Irish prayers for death

Written by dylan murray
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Irish prayers for death
Ireland has a rich history of tradition regarding death rites. (Irish Statues image by Rebs O from

Irish funeral prayer is a combination of traditional bereavement blessings and Irish designs. While most Irish prayers for death are written down today, they all have a long oral tradition. The origin of most of these poems is comprised of centuries of family traditions and Irish funerals.

A Funereal Prayer

"May the road rise to meet you. May the wind be always at your back. May the sun shine warm upon your face. May the rains fall soft upon your fields and until we meet again, May the Lord hold you in the palm of His hand."

The Irish find that by putting a memorial together with pictures, personal notes and sympathy phrases can help honour their life and memories and bring people together for comfort.

A Typical Irish Wake

"Do not stand at my grave and weep. I am not there, I do not sleep. I am a thousand winds that blow. I am the diamond glints on the snow. I am the sunlight that ripened grain. I am the gentle autumn's rain. When you awaken in the morning's hush, I am the swift uplifting rush; Of quiet birds in circled flight, I am the soft star that shines at night. Do not stand at my grave and cry. I am not there. I did not die."

If there is any common tradition in Irish homes it is the burial of a loved one.

There are many ideas about the beginnings of the Irish wake. The most favoured one originated with the Celts, who believed death was simply a movement to the afterlife and therefore a reason to celebrate.

Today's wake is not much different than it has always been. The wake will held in the home of the deceased or at the home of a close relative. A window is opened after death to let the deceased's spirit to leave the house. After two hours the window will be closed to prevent the spirit from coming back.

The deceased is washed and dressed, a rosary is then wrapped around the hands and a cross placed around the neck. All clocks stopped at the moment of death and all mirrors will be covered out of respect. The curtains will be closed.

Although death is indeed a cause to mourn a traditional Irish wake is seldom solemn. Friends and family alike gather and share memories. Food and drink is always present. Friends and neighbours will bring a food to help out, since there is a constant stream of visitors.

The visitors will be met by a family member, and they will then go to the room where the deceased is. At the coffin they stand for a few minutes and say a prayer.

A Final Funereal Prayer

"(Loved one's Name.) We remember them. At the rising of the sun and at its going down, we remember them.

At the blowing of the wind and the chill of winter, we remember them. At the opening of the buds and in the rebirth of spring, we remember them.

At the blueness of the skies and in the warmth of summer, we remember them. At the rustling of the leaves and in the beauty of autumn, we remember them.

At the beginning of the year and when it ends, we remember them.

As long as we live, they too will live; for they are now a part of us, as we remember them.

When we are weary and in need of strength, we remember them.

When we are lost and sick at heart, we remember them. When we have joy we crave to share, we remember them.

When we have decisions that are difficult to make, we remember them. When we have achievements that are based on theirs, we remember them.

As long as we live, they too will live; for they are now a part of us, as we remember them."

The Irish are noted for their beautiful funeral prayers, of which there are hundreds, bound in books and still used today.

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