Ep. 355 Irish Keening and Wakes: Traditional Mourning Rituals with Mary McLaughlin

Learn about the history and importance of Irish mourning rituals.

My guest Mary McLaughlin is a singer/songwriter and teacher who studies and teaches workshops about Irish singing and technique and Gaelic song and culture. She has recorded five CD’s to international acclaim, written two song books and completed a PhD in Irish Otherworld Song. Today she teaches us about Irish wakes and the ancient funeral ritual of keening. Learn more at her website:


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This episode includes:

  • The ancient tombs found in Ireland and what we can learn from them
  • Many contemporary funeral traditions have been influenced by both Christian and Pagan customs
  • Wakes thrived during the Middle Ages in the early Celtic Church but were later forbidden
  • “Professional waking” used to take place in small Irish villages
  • The purpose of the wake is to help people cry and mourn, sometimes through laughter and games
  • Keeners had to be good singers and specially trained to provide this ritual for wakes
  • The benefits of having keeners be outsiders to help the family express emotion, move into their grief, and create a sense of awe
  • The keen would continue from the wake through to the burial ground
  • The three stages of ritual: separation, liminality, and re-incorporation
  • How the keen addresses the 5 stages described by Elisabeth Kubler-Ross

Links mentioned in this episode:

  • Pre-order All the Flowers of the Mountain by Christina Holbrook here (and thank you!)
  • Recommended Book: My Father’s Wake by Kevin Toolis
  • Sign up for Mary’s newsletter here

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If you enjoy this content please share it with others and consider leaving a review on iTunes. Thanks again to all supporters on my page at Patreon.com/eolu, especially to my newest donor JoAna Dwyer! Also thank you to Mark Langlois for buying me a coffee (3, in fact)! Your contributions make all the difference.

EOLPodcast, Grief, Spirituality

Ep. 267 Holding All the Joy and All the Sorrow

In this solo episode I share my thoughts on the fact that joy and sorrow are interwoven throughout our lives just as life and death are inextricable connected. Using stories and poetry I discuss how to carry both joy and sorrow without denying or repressing the pain of our personal and collective grief.

Listen here:

This episode includes:

  • How current events are requiring us to learn to hold joy and sorrow at once
  • Why we need a strong spiritual core as we go through life in 2020
  • How to strengthen our spiritual core:
    • Go deep within
    • Assessment the alignment between your inner values and outer behavior
    • Practice being in the present moment
    • Gratitude
    • Lovingkindness Blessing
  • Why we need to mourn our losses (personal and collective) on a daily basis and how to do it
  • The importance of “finding the good” within our pain and sorrow
  • Poems shared:
    • “Joy and Sorrow” by Kahlil Gibran
    • “Love Sorrow” by Mary Oliver
    • “In Lieu of Flowers” by Shawna Lemay

Links mentioned in this episode:

  • View the cover of my next book (The Journey from Ego to Soul) here
  • Subscribe to this podcast on AppleGoogleSpotifyiHeart RadioStitcher Radio
  • Check out the Series I’ve recorded in the past here
  • Join the team at Patreon.com/eolu and get access to the EOLU mug“Mind if we talk about death?” (only Patrons can purchase it). PLUS get our new bonuses: the monthly EOL News Update, movie reviews from 2 Doctors and a Movie, and automatic access to A Year of Reading Dangerously!

If you enjoy this content please share it with others and consider leaving a review on iTunes! Thanks again to all supporters on my page at Patreon.com/eolu! Your contributions make all the difference!