The Caim is a prayer done in a sacred circle at the altar, made with the intention of protecting the bride and groom at the time of marriage. Caims have a specific rhyme and meter that tends to act almost mystically, focusing one’s intent, making sacred space that much more sacred.
The circle, which represent wholeness, community and connection to the greater cosmos, was drawn by sword or lance around the couple. Marriage itself represents a new life. The meaning and symbolism of protective prayer within this sacred circle created by armament was essential to creating the best possible beginning for the highlander.
Marriage could also be a highly political event, particularly if it was between clans. Battle and treachery could come from any quarter. In the Marriage Ceremony in the Scottish Highlands, the groom would escort his bride to the altar with his sword available and his fighting arm free, thus the tradition of the bride on his left (as most were right handed). He could defend her against attack from other suitors. This also was the original role for the Best Man to be protector of the couple while both coming and going from the ceremony.
In modern times, the sword and the cutting of the circle have disappeared. Instead, what remains is the prayer itself. Many examples of this prayer still exist from Victorian times. Some of the most notable come from the Carmina Gadelica written by Alexander Carmichael around 1900. These come from the highlands and islands of Scotland. Several examples of Caim prayers, passed down from long ago are included in the collection. Examples:
“The compassing of God and his right hand Be upon my form and upon my frame; The compassing of the High King and the grace of the Trinity Be upon me abiding eternally, Be upon me abiding eternally. May the compassing of the Three shield me in my means, The compassing of the Three shield me this day, The compassing of the Three shield me this night From hate, from harm, from act, from ill, From hate, from harm, from act, from ill."
Circle us Lord,
Keep love within, keep hatred out.
Keep joy within, keep fear out.
Keep peace within, keep worry out.
Keep light within, keep darkness out.
May you stand in the circle with us, today and always.
Taken from St Cuthbert's website
Today, we recognize there are external energies all around us that can affect the spirit of our home and hearth. Worry and fear about jobs, family, politics, health and more can seem to bring a heaviness around us, yet if we remember that we are more than this, our hearts can be filled with joy no matter what is presenting around us, our relationships and marriage will be that much stronger and nurturing. No matter what our spiritual or religious faith is, we may certainly be able to visualize a circle around us, our home, our partners and family, that is filled with a gold light of love, peace and prosperity.
Whether or not you choose to use the Caim in either form for your wedding ceremony it will likely make the experience that much more dear and meaningful. It is very important to take the time to make your marriage vows rich in personal intent and conviction. I recommend writing your own Caim for the ceremony. You can often work it out with your wedding officiate to help draft an appropriate version for your sacred Celtic ceremony.