Celticsprite’s Blog

Celtic Symholism: "Ocean Blessings & Sea Prayers"
March 7, 2012, 4:31 pm
Filed under: Celtic Christianity, Celtic Symbolism, Meditation and Healing
DI found some curious examples of “Ocean Blessings & Sea Prayers” on the collection of folk poetry from the Western Isles of Scotland: Carmina Gadelica – Hymns and Incantations -Ortha Nan Gaidheal – Volume I -by Alexander Carmichael -[1900] . Carmichael spent years collecting folklore from the vanishing cultures of Scotland. The poems in this volume include prayers, invocations, blessings and charms. English translations are done by the author, and the beautiful initials from the first edition. They are a synthesis of Christian and pre-Christian belief systems. All rights reserved by the author.

SEA prayers and sea hymns were common amongst the seafarers of the Western Islands. Probably these originated with the early Celtic missionaries, who constantly traversed in their frail skin coracles the storm-swept, strongly tidal seas of those Hebrid Isles, oft and oft sealing their devotion with their lives.
Before embarking on a journey the voyagers stood round their boat and prayed to the God of the elements for a peaceful voyage over the stormy sea. The steersman led the appeal, while the swish of the waves below, the sough of the sea beyond, and the sound of the wind around blended with the voices of the suppliants and lent dignity and solemnity to the scene.
p. 332 p. 333



p. 332 p. 333
STIURADAIR Beannaicht an long. HELMSMAN Blest be the boat.
SGIOBA     Beannaicheadh Dia an t-Athair i. CREW     God the Father bless her.
STIURADAIR Beannaicht an long. HELMSMAN Blest be the boat.
SGIOBA     Beannaicheadh Dia am Mac i. CREW     God the Son bless her.
STIURADAIR Beannaicht an long. HELMSMAN Blest be the boat.
SGIOBA     Beannaicheadh Dia an Spiorad i. CREW     God the Spirit bless her.
UILE Dia an t-Athair,
Dia am Mac,
Dia an Spiorad,
    Beannaicheadh an long.
ALL God the Father,
God the Son,
God the Spirit,
    Bless the boat.
STIURADAIR Ciod is eagal duibh
Is Dia an t-Athair leibh?
HELMSMAN What can befall you
And God the Father with you?
SGIOBA     Cha ’n eagal duinn ni. CREW     No harm can befall us.
STIURADAIR Ciad is eagal duibh
Is Dia am Mac leibh?
HELMSMAN What can befall you
And God the Son with you?
SGIOBA     Cha ’n eagal duinn ni. CREW     No harm can befall us.
STIURADAIR Ciod is eagal duibh
Is Dia an Spiorad leibh?
HELMSMAN What can befall you
And God the Spirit with you?
SGIOBA     Cha ’n eagal duinn ni. CREW     No harm can befall us.
UILE Dia an t-Athair,
Dia am Mac,
Dia an Spiorad,
    Leinn gu sior.
ALL God the Father,
God the Son,
God the Spirit,
    With us eternally.
p. 334 p. 335
STIURADAIR Ciod is fath bhur curam
Is Ti nan dul os bhur cinn?
HELMSMAN What can cause you anxiety
And the God of the elements over you?
SGIOBA     Cha churam dhuinn ni. CREW     No anxiety can be ours.
STIURADAIR Ciod is fath bhur curam
Is Righ nan dul os bhur cinn?
HELMSMAN What can cause you anxiety
And the King of the elements over you?
SGIOBA     Cha churam dhuinn ni. CREW     No anxiety can be ours.
STIURADAIR Ciod is fath bhur curam
Is Spiorad nan dul os bhur cinn?
HELMSMAN What can cause you anxiety
And the Spirit of the elements over you
SGIOBA     Cha churam dhuinn ni. CREW     No anxiety can be ours.
UILE Ti nan dui,
Righ nan dul,
Spiorad nan dul,
Dluth os ar cinn,
    Suthainn sior.
ALL The God of the elements,
The King of the elements,
The Spirit of the elements,
Close over us,
    Ever eternally.

