Archive for April, 2016


While reading The Celtic Way of Evangelism this week, I found a reference to Carmina Gadelica which was billed as a collection of prayers, hymns, charms, incantations, blessings, literary-folkloric poems and songs, proverbs, lexical items, historical anecdotes, natural history observations, and miscellany gathered in the Gaelic-speaking  regions of Scotland between 1860 and 1909. The material was recorded, translated, and reworked by the exciseman and folklorist Alexander Carmichael. (1832–1912) who, with the assistance of family and friends, published the first two of six volumes.  After reading the long-playing version of St. Patrick’s Breastplate, I purchased the 1992 a one-volume English-language edition.

The book is actually a collection of folk prayers or common prayers and rituals of the people. Some of the prayers serve to make sacred the simple everyday tasks of living such as sweeping a room, stoking a fire and the like. The rituals may seem odd to us because we don’t have a sense of living in a world where spirits (good and evil) are nigh to us. The prayers reflect a people who have been shaped by a Christian vision of the world, but still retain some pre-Christian sensibilities about the world around them.

Many of the prayers are absolutely stunning and stirring; and, in reading them prayers, one can discern that the Celtic mind was “God-intoxicated”.  God was present and felt “at all times and in all places”, to borrow a phrase.  Theologically we probably could call the Celtic mindset panentheistic-God was in everything.

Consider that today for most Christians, prayers are limited to church or the home and are typically formal. Not so here.  Carmina Gadelica is how true Christian prayer was meant to be.  While written down, these prayers remain spontaneous, lively, of the moment, coming from the heart. Sufficed to say, this is the Celtic book of “uncommon prayer”, and is well worth having and especially praying!



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