|Gaelic Songs for the Dying
These songs are from Marjory Kennedy-Fraser's Songs of the Hebrides, collected in the late 1890s and the early 1900s, translated by the poet Kenneth Macleod, and then set with piano arrangements. The Hebrides are a group of islands located off the northwest coast of the Scottish mainland.
An Cronan Bais: The Death Croon
An Cronan Bais is a traditional song sung by the Anamchara, or soul-friend of the dying person. This scored version is very Christian but has much Pagan imagery in places. It is easily Paganized in the English "version" (not an exact translation, but written to scan and rhyme with the music). This song would be perfect in the original version for folks who are Celtic Christians. There are six pages of scored music and lyrics below. They are .jpg format files.
Here is my translation and Paganization of the lyrics, to be more suitable for CR Pagans, or Pagans generally.
O Cha Tu Thilleas: O You Are Not Returning
O Cha Tu Thilleas is religiously neutral and very nice for Pagans without any tweaking at all. It's much shorter than An Cronan Bais, but the imagery isn't as interesting. It is much more a plain, heartfelt outpouring of grief. The English "version" doesn't bear any real resemblance to the actual Gaelic lyrics.
Here is my translation of the song, including the untranslated verse.
Mo Chubhrachan: My Little Fragrant One
Mo Chubhrachan is a Faerie song for a stolen child, from Folksongs and Folklore of South Uist, collected by Margaret Fay Shaw between 1929 and 1935. This song is most suitable for the death of a child, but can be used for anyone. The images of seeking the child's spirit with the otter, with the duck, and with the swan are moving reminders of the animist nature of early Celtic belief, and the bereft feelings of those left behind. The changeling child was often one born ill, and the healthy child's spirit was believed to have been replaced by a child of the Sídhe. Most "stolen" children did not survive long, and this is a song of mourning.
There are three different musical scores for this piece, all collected from close neighbors. Choose the melody that you find most appropriate to your tastes and those of the ones with whom you are working. The translation of the Gaelic lyrics here is much better than the renderings from Macleod, so I have not offered any translations of my own.
I hope at some point to have sound files available with at least the tunes for these songs available on this page, if not the sung lyrics of the Pagan versions. I also will try to add new songs as I find them. It's my hope that this page can serve as a musical resource for Celtic Reconstructionist Pagan clergy and Anamchairde who care for and are present with the dying.