There are many small oratories round the West Coast where chiefs and clansmen were wont to pray before and after voyaging. An interesting example of these is in the island of Grimisey, North Uist. The place is called Ceallan, cells, from ‘ceall,’ a cell. There were two oratories within two hundred yards of one another. One of the two has wholly disappeared, the other nearly. The ruin stands on a ridge near the end of the island looking out on the open bay of Ceallan and over the stormy Minch to the distant mountains of Mull and Morven. The oratory is known as ‘Teampull Mhicheil,’ the temple of St Michael.





p. 328 p. 329
DHE, Athair uile-chumhachdaich, chaoimh,
Ios a Mhic nan deur agus na caoidh,
Le d’ chomh-chomhnadh, O! a Spioraid Naoimh.
Thrithinn bhi-bheo, bhi-mhoir, bhi-bhuain,
Thug Clann Israil tri na Muir Ruaidh,
Is Ionah gu fonn a bronn miol-mhor a’ chuain,
Thug Pol agus a chomhlain ’s an long,
A doruinn na mara, a dolais nan tonn,
A stoirm a bha mor, a doinne bha trom.
Duair bhruchd an tuil air Muir Ghailili,
    *       *       *       *       *
    *       *       *       *       *
Shun agus saor agus naomhaich sinne,
Bi-sa, Righ nan dul, air ar stiuir ad shuidhe,
’S treoirich an sith sinn gu ceann-crich ar n-uidhe.
Le gaotha caona, caomha, coistre, cubhr,
Gun fhaobhadh, gun fhionnsadh, gun fhabhsadh,
Nach deanadh gniamh fabhtach dhuinn.
Iarramaid gach sian a Dhe,
A reir do rian ’s do bhriathra fein.
GOD the Father all-powerful, benign,
Jesu the Son of tears and of sorrow,
With thy co-assistance, O! Holy Spirit.
The Three-One, ever-living, ever-mighty, everlasting,
Who brought the Children of Israel through the Red Sea,
And Jonah to land from the belly of the great creature of the ocean,
Who brought Paul and his companions in the ship,
From the torment of the sea, from the dolour of the waves,
From the gale that was great, from the storm that was heavy.
When the storm poured on the Sea of Galilee,
    *       *       *       *       *
    *       *       *       *       *
Sain us and shield and sanctify us,
Be Thou, King of the elements, seated at our helm,
And lead us in peace to the end of our journey.
With winds mild, kindly, benign, pleasant.
Without swirl, without whirl, without eddy,
That would do no harmful deed to us.
We ask all things of Thee, O God,
According to Thine own will and word.

Celtic Symbolism: "Night and Sleep Blessings"
September 26, 2011, 2:09 pm
Filed under: Celtic Christianity, Celtic Symbolism
I found these curious examples of “Night Prayers and Blessings” on the collection of folk poetry from the Western Isles of Scotland: Carmina Gadelica – Hymns and Incantations -Ortha Nan Gaidheal – Volume I -by Alexander Carmichael -[1900] . Carmichael spent years collecting folklore from the vanishing cultures of Scotland. The poems in this volume include prayers, invocations, blessings and charms. English translations are done by the author, and the beautiful initials from the first edition. They are a synthesis of Christian and pre-Christian belief systems. All rights reserved by the author.

THE night prayers of the people are numerous. They are called by various names, as: ‘Beannachadh Beinge’–Bench-Blessing, ‘Beannachadh Bobhstair’–Bolster Blessing, ‘Beannachadh Cluasaig’–Pillow Blessing, ‘Beannachadh Cuaiche’–Couch Blessing, ‘Coich Chuaiche’–Couch Shrining, ‘Altachadh Cadail’–Sleep Prayer; and other terms.

Many of these prayers are become mere fragments and phrases, supplemented by the people according to their wants and wishes at the time.

It is touching and instructive to hear these simple old men and women in their lowly homes addressing, as they say themselves, ‘Dia mor nan dui, Athair nan uile bheo,’ the great God of life, the Father of all living. They press upon Him their needs and their desires fully and familiarly, but with all the awe and deference due to the Great Chief whom they wish to approach and to attract, and whose forgiveness and aid they would secure. And all this in language so homely yet so eloquent, so simple yet so dignified, that the impressiveness could not be greater in proudest fane.




DHE, teasruig an tigh, an teine, ’s an tan,
Gach aon ta gabhail tamh an seo an nochd.
Teasruig mi fein ’s mo chroilean graidh,
Is gleidh sinn bho lamh ’s bho lochd;
Gleidh sinn bho namh an nochd,
Air sgath Mhic Mhuire Mhathar
’S an ait-s ’s gach ait a bheil an tamh an nochd,
Air an oidhche nochd ’s gach aon oidhche,
An oidhche nochd ’s gach aon oidhche.

