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Celtic Symholism: "Ocean Blessings & Sea Prayers"

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

URNUIGH MHARA [121]

SEA PRAYER




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.

 

BEANNACHADH CUAIN [119]

 

OCEAN BLESSING



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.



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