Before examining the texts of Cannula Gadelica, the man who collected them,
Alexander Carmichael, is considered. His life and social milieu inform an
understanding of the collection. A Gaelic speaker, exciseman, folklorist, and avid
advocate for the crofters with whom he lived and worked, Carmichael's motives for
publishing Cannina Gadelica included a desire to portray the Highlander in a more
positive light to a world which often saw stereotypes, rather than reality.
tive light to a world which often saw stereotypes, rather than reality.
The long history of the publication of the five volumes of texts and a volume of
indices also assists the reader in understanding the texts more fully. For example, the
title caused some concern for Carmichael and his colleagues. This discussion shows a
certain ambivalence about the nature of the contents of the collection. Related to this
question is the definition of prayer, so a brief one is provided. In the twentieth
century, Cannina Gadelica has been popularized by the publication of selections from
its volumes. Some of these works are mentioned. Lastly, similar publications
contemporary with Cannina Gadelica are noted.
emporary with Cannina Gadelica are noted.
In beginning to explore the experience of God in everyday life—immanence—in
the texts themselves, definitions of immanence and transcendence are offered. The
two are seen as complementary characteristics of God, not contradictory. Next, an
investigation is made of the various arenas in which God is experienced in Cannina
Gadelica: space, time, work and home activities. The marking and use of spatial and
temporal liminalities is particularly significant in assisting the believer's experience of
God's pervasive presence.
The parameters for this thesis are the English translations of the published
Cannina Gadelica texts. The language, even in translation, informs the reader about
the experience of God in the collection. For instance, many of the prayers do not
address God directly. Other texts echo the early "breastplate" tradition by surrounding
the believer with God's presence by using various spatial prepositions. Many
anthropomorphic images of God are pointed out. Also, there is significant use of
language from the Christian tradition—scriptural allusion, liturgical prayers—which
illuminates the believer's experience of God. Lastly, the names for God in the
collection exhibit the relation of the one who prays to his/her God.
Another important factor in the experience of God in Cannina Gadelica is the
role of God's agents. The image emerges of the sovereign, Trinitarian God who
orders creation benevolently. The believer can participate in God's ordering by
relating to agents, properly observing spatial and temporal liminalities, and using
God's gift of protective plants and prayers. Saints and angels act on a spectrum of
agency: mere reference, presence, intermediary, co-agent with God, and almost
independent from God's sovereignty. The agency of various individual saints and
angels is considered. Human beings and nature can be agents of God's immanence as
well. Human healers, and the elements of nature which are tools for God's protection
and healing are explored.
It should not be claimed that Cannina Gadelica represents all of the streams
which make up the diverse historical traditions of Celtic Christianity. The collection
is, however, very helpful in understanding a picture of beliefs through the eyes of one
prolific nineteenth century collector: Alexander Carmichael.