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Fund for Irish Studies — Tracing the Celtic Ritual Cycle through Music, Manuscript and Performance

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October 28, 2022 • 4:30 pm


“Low the sun; short its course”: Tracing the Celtic ritual cycle through music, manuscript and performance

This lecture-recital by Helen Phelan, Professor of Arts Practice at the Irish World Academy of Music and Dance, University of Limerick, Ireland, explores the musical and ritualistic evidence for the emergence and continuity of the Celtic ritual cycle, with a focus on the rituals of Imbolc and Samhain, a precursor of Halloween.

Ritual traditions are frequently transmitted through a combination of sanctioned and sanctified “official’ sources, as well as the songs, stories and performances of living communities. The emergence of an agrarian ritual cycle in Ireland, punctuated by four quarter days, is strongly associated with the traditions and practices of the Iron Age Celts, but its roots and shoots can be located in much earlier and later historical periods.

This presentation traces the evidence for this ritual cycle in both medieval manuscript sources as well as folkloric traditions. Focusing on music (particularly medieval Irish chant) and story (including the hagiographies or lives of the saints), it suggests a dynamic, syncretic understanding of ritual, moving fluidly between prehistoric, pre-Christian and Celtic Christian practices. It concludes with a proposal concerning the influence of this ritual tradition on contemporary ritual creativity.

Part of the fall 2022 Fund for Irish Studies lecture series.

Tickets & Details

The event is free and open to the public. No advance tickets or registration required.

Get directions and find venue information for the James Stewart Film Theater at 185 Nassau Street.

COVID-19 Guidance + Updates

Per Princeton University policy, all guests must either be fully vaccinated, or have recently tested negative (via PCR within 72 hours or via rapid antigen test within 8 hours of the scheduled visit) and be prepared to show proof if asked, or wear a face covering when indoors and around others.


symbol for wheelchair accessibilityThe James Stewart Film Theater is wheelchair accessible. Visit our Venues and Studios section for accessibility information at our various locations. Guests in need of access accommodations are invited to contact the Lewis Center at 609-258-5262 or email at least one week in advance of the event date.


October 28, 2022
4:30 pm
Event Categories:
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James Stewart Film Theater, 185 Nassau St.
185 Nassau Street
Princeton, NJ 08544 United States
View Venue Website

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