Daily Rites

By An Chomhairle Ghaol Naofa

In our Gaelic Polytheist Lifeway, daily rites are the customs, prayers and simple rituals that accompany the actions of daily life.1 They mark the beginning and end of the day, the rising and setting of the moon and sun, the act of lighting or smooring a fire, and all the chores of maintaining a household or of doing our work out in the world. These simple, regular observances strengthen our bonds with the spirits, as well as our connections with our families and communities — both our living relatives for whom we ask blessings and protection, and our relatives who have crossed over and now live among the ancestors. We ask for the blessing and guidance of An Trì Naomh — the deities, ancestors and spirits of nature2 — and this regular rhythm of communing with the sacred deepens these relationships, as well as our ability to see and experience the sacred that is all around us.

For us, the secular and the sacred are interdependent and interwoven. Prayer and ritual are not set aside, to only be performed once a week in a special location. The sacred is ever-present; it is only up to us to make that connection and carry it in our hearts, our minds and our actions.

Many of these Gaelic, Irish and Manx prayers, incantations, songs and charms have survived in the rural customs of the Gaelic-speaking areas — Ireland, Scotland and the Isle of Man.3 Up into living memory, and in some areas still, traditional songs are sung while people labor in the fields, prepare and bless a meal, make offerings to the land spirits, travel, eat, clean, and go about their daily business. In the areas where these customs are not still kept, some are reviving the ways of their grandparents and great-grandparents, or looking to the collections of songs and poetry that were preserved by elders, recorded in interviews over a hundred years ago.

The fact that these particular customs, songs and prayers have survived, while many of the more elaborate ceremonies fell into disuse or were even forgotten, demonstrates the powerful integration of the spiritual and mundane within the Gaelic mindset. Many affairs that are considered secular by today’s standards have traditionally been imbued or shared with the sacred, or considered rituals or even ceremonies on their own. One such tradition, recorded by Alexander Carmichael in the Carmina Gadelica, is the kindling and smooring of the hearth fire.4 Carmichael and other folklorists describe this as being the sole responsibility of the woman of the household who would tend the hearth fire each day while reciting prayers and blessings over it for the welfare of the household. A number of prayers survive for lighting the fire in the morning and banking the coals at night. This practice was common in Ireland and Isle of Man as well.5

For many Gaelic Polytheists this custom, or an adaptation of it, is part of our daily rites. In the morning the lights, the hearth fire, the stove, or the fire present on the household shrine (in the form of a candle or oil lamp) is lit while brief prayers or poetry are said, or a song sung, for the spirits who guard and guide the household. Whether using a traditional piece or something from the heart, the person lighting the hearth might request that all members of the household be healthy and well for the day, that the house, lands and livestock (or pets) be protected, and then an offering is often given. This could be water, milk, or a bit of food from breakfast placed on the hearth shrine. In other cases, where your morning routine is just turning on the lights and making some coffee before rushing out the door, it could be a very brief prayer said while the lights and stove are turned on, a sprinkle of fresh water on a stone on the shrine and, if you make some, a small bit of your coffee or other morning beverage offered in a special cup for that purpose. If it is more practical, the song and prayer and water can be the morning offering, and any food offerings left for evenings. Some people only do very simple offerings on a daily basis, and leave full offerings of food for a weekly basis, on an evening when they can devote their full attention to the rite, and when the whole household can be present.

At night, the hearthfire is smoored. In an open hearth, this means banking the fire so it will be safe if left unattended, but so coals will smoulder through the night and be easily reawakened in the morning into full, bright flame. While some of us have wood stoves we may use for heat, few of us work with open hearthfires for our daily heat and cooking. So many Gaelic Polytheists perform their nightly “smooring” by going through the house and turning off all the lights and appliances that are not needed, and making sure any open flames are either extinguished or in a safe area. Whichever way we may do the physical smooring, prayers are also traditional at this time, to express gratitude for another day of life, and that the family be protected while it sleeps.6

Daily rites can be planned and scripted or random and improvised; they can be as simple as a short poem while being mindful, to as elaborate as a formal offertory ceremony, with saining, song, prayer, contemplation and omen-seeking.7 Below is an example of a simple, Gaelic Polytheist daily devotional ritual, using traditional prayers as recorded in the Carmina Gadelica. It can be used as is or adapted to personal tastes and meaning.

