posted on Sep, 14 2015 @ 05:38 PM
Saint Columba was born in 521 in Gartan, County Donegal in Ireland, He studied at a monastic school at Clonard Abbey and soon after his studies became
a monk and was ordained as a priest.
In 563 he travelled to scotland and soon after was granted land on the Isle of Iona and founded a monastery there which he used as a base of operation
to launch his famous evangelising mission against the native picts of Scotland. He was very successful and became a political figure in the area
meeting with the pictish king Bridei who although liking him immensely was not interested in converting himself. With the kings permission Columba
preached his message amongst his kinsmen looking to convert as many as possible to Christianity
The main source on the life of Columba was the chronicler Andamann who was Abbot at the monastery founded by Columba on the isle of Iona from 670CE
until his death in 704 CE. Andomann could not be what is called an unbiased source being himself related to the saint by descent from Columbas cousin.
He set about writing a chronicle of Columbas journey starting at Iona as Columba had and following his route through scotland in order to pick up
stories by the local tribes who had met him. One of the first accounts he wrote was from the archives of the Iona monastery which gives us this
account of a monstrous whale
How the Saint knew and told beforehand about a great Whale.
ONE day when the venerabIe man was staying in the Iouan island (Hy, now Iona), a certain brother named Berach intended to sail to the Ethican island
(Tiree), and going to the saint in the morning asked his blessing. The saint looking at him, said, "O my son, take very great care this day not to
attempt sailing direct over the open sea to the Ethican land (Tiree); but rather take a circuit, and sail round by the smaller islands, for this
reason, that thou be not thrown into great terror by a huge monster, and hardly be able to escape." On receiving the saint's blessing he departed,
and when he reached his ship, he set sail without giving heed to the saint's words. But as he was crossing over the larger arms of the Ethican sea,
he and the sailors who were with him looked out, and lo, a whale, of huge and amazing size, raised itself like a mountain, and as it floated on the
surface, it opened its mouth, which, as it gaped; was bristling with teeth. Then the rowers, hauling in their sail, pulled back in the utmost terror,
and had a very narrow escape from the agitation of the waves caused by the motion of the monster; and they were also struck with wonder as they
remembered the prophetic words of the saint. On the morning of that same day, as Baithene was going to sail to the forenamed island, the saint told
him about this whale, saying, "Last night, at midnight, a great whale rose from the depth of the sea, and it will coat this day on the surface of the
ocean between the Iouan and Ethican islands (Iona and Tiree)." Baithene answered and said, "That beast and I are under the power of God." "Go in
peace," said the saint, "thy faith in Christ shall defend thee from this danger." Baithene accordingly, having received the saint's blessing,
sailed from the harbour; and after they had sailed a considerable distance, he and his companions saw the whale; and while all the others were much
terrified, he alone was without fear, and raising up both his hands, blessed the sea and the whale. At the same moment the enormous brute plunged down
under the waves, and never afterwards appeared to them."
The relevant details here are that a monstrous whale, most likely a sperm whale was banished by the power of Columbas God. The monks of Iona were
familiar with sea creatures being both educated and islanders and easily recognised tha creature for what it was. That it could be dispatched by the
sign of the cross "raising up both his hands" and with a christian blessing.
Later on Andamann visited the Picts at the shores of the River Ness and collected this story from them
How an Aquatic Monster was driven off by virtue of the blessed man's prayer.
ON another occasion also, when the blessed man was living for some days in the province of the Picts, he was obliged to cross the river Nesa (the
Ness); and when he reached the bank of the river, he saw some of the inhabitants burying an unfortunate man, who, according to the account of those
who were burying him, was a short time before seized, as he was swimming, and bitten most severely by a monster that lived in the water; his wretched
body was, though too late, taken out with a hook, by those who came to his assistance in a boat. The blessed man, on hearing this, was so far from
being dismayed, that he directed one of his companions to swim over and row across the coble that was moored at the farther bank. And Lugne Mocumin
hearing the command of the excellent man, obeyed without the least delay, taking off all his clothes, except his tunic, and leaping into the water.
But the monster, which, so far from being satiated, was only roused for more prey, was lying at the bottom of the stream, and when it felt the water
disturbed above by the man swimming, suddenly rushed out, and, giving an awful roar, darted after him, with its mouth wide open, as the man swam in
the middle of the stream. Then the blessed man observing this, raised his holy hand, while all the rest, brethren as well as strangers, were stupefied
with terror, and, invoking the name of God, formed the saving sign of the cross in the air, and commanded the ferocious monster, saying, "Thou shalt
go no further, nor touch the man; go back with all speed." Then at the voice of the saint, the monster was terrified, and fled more quickly than if
it had been pulled back with ropes, though it had just got so near to Lugne, as he swam, that there was not more than the length of a spear-staff
between the man and the beast. Then the brethren seeing that the monster had gone back, and that their comrade Lugne returned to them in the boat safe
and sound, were struck with admiration, and gave glory to God in the blessed man. And even the barbarous heathens, who were present, were forced by
the greatness of this miracle, which they themselves had seen, to magnify the God of the Christians."
As you can see the story sounds very familiar, a Monster presents itself to a holy man and is despatched by the sign of a cross and a few words. That
this incident happens in the river Ness and not the Loch, which is further south, is sometimes glossed over by later writers who use it to establish
the presence of a monster in Loch ness at such an early date. But consider, it had been almost two hundred years since the visit of Columba and the
follow up by Andamann and that had allowed a very recognised cultural phenomena to happen.
That phenomena is known as "cultural transmission" and it is often responsible for changing the details of factual stories. In this case a story
told by Columba to the picts had so impressed them that they retold it including themselves in it. The details changed ever so slightly, the location
changed from the sea off Iona to an area they recognised, the river Ness. Likewise the whale which is a creature unknown to the Picts, must have
simply been described to them by Columba as a huge aquatic animal with a mouth full of big teeth and an agressive nature. To them this was simply a
monster and they described it as such.