In my nine-part series of articles on the “Invocation of the Graces”, I examined the famous prayer of that name from Alexander Carmichael’s Carmina Gadelica and analyzed the nuances of each word and phrase in the original Gaelic text.
Now I would like to return to that prayer from a different perspective, engaging with it as a method of spiritual practice. Rather than using my own translation as the basis of this practice, I’m going to work with Carmichael’s more familiar and well-loved version of the prayer. However, I would encourage anyone who wants to understand the text in depth to read the original series of articles.
The Grace of Form
The “Invocation of the Graces” begins with a description of a short purification ritual using a sacred drink Carmichael refers to as the “lustral fire,” followed by the bestowal of the “nine pure choice graces.”
The “lustral fire” is made of three ingredients: milk, honey and wine or mead. The wine in question was probably berry wine, although fruit juice would be a reasonable substitute. The specific ingredients are not as important as what the drink represents, which is the sacred power of fire-in-water.
This grace refers to the form, figure, shape, countenance, personal appearance or facial expression. So, the first step in this practice is to engage in ritual purification followed by the cultivation of the grace of form:
1. To begin the practice of the “Invocation of the Graces,” prepare a bowl of the lustral fire using milk, honey and either wine, mead or berry juice. Bless the lustral fire by reciting the “Invocation of the Graces” over it.
2. Have a relaxing, long and comfortable bath. Comb your hair and groom yourself thoroughly. Put on a clean, dignified set of clothes.
3. Sit in front of your bowl of lustral fire. Recite the first verse of the “Invocation of the Graces” while anointing your palms and cheeks with the lustral fire:
I bathe thy palms
In showers of wine,
In the lustral fire,
In the seven elements,
In the juice of the rasps,
In the milk of honey,
And I place the nine pure choice graces
In thy fair fond face,
The grace of form,
The grace of voice,
The grace of fortune,
The grace of goodness,
The grace of wisdom,
The grace of charity,
The grace of choice maidenliness,
The grace of whole-souled loveliness,
The grace of goodly speech.
As you recite these words, imagine that it is Brighid Herself who is speaking and purifying you.
4. Sit quietly and calmly with a peaceful smile on your face. Visualize Brighid smiling peacefully, quietly and calmly back at you. Continue until you feel it is time to stop or move on.