Morning Devotions

1. Light an altar candle or lamp, or kindle the hearth fire, or just be mindful while turning on the lights and appliances in the home.

2. While you do so, say a simple prayer, perhaps:

Gaelic English
Togaidh mis an teallach I will raise the fire in the hearth
Mar a thogadh Brìghde fhèin. As would Brigid herself.
Caim Brìghde ’s Mhacha Brigid and Macha encircle us
Air an teallach ’s air an làr, On the fire, and on the floor,
’S air an fhàrdaich uile. And on the household all.8

3. Make an offering. You may sprinkle some water on the altar, or place beverage and food offerings on the hearth shrine, or see the flame itself and the song you sing as the offering.9

4. Pray from your heart, in Gaelic or Irish if you can, in English or your other native language if that is how you are most fluent. You might name family and friends by name, give thanks and mention particular struggles they or you may be facing, and ask for blessings (beannachdan) upon them.

5. Extinguish the candle or lamp, unless you will be nearby to make sure it burns safely. If you have kindled a hearth fire or are cooking, you may wish to keep it burning. You can say the closing prayer now to mark that you are moving on to other tasks, or say it later when you put out the fire or turn off the stove:

Gaelic English
Mar a bha, As it was,
Mar a tha, As it is,
Mar a bhitheas As it shall be
Gu bràth. Forever.10

Night Devotions

1. Starting at the household shrine or hearth fire, pause a moment to centre yourself. As part of this you may choose to relight the candle if it is not already burning, or simply leave no fire burning at the hearth and move on to putting the household to bed. Walk through the house, putting the household to bed and turning out the lights.

2. While you do this you can say something like:

Gaelic English
A Bhrìghde, beannaich an taigh, Brigid bless the house,
Bho stéidh gu staidh, From site to stay,
Bho chrann gu fraigh, From beam to wall,
Bho cheann gu saidh, From top to edge,
Bho dhronn gu tràigh, From ridge to basement,
Bho sgonn gu sgàith, From balk to roof-tree,
Eadar bhonn agus bhràigh, From foundation to summit,
Bhonn agus bhràigh. Foundation and summit.11

3. Return to the hearth or candle. Extinguish any flames or nearby lamps, smoor the hearth fire if you have one; if there is no flame to extinguish,  simply pause and centre yourself again. While you do this you can say something like:

Gaelic English
Smalaidh mis an teallach I will smoor the hearth
Mar a smaladh Brìghde fhèin. As Brigid herself would smoor;
Caim Brìghde ’s Mhacha The encompassment of Bride and of Macha,
Air an teallach ’s air an làr, On the fire and on the floor,
’S air an fhàrdaich uile. And on the household all.12
An Trì Naomh The sacred Three
A chùmhnadh, To save,
A chòmhnadh, To shield,
A chuairtich, To surround
An teallach, The hearth,
An taighe, The house,
An teaghlaich, The household,
An oidhche,  This eve,
An nochd, This night,
O! an oidhche, Oh! this eve,
An nochd, This night,
Agus gach oidhche, And every night,
Gach aon oidhche. Each single night.
Beannachdan. Blessings.13

4. As you lay down in bed:

Gaelic English
Laighim sìos an nochd I lie down tonight
Le Diathan is Sinnsearan, With gods and ancestors,
Sail-Spioradain is Daoine Sìth, Guardian spirits and spirits of peace,
‘S le Brìghde fo brat. And with Brigid beneath her mantle.14
Mar a bha, As it was,
Mar a tha, As it is,
Mar a bhitheas As it shall be
Gu bràth. Forever.15


An earlier version of this was originally published on the Gaol Naofa website as Daily Rites by An Chomhairle Ghaol Naofa, primarily written by Tomás Flannabhra; it has been substantially rewritten and updated by Kathryn Price NicDhàna. Kathryn would like to thank Tomás for his original (which is archived on our website, here), for though this is an almost complete rewrite, many of his initial ideas and main points are still present in the foundations of this piece.

