The Irish Blessing (including 7 of our favourites!)
Written by: Caitlin
Published: 1st December 2021, last updated: 10th August 2022
An Irish blessing is an absolute staple at weddings and celebrations across the Emerald Isle, and if you are lucky enough to have been witness to one, you will know what a powerful and emotional moment the reading of one can be.
There are a number of famous and loved blessings that are used at these events, so you don’t need to be a wordsmith yourself to share in the sentiment, you can choose the traditional Irish blessing which is most fitting for your occasion and the message that you would like to share.
The History of the Irish Blessing
The Irish blessing is these days a fairly religious thing. Since the days of the great Bishop and St. Patrick, is famous for running all of the snakes out of Ireland, the Irish people have always had a strong relationship with religion.
The messages and beliefs of Christianity have been apparent throughout the history of Ireland, and have helped shaped their way of life today. What better way to channel your faith and share it with others that by sharing a traditional Irish blessing.
But did you know that it is believed that the history of the Irish blessing is actually even older than Christianity?
History suggests to us that the tradition of the Irish blessing dates back to pre-Christian times, in fact to ancient Celtic times, when they were a folk and druidic tradition.
At this time traveling poets and bards would offer blessing services to clans as they crossed throughout the country. Their blessings were often rooted in nature and the environment, and many of them have been re-interpreted for the new Christian era.
The most Traditional Irish Blessing
The most traditional and well known of all the Irish blessings is ‘May the road rise up’. It was written a very long time ago, and is often recited and wedding and special ceremonies and sometimes said as a prayer. It goes as follows:
May the road rise up to meet you.
May the wind be always at your back.
May the sun shine warm upon your face;
the rains fall soft upon your fields and until we meet again,
may God hold you in the palm of His hand.
This is a translation, as this Irish blessing was originally written in the Irish language, but this is the form it is most commonly spoken in today. There are additional verses in the full version, and another version adapted specifically as a travel blessing, but these are the most well known words.
But what does it mean?
There are three main images in ‘May the road rise up’. These are the wind, the sun and the rain. Many believe this symbolises two very important elements of the Irish culture: a love and appreciation for nature and the environment, and also a representation of their religion.
The mention of the wind is often considered to mean the Holy Spirit, because the Holy Spirit is believed to have come as a “mighty wind” at Pentecost.
The reference to the warmth of the sun suggests God’s Mercy, as in the New Testament it reads “by which the rising sun will come to us from heaven.”
And as nothing can grow without the rain, the line about the rain falling softly in this Irish blessing is believed to be symbolic of God’s ongoing provision for the people.
Or a more literal interpretation of the blessing could be simply that the Irish weather is notoriously interchangeable, a fact that can be infuriating when planning an outfit for a day trip, but ultimately is something to be grateful for, as the wind, rain and sun are all vital in the survival and growth of the environment.
The first line of this Irish blessing, as it was originally written in Irish is “Go n-éirí an bóthar leat” which rather than ‘May the road rise up to meet you’ can more literally be translated as “May you succeed on the road”. The French equivalent of this would be “bon voyage”, meaning this blessing would be very apt for a going away party or which someone safe travels.
This blessing is also commonly spoken at Irish weddings, being seen as a fitting way to wish someone well as the embark on the lifelong journey that is marriage.
St Patrick’s Irish Blessing
Here is a snippet from the famous Irish blessing known as St.Patricks Blessing. We have only included a snippet as the full version has an additional 7 verses!
Christ with me,
Christ before me,
Christ behind me,
Christ in me,
Christ beneath me,
Christ above me,
Christ on my right,
Christ on my left,
Christ when I lie down,
Christ when I sit down,
Christ when I arise,
Christ in the heart of every man who thinks of me,
Christ in the mouth of everyone who speaks of me,
Christ in every eye that sees me,
Christ in every ear that hears me.
It is believed that once upon a time, the patron saint of Ireland had this long Irish Blessing carved upon his breastplate. Whether this is true (as realistically it would have taken up a lot of room to display the whole blessing!) or whether it is simply a symbolic statement of the idea of St Patrick having these words close to his heart, we don’t know for sure.
Either way this is a very sweet and very popular Irish blessing. The extract we have included above is the second to last verse as it is probably the most quoted section.
Other Irish Blessings
If you are wanting to know how many Irish blessings are there well I would answer you how long is a piece of string! There are many different blessings, to serve many different purposes, and even the most popular blessings have many versions and variations to them as well.
The blessings vary in length, with some being long winded and descriptive, and some being short and punchy to be memorable.
Below we have included extracts from 8 of our favourite blessings. But if you would like to explore the others out there further, try checking out this site here. There are a whopping 130 gathered together there, so we are sure you you will find a few that you like!
An Irish Blessing for a Wedding
May God be with you and bless you.
May you see your children’s children.
May you be poor in misfortune, rich in blessings.
May you know nothing but happiness.
From this day forward.
An Irish Blessing to wish Good Luck
May your blessings outnumber
The Shamrocks that grow
And may trouble avoid you
Wherever you go.
An Irish Blessing for a New Baby
May you have:
A world of wishes at your command.
God and his angels close to hand.
Friends and family their love impart,
and Irish blessings in your heart!
An Irish Blessing for a New Home
May your neighbors respect you,
Trouble neglect you,
The angels protect you,
And heaven accept you.
An Irish Blessing for a Funeral
May the road rise up to meet you.
May the wind be always at your back.
May the sun shine warm upon your face,
The rains fall soft upon your fields,
And, until we meet again,
May God hold you in the palm of His hand.
An Irish Blessing for Christmas
May peace and plenty be the first to lift the latch on your door, and may happiness be guided to your home by the candle of Christmas.
An Irish Blessing for St Paddy’s Day
May the Irish hills caress you.
May her lakes and rivers bless you.
May the luck of the Irish enfold you.
May the blessings of Saint Patrick behold you.
An Irish Blessing for All Occasions
May love and laughter light your days,
and warm your heart and home.
May good and faithful friends be yours,
wherever you may roam.
May peace and plenty bless your world
with joy that long endures.
May all life’s passing seasons
bring the best to you and yours!
The gift of an Irish Blessing
The Irish blessing is something which is usually bequeathed onto a person by a loved one. For example, at a wedding in Ireland it is traditional for the Mother or Father of the Bride or Groom to read one in the form of a speech in front of the congregation- and there is usually never a dry eye in the house!
The culture of gift-giving is a significant thing in Ireland, and thus blessings are now not just spoken words but can be given to another by several other modes. It is common to see an Irish blessing printed and framed, engraved on a plaque, or decorating ceramics such as commemorative plates or mugs.
This shows us that the blessings are not merely meant as token words on a special day, but as something to be ruminated upon all year-round.
These physical gifts displaying an Irish blessing are commonly given to celebrate a marriage or on a significant birthday, or to mark the beginning or the end of another of life’s journeys, such a new job or the birth of a new baby. Or in true Irish nationhood, they may be exchanged on St Patricks Day.
Thanks to the Irish Diaspora we know that there is a prevalent fondness for the Irish culture across the pond in the US. In America, wall-hangings with “Bless this House” adorn the walls of many family homes. This is a practice which was likely initiated by the Irish immigrants and the message derives from a Catholic prayer turned Irish blessing, which is meant to sanctify the home and all of its residents.
Greeting cards are another example of where blessings are often displayed. In fact this practise is now so commonplace that I bet you will have picked up a generic card in a shop without even realising that the sweet message it displays heralds from an Irish blessing.
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