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

A saying we all know and love; let’s take a look at the meaning behind this traditional Irish blessing.

So, what exactly is meant by this much loved Irish blessing? Sure, it’s something we have all seen or heard during our upbringing in Ireland, whether it was from a relative or seen written in an Irish gift shop, we all recognise it at first sight, but do we really know what it means?

The meaning behind it is pretty positive and encouraging, so let’s dig deeper and take a look at the meaning behind the traditional Irish blessing, ‘May the road rise up to meet you’.

The saying – a traditional Irish blessing

May the road rise up to meet you.
Credit: commons.wikimedia.org

If you’re one of the few who has never heard of this, then take a look.

“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 – where it came from

The origin and history of May the road rise up to meet you.
Credit: commons.wikimedia.org

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 to English and actually lost some of its authentic meaning 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 Saint Patrick), we can safely say that this piece is very connected with nature, which is no surprise considering the Celtic history in Ireland.

In this Celtic prayer, the wind, the sun, and the rain are mentioned, giving a special symbolism.

The Celts commonly used nature to show how God connected with his people, and 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 – a touching phrase

May the road rise up to meet you is a traditional Irish blessing.
Credit: commons.wikimedia.org

Let’s talk symbolism. In this blessing, 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.

Together, the three aspects of nature 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 tells 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, but 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, but no matter what challenges you face and overcome, you shouldn’t worry, but instead be at peace knowing you’re in safe hands.

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, especially at weddings.

The first line of the prayer in Irish (as Gaeilge) goes ‘Go n-éirí an bóthar leat’, which means ‘May you succeed on the road’, is basically Ireland’s version of ‘Bon Voyage’.

You certainly 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 and, of course, you may be lucky enough to even be on the receiving end of this blessing at some point in your life, whether that be at a wedding or a going-away party.

The truth is, tradition is tradition 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 the words, ‘May the road rise up to meet you’ well into the future, especially if Irish people have anything to do with it.