Celtic Christianity – Anamchara
Anamchara is a phrase in Celtic Christianity meaning soul friend. This month on Tending the Holy Thursday we have explored several great Irish people of faith – St.Gobnait, St Brigid, and St Patrick – all have become our soul friends – our anamchara.
Celtic Christianity overflows with intriguing concepts – so many I had trouble deciding one to share today. For example, ever hear of peregrinatio? It is the seeking, questing, adventure, wondering, and exile we all experience on the journey of life. The continuous never ending transformation in the rhythm of our daily living and daily dyings where we slowly are shaped by God.
But anamchara kept calling to me as this week’s focus.
What is Anamchara?
Irish writer and poet John O’Donohue defines this idea best:
In the Celtic tradition, there is a beautiful understanding of love and friendship. One of the fascinating ideas here is the idea of soul-love; the old Gaelic term for this is anam cara. Anam is the Gaelic word for soul and cara is the word for friend.
So anam cara in the Celtic world was the “soul friend.”
In the early Celtic church, a person who acted as a teacher, companion, or spiritual guide was called an anam cara. It originally referred to someone to whom you confessed, revealing the hidden intimacies of your life.
With the anam cara you could share your inner-most self, your mind and your heart. This friendship was an act of recognition and belonging. When you had an anam cara, your friendship cut across all convention, morality, and category. You were joined in an ancient and eternal way with the “friend of your soul.”
The Celtic understanding did not set limitations of space or time on the soul. There is no cage for the soul. The soul is a divine light that flows into you and into your Other.
This art of belonging awakened and fostered a deep and special companionship.”
Isn’t that beautiful?
Reminds me of deep friendship – those people you could call in the middle of the night and they would immediately understand.
Or perhaps of a beloved mentor – someone who helped form you, who reached down and lifted you up in a caring, teaching way.
Or even a spiritual director or companion – someone who listens, accompanies you on your spiritual journey.
Anamchara implies a loving presence with another.
A friend is a loved one who awakens your life in order to free the wild possibilities within you.
I often use the metaphor that life is a journey. Wouldn’t our paths be brighter, safer, and perhaps more filled with lessons, maybe even delightful detours, if we sought and found anamchara in our lives? I wonder why we hesitate to ask God for this gift. Why do we pause and not offer to be this soul friend for one another?
Anamchara can be the mapmaker, the guide, the companion to enhance our journey.
This Celtic tradition lingers within me. Drives me deeper in appreciation for the gift of friendship. Opens my mind to possibilities of journeying with others along the way.
John O’ Donohue wrote a great blessing that is so fitting to close this post and this series on Celtic Christianity. May it bless you with many soul friends and love.
May you be blessed with good friends.
May you learn to be a good friend to yourself.
May you be able to journey to that place in your soul where there is great love,
warmth, feeling, and forgiveness.
May this change you.
May it transfigure that which is negative, distant, or cold in you.
May you be brought in to the real passion, kinship. and affinity of belonging.
May you treasure your friends.
May you be good to them and may you be there for them;
May they bring you all the blessings, challenges, truth,
and light that you need for your journey.
May you never be isolated.
May you always be in the gentle nest of belonging with your anam cara.
Want more Celtic Blessings? I created a free “10 Celtic Blessings for your Journey” pdf for you to enjoy and share some Irish with others. Just click below to receive your free copy.
Have you experienced Anamchara in your life? How has it enriched your journey?