Saturday 4 April 2020

An Irish Quatrain to be Sung while Washing the Hands

Medieval medicine relied much on prayers and charms which straddle the dividing line between religion and magic. This Irish quatrain, translated by the great German Celticist Kuno Meyer, is addressed to Christ and comes with its own rubrics, instructing the user to recite it in water while washing the hands. Might it thus may be more efficacious in our present trials than singing Happy Birthday?

(Brussels MS. 5100-4)
Macan Máire ingeine
dom snádhsdh ar gach ngalar
ar in tessaigh bhíos hi ccind
ar gach ngábudh i ttalamh
A gabhail ind-uisce occ indmat do lámh ⁊ dobeiri mót' aigidh 
⁊ mót' mhullach ⁊ not-aincenn ar cech n-olc.

Dear son of Mary the maid,
Save me from every trouble
From the heat that is in the head,
From every danger on earth.

[To be sung in water when washing thy hands; put them about thy face and about thy crown, and it will save thee from every evil.]

Kuno Meyer, ed, and trans. Irish Quatrains, in Zeitschrift für celtische Philologie 1 (1897), 456.

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