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THE CHARM QUELLER
 SENAN, the son of Gergenn, was seven days old when his
mother went to the well to draw water and carried him
with her. Though it was autumn, the sun shone hotly,
and the pitcher of water was heavy, so the woman
stopped and plucked some ripe blackberries which hung
over the path. But Senan, who always showed wisdom
concerning the things of life, lifted up his voice, and
said to her:
"O mother! it is not right to eat at this time. Will
not the meal be cooked and my father be waiting when we
reach the door? Leave then the berries on their
stalks." And the woman listened to her son's words.
Now Senan's parents had two farms, and sometimes they
lived at one and sometimes at the other. And whenever
they wished to change they bade Senan their son go
before to see that all was ready. Always Senan had a
comfortable house for them, and sheds for the cattle
they drove before them, and a yard for the fowls, and
everything that they needed. For he loved to give help,
and none knew how to do it better than he.
But once it happened that Senan had not gone to the
farm as he had been bidden to do, for a neighbour was
in trouble and wanted counsel. As soon as his mother
beheld him enter the house, when she thought he was far
away, she was angry and spoke hard words, telling him
that nought would be prepared, and the fault would be
 "Small use you are to us," she ended in wrath. But
Senan only smiled at her.
"Be at rest, O mother!" he said. "Fear not, you shall
have what is needful;" and as they journeyed towards
the farm they beheld the sheds and the house and the
tools, which they had left behind, flying past them
through the air; and the things settled themselves
down, each in its own place.
Other miracles were done by Senan before he had yet
reached manhood, but they are too many to tell. The
time was now near when he should become a priest,
though he knew it not, and this is how that came to
Gergenn, his father, one day bade Senan take the oxen
out of the farm in the west, and drive them towards the
farm in the east, and Senan got ready to do his
bidding. The way was long, and at nightfall they still
had far to travel, for oxen go slowly. Senan was
puzzled where he should leave the oxen till the
morning, for the tide was full, and it would be many
hours before he could drive them along the sands. Glad
was he then, when he perceived the fortress of Machar
close by, for surely, he thought, there will be a
courtyard there, where my beasts may shelter. So he
commanded the beasts to lie down where they stood and
await him, while he knocked at the door of the house.
Now Machar was not in the fort on that night, and the
steward whom he had left in charge spoke rude words to
Senan and refused him entrance, and Senan returned to
where his oxen lay and sat beside them till the tide
should flow out again; and as soon as the sands were
clear he called the oxen to rise up and go, and he
himself followed behind them, the waves washing his
heels as he went. He was angry and sore at the way in
which he had been treated at the fortress of Machar,
and he said to himself as he followed his oxen over the
"I have done this work long enough. Henceforth I
 will do that of a priest," and as he spoke he broke
the spear he held in his hand to drive away the wolves,
and he tied the two pieces into a cross and set it
firmly in the ground beyond high-water mark; then,
kneeling beside it, he made a vow.
After that, he rose and went his way, not knowing that
during the next night the fortress of Machar was
plundered by robbers and the wife of Machar carried
Leaving the oxen with his father, Senan journeyed to a
holy man named Cassidan, who made him a priest, and
taught him his psalms, and the rules which were to
guide him through life. But if he expected to escape
from herding cattle, greatly was he mistaken, for he
found that every man in the school of Cassidan took his
turn in driving the cows and calves that belonged to
the church to pasture; and though the beasts went
quietly enough with all others, as soon as Senan called
them from their sheds into the fields a spirit of evil
seemed to take possession of them. When he collected
the calves on one side to drive them into a meadow by
themselves, the cows would follow after them, and go
each one to her own calf, and when he collected the
cows on the other side the calves would run after them,
each one to its own mother. This they did many times,
till Senan drew a line with his staff on the ground
between them, and neither dare step over it.
Then he took out his Psalter and learnt his psalms,
till the hour came for the cows to be milked.
In that year a great famine fell upon the land, and
robbers went about plundering the people. On a certain
night one robber said to another, "Let us go, when it
grows dark, to the mill of Cell Manach where a solitary
man grinds corn; and easily can we slay him, and bring
home enough corn to last us many weeks."
 "We will do that," answered his companion, and they set
out forthwith. In the door was a hole, and through the
hole the robbers peeped, and in the mill they saw not
one man but two; and one was reading, and the other was
grinding the corn. Now the man who was reading was
"What shall we do?" the robbers
asked each other. "Shall
we enter and attack them?" but the wiser answered,
"No; for if we are two, they are two also. Let us wait
until the miller, who is grinding the corn, goes back
to his home with the corn he has ground. We can then
kill him and carry off his sack. As for the other
fellow I do not know who he is, only that he is of
another household from the miller, and will go his own
So they hid till the grinding was ended, and Senan who
was reading his book lay down and slept. But the man
who was grinding the corn did not sleep. By and bye the
dawn broke and the sun rose, and still no one had left
the mill. Then Senan got up and opened the door, and
the robbers entered and spoke to him, saying: "Who was
with you while you were reading and sleeping, and where
At that Senan looked at them and made answer—"He that
keepeth Israel shall neither slumber nor sleep."
