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Carmina Gadelica.
Alexander Carmichael.
Floris Press.  Pb £11.99.

This treasure‑house of "Hymns and Incantations from the Gaelic" is a must for any pagan library.

Carmichael collected these poems and prayers in the second half of last century, from the Highlands and Islands of Scotland. They appeared, in six volumes with parallel Gaelic and English texts, between 1900 and 1971. They are a curious mix of Christianity and paganism. In some cases the Christian element permeates the verses, but in others it is just an overlay which can easily be removed. There are prayers, chants, charms and blessings for all occasions. Charms to remove a mote from the eye, to heal a bruise, against consumption. Blessings of the flocks or the household, and blessings at various times of the year. For instance, the Beltane blessing which begins:

                   Bless, O Threefold true and bountiful,
                   Myself, my spouse and my children,
                   My tender children and their beloved mother at their head.
                   On the fragrant plain, on the gay mountain sheiling.

And then there is the wonderful song in praise of Mary, part of which runs:

Thou art the corn of the land,
Thou art the treasure of the sea,
The wished‑for visitant of the homes
Of the world.

Thou art the vessel of fullness,
Thou art the cup of wisdom,

Thou art the well‑spring of health
Of mankind.

But once I start quoting it is hard to stop, there is so much richness here.

The six‑volume edition is now out of print, and was too expensive for anyone who was not a dedicated collector. Floris Press have previously published two small books of selections, New Moon of the Seasons and The Sun Dances, which are still available and which make nice gifts. This new version contains the complete English verses of the original edition, and almost all of the notes.

If you use spells or blessings of any kind, or invoke the gods, you will find here a rich source of material, some of which can be used directly and some which will provide a basis on which to create something new — I used the prayer of baptism as a blessing for my goddess‑daughter. If your interest is in folklore, again you will find this book a joy. With nearly seven hundred pages in a very pleasing paper‑back format, it is a bargain. If you buy pagan or magical books at all, this one should be your next purchase.

Wood and Water
41, Winter Solstice 1992
© Daniel Cohen                                                                                    


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