GOD shield the house, the fire, the kine,
Every one who dwells herein to-night.
Shield myself and my beloved group,
Preserve us from violence and from harm;
Preserve us from foes this night,
For the sake of the Son of the Mary Mother,
In this place, and in every place wherein they dwell to-night,
On this night and on every night,
This night and every night.




AN ainm an Tighearn Iosa,
Agus Spiorad ìocshlain aigh,
An ainm Athar Israil,
Sinim sios gu tamh.

Ma tha musal na dusal,
Na run air bith dhomh ’n dan,
Dhia fuasgail orm is cuartaich orm,
Is fuadaich uam mo namh.

An ainm Athar priseil,
Is Spiorad iocshlain aigh,
An ainm Tighearn Iosa,
Sinim sios gu tamh.
* * * *
Dhia, cobhair mi is cuartaich mi,
O ’n uair ’s gu uair mo bhais.

IN name of the Lord Jesus,
And of the Spirit of healing balm,
In name of the Father of Israel,
I lay me down to rest.

If there be evil threat or quirk,
Or covert act intent on me,
God free me and encompass me,
And drive from me mine enemy.

In name of the Father precious,
And of the Spirit of healing balm,
In name of the Lord Jesus,
I lay me down to rest.
* * * *
God, help me and encompass me,
From this hour till the hour of my death.




LAIGHIM sios an nochd mar is coir
An cluanas Chriosda Mac Oigh nan cleachd,
An cluanas Athair aigh na gloir,
An cluanas Spioraid foir nam feart.

Laighim sios an nochd le Dia,
Is laighidh Dia an nochd a sios liom,
Cha laigh mi sios an nochd le olc, ’s cha dean
Ole no fhiamh laighe liom.

Laighim sios an nochd le Spiorad Naomh,
Is laighidh Spiorad Naomh an nochd a sios liom,
Laighim sios le Teoiridh mo chaoimh,
Is laighidh Teoiridh mo chaoimh a sios liom.

I AM lying down to-night as beseems
In the fellowship of Christ, son of the Virgin of ringlets.
In the fellowship of the gracious Father of glory,
In the fellowship of the Spirit of powerful aid.

I am lying down to-night with God,
And God to-night will lie down with me,
I will not lie down to-night with sin, nor shall
Sin nor sin’s shadow lie down with me.

I am lying down to-night with the Holy Spirit,
And the Holy Spirit this night will lie down with me,
I will lie down this night with the Three of my love,
And the Three of my love will lie down with me.




THA mis a nis a dol dh’ an chadal,
Gu mu slan a dhuisgeas mi;
Ma ’s a bas domh anns a bhas chadail,
Gun ann air do ghairdean fein
A Dhe nan gras a dhuisgeas mi;
O air do ghairdean gradhach fein,
A Dhe nan gras a dhuisgeas mi!

M’ anam air do laimh dheis, a Dhe,
A Re nan neamha neomh;
Is tu fein a cheannaich mi le t’fhuil,
Is tu thug do bheatha air mo shon,
Comraig mis an nochd, a Dhe,
Is na h-eireadh dhomh beud no cron.

Am feadh bhios a cholann a tamh ’s a chadal,
Biodh an t-anam a snamh an sgath nam flathas,
Micheal cra-gheal an dail an anama,
Moch agus amnoch, oidhche agus latha,
Moch agus anmoch, oidhche agus latha.

I AM now going into the sleep,
Be it that I in health shall waken;
If death be to me in the death-sleep,
Be it that on Thine own arm,
O God of Grace, I in peace shall waken;
Be it on Thine own beloved arm,
O God of Grace, that I in peace shall waken.

Be my soul on Thy right hand, O God,
Thou King of the heaven of heavens;
Thou it was who bought’st me with Thy blood,
Thou it was who gavest Thy life for me,
Encompass Thou me this night, O God,
That no harm, no evil shall me befall.

Whilst the body is dwelling in the sleep,
The soul is soaring in the shadow of heaven,
Be the red-white Michael meeting the soul,
Early and late, night and day,
Early and late, night and day.




TA mi cur m’ anama ’s mo chorp
Air do chomaraig a nochd, a Dhe,
Air do chomaraig, Iosa Criosda,
Air do chomaraig, a Spioraid na firinne reidh,
An Triuir a sheasadh mo chuis,
Is nach cuireadh an cul rium fein.

