One thing the Carmina Gadelica has taught me over and over is that prayer is multifaceted. This particular incantation is interesting because this is a prayer said over the cattle of which a farmer is pastoring. This shows us the deep regard held by Celtic Christians for the environment around them. They understood the world not just as a thing to be subdued by humans. The world was a place where the very spirit of God could be found. The natural world contained God in every piece of soil, rock, blade of grass and animal. The Celts understood that God was infinite, and as such was present in everything
A Pastoral People
In the Carmina Gadelica, Carmichael writes; “BEING a pastoral people, the Highlanders possess much pastoral poetry. The greater part of this is secular with fragments of sacred poetry interspersed. The herding runes are examples of these purely pastoral poems. They are sung by the people as they send their flocks to the pastures, or tend them on the hills, glens, or plains. The customs vary in details in different districts, but everywhere is the simple belief that the King of shepherds watches over men and flocks now as of old–‘the same yesterday, to-day, and for ever.’ When a man has taken his herd to the pasture in the morning, and has got a knoll between himself and them, he bids, them a tender adieu, waving his hand, perhaps both hands, towards them, saying:–” (Carmichael, 1901)
The herding of Bride to the kine.
Whole and well may you return.
The prosperity of Mary Mother be yours.
Active and full may you return.
The safeguard of Columba round your feet.
Whole be your return home.
Be the bright Michael king of the angels
Protecting, and keeping, and saving you.
The guarding of God and the Lord be yours.
Till I or mine shall see you again.
The help of Coivi to you.
Travelling coire, travelling copse,
Travelling meads long and grassy,
The herding of the fair Mary.
Be about your head, your body, and aiding you.
THE keeping of God and the Lord on you,
keeping of Christ always on you.
The keeping of Carmac and of Columba on you,
The keeping of Cairbre on you going and coming.
And the keeping of Ariel the gold-bright on you.
The king of Ariel the gold-bright on you.
The keeping of Bride the foster-mother on you.
The keeping of Mary the yellow-haired on you.
Of Christ Jesus, the Son of peace.
The King of kings, land and sea.
And the peace-giving Spirit, everlasting, be yours,
The peace-giving Spirit, everlasting, be yours.
Nature Deserves to be Prayed For
Many times we forget our original purpose on the earth. We focus more on subduing than having dominion. Those are really two very different ways of taking care of something. Subduing implies force, dominion implies grace. We are not called to subdue the earth so as to punish it. We are to subdue the earth so as to have dominion over it. As Christians we are called to care very much for the living earth we have been given to tend. In this prayer, we see a shepherd doing just that. It is almost certain this man is going to milk and eat the cows, so why pray for them?
Very Simply, they are a gift. They are the way in which this particular man feeds his family and pays the bills. In more ways than one, the man owes his life to these cows. If we are wondering why we should bless cows, then why do we pray for ourselves? We, too are going to die, so why waste the breath? This is because prayer is never a waste of breath. Blessing is never a waste of time. These cows serve a purpose greater than themselves and really should be honored.
Nature Deserves More than Prayers
Just like humans deserve more than thoughts and prayers in times of struggle, so to does the earth. Simply blessing the cow or the ground is the beginning. Prayer should invoke thought and thought should invoke action. Prayer for a cleaner earth will not clean the earth, picking up trash does that. This Herding Prayer could be said for the river up the road from your house, or the ocean you live next to. Pray for the earth, think about ways to help the earth and execute. In the same way prayers wont fill an empty belly, prayer on its own does not honor or help make the earth better. Prayer must equal action. This prayer shows the intent of the Farmer to honor and take care of what God has given him. What do our prayers say about us?
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