Saturday 13 June 2015

Saint Damhnat of Sliabh Betha, June 13

On June 13  we remember Saint Damhnat of Sliabh Betha. As with so many of our holy women, not a great deal is actually known of her life, and in particular there is some confusion around Damhnat's relationship to Saint Dymphna of Gheel. I am currently doing some more research into this but can introduce the saint with Canon O'Hanlon's account below, which mentions the relics associated with her:

St. Damnat or Damhnat, Virgin, of Sliabh Betha.
[Fifth or Sixth Century.]

The Martyrology of Tallagh enters a festival, at the Ides or 13th of June, in honour of Damnat Sleibe Betha. Her mother is said to have been Bronach, the daughter of Milchon, St. Patrick's master, and she was the mother of many saints. She seems to be distinguishable from another known as St. Dympna. Colgan states, that St. Damnoda or Dymna, surnamed Schene, or "the fugitive," was the daughter to Damen, son to Corpre, surnamed Damh-airgid, son to Eochod, the son of Crimthann, son to Fieg, &c, of the Colla Dachrioch race. He says, that her feast was held on the 13th of June, in Ireland, according to our native Martyrologies, while in Belgium it was celebrated on the 15th of May. He also remarks, that in some Manuscripts, this saint's name is found written, "Damand-Scene, mac Daimhen," &c, which means, "Damand, the fugitive, the son of Damen." It is thought, that two errors have crept into these Manuscripts, at this particular passage. The first was, the transposition of a letter, which converted Damnad, into Damand. For, there was a very celebrated virgin, of the Oirgiell race, called Damnad, who was venerated as patron of Orgiell; whilst there is no saint, male or female, in Irish Martyrologies or Annals, whose name was Damand. The second error appears to. have been, that instead of these words, "Mac-Daimen," we should read, "Ingen Daimhein," or "Ingen mhic-Daimhein," which would mean, "the daughter of Damen," or "the daughter of Damen's son." Both Drs. George Petrie and John O'Donovan thought, however, there was much reason to doubt Colgan's opinion, that the St. Davnet, venerated in Ireland on the 13th of June, and the St. Dympna, whose feast was on the 15th of May in Belgium, could have been one and the same person. Nor do we feel inclined to believe, that the Damnat of Sleibhe Betha, venerated on the 13th of June, and alluded to in the Martyrology of Tallagh, can be fairly identified with St. Dympna, patroness of Gheel. In the year 1835, while Mr. O'Donovan was travelling in the county of Monaghan, he suspected, that the name of this parish must have been derived from a St. Damhnat, whose habitation had been there. Then a popular tradition prevailed among the old inhabitants, that a St. Davnet was the first founder of the old church in their parish. They had no idea, however, regarding the age in which that female saint lived, but they thought it was a long time after the introduction of Christianity. On being furnished with extracts from the Irish Calendar, he identified Tedavnet with the St. Damhnat, whose feast occurs at this date. Slieve Beagh lies to the north-west of the parish of Tedavnet, which is within the barony and county of Monaghan. That mountain range—forming about one-fourth part of the parish—stretches towards Tyrone. There was an old church, formerly in the parish, which is now utterly destroyed. This ruined church only presents a fragment, about six feet by four, at the present time, and it has been made to serve as a monument for the Robinson family. This place, Anglicized "Bith's Mountain," is situated on the confines of the counties of Monaghan and of Fermanagh. In the parish of Tedavnet was kept a crozier of the saint, called Bachall Damhnait which remained in possession of a man, named Lamb. He stated, that this relic had been in his family from time immemorial, having descended to him as an heirloom. Some eight years before he had been accustomed to send it as far as Newry and Dundalk, for the use of persons, who swore on it. Deponents were said to be in great danger, if they swore falsely. Some fearful change of their features was an apprehended result; but, the most usual alteration was said to be their mouths turning awry, or towards the ear. Many persons, when accused of theft by their neighbours, and when threatened, that the Bachall Damhnait should be sent for, frequently came and acknowledged their guilt; for, they feared the result of a false deposition on this relic. In the Martyrology of Donegal is Damhnat, virgin, of Sliabh Betha, at the 13th of June. In the Irish Calendar, belonging to the Irish Ordnance Survey, there is an entry of St. Damhnat's festival, at the Ides—or 13th—of June. At this date, in the Rev. Alban Butler's work, we find notices of St. Damhnade; and, in the Circle of the Seasons is mentioned Damh a-nade, Virgin, in Ireland. In the Manuscript of Trinity College, Dublin, classed B. 3, 12, we find at June 13, Ides, Damnate, Virgo.

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