Wednesday, 18 August 2010

Hebridean Hymns and Popular Lore – III

In contrast to the previous blog, here is another excerpt from the article which Alexander Carmichael submitted to The Northern Chronicle, where the emphasis changes tack to outside activities. Cattle were for a long period of time a stable of the Highland economy, a fact well attested by the number of songs, stories, poems and the like concerning cattle raiding, rustling, droving, rearing and, of course, milking and herding. It is little wonder, given their important status, that there should be such a vast quantity of traditions about cattle. Protection of the herd – whether from a natural or supernatural menace – by supplicating the powers of good was paramount as can be seen from the following example of this genre:


BEANNACHADH BUACHAILLEACHD.―THE HERDING BLESSING


Cuireannsa na spreidh so romham,
Mar a dh-orduich Righ an domhain.
Moire ga’n gleidheadh, ga’m feitheadh, ga’n coimhead,
Air bheann, air ghleann, air chomhnard,
Air bheann, air ghleann, air chomhnard.


Eiridh a Bhride mhin-gheal,
Glacsa do chir agus d’ fholt,
O rinn thu daibh eolas gu’n amhradh
Ga’n cumail o chall ’s o lochd,
Ga’n cumail o chall ’s o lochd.


O chreag, o chabhan, o allt,
O chara cam, o mhile sluichd,
O shaighdhe nam ban seanga sith
O chridhe mhi-ruin, o shuil an uilc,
O chridhe mhi-ruin, o shuile an uilc.

A Mhoire Mhathar! cuallaiche an t-al gu leir!
A Bhride nam basa-mine, dionsa mo spreidh!
A Chalum chaoimh, a naoimh is fearr buadh,
Comraig-sa crodh an ail, beirig am buar,
Comraig-sa crodh an ail, beirig am buar.


THE HERDING BLESSING.―CLOSE TRANSLATION.


I place this flock before me,
As ’twas ordered by the King of the World,
Mary Virgin to keep them, to wait them, to watch them,
On ben, on glen, on plain,
On ben, on glen, on plain.

Arise thee, Brigdet, the gentle, the fair,
Take in thine hand thy comb and thy hair;
Since thou to them readest the charm,
To keep them from straying, to save them from harm,
To keep them from straying, to save them from harm.


From rocks, from snow-wreathes, from streams,
From crooked rays, from destructive pits,
From the arrows of the slim fairy woman,
From the heart of envy, from the eye of evil,
From the heart of envy, from the eye of evil.


Mary mother! tend thou the offspring all,
Bridget of the white palms! should thou my flocks,
Columba, beloved! Thou saint of best virtues,
Encompass the breeding cattle, bestow thy protection on the herds,
Encompass the breeding cattle, bestow thy protection on the herds.

References:
Carmichael, Alexander, ‘Hebridean Hymns and Popular Lore’, The Northern Chronicle, no. 177 (21 May, 1884), p. 3, cc. 5–6
Carmichael, Alexander, ‘Grazing and Agrestic Customs of the Outer Hebrides’ in the Report of the Commissioners of Inquiry into the Condition of the Crofters and Cottars in the Highlands and Islands of Scotland (Parliamentary Papers, xxxiii–xxxvi, 1884), pp. 451–82.
Carmichael, Alexander, ‘Uist Old Hymns’, Transactions of the Gaelic Society of Glasgow, vol. i (1887–1891), pp. 34–47
Image: Highland Drove

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Stone whorls WHM 1992 13 2.4

Stone whorls WHM 1992 13 2.4
Stone whorls collected by Alexander Carmichael, held by West Highland Museum (ref. WHM 1992 13 2.4). [© carstenflieger.com]