Celtic spirituality

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Many prayers survive from the ancient Celtic Christian tradition, and churches, communities and writers today are keeping the tradition alive by writing new prayers and liturgies.

This page gives a taster of Celtic prayer in its ancient and modern varieties. See our books page for further reading.. and praying.

Ray Simpson writes: Prayer for me is opening my heart up. Prayer can be any words that occur to you, directed to God as the mood fits.

 St Martin’s Cross, Iona

Everyday prayers

The Celts liked to pray about any and everything in a natural way. Prayers for frequent activities were learned by heart and handed down by word of mouth or later in writing.

Some of their prayers are blessings and this is one of my favourites:

Bless to me, O God
Each thing my eye sees,
Each sound my ear hears,
Each person I meet.

Some Celtic prayers were what is known as “circling prayers”. For example…

Circle me, Lord.
Keep peace within, keep harm without.
Circle me, Lord.
Keep love within, keep hate without.

Choose a person or situation you wish to pray for. Either physically, or in your mind, circle them. Say a prayer similar to the one above, but decide what things you want to keep within and without.

Prayer and imagination

Celtic Christians liked to use their imagination. For example, by imagining that Jesus, his mother or friends are in our back garden, workplace or bedroom! As we imagine this, we begin to sense what they would think and do if they were us.

Here are some examples of these prayers…

I will do my household chores as would Mary, mother of Jesus.

I will travel to my next place in the presence of the angels of protection.

Who is that near me when I am sad and alone?
It is Jesus, the King of the sun.

Armour (“Breastplate”) prayers

The most famous of these prayers for protection is called “St Patrick’s Breastplate”. This invites God’s force-field to strengthen us for life’s struggles. The armour consists of…

1. God – the three in one
2. Human valour as lived by Christ
3. Angels and great souls
4. Powers of creation
5. Spiritual gifts

The praying person then confronts negative forces one by one, invites Christ into each situation, and repeats the opening invocation.

To make your own armour prayer, choose an example for numbers 1-5 above and confront one negative force in your life. Close your prayer by inviting Christ and the Trinity into it.

In the St Patrick’s Breastplate prayer, the writer imagines that he is Patrick, putting on the different items of God’s armour: God, good spirits, saints, powers of creation, spiritual gifts – just like a suit of armour. I know this well, and use some of it every morning. The seventh verse of the prayer has these words…

Christ beside me
Christ before me
Christ behind me
Christ before me
Christ beneath me
Christ above me…
Christ in heart of all who meet me.

Blessing prayers

The Celtic way is to bless everything in life (except evil), however earthy or everyday, all around the clock. Animals, bicycles, computers, exams, food, gifts, jobs, love-making, meals, parties, travel – you name it!

Here are examples of an anniversary and a sleep blessing…

On this your anniversary
God give you the best of memories,
Christ give you pardon for failings,
Spirit give you the fruits of friendship.

Sleep in peace,
Sleep soundly,
Sleep in love.
Weaver of dreams
Weave well in you as you sleep.

From Celtic Blessings by Ray Simpson

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About this module

Early Christianity in Celtic lands had a more natural, less imperial feel than it did elsewhere and it’s spirituality is reviving today. Read here about its history, themes, places and prayers.

This has a strong sense of God’s presence in creation and in everyday life, celebrates God through all the senses, releases creativity, respects both women’s and men’s gifts and values contemplation.

Ray Simpson lives and works on Holy Island in Northumbria. He is the author of Exploring Celtic Spirituality and Celtic Blessings. Our thanks go to him for his contribution to this module.

Categories: Spirituality, Experiential,


Module contents

arrow Introduction to Celtic Christianity

arrow History

arrow Themes

arrow Places

arrow Prayers

arrow Blessings

arrow Books

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