an ionad nan seasamh bonn agus gun reachadh e re tri la agus tri oidhche sios dh’an uaigh (ifrinn). Fhuaradh uidheam treachaid agus threachaideadh uaigh co domhain a sios agus a bha Odhran co and a suas.

'Chaidh Odhran a sios dh’an uaigh agus lionadh an uaigh thairis air.

'An ceann nan tri la agus nan tri oidhche thubhairt Calumcille gun robh e iomchaidh sealltain air Odhran, agus chaidh sealltain air mar a thubhradh. Air mosgladh a shul dha thubhairt Odhran:--

"Ni bheil flathas mar a theireas,
Ni bheil irionn mar a thubhras,
Ni bheil saoi suthann sona,
Ni bheil daoi dona duthann."

[paragraph continues] An uair a chuala Calum-cille cainnt agus briathran Odhrain dh’eubh e:--

"Uir! uir air suil Odhrain,
Mu’n duisg e ’n corr carmaisg,
Dh’ fhios oi’m a thoir dh’an chuideachd,
Dh’ fhios toi’m a thoir dha bhraithraidh."

'Chuireadh an uir a rithist air Odhran agus thiodhlaiceadh e.

'Ghuil Calum-cille gu tursach trom, agus shil na deoir gu frasach fial ri linn Odhrain chaoimh, cheanail, dhilis, dheothais a dhol a dhi.

'Sin an ceud neach a thiodhlaiceadh anns an ionad sin agus thugadh "Reilig Odhrain" mar ainm air a chladh. Chuireadh caibeal air Odhran agus thugadh "Teampull Odhrain" mar ainm air a chaibeal.'

'Contention and controversy awoke between Columba and Oran about the merits of heaven and the demerits of hell, the happiness of the good and the unhappiness of the bad. Oran said that he would put the matter to the test in the place whereon they stood, and that he would go for the space of three days and three nights down to the grave (hell). Digging implements were procured, and a grave was dug as deep down as Oran was high up. Oran went down into the grave, and the earth was filled over him.

'At the end of the three days and the three nights Columba

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said that it would be seemly to look upon Oran, and he was looked upon accordingly.

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."

[paragraph continues] 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."

[paragraph continues] 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.

'That was the first person who was buried in that place, and the name "Burial-place of Oran" was given to it. A chapel was placed on Oran, and "Temple of Oran" was given as a name to the chapel.'

There may be some truth in this tradition, although probably much altered. The period of three days and three nights in the grave is symbolic of Christ. Probably human sacrifices were placed under the foundation-wall of St Oran's Temple, whether or not Oran was the name of the man sacrificed. Human sacrifices were placed under buildings in ancient Greece and Rome, and under buildings in modern England, Ireland, and Scotland. A well-known Greek case was that of the Bridge of Arta, which only stood secure after the master-builder had placed his own wife beneath the foundation. It is said that when building the manse of Killtarlity the mason seized a passing woman and placed her under the foundation-stone of the building. The woman uttered curses upon the building, and upon those who would dwell therein. A Gaelic proverb says:--

'Gheobh baobh a guidhe
Ge nach faigh a h-anam trocair.'


A wicked woman will get her wish
Though her soul may not see salvation.

A man known as 'Lachlan Og,' 'Lachlann Ogi,' young Lachlan, was in the army in Ireland. He eloped with a young

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lady, whose brothers pursued them. While he was defending himself against her brothers, the lady went in behind him for protection, where she was struck and killed by a blow from his sword. He was put in prison, and while there he composed a beautiful song known as 'Mali bheag og,' young little May.

'Lachlan Og' became insane, and on being liberated he made his way to Lorn. He wandered about the country, making Killchrenan the centre of his circuiting. He never entered a house, never asked for food, and never spoke. When the people knew that he was about, they left food for him in well-known retreats--which were simply depressions among the rocks and hillocks--summer and winter. In his wanderings the hapless man was seized at Bunawe, and placed under the pier building for an English iron-smelting company.

