St Patrick's Breastplate - The Deer's Cry


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Legends of St. Patrick


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The Breast plate of St Patrick




St Patrick's Day


Two Irish Songs


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Irish Recipes for St Patrick's Day



The prayer of St Patrick, generally known as "St Patrick's Breastplate", was thought to have been used by him as a prayer of protection from an ambush. According to legend, it was Easter-time in 433 AD when St Patrick, set out to see Laoghaire, the High King of Ireland, at the Hill of Tara in County Meath. They knew the Druid High Priests had planned to ambush them somewhere along their journey, so on the way, Patrick and his followers chanted the hymn  known as "Saint Patrick's Breastplate" or "The Lorica". (A lorica was a mystical garment that protected the wearer from danger and illness). Assassins were lying in wait, but as the group passed by chanting the hymn, it seemed to the men hidden in the bushes that they saw a doe and her fawns instead, and St Patrick and his group passed by safely. The prayer saved them all. Because of this legend, the prayer is sometimes called "The Deer's Cry".

The early Celtic poem invokes God's protection (either metaphorical or literal) against all manner of evils. It is found in the Book of Armagh, (early 9th century) along with Patrick's authentic "Confession." and is called  Patricii Canticum Scotticum. It’s preface in the Book of Hymns states that it is written "in the time of Loeghaire, son of Niall."  Though it has Christian content, the original is written in Rosg metre - kind of half rhymed - the style of ancient protection charms from Ireland. The language is, say the experts, very old; it is known to have been current in the 7th century and was attributed to St. Patrick (though there’s no proof that this is true). Philip Schaff, in ‘History of the Christian Church, Vol. 4'  notes that “it contains the principal doctrines of orthodox Christianity ... but without an invocation of Mary and the saints, such as we might expect from the Patrick of tradition and in a composition intended as a breast-plate or corselet against spiritual foes."

In 1889, H. H. Dickinson, Dean of the Chapel Royal at Dublin Castle wrote to Cecil Frances Alexander (1818-1895) wife of Anglican primate for Ireland William Alexander “suggesting that she should fill a gap in our Irish Church Hymnal by giving us a metrical version of St. Patricks Lorica and I sent her a carefully collated copy of the best prose translations of it. Within a week she sent me that exquisitely beautiful as well as faithful version which appears in the appendix to our Church Hymnal. This hymn can be a challenge to sing without seeing the words matched to the notes, but it is a masterpiece nevertheless.

In 1902 Charles Villiers Stanford (1852-1924) adapted an old Irish melody to the words and the result was the popular Victorian hymn "I bind unto myself today". In the Hymn Book of the Canadian Anglican Church and the United Church, the words are ascribed to St. Patrick, translated by Cecil Frances Alexander.

There are many versions of the prayer of St Patrick. Here, Cecil Frances Alexander’s lovely hymn “I bind Unto Myself Today” is on the left, with a literal translation from the old Gaelic text on the right. If you are looking for  inspiration, either version of this powerful Lorica will provide it in abundance.  

The Breast-plate of St. Patrick


100-year-old Hymn 1000-year-old Prayer
Listen to the Singing Nuns here

Listen to it here (orator unknown)

I bind unto myself 1 today
The strong Name of the Trinity,
By invocation of the same
The Three in One and One in Three.

I bind this today to me forever
By power of faith, Christ’s incarnation;
His baptism in Jordan river,
His death on Cross for my salvation;

His bursting from the spiced tomb,
His riding up the heavenly way,
His coming at the day of doom
I bind unto myself today.

I bind unto myself the power
Of the great love of cherubim;
The sweet “Well done” in judgment hour,
The service of the seraphim,

Confessors’ faith, Apostles’ word,

The Patriarchs’ prayers, the prophets’ scrolls,

All good deeds done unto the Lord
And purity of virgin souls.
I bind unto myself today
The virtues of the star lit heaven,
The glorious sun’s life giving ray,
The whiteness of the moon at even,
The flashing of the lightning free,
The whirling wind’s tempestuous shocks,
The stable earth, the deep salt sea
Around the old eternal rocks.

I bind unto myself today
The power of God to hold and lead,
His eye to watch, His might to stay,

His ear to hearken to my need.
The wisdom of my God to teach,

His hand to guide, His shield to ward;

The word of God to give me speech,
His heavenly host to be my guard.

