Conference Contribution Details
Mandatory Fields
James Kapalo
Ends and Beginnings - European Association for the Study of Religions Annual Conference
The end and the beginning of Irish Folk Prayer
Sodertorn University, Stockholm
Oral Presentation
Optional Fields

Despite the enormous global appeal of Celtic spirituality, which has inspired a wealth of publications on Irish folk traditions, and despite a rich folk archival resource from the 1920s and 30s upon which scholars can draw, Irish traditions of folk prayer have received relatively little scholarly attention. The genre of folk prayer, which has only recently become an object of study and largely only in Central and Eastern Europe, displays considerable overlap both textually and functionally with verbal charms. As with charm scholarship, the study of folk prayer has the potential to inform contemporary historiographical treatments of the relationship between elite religious and political culture and the popular religion of the people, this is especially so in the context of nineteenth and early twentieth century Ireland.

            In this paper, I will locate Irish folk prayer, sometimes referred to in the scant Irish literature as ‘Sean-dánta dorcha’ (old dark verses) or ‘paidreacha dorcha’ (dark prayers), within the broader context of European folk prayer scholarship, pointing to two important formal characteristics that help define the genre; the opening scene and the closing formula. I contest here that the Celtic prayer traditions represented and marketed in the 20th century as characteristic of an age-old Irish spirituality are a ‘sanitised’ and ‘homogenised’ product that masks an important and overlooked aspect of pre-famine and pre-independence Irish religious tradition, the practice of ‘paidreacha dorcha.’

Study of Religions Department