Irish blessings have been inspiring hope and offering spiritual protection for centuries.
Most Irish blessings were originally written in Gaelic and subsequently translated into English.
According to some, they lost some of their meaning in the process, but they still play a significant role in wedding ceremonies and other special occasions.
What is the Irish Blessing?
The most famous Irish blessing is “May the road rise up to meet you.” It is both a traditional Irish blessing and an ancient Celtic prayer:
May the road rise up to meet you.
May the wind be always at your back.
May the sun shine warm upon your face;
the rains fall soft upon your fields and until we meet again,
may God hold you in the palm of His hand.
In essence, the poem is wishing you a pleasant journey and praying that the weather will remain fine and favorable as you travel.
The first line of the English version is rather troublesome as it makes little sense. A road rising up to meet you sounds like something out of a B-list horror movie!
The original Celtic version reads, “Go n-éirí an bóthar leat,” a more literal translation of which is: “May you succeed on the road.”
The rest of the poem focuses on the notoriously unpredictable Irish weather, praying for the wind at your back so that you travel faster and the sun to shine on your face, giving you an optimistic outlook on your future.
Meanwhile, the “rains fall soft upon your fields,” watering your crops and ensuring there’ll be a good harvest and plentiful food waiting on your return.
The traditional Irish blessing was reinterpreted by the Christians, who turned the wind into the Holy Spirit, “who came as a “mighty wind” at Pentecost.”
Similarly, the sun “warm upon your face” came to mean God’s Mercy, and the rain “thought to be symbolic of God’s provision.”
(Very) Short History of the Irish Blessing
Irish blessings date back to ancient Celtic times when traveling poets would offer blessings to the communities they passed through.
These blessings took their inspiration from nature and the environment, but many were re-interpreted according to the Christian religion.
The traditional Irish blessing is often thought to be one of the blessings of St Patrick as it shares similarities with his other writings, but many believe it was written long before his arrival on the Irish shores.
18 Examples of Traditional Irish Blessings and Their Meanings
#1 Blessing about Ireland
Most Irish sayings and blessings focus on nature and the beauty of the Irish landscape. One of the most beautiful blessings for Ireland is:
May the Irish hills caress you.
May her lakes and rivers bless you.
May the luck of the Irish enfold you.
May the blessings of Saint Patrick behold you.
These words evoke a landscape that cares for its people, caressing them and blessing them with its natural features.
The luck of the Irish refers to the resilience of the Irish people. Despite the struggles and tragedies affecting them as a nation, the Irish have always remained hardworking, optimistic, and courageous in the face of adversity.
#2 Traditional Irish Blessing
Although “May the road rise up to meet you” is the most famous traditional Irish blessing, it’s by no means the only one.
This short Celtic prayer and traditional Irish blessing is designed to bring you the luck of the shamrock and offer some level of protection as you travel:
May your blessings outnumber
The Shamrocks that grow
And may trouble avoid you
Wherever you go
The shamrock is a young clover sprig and a symbol of Ireland. It’s believed that the ancient Celts associated the three-leaved plant with the triple gods and goddesses they worshipped.
Later on, it’s said that St Patrick used the leaf to explain the Holy Trinity to Irish non-believers.
#3 Blessing for a New Home
This Irish blessing is often read at weddings but is just as appropriate for a friend or family member moving into a new home:
May joy and peace surround you, contentment latch your door.
And happiness be with you now and bless you evermore.
A more specific blessing for a new home is:
May your neighbors respect you,
Trouble neglect you,
The angels protect you,
And heaven accept you.
This blessing emphasizes the importance of having good neighbors, which in Ireland could be Sue and Jim over the road or Dagda and Dana of the underground fairy folk.
Either way, you need to behave in a certain way to earn your neighbors’ respect. That means not encroaching on their land and returning anything you borrow.
These are great rules to live by, especially if you’ve fairies living close by.
#4 Blessing for a Wedding
This is one of the most beautiful Irish wedding blessings:
May God be with you and bless you.
May you see your children’s children.
May you be poor in misfortune, rich in blessings.
May you know nothing but happiness.
From this day forward.
This blessing emphasizes the importance of the extended family, which in ancient rural Ireland, was integral to the success of any farming venture. Without sons and daughters to continue working the land, the crops would fail, bringing the family into destitution.
Blessings were only one of the many ancient Irish wedding traditions, which included the bride carrying a horseshoe with her as she walked down the aisle.