Against the demon snares of sin,
The vice that gives temptation force,
The natural lusts that war within,
The hostile men that mar my course;
Or few or many, far or nigh,

In every place and in all hours,
Against their fierce hostility
I bind to me these holy powers.
Against all Satan’s spells and wiles,
Against false words of heresy,
Against the knowledge that defiles,
Against the heart’s idolatry,
Against the wizard’s evil craft,

Against the death wound and the burning,
The choking wave, the poisoned shaft,
Protect me, Christ, till Thy returning.

Christ be with me, Christ within me,   
Christ behind me, Christ before me,
Christ beside me, Christ to win me,    
Christ to comfort and restore me.
Christ beneath me, Christ above me,
Christ in quiet, Christ in danger,
Christ in hearts of all that love me,
Christ in mouth of friend and stranger.

I bind unto myself the Name,
The strong Name of the Trinity,
By invocation of the same,
The Three in One and One in Three.
By Whom all nature hath creation,     
Eternal Father, Spirit, Word:May
Praise to the Lord of my salvation,
Salvation is of Christ the Lord.

I arise to-day
through a mighty strength,
the invocation of the Trinity,
I believe in a Threeness with confession of a
Oneness in the Creator of the Universe

I arise today
through the virtue  of Christ's birth
with his Baptism,
through the virtue of his Crucifixion with his Burial
through the strength of his Resurrection
with his Ascension, through the virtue of
his coming to the  Judgment of Doom
I bind myself today

I arise today through the strength of
the love of Cherubim
in hope of resurrection to meet with reward,
in the service of the Archangels, in
obedience of Angels
in faiths of Confessors, in preachings of
in prayers of Patriarchs, in predictions of
in deeds of righteous men.
in innocence of Holy Virgins 2

I arise to-day
through the power of Heaven:
In light of sun,
In radiance (brilliance) of moon,
In splendour of fire, In speed of lightning,
In swiftness of wind,
In stability of earth, In depth of sea,
In compactness of rock. 3

I arise to-day
through God's strength to pilot me:
God’s eye to look before me, God’s might to
uphold me,
God’s ear to hear me
God’s wisdom to guide me,

God’s hand to guard me, God’s shield to
protect me,
God’s word to speak for (to) me,
God’s host to secure me,
God’s way to lie before me

against snares of devils (demons), 4
against seductions of vices,
against inclinations of nature,
against everyone who shall wish me ill,
alone and in a multitude. afar and anear,

against every cruel and merciless power that may
oppose my body and my soul,
I summon today all these powers
against incantations of false prophets,
against false laws of heretics,
against black laws of heathenry,
against craft of idolatry,
against spells of women5 and smiths and wizards,
against death-wound, against burning,
against drowning, against poison,
Christ to shield me today Until there may come
abundance of reward

Christ with me, Christ in me,
Christ behind me, Christ before me,
Christ at my right, Christ at my left
Christ when I lie down, Christ when I arise,
Christ beneath me, Christ above me,
Christ when I sit down
Christ in the heart of everyone who thinks of me
Christ in the mouth of everyone who speaks of me,

I bind to myself today
The strong virtue of the
Invocation of the Trinity:
I believe the Trinity in the Unity
The Creator of the Universe.
Thy Salvation, O Lord, be ever with us.
Salvation is of the Lord. Salvation is of the Lord.
Salvation is of Christ.

1  'I bind to' + personal pronoun 'me'. 'I connect myself with' or 'I claim to have with me.'
2  Some translate this line as "The purity of the Holy Virgin." but the word is clearly plural
3  The Irish deified the powers of nature. King Laeghaire, (Leary,) being captured in battle, "swore by the Sun and Moon, the Water and the Air, Day and Night, Sea and Land, that he would never demand the high tribute again;" but having broken his promise, "the Sun and Wind killed him." Christians are, claiming to have them all on their side.
4  The bible portrays the demons as servants of Satan, fallen angels, active with world powers behind the scenes and ready to seduce the minds of sinful men. This would have been meant for their direct servants, the druids
5  The modern version  does not contain these words which protect against witchcraft. Are modern Christians vulnerable to attack! (just joking)


By Sylvia Richards March 6th 2011


© 2011 Sylvia Richards All rights reserved.