And the robbers understood that it was Christ Himself
who had come there to protect Senan His servant; and
they repented, and left off doing evil.
As Senan had passed his days in his father's house
working on the farm, when he went to live with Notal in
the school after he became a priest, he was given, as
has been told, the charge of the beasts and of the
daily food required for everyone. This was how he came
to visit the mill on the night when the robbers went to
 attack it, for the owner, whom he had thought to find
there, was a friend, and often Senan helped him in his
work. In the house of Notal there was a mill likewise,
and there Senan ground the corn to be made into bread.
This he generally did at night, after milking the cows.
"Give me, I pray you, a candle," he said one evening to
the cook; "I need one to grind the corn, and there are
no more left."
"The new candle-wicks are not yet dipped in the
tallow," answered the cook; "but take this, it may
serve you for the present," and Senan took the candle
he held out and went into the mill.
At the end of a week the cook remembered about the
candle, and thought to himself that it must have been
burnt out long ago, and he wondered how Senan had got
another. So curious was he, that he ran to the mill and
looked through the keyhole and beheld Senan sitting by
the candle, reading, while the mill ground of itself.
Great was his surprise, but he said nothing, and crept
away; and the next night he came again, and again
beheld Senan reading by the candle and the mill
grinding alone. Thus it happened thrice, and the third
time the grinding was finished, and Senan gave the
candle to the cook, and the candle was as long at the
end of the week as it was at the beginning, which thing
was truly a marvel.
By this time the fame of Senan had spread far and wide,
and many were the people who flocked to his presence,
some for one reason and some for another, but mostly to
ask him to come and live amongst them. When Notal, his
counsellor, knew of their desire he sent for Senan, and
bade him listen to the words of the multitude and to
choose a place where he might dwell, at any rate, for a
while. So, much against his will, Senan
 obeyed the voice of Notal, and went for awhile to
After Senan had preached some time to the people of
Inniscorthy he left them, and journeyed from one town
to another, founding churches. At Inis Mor, or the
"great island," the monks drew water to be used for the
church from a well that was in a rock near by, and one
evening they came to the Bishop and told him that the
water had been defiled by a woman who had washed her
child's clothes in it.
"That is an evil deed," said the Bishop when he heard
of it, "and evil will come of it."
Then spoke Libern, the son of Dail: "The son of the
woman has gone from her over the edge of Ireland," for
the boy was playing on the cliff and his foot slipped,
and he fell down into the water. As soon as the news
reached his mother, loudly did she wail, and hastened
to Senan and told him what had happened to the child,
and Senan was wrath and went to the Bishop.
"O Setna," said he, "it is you and Libern also who, in
revenge for the defiling of the water, cast a spell on
the boy, and are the cause of his death. Go, and let
Libern go with you, and leave him to do penance on a
rock in the midst of the sea, and find the child and
carry him to his mother." So with shame in his heart
the Bishop did as Senan bade him, and left Libern on
the rock, and sought the boy, whom he found at the
bottom of the tall cliff playing with the waves, which
laughed about him; and the child laughed too, and
gathered up the white foam in his hands and sucked it,
for he thought it was the milk, fresh from the cow,
which foamed and bubbled. The Bishop was glad when he
saw the boy and knew he was still alive, and, lifting
him in his arms, bore him to the boat and brought him
to Senan, and Senan carried him to his mother.
 "The Lord has forgiven Libern," said Senan to the
Bishop, "for the sea has left the rock dry. Fetch him,
therefore, and bring him hither."
Thus Libern came off the rock, knowing his sin had been
pardoned, and humble of heart stood before Senan.
"Can we find water here, O Senan! if the well is
defiled?" asked he, and Senan answered:
"Thrust the crozier which is beside your foot into the
earth, and water in abundance will gush out." So Libern
thrust in the crozier and water gushed out as Senan had
foretold, and the spring is called "The well of Libern" unto this day.
Senan was sitting on the flagstone in front of his
house when Raphael the Archangel appeared before him.
"Behold the island that is in the midst of the sea," said Raphael. "God has set there an awful monster to
keep it, so that no sinner should enter therein; but
now you are to go there and found a church, and the
monster shall be cast out, lest it frighten those that
"What is timely to God is timely to me," answered
Senan, and then the angels that were with Raphael took
up the flagstone with Senan upon it, and bore him
across the sea to a high hill in the middle of the
island, and there they left him, and went to seek the
"Raphael and the Angels carry St. Senan to the Island."
Greatly marvelled the monster when it beheld the angels
in the guise of men approaching, for never before had
it seen a living creature upon the island; and as it
went swiftly to meet them, the earth trembled under its
feet. Fearful and wonderful was that beast to look upon:
a horse's mane was on its neck, and in its head a
single eye, crimson and angry. The feet of it were
thick, and its nails of iron, so that sparks of fire
flew out of the rocks as it passed over them, while its
 breath scorched the grass and flowers which grew in the
cracks. Its tail was borrowed from a whale, and its
body seemed as long as the island itself; and when it
entered the sea, the water boiled and fizzled from the
heat that proceeded from it.
