May the road rise up to meet you: the meaning behind the traditional Irish blessing

Have you heard May the road rise up to meet you? Let’s take a look behind Ireland’s most famous blessing.

Most of us have heard of the Irish blessing that begins “May the road rise up to meet you”, whether you’ve heard it from a relative, seen it written on an Irish gift, or read it on a plaque hanging in an Irish household.

It’s something we have always been surrounded by, but have probably never looked into before. So, what exactly does it mean by the road rising up? What road are they talking about? Where will it meet us?

We are here to get to the bottom of this world-famous Irish phrase, so you can confidently and proudly use it yourself. This is one you’re going to want to remember.

May the road rise up to meet you – the blessing

The meaning is beautiful and meaningful.

First things first, here is the blessing in all its Irish glory:

May the road rise up to meet you.

May the wind be always at your back.

May the sun shine warm upon your face;

The rain fall soft upon your fields and until we meet again,

May God hold you in the palm of his hand”

It’s not until you stop and take the time to read it slowly, that you realise just how sincere and beautiful the gesture is. The origin, history, and meaning of this blessing are fascinating and have much depth so let’s take a look.

Origin and history

Some people attribute St. Patrick to the blessing.
Saint Patrick

This blessing was originally an Irish prayer, first written in the Irish Gaelic language, the language of Ireland. Like many texts and tales in the world, it had been translated into English. It lost some of its authenticity when some words had been mistranslated, i.e. “rise” should really be “succeed”.

Although there are many theories on who the original writer was, (some say St. Patrick), we can safely say that this piece is very connected with nature. That’s no surprise considering the Celtic history in Ireland.

May the road rise up to meet you is a blessing of goodwill on others, like a prayer.

In this Celtic prayer, the wind, the sun, and the rain are mentioned, all giving a special symbolism. The Celts quite commonly used nature to show how God connected with his people. There is no doubt that this prayer is a heartfelt way of wishing someone a good journey, with no obstacles in their path. Of course, this could literally be a journey you’re embarking on, or metaphorically be the journey of life.

Meaning

The origin of May the road rise up to meet you comes from religious belief.
Credit: traditionalirishgifts.com

This prayer has a symbolic meaning. For instance, the wind is said to represent the spirit of God, the sun representing the mercy of God, and the rain representing God’s sustenance, that he provides to us. The three aspects of nature together, paint a picture of God taking us in the palm of his hand and guiding us on our journey through life.

In essence, the prayer is telling us not to worry, because God “has our back” and is providing us with a path that will lead us through life, with as few challenges as possible. Of course, many Christian people believed that challenges would still exist because that is how they would build their faith. Yet, it may also have meant that they would have the strength to overcome them if they did arise.

It is clear from the blessing that God is there to provide us with all of this support, as we move through life. Still, no matter what challenges you face and overcome, you shouldn’t worry, but instead, be at peace knowing you’re in safe hands.

May the road rise up to meet you is a frequent blessing given at weddings.
Credit: clonwilliamhouse.com

As a traditionally religious country, this blessing was a very prominent one in the Irish culture and is still widely used today, to bid someone a good journey and especially at weddings. The first line of the prayer in Irish goes “Go n-éirí an bóthar leat” which means “May you succeed on the road”, and is basically Ireland’s version of “Bon Voyage”.

Since it originated, this blessing has been a staple wall hanging in many Irish homes, as well as being knitted, sewed, and crocheted into anything from clothing to tea cosies. You won’t be surprised to find this Irish blessing on gifts such as tea towels, oven mitts, and coasters, should you head to any Irish gift shop.

You'll find May the road rise up to meet you all across Irish memorabilia.
Credit: traditionalirishgifts.com

You may be lucky enough to even be on the receiving end of this blessing at some point in your life, whether it is a wedding or a going-away party. The truth is, tradition is traditional for a reason, it means that something has such deep roots that it has passed the test of time, just like this very moving Irish blessing.

You can be sure that you will see these words well into the future, especially if Irish people have anything to do with it.

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