Thus, Athair, tha caomh agus ceart,
Thus, a Mhic, thug air peacadh buaidh,
Thus, a Spioraid Naoimhe nam feart,
Da mo ghleidheadh an nochd o thruaigh;
An Triuir a dheanadh mo cheart
Mo ghleidheadh an nochd ’s gach uair.

I AM placing my soul and my body
On Thy sanctuary this night, O God,
On Thy sanctuary, O Jesus Christ,
On Thy sanctuary, O Spirit of perfect truth,
The Three who would defend my cause,
Nor turn Their backs upon me.

Thou, Father, who art kind and just,
Thou, Son, who didst overcome death,
Thou, Holy Spirit of power,
Be keeping me this night from harm;
The Three who would justify me
Keeping me this night and always.

Merry Mabon Celebration!
September 20, 2011, 7:31 pm
Filed under: Celtic Celebrations, Celtic Christianity, Celtic Symbolism, Druidry

The Autumn Equinox or Harvest Home is also called Mabon, pronounced ‘MAY-bon’, after the Welsh god Mabon ap Modron, which means literally ‘son of mother’,the Feast of the Ingathering, Meán Fómhair or Alban Elfed (in Neo-Druidic traditions).
Mabon appears in ‘The Mabinogion’ tale. The Druids call this celebration, Mea’n Fo’mhair, and honour The Green Man, the God of the Forest, by offering libations to the trees. The Welsh know this time as ‘Alban Elfed’, meaning ‘light of autumn’.

It is basically a ritual of thanksgiving for the fruits of the earth and a recognition of the need to share them to secure the blessings of the Goddess and the God during the winter months.

Mabon is considered a time of the Mysteries. It is a time to honor Aging Deities and the Spirit World. Considered a time of balance, it is when we stop and relax and enjoy the fruits of our personal harvests, whether they be from toiling in our gardens, working at our jobs, raising our families, or just coping with the hussle-bussle of everyday life.

Mabon is considered a time of the Mysteries.It is a time to be thankful for friends and family and knowing there is enough food to last through the cold winter months. It is a time to honor Aging Deities and the Spirit World. Considered a time of balance, it is when we stop and relax and enjoy the fruits of our personal harvests, whether they be from toiling in our gardens, working at our jobs, raising our families, or just coping with the hussle-bussle of everyday life.

The triple Goddess is now in her aspect of the ageing Goddess and now passes from Mother to Crone, until she is reborn as a youthful virgin as the wheel of nature turns.
At the Autumn equinox the goddess offers wisdom, healing and rest.

In the northern hemisphere this equinox occurs anywhere from September 21 to 24. In the southern hemisphere, the autumn equinox occurs anywhere from March 20–23. Among the sabbats, it is the second of the three pagan harvest festivals, preceded by Lammas/Lughnasadh and followed by Samhain.

This is the point of the year when once again day and night are equal – 12 hours, as at Ostara, the Spring Equinox. The Latin word for Equinox means ‘time of equal days and nights’.
After this celebration the descent into winter brings hours of increasing darkness and chiller temperatures. It is the time of the year when night conquers day.
After the Autumn Equinox the days shorten and nights lengthen. To astrologers this is the date on which the sun enters the sign of Libra, the scales, reflecting appropriately the balanced day and night of the equinox. This was also the time when the farmers brought in their harvested goods to be weighed and sold.

Harvest festival

This is the second festival of the season of harvest – at the beginning of the harvest, at Lammas, winter retreated to his underworld, now at the Autumn equinox he comes back to earth. For our Celtic ancestors this was time to reflect on the past season and celebrate nature’s bounty and accept that summer is now over. Harvest Home marks a time of rest after hard work, and a ritual of thanksgiving for the fruits of nature.
This is the time to look back on the past year and what you have achieved and learnt, and to plan for the future.

The full moon nearest to the Autumn Equinox is called the Harvest Moon and farmers would harvest their crops by then, as part of the second harvest celebration.
Mabon was when livestock would be slaughtered and preserved (salted and smoked) to provide enough food for the winter.

Mabon Traditions

The Wicker man
There was a Celtic ritual of dressing the last sheaf of corn to be harvested in fine clothes, or weaving it into a wicker-like man or woman. It was believed the sun or the corn spirit was trapped in the corn and needed to be set free. This effigy was usually burned in celebration of the harvest and the ashes would be spread on the fields. This annual sacrifice of a large wicker man (representing the corn spirit) is thought by many to have been the origin of the misconception that Druids made human sacrifices.

