5) The River Odras: Odras

The River Odras, in modern Irish Odhras, must correspond to the today’s River Boyle, an Bhúill in Irish, flowing from Lough Garra, through the village of Boyle and into Lough Key (Co. Roscommon). It was personified by its eponymous goddess.1783 A poem, entitled Odras, in the Metrical Dindshenchas, explains that Odras was the wife of the lord of cattle and a milkmaid. She was transformed into a stream by the Mórrígain, because she had refused to let one of her cows mate with the bull of the Mórrígain. One day, when Odras was asleep, the Mórrígain came and stole the cow, which aroused Odras’s wrath. A fierce battle between the two ladies ensued and the Mórrígain, who was more powerful, turned Odras into a river which then bore her name. The poem is the following:

‘Odras, úais ind ingen, fris' indlem laíd lúaidme, Odornatan airme meic Laidne meic Lúaidre.
Ban-briugaid ba brígach in gnímach glan gúasach, céile cáem co cruthacht do Buchatt balcc búasach.
Bóaire cáid Cormaic co roblait in Buchatt, dúiscid búar co m-blaitne cach maitne for muchacht.
Fechtus luid dia ésse a ben glésse gasta, Odras rúad co romét, do chomét búar m-blasta.
Moch dia m-boí 'na codlud Odras groc-dub gnóach, dosrocht ben in Dagda, ba samla día sóach.
Tuc léi tarb in tnúthach, in rígan garb gnáthach, baí i Líathmuine láthach, in fíachaire fáthach.
Dairis boin in búaball, tarb túamann 'nar taídenn, ó Themraig tric táraill co Slemnaib Fraích Oírenn.
Slemon ainm in tairb-sin, dremon in dóel donn-sin: a ainm, mer cen mebsain, 'sed rolen in fonn-sin.
Luid co Crúachain cróda iarsind úath-blaid ágda in Mórrígan mórda, ba slóg-dírmach sámda.
Luid Odras 'na h-iarn-gait, iarmairt nárbu ada, 's a gilla dúr dorthain, torchair i Cúil Chada.
Cada ainm a gilla rofinna mór fíche: ruc Odras, úair áithe, for lurg a búair bíthe.
Iarsin, d' éis a gilla, luid in ben gléis glanda co Síd Crúachan cumma, co fríth úath-blad alla.
Roléic cotlud chuicce in groc-dub cen glicce i nDaire úar Fhálgud dia fúair sárgud sicce.
Dosruacht ina tathum, trúag tachur for tulaig, in Mórrígan úathmar a h-úaim Chrúachan cubaid.
Rochan fuirre ind agda tria luinde cen logda cach bricht dían, ba dalbda, fri Slíab mBadbgna m-brogda.
Legais in ben brígach fri Segais, sreb súanach, mar cach linn cen líg-blad: nísbaí brígrad búadach.
Don tshruthán fháen fhoglas is ainm sáer co soblas, luid ón mnaí thrúaig thadaill cosin abainn Odras.
Odras, noble the lady for whom we furbish the lay that we indite, the daughter of Odornatan [...] son of Laidne son of Luaidir.
A lady of land was she, and mighty, deedful, radiant, danger-loving, the fair and shapely spouse of stout Buchat, lord of cattle.
Keeper of kine to worshipful Cormac was Buchat, man of might: he roused the lusty herd betimes each morning.
His trim alert wife Odras, fierce and tall, followed him one day to watch the sweet-fleshed cattle.
As busy dark-wrinkled Odras was sleeping in the early morning the Dagda's wife found her: in this wise came the shape-shifting goddess:
The envious queen fierce of mood, the cunning raven-caller, brought off with her the bull that lived in miry Liathmuine.
The bull covered a cow, the paddock bull in our herd: he hied him in haste from Temair to the levels of the Moor of Oiriu.
Slemon was that bull's name: wild was that brown savage, a mettlesome unmastered beast: his name clave to that lowland.
There came to blood-stained Cruachu, according to the weird and terrible tale, the mighty Mórrígain, whose pleasure was in mustered hosts.
Odras came to despoil her by arms, to an issue that was not lawful, with her stark ill-fated henchman, who fell at Cuil Cada.
Cada was her gillie's name—many a fight he knew; Odras brought him, in a bitter hour, on the track of her herd of heifers.
Afterward, when her henchman was gone, the lady came, in shining trim, to Síd Cruachan likewise, and a weird event befell yonder.
Imprudently the dark-wrinkled one let sleep come over her in cold Daire Falgud, where she met mortal outrage.
The horrid Mórrígain out of the cave of Cruachu, her fit abode, came upon her slumbering: alas, the combat on the hill!
The owner of kine chanted over her, with fierceness unabating, toward huge Sliab Bodbgna every spell of power: she was full of guile.
The forceful woman melted away toward Segais in a sleepy stream, like a pool void of lustre: she lost her victorious powers.
Odras is the sweet-sounding noble name of the sluggish pallid streamlet: it passed from the lady—luckless visitant—to the river Odras.1784

Here the pattern is different from the legends of Bóinn, Sionann, Eithne and Érne, since Odras is not drowned in the river, but the concept is identical. The river and the goddess are as one: the goddess is the personification of the river.


Gwynn, 1924, p. 429.


Gwynn, 1924, pp. 196-201.