While recording a set of old folk songs, from LP, that I found at my aged Aunt’s house, I came across a song called, “Peat Smooring Prayer”.
Well, peat I knew, and prayer I knew, but smooring – nada. It made me wonder what this smooring was, that had to do with peat and required prayer. My search on the interent showed me quite a lot of other interest in ‘smooring’, most centred Alexander Carmichael’s collection of folk poetry from the Western Isles of Scotland.
You can find Carmichael’s two volumes of “Carmina Gadelica” here.
But, in answer to my question, below is an excerpt from Carmichael’s works followed by two prayers. They are different to the folk song I have, which is a prayer for protection of the children. The album says it is also called the ‘Island Mother’s Night Croon”, but I got nix on this from an internet search.
I also found a lovely piece about smooring, as a contemporary spiritual rite in daily life, which I have reproduced below, so read past the prayers.
“PEAT is the fuel of the Highlands and Islands. Where wood is not obtainable the fire is kept in during the night. The process by which this is accomplished is called in Gaelic smaladh; in Scottish, smooring; and in English, smothering, or more correctly, subduing. The ceremony of smooring the fire is artistic and symbolic, and is performed with loving care. The embers are evenly spread on the hearth–which is generally in the middle of the floor–and formed into a circle. This circle is then divided into three equal sections, a small boss being left in the middle. A peat is laid between each section, each peat touching the boss, which forms a common centre. The first peat is laid down in name of the God of Life, the second in name of the God of Peace, the third in name of the God of Grace. The circle is then covered over with ashes sufficient to subdue but not to extinguish the fire, in name of the Three of Light. The heap slightly raised in the centre is called ‘Tula nan Tri,’ the Hearth of the Three. When the smooring operation is complete the woman closes her eyes, stretches her hand, and softly intones one of the many formulae current for these occasions.
Another way of keeping embers for morning use is to place them in a pit at night. The pit consists of a hole in the clay floor, generally under the dresser. The pit may be from half a foot to a foot in depth and diameter, with a flag fixed in the floor over the top. In the centre of this flag there is a hole by which the embers are put in and taken out. Another flag covers the hole to extinguish the fire at night, and to guard against accidents during the day. This extinguishing fire-pit is called ‘slochd guail,’ coke or coal-pit. This coke or charcoal is serviceable in kindling the fire.”
SMALADH AN TEINE
SMOORING THE FIRE
|AN Tri numh
O! an oidhche,
Agus gach oidhche,
Gach aon oidhche.
|THE sacred Three
Oh! this eve,
And every night,
Each single night.
SMALADH AN TEINE
SMOORING THE FIRE
|CAIRIDH mi an tula,
Mar a chaireadh Muire,
Claim Bhride ’s Mhuire,
Car an tula ’s car an lair,
’S car an ardraich uile.
Co iad air lian a muigh?
Bial Dia dh’ orduich,
|I WILL build the hearth,
As Mary would build it.
The encompassment of Bride and of Mary,
Guarding the hearth, guarding the floor,
Guarding the household all.
Who are they on the lawn without?
The mouth of God ordained,
BLESSING OF THE SMOORING
|THA mi smaladh an teine,
Mar a smaladh Mac Moire;
Gu mu slan dh’ an taigh ’s dh’ an teine,
Gu mu slan dh’ an chuideachd uile.
Co siud shios air an lar?
Beul De a thubhradh,
O! ainghlean Aon Naomha Dhe
|I AM smooring the fire
As the Son of Mary would smoor;
Blest be the house, blest be the fire,
Blest be the people all.
Who are those down on the floor?
The mouth of God said,
Oh! may the angels of the Holy One of God
|SMALAIDH mis an tula
Mar a smaladh Muire;
Comraig Bhride ’s Mhuire,
Air an tula ’s air an lar,
’S air an fhardaich uile.
Co siud air liana mach?
|I WILL smoor the hearth
As Mary would smoor;
The encompassment of Bride and of Mary,
On the fire and on the floor,
And on the household all.
Who is on the lawn without?
Scripture: I came to set fire to the earth, and I wish it were already on fire! Luke 12:49
Imagine you are in the 1600’s in old Ireland. A Celtic Christian woman tends the fire before she goes to bed. She is responsible to keep the fires burning. In a damp climate tending the fire is a constant chore. She gathers up the embers of the fire and divides the embers into three separate piles- Father, Son and Holy Spirit. She makes sure the fire is secure for tomorrow is a very special day.
As she rises the next morning, she uses a little dry peat to get the fire going and adds more fuel to meet the needs of the family. This day is special because her daughter is getting married and the best gift that she can give her is being prepared right now. She takes the glowing embers and puts them into a metal container and through the fog of the damp landscape she smoors the fire of her ancestral fire. Like generations before her this mother smoors the fire to her daughter, these precious heirlooms are the best gift she could give.
The Christian faith is always in need of Smooring. The fire needs to be kindled and rekindled if it is to be there for the next generation. An annual revival is an attempt to fan the flames of our Christian heritage. Music can also be a tool that is used to stir the embers in our lives.
In Ohio I had some limbs that need disposal and so I built a small fire in the backyard and fed the limbs with the help of my children. Neighbors started coming out of their houses to see what was happening and they gathered around the sweet fire. Can you smell the smoke from a campfire, grandmother’s old stove, a Boy Scout campout, etc?
Jesus came to be a holy flamethrower. He attempted to create a spiritual fire in his disciples that would be the burning, exciting, dynamic presence of God in people.
When your heart is on fire for someone; that means you are passionate about that person. Jesus came to give us that kind of burning, passionate, love relationship with the God of the Universe. If God is like fire, there are several things He wants to do in your life that can be compared to fire. Jesus is wanting us to see the supernatural, burning, exciting presence of God. John the Baptist said in Luke 3:16
“I am just baptizing with water. But someone more powerful is going to come, and I am not good enough even to untie his sandals. He will baptize you with the Holy Spirit and with fire.”
This Holy Spirit living in you is like the fire of God that generates the power you need to live the Christian life. Without this power how would you face the challenges of life? We need that Spirit to share our faith in God. We need that Spirit to forgive those who hurt us. We need that Spirit to have wisdom to make wise decisions. We need that Spirit to love the unlovely.
Unlike the ancient Celts, we are often soul-negligent, asking for mercy without taking the time to tender the spark of our soul that yearns for the fire of God. We may get so caught up in church matters that we neglect the care of our own hearts. The fire of the well-tended Christian soul may waver in times of trial but is smoored by God so it cannot be extinguished.
The history of Christianity can, of course, be traced through a series of times when the fire of Christianity has been rekindled from smoored coals. Tongues of fire on the day of Pentecost rekindled the hearts and minds of Christ’s apostles and disciples. That rekindled fire blazed across the Roman Empire. Celtic Christianity rekindled light in Europe at the end of the Dark Ages. Luther’s Reformation set all of Europe on fire with holy, renewed faith. Wesley preached to forgotten miners outdoors and revival broke out. Has the fire gone out in your heart?
God’s fire is a purifying, cleansing flame. Sometimes the fire of God comes into our lives and removes those impurities we don’t even know are there. If you’ve ever “been through the fire” you know it is not a pleasant experience. It could be that you are going through a refining experience right now. It’s hot and uncomfortable. It’s scary and you wonder if the fire will ever finish. God is like a refiner’s fire–but remember He loves you and He knows just how much you need to cleanse you of your impurities.
Prayer: Lord, may we let the fire of your Spirit burn up all the impurities in our lives. Help us to accept the smooring fire of the Holy Spirit who will help us with our personal challenges. Help us to be obedient, faithful adopted children in your kingdom. Amen