‘The reaping is over and the harvest is in,
Summer is finished, another cycle begins’

In some areas of the country the last sheaf was kept inside until the following spring, when it would be ploughed back into the land. In Scotland, the last sheaf of harvest is called ‘the Maiden’, and must be cut by the youngest female in attendance.

Corn Dollies
Corn dollies were also made from the last sheaf and kept in the house to protect the inhabitants from bad spirits during the long winter.

To honour the dead, it was also traditional at Mabon to place apples on burial cairns, as symbolism of rebirth and thanks. This also symbolizes the wish for the living to one day be reunited with their loved ones.
Mabon is also known as the Feast of Avalon, deriving from the meaning of Avalon being, ‘the land of the apples’.

Rituals of Mabon

Rituals to celebrate Mabon can have a dual focus, or choose just one aspect: feasting and thanksgiving for harvest, or recognition that the Year’s Wheel is turning towards winter.

Celebrate this harvest aspect before your feasting meal by blessing the loaf of bread. The head of the household should break off a piece while thanking the Earth for Her gifts; this first piece should go on a special dish for offering. As the host serves each dish, the first spoonful should go on this dish to offer the gods. Bless each dish to the guests’ health as it is passed, and be sure to have a toast!

Another way to recognize the darker aspects of the day would be to hold a Falling Leaves ritual out doors. Take an offering of grains and vegetables out to a large tree, preferrably an oak that is beginning to color and lose its leaves. Speak about the Wheel as reflected in the life of the tree in Spring the first new signs of life appear, moving into maturity at summer, then to ripe acorns in late summer, now to dying as acorns and leaves fall, and the tree will “die” and slumber under Winter’s cold before beginning again in early Spring. At ritual’s end, have the children gather a few favorite leaves to press between waxed paper with an iron(parents, supervise the ironing!); cut around leaves and hang in the child’s window.

Related Sources:

Celtic Symbolism: Invocations to The New Moon
September 15, 2011, 4:13 pm
Filed under: Celtic Christianity, Celtic Symbolism

I found this curious example of Moon Worship on a collection of folk poetry from the Western Isles of Scotland: Carmina Gadelica – Hymns and Incantations -Ortha Nan Gaidheal – Volume I -by Alexander Carmichael -[1900] . Carmichael spent years collecting folklore from the vanishing cultures of Scotland. The poems in this volume include prayers, invocations, blessings and charms. English translations are done by the author, and the beautiful initials from the first edition. They are a synthesis of Christian and pre-Christian belief systems.

“THIS little prayer or invocation is said by old men and women in the islands of Barra. When they first see the new moon they make their obeisance to it as to a great chief. The women curtsey gracefully and the men bow low, raising their bonnets reverently. The bow of the men is peculiar, partaking somewhat of the curtsey of the women, the left knee being bent and the right drawn forward towards the middle of the left leg in a curious but not inelegant manner.

The fragment of moon-worship is now a matter of custom rather than of belief, although it exists over the whole British Isles.

In Cornwall the people nod to the new moon and turn silver in their pockets. In Edinburgh cultured men and women turn the rings on their fingers and make their wishes. A young English lady told the writer that she had always been in the habit of bowing to the new moon, till she had been bribed out of it by her father, a clergyman, putting money in her pocket lest her lunar worship should compromise him with his bishop. She naively confessed, however, that among the free mountains of Loch Etive she reverted to the good customs of her fathers, from which she derived great satisfaction!”

AN ainm Spiorad Naomh nan gras,
An ainm Athar na, Cathrach aigh,
An ainm Iosa thug dhinn am bas,
O! an ainm na Tri tha d’ ar dion ’s gach cas,
Ma’s math a fhuair thu sinn an nochd,
Seachd fearr gum fag thu sinn gun lochd,
A Ghealach gheal nan trath,
A Ghealach gheal nan trath.

IN name of the Holy Spirit of grace,
In name of the Father of the City of peace,
In name of Jesus who took death off us,
Oh! in name of the Three who shield us in every need,
If well thou hast found us to-night,
Seven times better mayest thou leave us without harm,
Thou bright white Moon of the seasons,
Bright white Moon of the seasons.