The groom would then affix the horseshoe to the matrimonial home to bring good luck to those inside.
#5 Blessing for a Birthday
This general blessing works well as a message in a birthday card or as a poem read out during a birthday celebration:
May God give you for every storm, a rainbow.
For every tear, a smile.
For every care, a promise.
And a blessing in each trial.
For every problem life may send,
may he send a faithful friend.
For every sigh, a sweet song.
And an answer for every prayer.
It is a prayer that asks for comfort in the face of adversity and friends to assist when problems arise.
At a traditional Irish birthday celebration, however, friends and family would hold the birthday boy or girl upside down and bump his or her head on the floor once for every year of the child’s age. Particularly eager friends would add an extra bump for good luck.
#6 Blessing for Friendship
This blessing for friendship conjures up a bucolic existence of sunshine and smiles, where your friends bring you luck and happiness.
Wishing you a rainbow for sunlight after showers,
Miles and miles of Irish smiles for golden happy hours,
Shamrocks at your doorway for luck and laughter too,
And a host of friends that never ends, each day your whole life through.
According to Celtic tradition, it’s possible to have an anam cara, or soul friend, with whom you can share your most intimate thoughts. This friendship is an ancient union or soul bond that transcends all society’s rules and boundaries.
#7 Blessing for a Safe Journey
This poetic blessing compares the troughs and crests of the sea’s waves to the natural rhythms of life.
It calls for God’s protection at the beginning and end of each day and draws on the critical role the sea played in Ireland’s history and culture.
God be with you at each stop and each sea;
At each lying down and each rising up;
In the trough of the waves, on the crest of the billows.
Each step of the journey you take.
#8 Blessing for Good Health
In ancient Ireland, illness and disease were unavoidable and associated with the spiritual world, as well as the physical.
Physicians would recommend treatments and surgeries for the physical symptoms, while the clergy would offer prayers “to bring balance to the body.”
May you live a long life full of gladness and health,
With a pocket full of gold as the least of your wealth.
May the dreams you hold dearest, be those which come true,
The kindness you spread, keep returning to you.
#9 Blessing for a New Baby
Welcoming a new baby into the world is a stressful yet wonderful experience in any culture, but in Ireland, these newborns faced an additional danger.
Many believed that the fairies would steal away a healthy newborn, replacing it with a changeling.
To protect their babies, the ancient Celts would keep them close to a fire to ward off the fairies or place a pair of iron scissors or tongs close to the cot to keep them at bay.
Blessings like this one also offered protection:
May sunshine and moonbeams dance over your head
As you quietly slumber in your bed
May good luck be with you wherever you go
And your blessings outnumber the shamrocks that grow.
#10 Blessing for Work
May you always have work for your hands to do.
May your pockets hold always a coin or two.
May the sun shine bright on your windowpane.
May the rainbow be certain to follow each rain.
The Irish are known for being hard workers who will work long hours and perform almost any task.
This blessing combines that notion with the proverb, “idle hands are the devil’s tools.”
It suggests that we’re likely to get into trouble unless we have something productive to do, which is a recurring theme in Irish mythology.
#11 Blessing for Peace
Ireland has seen little peace in its tumultuous past, with battles between supernatural races and religions tarring its history.
In recent times, that’s changed, and Ireland is c
According to the 2022 Global Peace Index (GPI), Ireland is the third most peaceful country in the world.
You can share in a little of that peacefulness by offering this blessing to a loved one:
May the raindrops fall lightly on your brow.
May the soft winds freshen your spirit.
May the sunshine brighten your heart
May the burdens of the day rest lightly upon you.
And may God enfold you in the mantle of His love.
Like many Irish blessings, this one evokes images of an Irish spring day, with gentle rain and soft winds refreshing the spirit.
#12 Farewell Blessing
Despite the existence of this Irish blessing, saying goodbye isn’t something the Irish are particularly good at.
A traditional Irish farewell involves leaving abruptly without bothering to say goodbye at all.
This is because the rituals involving arriving and leaving can be so drawn-out that it takes virtually all day, even if you only popped in for a cup of tea!
However, if someone’s leaving on a long journey or embarking on a new phase in their lives, this blessing sends with them the laughter and magic of Ireland and promises that the friends you leave behind will remember you and everything you’ve ever done for them.
May the lilt of Irish laughter
Lighten every load,
May the mist of Irish magic
Shorten every road,
May you taste the sweetest pleasures
That fortune ere bestowed,
and may all your friends remember.
