The Celtic Literature Collective

The Lorica of Gildas

GILDAS composed this lorica to drive away those demons which attacked him. To him an angel came, and the angel said to him: If any man repeats that lorica often, there shall be added a seven years' portion to his life, and the third part of his sins shall be blotted out. Whatever day he recites this prayer . . . men or demons, and enemies can do him no injury; death on that day touches him not. Laidcend, son of Buith the Victorious, came from him to the island of Ireland; he brought over and carried it to be placed on the altar of St. Patrick, bishop, to make us safe. Amen. The metre is of eleven syllables, which is also called bracicatalecticon, because it consists of eleven syllables; the scansion is so.

Help unity of trinity,
have pity trinity of unity; 
Help me, I pray, thus placed
as in the peril of a great sea,
So that the plague of this year
draw me not with it, nor the vanity of the world. 
And this very petition I make unto the high
powers of the heavenly warfare, 
that they leave me not to be harried by enemies,
but defend me with their strong armour; 
that, before me in the battle, go
those armies of the heavenly warfare, 
Cherubim and Seraphim with their thousands,
Gabriel and Michael with like ones.
May thrones, powers, archangels,
principalities, dominions, angels, 
defend me with their thick array,
and be strong to overthrow my enemies. 
Then also the other arbiters of the strife----
patriarchs four, prophets four,
Apostles, watchmen of the ship of Christ,
And the athlete martyrs all----I ask, 
And adjure also all virgins,
faithful widows, and confessors, 
that safety compass me by them,
and every evil perish from me. 
May Christ make with me a strong covenant, 
He whose terror scares away the foul throngs.

The end of the First Prologue, of grades of angels and patriarchs, apostles and martyrs with Christ.

Beginning of the Second Prologue, respecting all parts of the body down to the knees.

God the unconquerable guardian,
defend me on every side by thy power. 
Free Thou all limbs of mine, 
with Thy safe shield protecting each, |309 
so that the fell demons brandish not
against my sides, as is their wont, their darts. 
Skull, head, hair and eyes,
forehead, tongue, teeth and their covering, 
neck, breast, side, bowels,
waist, buttocks and both hands. 
For the crown of my head with its hair,
be Thou the helmet of salvation on the head; 
For forehead, eyes, triform brain, 
nose, lip, face, temple,
For chin, beard, eye-brows, ears,
cheeks, lower cheeks, internasal, nostrils, 
For the pupils, irides, eyelashes, eyelids,
chin, breathing, cheeks, jaws, 
For teeth, tongue, mouth, throat,
uvula, windpipe, bottom of tongue, nape, 
For the middle of the head, for cartilage,
neck----Thou kind One, be near for defence.

I pray Thee, Lord Jesus Christ, by the Nine Orders of holy angels,

Lord be Thou safest lorica,
for my limbs, for my entrails, 
that thou mayest thrust back from me the invisible
nails of stakes, which enemies fashion. 
Cover, therefore, O God, with strong corslet,
along with shoulder blades, shoulders and arms. 
Cover elbows with elbow-joints and hands,
fists, palms, fingers with their nails. 
Cover back-bone and ribs with their joints, 
hind-parts, back, nerves and bones.
Cover surface, blood and kidneys,
haunches, buttocks with the thighs. 
Cover hams, calves, thighs,
knee-caps, houghs and knees. 
Cover ankles, shins and heels,
legs, feet with the rests of the soles. 
Cover the branches that grow ten together,
with the toes with the nails ten. 
Cover chest, its join, the little breast, 
paps, stomach, navel.
Cover belly, reins, genitals,
and paunch, and vital parts also of the heart. 
Cover the triangular liver and fat,
spleen, armpits with covering (?). |313 
Cover stomach, chest with the lungs,
veins, sinews, gall-bladder with......
Cover flesh, groin with the inner parts,
spleen with the winding intestines. 
Cover bladder, fat and all 
the numberless orders of joints.
Cover hairs, and the rest of my limbs,
whose names, may be, I have passed by. 
Cover me all in all with my five senses,
and with the ten doors formed (for me), 
so that, from my soles to the top of the head,
in no member, without within, may I be sick; 
that, from my body, life be not cast out
by plague, fever, weakness, suffering, 
Until, with the gift of old age from God, 
I blot out my sins with good works;
And, in departing from the flesh, be free from stain,
and be able to fly to the heights, 
and, by the mercy of God, be borne in joy
to the heavenly cool retreats of His kingdom.

Gildas. De Excidio Britanniae, Fragmenta, Liber de Paenitentia, "Lorica Gildae", etc. ed. by Hugh Williams. Honourable Society of Cymmrodorion. London: David Nutt, 1901.

This text apparently appears in the Irish MS Laud 610.