Celtic Symbolism: "Casting a Ring Of Protection"
September 15, 2011, 3:45 pm
Filed under: Celtic Christianity, Celtic Symbolism
It is interesting to refer some theories that conceive the term “Caim” as a Gaelic rendering of the biblical male character Cain. In at least one translation this is rendered “from the evil one”, while others have “of the evil one.”Other authors consider Caim a ‘Prince’ of Hell and depict him as a man wearing rich and elegant clothes, and the head and wings of a blackbird.

We should quote also that in the predominantly Welsh-speaking regions of Wales (Gwynedd, Dyfed and Ynys Mon), Cain, Caio, Caim and Cail are commonplace first names for males. These names are derivatives of an ancient Welsh name “Cai” which is recorded in the book of Welsh folklore called the Mabinogion.

In contrast in pre-Christian Celtic culture of Wales, Scotland and Ireland embodied in the Mabinogion, “Caim” was considered a protective spirit.

Unluckily the introduction of Christianity in these regions gave rise to the abandonment or demonisation of traditional Celtic and Druid spirits or their incorporation into early Celtic Christian worship.

In the case of Caim, in Scotland “Caim” the Celtic protective spirit became “Caim” a prayer of protection,

In Wales, Caim became and continues to be to this day a commonplace first name for males which means amddiffynydd (Welsh: “protector”)

Casting a “Ring Of Protection” or “Caim”

It is a technique certainly pre-Christian used to draw an invisible circle around yourself with your right index finger by extending your arm towards the ground and turning clockwise with the sun. In other words, wherever we walk, God is with us, a reminder of God’s presence and protection, a symbol of the encircling love of God.

This “Circling Prayers” maybe choosed for a situation or a person you wish to pray for, circling them physically or in mind. Hereby some examples:

Circle me Lord

Circle me Lord
keep peace within, keep harm without

Circle Me Lord
Keep love within, keep hatred without

Circle me Lord
Keep hope within, keep doubt without

Circle me Lord
Keep peace within, keep evil out

Circle me Lord
Keep protection near, and danger afar

Circle me Lord
Keep light near, and darkness afar

Circle me Lord,
Keep joy within, keep fear out

Circle me Lord,
Keep light within, keep darkness out.

May you stand in the circle with us,
today and always.

The Mighty Three

The Mighty Three
My protection be
Encircling me
You are around
My life, my home
Encircling me
O Sacred Three
The Mighty Three

May You be

May You be a bright flame before me
May You be a guiding star above me,
May You be a smooth path below me,
And a loving Guide behind me,
Today, tonight, and forever.

>Celtic Christianity: References to Saint Patick On Early Documents
March 17, 2011, 7:17 pm
Filed under: Celtic Christianity


An early document which is silent concerning Patrick is the letter of Columbanus to Pope Boniface IV of about 613. Columbanus writes that Ireland’s Christianity “was first handed to us by you, the successors of the holy apostles”, apparently referring to Palladius only, and ignoring Patrick. Writing on the Easter controversy in 632 or 633, Cummian—it is uncertain whether this is the Cummian associated with Clonfert or Cumméne of Iona—does refer to Patrick, calling him our papa, that is pope or primate.

Two works by late seventh-century hagiographers of Patrick have survived. These are the Writings of Tírechán, and Vita sancti Patricii of Muirchu moccu Machtheni. Both writers relied upon an earlier work, now lost, the Book of Ultán. This Ultán, probably the same person as Ultan of Ardbraccan, was Tírechán’s foster-father. His obituary is given in the Annals of Ulster under the year 657. These works thus date from a century and a half after Patrick’s death.

Tírechán writes

“I found four names for Patrick written in the book of Ultán, bishop of the tribe of Conchobar: holy Magonus (that is, “famous”); Succetus (that is, the god of war); Patricius (that is, father of the citizens); Cothirtiacus (because he served four houses of druids).”

Muirchu records much the same information, adding that “[h]is mother was named Concessa.” The name Cothirtiacus, however, is simply the Latinized form of Old Irish Cothraige, which is the Q-Celtic form of Latin Patricius.

The Patrick portrayed by Tírechán and Muirchu is a martial figure, who contests with druids, overthrows pagan idols, and curses kings and kingdoms. On occasion, their accounts contradict Patrick’s own writings: Tírechán states that Patrick accepted gifts from female converts although Patrick himself flatly denies this. However, the emphasis Tírechán and Muirchu placed on female converts, and in particular royal and noble women who became nuns, is thought to be a genuine insight into Patrick’s work of conversion. Patrick also worked with the unfree and the poor, encouraging them to vows of monastic chastity. Tírechán’s account suggests that many early Patrician churches were combined with nunneries founded by Patrick’s noble female converts.