All the favors you are owed.
#13 Irish Prayer for Strength
We all face hardships at some point in life, whether they’re financial, personal, professional, or even spiritual.
This blessing offers courage, and support, along with the wisdom to know when you’re straying too far from your chosen path.
May your days be many and your troubles be few,
May all God’s blessings descend upon you,
May peace be within you,
May your heart be strong,
May you find what you’re seeking wherever you roam.
And the insight to know when you’re going too far.
#14 Irish Travel Blessing
Once again, this Irish blessing emphasizes friendship and the importance of home.
During the cold winter months, life in rural Ireland revolved around the home and, especially, the hearth, which was the only source of heat.
A warm heart and home also reflect the openness and hospitality that the Irish are known for.
May love and laughter light your days,
And warm your heart and home.
May good and faithful friends be yours,
Wherever you may roam.
May peace and plenty bless your world
With joy that long endures.
May all life’s passing seasons bring the best to you and yours!
#15 Luck of the Irish Prayer (Blessing for Good Luck)
It’s unclear where the concept of the luck of the Irish originated, although some believe its origins lie in the US, rather than Ireland.
The Great Potato Famine occurred between 1845 and 1849, and resulted in around a million people emigrating from Ireland.
Many of these immigrants ended up in America, where, as luck would have it, the Californian Gold Rush was just beginning.
As many immigrants ended up in the US mines, “many of the most prominent and successful miners were of Irish descent.”
Over time, good fortune in the mining industry became inextricably linked to being of Irish descent, giving birth to the phrase “the luck of the Irish.”
This relatively modern Irish blessing suggests that the luck of the Irish is so powerful that it can frighten off the devil and, with him, all your worries and concerns.
May the luck of the Irish possess you.
May the devil fly off with your worries.
May God bless you forever and ever.
#16 Blessing for Love
In modern-day Ireland, blessings like the one below are often recited at wedding ceremonies, but in ancient times, there was little overlap between marriage and true love.
Runaway lovers like Diarmuid and Grainne turned their backs on social convention and headed into the wilderness with nothing but their love for one another.
In this way, Irish mythology celebrated “lovers that break all conventions and laws to be together.”
These sentiments are reflected in the following blessing, which calls on God to either “turn their hearts” or “turn their ankles.”
Not only would this enable the lovers to recognize their enemies, but it would also make it easier for them to escape.
May those who love us love us.
And those that don’t love us,
May God turn their hearts.
And if He doesn’t turn their hearts,
May he turn their ankles,
So we’ll know them by their limping.
#17 Blessing for St Patricks Day
Although the traditional Irish blessing is suitable for St Patricks Day, more modern blessings are also applicable, especially those associated with St Patrick himself.
The following is a popular Irish blessing for St Patricks Day, and is used to celebrate and honor the patron saint of Ireland:
May the strength of God pilot us, may the wisdom of God instruct us.
May the hand of God protect us, may the word of God direct us.
May thy Salvation, O Lord, be always ours this day and for evermore.
#18 Blessing for Christmas
This short blessing speaks of peace and plenty entering your home and evokes the Irish tradition of placing a candle in the window on Christmas Eve.
This Catholic ritual is said to be an invitation to Christ to enter the home. During the English Reformation, when the Catholics were persecuted, it was also used “as a sign it was safe for a priest to visit under the cover of darkness.”
May peace and plenty be the first to lift the latch on your door,
and may happiness be guided to your home by the candle of Christmas.
There are hundreds of Irish sayings and blessings, many of which have their origins in Irish mythology.
Many Irish blessings conjure up images of Ireland and draw parallels between the natural elements and different aspects of a person’s life.
Irish blessings have recurring themes and frequently refer to faithful friends, warm and happy homes, prosperity, and good health.
Although some Irish blessings have lost some of their meaning along the way, many are just as relevant to modern-day life as they were to the rural Celts.
An Irish blessing is still an essential part of Irish weddings and other ceremonies and events.
Irish blessings offer protection, hope, and courage in the face of adversity, so there’s no reason you shouldn’t incorporate a few into your own life and wish others the luck of the Irish.
"Like many so-called Brits, I have a bit of Irish and a bit of Scottish in my blood, which is possibly where the red hair comes from. I’ve been fascinated by the history of Ireland for years, since I discovered the story of the Irish Pirate Queen, Grace O’Malley.