Ortha nan Gaidheal


DEATH blessings vary in words but not in spirit. These death blessings are known by various names, as: 'Beannachadh Bais,' Death Blessing, 'Treoraich Anama,' Soul Leading, 'Fois Anama,' Soul Peace, and other names familiar to the people.

The soul peace is intoned, not necessarily by a cleric, over the dying, and the man or the woman who says it is called 'anam-chara,' soul-friend. He or she is held in special affection by the friends of the dying person ever after. The soul peace is slowly sung - all present earnestly joining the soul-friend in beseeching the Three Persons of the Godhead and all the saints of heaven to receive the departing soul of earth. During the prayer the soul-friend makes the sign of the cross with the right thumb over the lips of the dying.

The scene is touching and striking in the extreme, and the man or woman is not to be envied who could witness unmoved the distress of these lovable people of the West taking leave of those who are near and dear to them in their pilgrimage, as they say, of crossing 'abhuinn dubh a bhais' - the black river of death; 'cuan mor na duibhre ' - the great ocean of darkness; and 'beanntaibh na bith-bhuantachd ' - the mountains of eternity. The scene may be in a lowly cot begrimed with smoke and black with age, but the heart is not less warm, the tear is not less bitter, and the parting is not less distressful, than in the court of the noble or in the palace of royalty.

'Nowhere beats the heart so kindly
As beneath the tartan plaid.' - AYTON.

According to the old people :-

'Duair a bheir an duine suas an ospag chithear an tanam air cleas meall soluis ag eirigh a suas anns na neoil. Theirear an uair sin :-

Tha 'n t-anam truagh a nis fo sgaoil
An taobh a muigh dh' an 'chaim;
A Chriosd chaoimh nam beannachd saor
Cuartaich mo ghaol 'na aim.'

(When a person gives up the ghost the soul is seen ascending like a bright ball of light into the clouds, Then it is said :-

The poor soul is now set free
Outside the soul-shrine;
O kindly Christ of the free blessings,
Encompass Thou my love in time.)

Niall MacFhionnlaigh, A' Chiste Ghàidhlig, a chuir na teacsaichean seo gu léir bho Carmina Gadelica air an làrach-lìn aig Sabhal Mór Ostaig ann an 1995
2001-04-09 CPD