The martial Patrick found in Tírechán and Muirchu, and in later accounts, echoes similar figures found during the conversion of the Roman Empire to Christianity. It may be doubted whether such accounts are an accurate representation of Patrick’s time, although such violent events may well have occurred as Christians gained in strength and numbers.

Much of the detail supplied by Tírechán and Muirchu, in particular the churches established by Patrick, and the monasteries founded by his converts, may relate to the situation in the 7th century, when the churches which claimed ties to Patrick, and in particular Armagh, were expanding their influence throughout Ireland in competition with the church of Kildare. In the same period, Wilfred, Archbishop of York, claimed to speak, as metropolitan archbishop, “for all the northern part of Britain and of Ireland” at a council held in Rome in the time of Pope Agatho, thus claiming jurisdiction over the Irish church.

Other presumed early materials include the Irish Annals, which contain records from the Chronicle of Ireland. These sources have conflated Palladius and Patrick. Another early document is the so-called First Synod of Saint Patrick. This is a seventh-century document, once, but no longer, taken as to contain a 5th century original text. It apparently collects the results of several early synods, and represents an era when pagans were still a major force in Ireland. The introduction attributes it to Patrick, Auxilius, and Iserninus, a claim which “cannot be taken at face value.”

>Celtic Christianity: Saint Patrick & the Banished Serpents
March 16, 2011, 5:20 pm
Filed under: Celtic Christianity, Celtic Symbolism, Druidry


Many stories concerning to Saint Patrick and the serpents are most likely a metaphor for his bringing Christianity to Ireland and driving out the celtic religion (serpents were a common symbol in many other religions). Moreover all evidence suggests that post-glacial Ireland never had snakes. However, one suggestion is that snakes referred to the serpent symbolism of the Druids during that time and place, as exampled on coins minted in Gaul, (see Carnutes)
Giraldus Cambrensis, who went over the Irish Sea with Henry II. in the twelfth century, having some doubt of the story, mildly records that “St. Patrick, according to common report, expelled the venomous reptiles from it by the Baculum Jesu“–the historical staff or rod. The Saint is said to have fasted forty days on a mount previous to the miracle, and so gained miraculous power. Elsewhere, Giraldus says, “Some indeed conjecture, with what seems a flattering fiction, that St. Patrick and the other Saints of that country cleared the island of all pestiferous animals.”

An Irish historian of 1743 gives the following differences of belief about the affair:–“But the earlier writers of St. Patrick’s Life have not mentioned it Solinus, who wrote some hundreds of years before St. Patrick’s arrival in Ireland, takes notice of this exemption; and St. Isidore, Bishop of Seville, in the seventh century, copies after him. The Venerable Bede, in the eighth century, mentions this quality, but is silent as to the cause.”

The non-residence of snakes in the Isle of Thanet was accounted for by the special blessing of St Augustine, who landed there on his mission to the Saxons. So also tradition ascribed the Irish deliverance to the blessing of St Patrick.

Yet, while Giraldus evidently treats the story as a fable, St. Colgan felt compelled to “give it up.” Ancient naturalists relate that Crete was preserved from snakes by the herb Dittany driving them away.

Being a Romano-Briton , Patrick was captured by the irish when he was young and driven to Ireland. During the six years of Patrick’s captivity he acquired a knowledge of the Celtic tongue which he would later use. Also during this time, as Milchu his master was a high druid, the young Patrick became familiar with the details of the aboriginal Irish religions.

St. Patrick spent his life bringing Christianity to the people of the Emerald Isle and dispelling what he considered to be false traditions of the Irish, which would include the reverence for serpents.

But not all of Celtic and pre-Celtic beliefs and myths, including those about serpents disappeared. St. Bernard, in his Life of Malachy, referred to the Irish of the 12th century C.E. as “Pagans, while calling themselves Christians.” The Irish are still noted for retaining much of the old religion in their Christianity and artistry to this day.

The Christian missionaries would have been disgusted by the folk beliefs of the Irish and would have tried to banish such beliefs from Ireland. The Celts, and pre-Celts were animists who believed in many spirits and deities. They believed that spirits dwelled in nature, such as mountains, trees and streams, and had local shrines for worshipping their nature deities. The early Celts of Ireland focused on deities of the local landscapes and animals (which would not have included snakes, but which beliefs may have been borrowed from Britain and Europe).

