1.12 Baile nan Deamhan
12. Baile na nDeamhan
This stone is decorated on both sides with interlocking patterns. The Baile na nDeamhan – village of the demons – is where Colmcille is said to have been attacked by demons.© Julia Gillen
Manus O’Donnell’s Life of Colum Cille is the source of legends linking Colmcille with this area. Written in 1532, it drew together the stories known and told about Colmcille at the time. O’Donnell’s book described how Colmcille drove evil spirits out of Gleann Cholm Cille,
‘When Patrick had banished and driven away the evil spirits from Cruachan Aigle, today known as Croagh Patrick, a crowd of them went to the place called Senglenn Colum Cille [Glencolumbkille] in the territory of Cenél Conaill…And they raised a mist around them so that no one could see the ground beneath that mist. And they made a fiery stream of the [Glen] river which borders the north side of that place so that no one could get across it. And anyone who would touch that stream, to a greater or lesser extent, would die immediately.
The angels of God revealed this to Colum Cille and he went with many of the other saints to drive away and banish the devils out of that place. And they camped beside the aforementioned fiery stream. They were not there long when the Devil hurled a holly spear across the stream out of the mist. The bolt killed An Cerc [literally: ‘the hen’], Colum Cille’s servant, so that Srath na Circe [‘The place of Cerc’] is the name of that place since then.
That angered Colum Cille greatly and he seized the same spear and hurled it back across the stream. And the land was yielded to him as the spear travelled towards the mist, for the mist fled before Colum Cille’s cast. And the spear grew in the place where it struck the ground that time so that it is now a fresh holly tree that never withered since then, and as it will be forever.
After that Colum Cille blessed the stream and its venom and magic left it; then he crossed it. And an angel brought him a round green stone and told him to throw it at the demons so that they and the mist would flee before it. The angel also told him to throw his own bell, the Dub Duaibsech, at them. Colum Cille did as the angel commanded so that all the land was yielded to him from the mist and the demons escaped to a rock out in the sea opposite the western headland of that place…And he ordered the demons to go into the sea through that rock where they were, and to be in the form of fish there forever and to do no devilment on anyone from then on. And they had to do that because of the words of Colum Cille. And a man with his clothes on could go through the hole they made in the rock when they went through it into the sea. And, fearing that anyone would eat them, Colum Cille left a sign on them, different from any other fish, that is that they are red and blind in one eye. Fishermen often catch them today but, recognising them, they do nothing with them except throw them back into the sea again.
Colum Cille asked God then to give him back his bell and stone from the sea and with that he saw them coming towards him like a fiery glow, and they fell beside him. Colum Cille blessed that ground from where he had banished the bad spirits and he left the right of the sanctuary on it from then on. And he left the stone as the chief treasure, working miracles and marvels. The bell went deep into the earth in the place where it fell and left its clapper there. Colum Cille said that the bell was no worse without its clapper and, if any person dishonoured the sanctuary, the bell should be put in the hole where it had left its clapper as a sign of a curse upon him, and he wold not live out one year. And that has been proven frequently.’
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