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Deirín dé, butterfly of the gods

Leggi in italiano

Deirín dé is the phrase repeated in the refrain of this lullaby in Irish Gaelic, and it is supposed to be the ancient name for “butterfly of the gods”, or the golden butterfly symbol of the spirit of the deceased.
For the shamans, matter is simply “condensed spirit”, the spirit assumes an ovoidal form, called the spiritual body, of which one part condenses into matter, ie the physical body contained in the “bubble”, and is “animated” by an immaterial part which is precisely the soul. After physical death, the spirit returns to the sky, to the parent constellation. So the butterfly undergoes a series of transformations from its initial stage of squat and terrestrial caterpillar, chrysalis and then flies away like a beautiful creature with fragile wings.


In Italy on Mount Caprione (Lerici, province of La Spezia, Liguria) it is possible to observe the golden butterfly coinciding with the summer solstice: the sun at sunset passes through a “window” created by the megalithic formation called “Quadrilithon“, or the “Quadrilite di San Lorenzo” (because it is located not far from the ruins of the church of San Lorenzo al Caprione), and projects a beam of light in the shape of a butterfly on the monolith behind it. Triliths with lozenge are currently only identified at Château Vieux de Randon (French Central Massif – Lozère Region) and in Corsica (territory of Niolu, Corteneais).

The rock formation is a trilith with the lozenge-shaped architrave, wedged between the two vertical stones; a fourth stone is lodged on the bottom to close the narrow portal. From the portal there is a walkway that is precisely the corridor along which the sun penetrates during its sunset at the summer solstice.

“Quadrilithon” Monte Caprione – Lerici: seen from the part of the walkway, in the background we can see the monolith on whose surface the image of the butterfly is projected.

The megalithic area dates back to 8,000 BC. and the golden butterfly phenomenon starts from May 25th until its complete fullness that takes place between June 15th and 28th, while the gradual sunset of the image is observable until July 29th, the duration is about 15 minutes. (here)
Thanks to the cross studies of prof. Enrico Calzolari – expert researcher in Archeoastronomy and Paleoastronomy – we can reasonably suppose that in this area a shamanic cult was practiced that believed in the return of the spirit to the stars of the sky, in the form of a golden butterfly: the belief was probably still shared by the Celts (see note 1 below)


In this lullaby in Irish Gaelic, the mother cradles her child telling him to sleep, that when he grows up he will take care of the cattle, then he can spend the whole night collecting blackberries.

The song is also known as “The Last Wisp of Smoke”. The melody is reported as 148 Jefferson in “The Sacred Harp”, a collection of sacred choral music published by Benjamin Franklin White Elisha J. King in 1844 (Georgia, America).

Dennis Doyle in Irish Meditations 1997

Text and melody of the lullaby were instead collected by Róis Ní Ógáin (1865-1947) in the county of Antrim (Ireland) and published in “Duanaire Gaedhilge Róis Ní Ógáin” starting from 1924.


O’Sullivan’s sources [Donal O’Sullivan in Songs of the Irish 1981]: tune – Mac Coluim’s Cosa Buidhe Árda, II (1924), 22, noted from Seán Ó Cuill, Ballyvourney, Co Cork. Text – Mac Coluim’s Cosa Buidhe Árda, II from Amhlaoibh Ó Loingsigh, also of Ballyvourney, collated with version published by P.H. Pearse in the Irish Review 1911. Pearse’s version was also a collation, a woman relative from County Meath and from Amhlaoibh Ó Loingsigh.” (from here)


Fiona Tyndall 2004

english translation (here)
Deirín dé (1), deirín dé
The nightjar(2) is abroad in the heather

Deirín dé, deirín dé

The brown bittern(3) speaks in the reeds

Deirín dé, deirín dé
Cows will go west (4) at dawn of day

Deirín dé, deirín dé,
And my child will go mind them in the pasture

Deirín dé, deirín dé,
The moon will rise and the sun will set
Deirín dé, deirín dé,
Cows will return from the west at close of day
(And you are my child and my life’s portion)
Deirín dé, deirín dé,
A thrush’s nest in my little press(5)
Deirín dé, deirín dé,
Yes, and gold for my little darling
Deirín dé, deirín dé,
I shall let my child go picking berries
Deirín dé, deirín dé,
But sleep soundly till light of day!
Irish Gaelic
Deirín dé(1), deirín dé,
Tá’n gabhairín(2) oíche amuigh san bhfraoch,
(Tá’n gabhar donn ag labhairt sa bhfraoch)
Deirín dé, deirín dé,
Tá’n bunán donn a’ labhairt san bhféith.
(Táid na lachain ag screadaigh sa bhféith.)
Deirín dé, deirín dé,
Geóidh ba siar le héirí an lae,
(Gheobhaidh ba siar le héirí’n lae)
Deirín dé, deirín dé,
Is raghaidh mo leanbh ‘á bhfeighilt ar féar.
(Is rachaidh mo leanbh dá bhfeighilt ar féar. )
Deirín dé, deirín dé,
Eireóidh gealach is raghaidh grian fé,
Deirín dé, deirín dé,
Tiocfaidh ba aniar le deireadh an lae.
(Is tusa mo leanbh as mo chuid de’n tsaoghal)
Deirín dé, deirín dé,
Tá nead smólaí im chóifrín fhéin
Deirín dé, deirín dé,
Tá, agus ór dom stórín fhéin.
Deirín dé, deirín dé,
Leogfad mo leanbh a’ pioca sméar,
Deirín dé, deirín dé,
–Ach codail go sámh go fáinne an lae!

1) According to the O Donaill’s Irish Dictionary, “deirin de” are meaningless words uttered in a game of children next to burning wood. But in Carmina Gadelica (Alexander Carmicheal, 1900), (here) we read that the word in Scottish Gaelic consists of ‘dealan,’ = fire, flame, lightning; and ‘De,’ = God ie the fire of God or the divine light.
“The golden butterfly is held sacred. It is said to be the angel of God come to bear the souls of the dead to heaven. If it be seen in or near the house where a person is dead or dying, the omen is good, and the friends rejoice. If it be not seen, a substitute is made by rapidly twirling a fire-pointed stick, moving the while from the dead or dying person towards the door or window. This is called ‘dearban De,’ ‘dealan De.’ The ancient Egyptians represented the soul leaving the body as a butterfly emerging from the chrysalis, sometimes from the mouth of the dead.” Then “deirin de” = “the last puff of smoke”, the puff of smoke drawn by waving a stick with an incandescent tip.
2) The nightjar [lit. little goat of the night!] is the  goatsucker because it was believed that it feeds sucking the milk from the udders of the goats. He is actually a nocturnal devourer of insects. Medium-sized it has a camouflage plumage that hides it between the bare earth, and frequents countryside and woods (here).
3) the bittern is a wader living among the reeds of ponds and lakes. It is difficult to see him because of his camouflage skills, it is easier to hear him sing at night and at the first light of dawn (here: a deep sound like the one you get by blowing slowly in a long-necked bottle) just for his voice (like the voice of the dead from the afterlife) the bittern was a bird bearer of misfortunes
4) the West is the direction in which the sun sets, but also the symbolic point in which the Other World is located
5) or coffer


Pubblicato da Cattia Salto

folklorista delle Terre Celtiche

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