Incantations & Spells

Trí bás úaim rohuccaiter...

Trí bás úaim rohuccaiter!
Trí áes dom dorataiter!
Secht tonna tacid dom dorodailter!

(three * death(s) * from me * may they be taken
threee * age(s) * to me * may they be given
seven * waves * of good fortune * to me * may they be poured out)

May three deaths be taken from me!
May three ages be given to me!
May seven waves of fortune be granted to me!

These lines are part of a much longer prayer for long life which begins "Ad·muiniur secht n-ingena trethan" ("I invoke the seven daughters of the sea"). Kuno Meyer edited and translated it for the first time in "Miscellanea Hibernica", where he attributed it to Fer fio macc Fabri. P. L. Henry also edited and translated it in "Dánta Ban".

For another portion of this "ortha" (poem or incantation), see "Ropo chétach cétblíadnach" in this collection.

Ropo chétach cétblíadnach...

Ropo chétach cétblíadnach, cech cét diib ar úair.

(may I be * hundredfold * hundred years * each * hundred * of them * by * time)

May I live for a hundred times a hundred years, each hundred of them in turn!

This supplication comes from a longer "ortha" (poem or incantation) for long life which begins "Ad·muiniur secht n-ingena trethan" ("I invoke the seven daughters of the sea"). Kuno Meyer edited and translated it in "Miscellanea Hibernica" and attributed it to Fer fio macc Fabri. P. L. Henry edited and translated it again much later in "Dánta Ban".

For another selection from this "ortha" , see "Trí bás úaim rohuccaiter" in this collection.

Alt fri alt ocus féith fri féith!

Alt fri alt ocus féith fri féith!

(joint * to * joint * and * sinew * to * sinew)

Joint to joint and sinew to sinew!

This spell to heal a broken limb is found earliest in Irish literature in "Cath Maige Tuired". Dían Cécht replaced Núadu's severed hand with a silver prosthesis that could move like a normal hand. But Míach, the son of Dían Cécht, was not satisfied with that. "Atréracht-sim don láim 7 atbert 'ault fri halt di 7 féith fri féth', 7 ícuis fri téorai nómaidhe." (He came to the hand and said 'joint to joint of it and sinew to sinew', and he healed it in nine days.) Similar tellings are found in the various versions of Lebor Gabála Érenn, and there are several versions of the same formula in Scottish Gaelic. One of these, quoted by Macalister in the notes to his edition of LGÉ, is:

Chaidh Crìosd air muin each donn,
'S bhrist each donn a chois.
Chuir Crìosd a smuais ri smuais,
Cnàimh ri cnàimh 's feòil ri feòil,
'S shlànaich cois each donn.

In an article in ZCP 33, Rolf Ködderitzsch gives versions of the formula stretching across Indo-European time and space from India's Atharvaveda (IV.12) to versions similar to the Scottish one from Norway and Shetland.

Adeochosa inna husci do chongnam frim.

Adeochosa inna husci do chongnam frim.

(I invoke * the * waters * for * helping * to me)

I call upon the waters to help me.

In the LU Táin (5512-14) Cú Chulainn appeals to the cosmos, particularized in triple form as earth, sea, and sky (see also "Mani má in talam fue" in this collection), to come to his aid in battle. The full quotation is:

"Adeochosa," or Cú Chulaind, "inna husci do chongnam frim. Ateoch nem 7 talmuin 7 Cruinn in tsainrethaig."

"I call on, said Cú Chulainn, "the waters do help me. I call on the sky and the earth and the (River) Cronn in particular."

Conflating the two sentences and normalizing the spelling gives: "Ad·teoch inna h-uisciu ocus nem ocus talmain do chongnam frimm." For more on the threefold image of the cosmos, see the discussion of "Mani má in talam fue" in this collection.

A Brigit bennach ar sét...

A Brigit bennach ar sét
nachar·tair bét ar ar cúairt;
a chaillech a l-Lifi lán
co·rísem slán ar tech úait.

(o * Brigit * bless * our * road /
that may not come to us * calamity * on * our * trip /
o * nun * from * Liffey * full /
may we reach * safe * our * house * from you)

O Brigit, bless our road,
that calamity may not overtake us as we travel;
O veiled one from the laden Liffey
may we reach home safely by your intercession.

This verse, the first in a longer prayer, is found at LL 308a, where it is recited by St. Mo Ling. Elsewhere (Irische Texte iii.53) there is a long incantation containing a mix of pagan and christian elements that begins "Ad·muiniur secht n-ingena trethan" (I invoke the seven daughters of the sea). Two lines in it also call for a safe journey:

Ním·thí bás for fecht,
ro·fírthar mo thecht!

May death not come to me on a journey,
may my return be realized!

See also "Rop soraid in sét-sa" in this collection for another prayer for safe travel.

Ordu Thomais togaide...

Ordu Thomáis togaide
i tóeb Críst cen chinaid
ron-ícca mo déta cen guba
ar chruma is ar idain.

(thumb * of Thomas * chosen /
in * side * of Christ * without * guilt /
that it may heal * my * teeth * without * lamentation /
before * worms * and * before * pangs)

May the thumb of chosen Thomas
in the side of sinless Christ
heal my teeth without lament
from worms and from pains.

This dental incantation is a bit of marginalia found at the top of page 177 of the Lebar Brecc. Whitley Stokes edited and translated it in volume 5 of RC.

Cris nathrach mo chris...

Cris nathrach mo chris, nathair ima·tá:
náram·gonat fir, náram·millet mná.

(belt * of snake * my * belt * snake * that is around /
may not wound me * men * may not destroy me * women)

My belt is a snake belt, a snake that wraps around:
may men not wound me, may women not destroy me!

This couplet is taken from what is known as the "Klosterneuburg Incantation", which Stokes edited in RC II (1875), and which was discussed and further edited on Old-Irish-L in December, 2004. A comprehensive new edition of the incantation is now available:

David Stifter, "Die Klosterneuburger lorica", in: Kelten-Einfälle an der Donau. Akten des 4. Symposiums deutschsprachigen Keltologinnen und Keltologen. Philologische – Historische – Archäologische Evidenzen. Konrad Spindler (1939–2005) zum Gedenken. (Linz/Donau, 17.–21. Juli 2005), Herausgegeben von Helmut Birkhan unter Mitwirkung von Hannes Tauber, Wien: Verlag der Österreichischen Akademie der Wissenschaften 2007, 503–527

Rop soraid in sét-sa...

Rop soraid in sét-sa,
rop sét lessa im lámaib;
Críst credal fri demnaib,
fri armaib, fri áraib!

(may be * smooth/pleasant * the * road-this /
may be * road * of benefit * in my * hands /
Christ * holy * against * demons /
against * weapons * against * slaughters)

May this journey be pleasant,
may it be a journey of profit in my hands;
holy Christ against demons,
against weapons, against slaughters!

This is the first stanza of a poem of three stanzas, possibly composed by Máel Ísu Úa Brolcháin, and edited and translated by Kuno Meyer in Ériu, vol. 6, p. 112.

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