Sunday, September 6, 2009

Traveller's Prayer

By John Renbourn

Praise to the moon, bright queen of the skies,
Jewel of the black night, the light of our eyes,
Brighter than starlight, whiter than snow,
Look down on us in the darkness below.

If well you should find us then well let us stay,
Be it seven times better when you make your way,
Be it seven times better when we greet the dawn,
So light up our way and keep us from all harm.

Give strength to the weary, give alms to the poor,
To the tainted and needy five senses restore,
Give song to our voices, give sight to our eyes,
To see the sun bow as the new moon shall rise.

Cast your eyes downwards to our dwelling place,
Three times for favour and three times for grace,
Over the dark clouds your face for to see,
To banish misfortune and keep Trinity.

In the name of our Lady, bright maiden of grace,
In the name of the King of the City of Peace,
In the name of our Saviour, who hung on the tree,
All praise to the moon, for eternity.

John Renbourn wrote the words to Traveller's Prayer after researching the ancient songs of the Carmina Gadelica . This is based loosely on a prayer called The New Moon. There are several prayers with the moon as the main subject that are in this collection of ancient works collected by Alexander Carmichael. These lyrics are posted here to introduce people to John's Music and for those like myself who like to sing around the house the music that moves us the most. To reproduce this or perform this in concert you must contact John Renbourne. To listen to this performed with John's voice and his tune is just wonderful. I advise all to buy his CDs. For the Traveller's Prayer see Ship of Fools.

Copyright John Renbourn, All Rights Reserved

John Renbourn



In name of the Holy Spirit of grace

In name of the Father of the City of peace,

In name of Jesus who took death off us,

Oh! in name of the Three who shield us in every need,

If well thou hast found us to-night,

Seven times better mayest thou leave us without harm,

Thou bright white Moon of the seasons,

Bright white Moon of the seasons.


An ainm Spiorad Naomh nan gras

An ainm Athar na Cathrach aigh,

An ainm Iosa thug dhinn am bas,

O! an ainm na Tri tha d' ar dion's gach cas,

Ma's math a fhuair thu sinn an nochd,

Seachd fearr gum fag thu sinn gun lochd,

A Ghealach gheal nan trath,

A Ghealach gheal nan trath.

Collected by Alexander Carmichael in the Highlands of Scotland and translated by him as well.


Notes by Carmichael from the 19th Century.

This little prayer is said by old men and women in the islands of Barra. When they first see the new moon they make their obeisance to it as to a great chief. The women curtsey gracefully and the men bow low, raising their bonnets reverently. The bow of the men is peculiar, partaking somewhat of the curtsey of the women, the left knee being bent and the right drawn forward towards the middle of the left leg in a curious but not inelegant manner.

The fragment of moon-worship is now a matter of custom rather than of belief, although it exists over the whole British Isles. In Cornwall the people nod to the new moon and turn silver in their pockets. In Edinburgh cultured men and women turn the rings on their fingers and make their wishes. A young English lady told the writer that she had always been in the habit of bowing to the new moon, till she had been bribed out of it by her father, a clergyman, putting money in her pocket lest her lunar worship should compromise him with his bishop. She naively confessed, however, that among the free mountains of Loch Etive she reverted to the good customs of her fathers, from which she derived great satisfaction!

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