The monster moved quickly past the angels and drew near
to the place where Senan was awaiting it, its mouth
open wide so that the saint could gaze right into the
middle of it. But he raised his hand, and made the sign
of the cross, and the beast stopped and was silent.
"Leave this island, I command you," said Senan, "and
see that you do no hurt to any, wherever you may go."
Then the monster turned and entered the sea and swam
across to the land, and from that day forth it harmed
Now when news reached the King of that part of the
country that Senan was dwelling in the island, and had
caused the monster to abandon it, he was very wrath,
and bade the brothers of Senan—Coel and Liath—go and
cast out the saint. But when they landed and found
Senan he refused to do their bidding, saying that the
King claimed what was not his, and had no power to
thrust him out.
"If you will not come for our asking, we shall have to
make you," said they, and they took his hands and
dragged him down the cliff. There Liath loosed the hand
he held, but Coel dragged him over the stones of the
beach till his bones were wellnigh broken.
"Why do you not help me?" asked Coel in anger, and
"I will not do it, and I grieve for the harm I have
already caused him."
"Why," asked Coel again, 'should you forfeit your own
lands—for the King will assuredly take them from
 you—rather than thrust this man from a place which is
none of his?"
"Because it is easier even to leave Ireland than to do
ill to Senan," replied Liath; and without him, Coel
could not prevail over Senan, so he entered the boat
with Liath and sailed away from the island to his home;
and as he stepped through the door of his house,
his foot slipped and he fell, striking his head against
a sharp corner so that he died, and soon his children
died also and his lands fell to Senan. When Liath saw
that, he returned and told Senan what had happened, and
of the death of Coel.
"You did well," answered Senan, "not to join Coel in
his strife with the will of God, for had you done this,
you also would be lying dead and your children
likewise, as Coel's children are lying."
As soon as the King's steward heard these tidings,
he hastened to tell his master, who was very wrath, and
sent for his wizard to take counsel with him about the
matter; and when it was laid before him, the wizard
"Be not troubled concerning this, O King! for I will
cast a charm over Senan, and either he shall die or he
shall yield the lands up to you."
"So do," replied the King, "and I will reward you."
After that the wizard went to the island and to the
spot where Senan dwelt, and chanted spells against him,
bidding him give up the land lest evil should befall
him. But Senan cared nothing for his words, and said
that he had charms which were stronger than any the
wizard could cast, and that he might do his worst. This
angered the wizard, and he threw a spell over the sun,
so that thick darkness settled on the face of the
island; but Senan charmed away the darkness, and the
sun shone bright as before. After that the wizard
conjured up a storm, and the air was rent with thunders
 lightnings; but Senan caused the storm to cease, and it
hurt no one. More spells the wizard cast, but never
could he prevail against Senan, and at last he said:
"I go out of this island to a place you know not, but
by and bye I will come again."
"You will never come again," answered Senan, "and it
will not be lucky for you in the place to which you
go," and his words angered the wizard a second time,
and he charmed a mist to cover the land, so that Senan
might not tell whither he went. Safely he reached an
island which lay across the sea, but in the night the
wind blew the waves so that they covered the island,
and all that dwelt in it were drowned and the wizard
Donnan, the son of Liath—Senan's brother—came to the
island to learn reading and the rules of the church in
the school of the monks. One day Donnan was bidden by
Senan to go down to the shore, to cut seaweed for him.
So Donnan called two little boys who were at the school
also, and they climbed over the rocks, which stretched
far out into the sea, where the seaweed grew thickest.
"I will go back now," said Donnan after a while, "for I
have work to do; and when that is finished I will
return for you and the seaweed, which you have
Then he rowed back to the land, but as soon as he got
out of the boat a wave carried it away, and there was
no other on the island.
On the rock the boys sat waiting, and they watched the
sea creeping closer and closer till it touched their
feet, and gently it floated them off the rock and they
were drowned; and on the morrow after the tide was
high, their bodies were found lying on the sand, and
they looked happy and peaceful as if they slept.
When their father and mother heard this, they
 hastened to the shore, and raised a great cry, "Give us
back our children, O Senan the Saint!"
Then said Senan:
"Go, Donnan, and bid the boys arise," and Donnan
hastened to the sea and beheld the boys lying there, and
called to them:
"Arise, and speak unto your parents, for thus are you
bidden by Senan." At his words the boys stood up and,
turning to their parents, they said "An ill-deed have
you done, bringing us out of the land we had reached."
Wonderingly their mother answered: "Why? Would you
rather stay in that land than come home to us?"
But the boys cried with one voice: "Though the whole
world were given us, and all the glory of it, it would
seem a prison after the land from which you have
summoned us. Keep us not here; but it will be granted
that, for our sakes, you shall suffer no sorrow."
So they died; and their bodies were buried before the
convent where Senan dwelt.
At length the time came when it was made known to Senan
that the day of his death drew near. He kept silence,
and revealed it to none, but hastened to finish the
work which had been given him, that none might be left
undone. When all was completed he bade farewell to his
friends, and lay down, waiting.
"Let my body lie here till dawn," he said to his monks,
and they did as he bade them; and in the dawn they rose
up and carried it out, and buried it with great honour.