Some say that 'Lachlan Og' was placed under the foundation of Bunawe House, built by the same company, and not under the pier. In support of this the saying of the famous seer 'Guala Chrosda' is quoted:--

'Taigh Lochan nan cnamh,
Taigh gun sonas gun agh,
Cha tig mac an deigh athar,
Air taigh Bhun-atha gu brath.'


House of the Lakelet of bones,
House without joy without luck,
Nor son shall succeed father,
In Bunawe House ever.

[paragraph continues] A variant on this is:--

'Taigh mor Pholl nan cnamh,
Taigh gun sonas gun agh,
Far nach cluinnear guth coilich,
No ruch leinibh gu brath.'


Big house of the Pool of bones,
House without joyance without prosperity,
Where voice of cock shall not be heard,
Nor suck of child ever.

(In a deep pool behind the house quantities of human bones have been found. Hence the name, Pool of bones, Lakelet of bones.)

These traditions are circumstantially related and believed.

When the practice of sacrificing men and women fell into disuse, birds and animals were substituted. It was reported a few years ago that a builder placed a cock beneath the wall of a church in one of the midland counties of England.


Omhan, whey whisked into froth, especially the richer whey pressed out of the curds.


Ōr, ōrtha, prayer, rhymed prayer, hymn, supplication, petition, incantation; pl. 'or,' 'ora,' 'orthachan,' 'orrachan.' 'Domhull beag nan or,' Little Donald of the supplications.

The word following gives the purpose of the petition as 'ora

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bhais,' death spell; 'ora ghonaidh,' wounding incantation; 'ora sheamlachais,' a charm to induce one cow to take to the calf of another; 'ora bhalbh,' spell to silence an opponent; 'ora ghrudaireachd,' spell to spoil another's brewing; 'ora ghlas ghuib,' spell to lock an enemy's mouth; 'ora na h-Aona,' spell of the Friday; 'ora stoirm,' spell to raise a storm to drown a foe.

When the lady of Maclean of Duart heard that her lord was holding dalliance with the dark-eyed Princess Viola of Spain, her heart burned within her. She sent for Doiteag, the arch-sorceress of Mull, who undertook to raise a storm which would sink the Spanish ship at her anchor in the land-locked bay of Tobermory. Doiteag did this, and drowned all the Spaniards but saved all the Scots on board. It is said that people from Mull and Morvern were on the deck of the Florida when the ship was blown up into the air and the deck came down close to the shore, the natives of the country being uninjured. Martin says that one of the Beaton physicians of Mull was among those thus miraculously saved. Many stories are still told in Mull and Morvern about the Florida and the Spanish Armada.

'Or' and 'ob' are used indiscriminately, the people not now differentiating between them. A grassy declivity behind the village in St Kilda was called 'Liana nan or' and 'Liana nan ob,' the lawn of the prayers, and the lawn of the incantations. The community collected their herds there to sain and lustrate them, from the 'cear,' blood one, or the 'cearb,' killing one.

A tombstone in St Oran's, Iona, bears the inscription, 'Or Do Mail Fatric,' in modern Gaelic 'or do Maolphatric,' a prayer for Maolpatric. Another has the inscription, 'or ar anmin Eogain,' in modern Gaelic, 'or air anam Eoghain,' a prayer for the soul of Ewen.


Ora, orag, odharag, the young of birds while in the downy stage, especially the young of the swan, the shag, and the cormorant. From 'odhar,' dun.


Orc, a pig; 'oircean,' 'uircean,' a young pig. 'Orc' was another name for the whale. The sea north-east of the Long Island was known to the old people as 'Cuan nan Orc,' the sea of the orcs. In charts this sea is known as the Greater Minch.

The Gaelic name of the Orkney Isles is 'Orcaibh,' 'Arcaibh,' the isles of whales, Orcades; the Orkney seas, like the Minch, being subject to frequent visits from whales.

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