Coinneach Odhar (17th c.) Scottish WIZARD and seer whose ability to prophesy by Scrying may have led to his execution. Coinneach Odhar was known as the Brahan Seer and Sallow Kenneth the Enchanter.
Odhar was born Kenneth Mackenzie in the early 17th century on the Isle of Lewis in Scotland. Very little is known about his life. According to lore, he obtained his clairvoyant ability from the gift of a mysterious blue stone given to his mother by the ghost of a dead princess. The story goes that Mrs. Mackenzie was out one day herding her cattle near a graveyard. Several tombstones fell over, opening the graves. She saw ghosts float up out of their graves and fly away. Within an hour, all the ghosts returned to their graves but one. Mrs. Mackenzie blocked the grave by placing her staff over it. The ghost of a young woman appeared and demanded to be let back into her grave. Mrs. Mackenzie said she would do so if the ghost would explain why she had been gone so much longer than the others.
The ghost said she had much farther to travel—she was a Norwegian princess who had drowned while bathing. Her body was carried out to sea and then came ashore. She was buried there. Mrs. Mackenzie allowed the ghost to return to her grave, and in gratitude the ghost instructed her to search in a nearby lake, where she would find something of rare value, a small, round blue stone. She was to give that stone to her son, who would be able to see the future with it.
Mrs. Mackenzie found the stone, which had a hole in its center. Her son Kenneth discovered that when he looked through the hole, he could see the future.
Another version of the story says that the ghost of the princess told Mrs. Mackenzie to pick two white stones off her grave, which would bring good luck if they were used to help people. But when Mrs. Mackenzie did so, the ghost became anxious and proclaimed, “He will help a red-haired woman, and she will repay him with hell-fire.” Mrs. Mackenzie threw the stones into a WELL, but Kenneth found them years later. She warned him never to help a red-haired woman. He eventually did, and it sealed his doom.
Yet another version says that Kenneth was cutting peat one day and laid down to sleep while he waited for his wife to bring him lunch. When he awakened, he discovered a small holed stone beneath his head. Looking through it, he saw his wife approaching with his lunch of curds that—unbenownst to her—had been poisoned by Kenneth’s enemies. When Kenneth looked through the stone, he lost his physical sight in his left eye but gained second sight.
Kenneth adopted the Gaelic name Coinneach Odhar. He was called a fiosaiche, or “sorcerer.” He achieved fame by making dire predictions that came true. Once while walking across a field in Drummoissie, he fell down and declared, “This black moor shall be stained with the best blood in the Highlands. Heads will be lopped off by the score, and no mercy will be shown or quarter given on either side.” The field was the future site of a massacre of Scots during the rebellion of 1745–46.
Odhar’s demise began with a summoning to Brahan Castle by Isabella, the wife of the third earl of Seaforth. Isabella was concerned about her husband, who was overdue to return from a long trip to Paris. Odhar shocked her by informing her that her husband was in a Paris salon with another woman. Enraged, Isabella sentenced him to be burned on a pyre.
According to lore, the earl arrived home just as Odhar was being taken away to his execution. He tried to stay the execution. But Odhar sealed his own fate by delivering another Prophecy to Isabella. “I see in the far future the doom of my oppressor,” he is said to have stated. “I see a chief, the last of his house, both deaf and dumb. He will be the father of four sons, all of whom he will follow to the tomb. The remnant of his possessions shall be inherited by a white-coifed lassie from the East, and she is to kill her sister.”
Isabella responded to this by ordering Odhar to be killed by having his head thrust into a barrel lined with spikes and filled with burning tar. The earl did not arrive in time to stop the execution.
Odhar’s final prophecy came to pass but not for many years. An earl of Seaforth born in 1754 suffered scarlet fever at age 12 and lost his hearing. His four sons died young, causing the deaf earl to lose his ability to talk. He died on January 11, 1815. One of his daughters came home from India and inherited everything. One day she and her sister were out riding in a carriage; the older sister was driving. The carriage overturned and killed the younger sister.
Other prophecies of Odhar’s also came to pass many years after his death. In folklore, natural-holed stones possess magical powers for prophecy and also for healing.
- Gordon, Stuart. The Book of Curses: True Tales of Voodoo, Hoodoo and Hex. London: Brockhampton Press, 1994.