“My Mantle”: A new version of the old poem called “St Patrick’s Breastplate”

This Sunday's poem of the week was published on Instagram on St Patrick's Day (which I celebrated in very non-Irish fashion in Maspalomas, a touristy town on the island of Grand Canaria). It's my version of the old Irish poem known today as “St Patrick's Breastplate”

Actually, this is a much older protection-prayer poem (these are called called Lorica in early Irish literature, a poem in which the petitioner invokes spiritual power as a safeguard against evil). And they recited forms of this poem long before young Patrick arrived to Ireland from Wales.

In the 11th-century script in which it is first recorded, it's called “Féth Fíada”, meaning: “Mantle of Mist”. This was the magic veil in which members of the Tuatha Dé Danann, the old Irish Gods, enshrouded themselves to become invisible to humans.

My version of this poem strips it of the obvious Christian and patriarchal overlays, returning it to what, for me, is the spirit of its origins.


My Mantle

I arise today
through a mighty strength:
the invocation of three.
Woman man and child.
Earth, sea and sky.
You and we and I.

I arise today
through gift of spirit,
light of sun,
radiance of moon,
splendor of fire,
speed of lightning,
swiftness of wind,
depth of sea,
stability of earth,
firmness of rock.

I rise today, through
spirit’s wish to steer me,
spirit’s might to support me,
spirit’s wisdom to lead me,
spirit’s hand to guard me,
spirit’s shield to protect me,
spirit’s word to speak through me,
spirit’s power to save me

from snares of the mind,
temptations of the body,
vices of the blood,

from any beings
or ways of being
afar, or near, or within,
who bring harm.

I summon spirit
to protect me today
from poison and burning,
from drowning and wounding,
so that there may come to me
an abundance of true reward.

Spirit when I lie down,
Spirit when I sit,
Spirit when I stand.

Spirit before me,
behind me,
and through me.

Spirit to my right,
on my left,
and within me.

Spirit beneath me,
above me,
and around me.

Spirit in every eye that sees me,
in every ear that hears me,
in every mouth that speaks of me.

Spirit in the mind of everyone who thinks of me.
Spirit in the heart of everyone who feels for me.
Spirit in the soul of everyone who prays for me.

Today, through belief in three,
admission of one,
embrace of all,
mantle in place,
I rise.

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Orna Ross


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