Mar 10, 2010


The Yellow Plague killed many Irish in the 6th century, including many monks and abbots. One of the most famous was St. Ciaran, founder of Clonmacnoise, an important early Christian monastic center. He died at a young age, and his death is attributed to this plague. But this disease is most known in Ireland in the 7th century. Bede, the great historian and author of The Ecclesiastical History of the English People, mentions this plague, which spread from Britain to Ireland and seems to have been at its peak in the year 664 when a solar eclipse also occurred.

The disease was likely spread from mosquitoes to mice to men, but at that time where it came from and how it was spread was unknown. It's no wonder the people thought the wrath of God was raining down on them. This period of time is also known as the Dark Ages, and it must have been a horrifying time to be alive.

St. Colman, an Irish abbot living in the 7th century, fled to an island with his followers where they believed the plague could not reach them, beyond the ninth wave of the sea. He composed a poem. Here is a portion of it from my book, Celtic Wisdom, Treasures From Ireland:

The blessing of God come upon us. May the son of Mary cover us. May he protect us this night, wherever we go through out great numbers. Whether at rest or at motion, at sitting or standing, the King of Heaven be against every assault. This is the supplication that we offer up.
photo via creative commons by Sandy Sarsfield
County Cork. St. Colman may have sailed from here to avoid the plague.
Modern medicine has done much good. We no longer fear many of the illnesses that destroyed large populations of the ancient world. But there are still some we haven't defeated. In those cases, St. Colman's prayer is still relevant.

1 comment:

  1. Loved the post, Cindy! Very interesting. No wonder you're so fascinated w/Ireland. I've always loved it too, but never really got into it like you have. If I keep reading your blog, that may change! :)