1 We in Gaol Naofa refer to our tradition as our Gaelic Polytheist Lifeway (GPL); in Scottish Gaelic, Ar Dòigh-Bheatha Ioma-Dhiadhach Ghàidhealach, and in Irish, Ár nDóigh Bheatha Ildiach is Gaelach. Gaol Naofa has coined this term to better describe our specific tradition and beliefs, as practiced by the members of Gaol Naofa. This is partly in order to distinguish ourselves from other Gaelic Polytheist groups, but also to emphasise our commitment to our spirituality as a way of life. Although admittedly a bit of a mouthful, we feel the phrase speaks to the heart of Gaol Naofa’s philosophy and community.

2 Also known in Old Irish texts as the dé ocus andé (gods and un-gods) or in Irish as Na Trí Naomh — “the sacred three.”

3 Perhaps more aptly phrased as “Goidelic-speaking” as in modern parlance only Scottish Gaelic (Gàidhlig) is called “Gaelic,” with the other modern versions being called “Irish” (Gaeilge) and “Manx” (Gaelg).

4 See Carmichael, Alexander [1900] Carmina Gadelica / Ortha Nan Gaidheal Volume I, Songs 84-87.

5 While this was traditionally the job of women, there are no known prohibitions on men, or another member of the family, taking on this role if they are the main or sole hearthkeeper for their household. The hearthkeeper is the one who prepares food for the household and keeps the house warm and hospitable, whether they have an open fire on the hearth or a teapot on the stove in the kitchen. For more on the different type of sacred fires in Gaelic lore, see our article “Breath of Life: The Triple Flame of Brigid.”

6 As in all our references to “family” in Gaol Naofa, we mean whatever form family and extended family takes for you — be it the configuration we usually find in the lore — of multiple generations related by blood, fosterage and marriage — or the chosen family of friends and lovers who’ve set up house together, helping raise one another’s children (if any) and tend to the elders of not only our blood but our loved ones as well. “Family” is the household under the same roof, the extended family, and all those who have a home in your heart.

7 Though few of us have the time or reasons for being elaborate every day, and there are valid reasons for not seeking omens too often, but letting them seek us out as needed.

8 Adapted from Ortha nan Gàidheal #83, ‘Togail an Teine’ (Kindling the Fire). As is common in the Carmina, Carmichael has a few typos or transcription errors here. We’ve corrected spelling mistakes and:

Tula has been changed to the more standard, teallach (hearth).
Cairn has been changed to Caim (encircle).
“Brigid and Macha encircle us” original line is “Brigid and Mary.”
See our article, “Children and Family in Gaelic Polytheism” for more on “circling” and “encircling.”
If desired, another protective deity can be named instead of, or in addition to, Macha or Mary.

9 For more on how to do this, see our article “Offerings in Gaelic Polytheism,” and our “Offerings” video on our YouTube channel. “Song” is also prayer and poetry, recited in a rhythmic manner, whether or not you think you’re being melodic enough for it to count as “singing.”

10 Carmina #216

11 Carmina #45, ‘Beannachadh Taighe’. Spelling mistakes corrected, translation adjusted a bit.

12 From Carmina #87, Beannachadh Smalaidh. As in the kindling prayer above, we’ve made a few corrections and adaptations, including adding graves where Carmichael or his editors missed them:

Tula has been changed to the more standard, teallach (hearth).
Cairn has been changed to Caim (encircle).
“Brigid and Macha encircle us” original line is “Brigid and Mary.”
See “Children and Family in Gaelic Polytheism” for more on “circling” and “encircling.”
If desired, another protective deity can be named instead of, or in addition to, Macha or Mary.

13 Carmina #84, Smaladh an Teine. Tula has again been changed to teallach, and a chomraig to a chuairtich, as this prayer seems to be the only instance of that word.

14 Adapated from Carmina #33, ‘Coisrig Cadail’

15 Carmina #216