While Ireland was an Island, it was not remote from Europe and much trafficking of ideas transpired. Serpent devotion and symbolism was found in the pan-Celtic religion from Britain and Europe, which would have been imported to Ireland. Snakes in this pan-Celtic context were believed to be fertile, destructive, powerful, and self-regenerative — all magical qualities worthy of emulation.

The Druidical serpent of Ireland is perceived in the Tara brooch, popularized to the present day. Irish crosses, so to speak, were alive with serpents. And even in the plates of the Book of Dorrow.

Although tradition declares that all the serpent tribe have ceased to exist in Ireland, “yet,” as Mrs. Anna Wilkes writes, “it is curious to observe how the remains of the serpent form lingered in the minds of the cloistered monks, who have given us such unparalleled specimens of ornamental initial letters as are preserved in the Books of Kells, Ballymote, &c.” A singular charm did the reptile possess over the imagination of the older inhabitants. Keating assures his readers that “the Milesians, from the time they first conquered Ireland, down to the reign of Ollamh Fodhla, made use of no other arms of distinction in their banners than a serpent twisted round a rod, after the example of their Gadelian ancestors.”

An old tradition is held that Niul, the fortunate husband of Pharaoh’s daughter Scota, had a son, Gaoidhial, who was bitten by a serpent in the wilderness. Brought before Moses, he was not only healed, but was graciously informed that no serpent should have power wherever he or his descendants should dwell. As this hero, of noble descent, subsequently removed to Erin, that would be sufficient reason for the absence of the venomous plague from the Isle of Saints.

Other Powerful Ejections

St Patrick wasn’t the only one! He had more saintly competitors for the glory of reptile expulsion supported by popular believes.

St. Kevin, the hero of the Seven Churches of Wicklow, is stated to have caused the death of the last Irish serpent, by setting his dog Lupus to kill it. This event was commemorated by a carved stone placed under the east window of Glendalough Cathedral, delineating the struggle between Lupus and the snake. This stone was stolen by a visitor on the 28th of August, 1839.

Again, the gallant conqueror of, or conquered by, the Irish Danes, King Brian Boroimhe (aka Brian Boru), we are assured by an ancient MS., had a famous son, Murchadh, who destroyed all serpents to be found in Ireland. This is mentioned in the Erse story of the Battle of Clontarf.

St. Cado, of Brittany, was an expeller of serpents from Gaul; and Doué de Gozon expelled them from Malta.

Even Colomba did the same good service for Iona, as others of his disciples did for Donegal. On the tombstone of the Grand Master of Malta, 1342, are the words, Draconis Extinctor.

Among the heroes of serpent-destroyers were also St. Clement, the vanquisher of the Dragon of Metz; St. Marcel, the deliverer of Paris from the monster; and St. Romain, whose exploits were immortalized over the gargouille of Paris, not to speak of German, Spanish, Russian, and other Saints–Michael.

One meaning, however, for these revelations of a miracle, has been found. Keating, the Irish historian, fancies the whole must be taken in a figurative sense, referring to the expelling from the converts of the old Serpent, the Devil. O’Neill, also, observes–“The conquest which the Irish Apostle of Christianity is said to have gained over the serpents of Ireland has been doubted, but if it means that he gained a victory over the serpent-worship, the story seems entitled to credit.”

Irish Catholic Celtic monks, ca. 800 C.E., also famously used Celtic art with decorative serpents to embellish the detailed illuminated Latin New Testament manuscripts such as the Book of Kells. Irish Christian art and architecture is filled with drawings of serpents and snakes.

If, as some have speculated, the Tuatha De Danann, the Irish mythological pre-Christian kingly race, were descended from the Israelite Tribe of Dan, then the serpent would have been associated with the people of Danann. The Israelite Tribe of Dan, also Dann, used the serpent to symbolize their tribe from ancient times.


Irish Druids And Old Irish Religions by James Bonwick [1894]

Celtic Art and Culture.

Read more at Suite101: How St. Patrick Rid Ireland of Snakes: The Ancient Irish Serpent Faith Replaced by Christianity http://www.suite101.com/content/how-st-patrick-rid-ireland-of-snakes-a209400#ixzz1GmjLTcOJ