The Saining Ritual For New Years Night

20171229 THE SAINING RITUALIt’s coming up to the end of the year, and the new year is just around the corner. This time of year always brings back fond memories for me, and one of the most vivid and joyful is that of the ritual of the sain.

And so, the hallway grandfather clock ticked loudly, in its countdown to midnight, as the old year passed away. All of us had gathered there, and waited.  My grandmother came out of the kitchen. In one hand she held a few twigs of juniper that had been soaked in water (and shaken to remove the excess water), and in the other she held lightly smoking juniper twigs to ‘smudge’ each room.

It was a family custom and one held by many in Scotland and Ireland, and quite a few in north Wales. Saining, or blessing was an old ritual, done especially at this  time of the year. In it we each ‘saw’ out the old year and ‘saw’ in the new, asked for blessing and protection for the upcoming year, and came together as one. It was a happy event.

And then the grandfather clock juddered, gears and cogs deep inside it ‘whirred’ and then it chimed midnight. With some reverence we walked, following my grandmother around the house. At each room my grandmother would open that room’s door (and leave it open), shake the juniper with water on it, say the (shortened) sain blessing (see below), allow the smoking juniper to let off its fragrance in that room (and, maybe give those twigs a bit of a shake), and then move onto the next room, as we all followed.

In each room , including the hallway and toilet, the ritual was the same, and the sain (or blessing) was spoken and repeated:

The sain put by Mary on her Son,
From the crown of thy head
To the soles of thy feet.
From the edge of thy brow,
To thy coloured soles,
To preserve thee from behind,
To sustain thee in front,
The sain put by Mary on her Son.

And then, at about ten minutes after midnight we would be at the front door. That door would be opened, as we all stood outside, and the final sain ritual would be said. The person who had performed the ritual would imbibe a small glass of whisky, and in our family everyone else would then follow suit.

And then it was over. Talking and singing of that wonderful song ‘aud lang syne’ would probably take place, maybe accompanied by another glass of whisky for all, or we would all go back inside the house for more revelry (and probably a closing all the doors now as the new year had been ‘invited’ in, and each room had been blessed), and we wanted to keep warm

Happy times to remember; and a great ritual to perpetuate.

Saining is a old Scottish, Gaelic, Celtic word for blessing, protecting or consecrating, the word (or similar) is also used in Ireland and Wales.

Traditionally saining rites, done at the stroke of midnight, involved water, and/or ‘smugding’ with juniper twigs, and moving from room to room (and maybe field to field), and/or the recitation of a prayer or poetry. This role might primarily fall to the lady of the house, but that wasn’t always the case. Flexibility rules the day, here. The ritual might conclude with the person performing the rite opening all the windows and doors in the house to ‘let our the old (year) and let in the new (year) and might involve imbibing just a small glass of whisky. The ritual was varied and might not include all of the aforementioned, but it was always an occassion that all looked forward to, and was quite joyful, with all the members of the family following the one performing the ritual around the house etc.

So, this new years night, how about performing a sain in each room of your house – don’t forget the hallway or the ‘smallest room’.

You can use the abovementioned paragraphs as a template but do vary it to suit your needs: instead of ‘smudging’ with juniper twigs you might light a candle or use a scented joss-stick; instead of whisky, you might use fruit juice; you can use the saining invocation used by my grandmother (or the longer version , below, or choose something else relevant to your faith or belief or write something yourself. Enjoy it, and make it a memorable occasion as you celebrate the end of one year and the start of the new year.

The prayers used by many of old in this ritual are Christian-based, a historical/family fact, but they can be adapted or replaced; and indeed have been successfully adapted and replaced and used by friends of mine of other faiths and beliefs – and so whether Christian, Muslim, Jewish, Druid, Pagan etc, I would suggest the ritual of the sain to you as a wonderful ritual for you and/or your family and friends at this time of the year.

Ofcourse, saining doesn’t only have to be done at the turning of the year. It could be done when moving into a new apartment or house, on the anniversary of moving in, or maybe once or twice a year as you feel it’s appropriate to bless a place, or invoke protection or if you want to ‘lift’ a place energetically. Try it. Enjoy it.

Enjoy. Blessings of the Sain be to you and yours, Tadhg

Note: The complete version of the Sain, invocation of for protection and blessing, is as follows:

The sain put by Mary on her Son,
Sain from death, sain from wound,
Sain from breast to knee,
Sain from knee to foot,
Sain of the three sains,
Sain of the five sains,
Sain of the seven sains,

From the crown of thy head
To the soles of thy feet.
Sain of the seven paters, one,
Sain of the seven paters, two,
Sain of the seven paters, three,
Sain of the seven paters, four,
Sain of the seven paters, five,
Sain of the seven paters, six,
Sain of the seven paters, seven
Upon thee now.

From the edge of thy brow,
To thy coloured soles,
To preserve thee from behind,
To sustain thee in front.

Be the helmet of salvation about thine head,
Be the corslet of the covenant about thy throat,
Be the breastplate of the priest upon thy breast,
To shield thee in the battle and combat of thine enemies.
If pursued, oh youth, from behind thy back,
The power of the Virgin be close to succour thee,
East or west, west or east,
North or south, south or north.

(Sain, From the ‘Carmina Gadelica’)

2 thoughts on “The Saining Ritual For New Years Night

  1. Jonathan I thank you for this. I feel so bad. I got your messenger note late because I am not on messenger. Then I could not find your email address and did not want to write on Facebook. Did get your note. You are on top of prayer list. Prayers for things to work out!! Could you send me your address on email. Mine is brodanphillips@gmail.com

    Liked by 1 person

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