The Lost Words Blessing

The Bird Sings Oral Tradition Song Library

The Lost Words Blessing

Composer & Copyright

Original song by Julie Fowlis, Karine Polwart, Seckou Keita, Kris Drever, Rachel Newton, Beth Porter, Jim Molyneux, Kerry Andrew.



Enter the wild with care, my love
And speak the things you see
Let new names take and root and thrive and grow
And even as you travel far from heather, crag and river
May you like the little fisher, set the stream alight with glitter
May you enter now as otter without falter into water

Look to the sky with care, my love
And speak the things you see
Let new names take and root and thrive and grow
And even as you journey on past dying stars exploding
Like the gilded one in flight, leave your little gifts of light
And in the dead of night my darling,
find the gleaming eye of starling
Like the little aviator, sing your heart to all dark matter

Walk through the world with care, my love
And sing the things you see
Let new names take and root and thrive and grow
And even as you stumble through machair sands eroding
Let the fern unfurl your grieving, let the heron still your breathing
Let the selkie swim you deeper, oh my little silver-seeker
Even as the hour grows bleaker, be the singer and the speaker
And in city and in forest, let the larks become your chorus
And when every hope is gone, let the raven call you home

More About This Song

In 2018, Robert Macfarlane and Jackie Morris produced a book called The Lost Words Spells. The prompt of the book was the editing of the ‘Oxford Junior Dictionary’ in recent years. The junior edition of the Oxford Dictionary is aimed at readers ages seven and up and since 2007 the editors have removed from the book many words used to denote/describe things of nature– some of them relatively common words, such as: acorn, bluebell, ivy, fern, moss, blackberry, dandelion, lark, raven, heron, starling, hazel, heather, goldfinch, grey seal, otter and kingfisher.

The editing body of the OED had determined that the words were of little and lessening use to the modern child. Youngsters weren’t hob-nobbing with hedgehogs and wrens (also excised) and frogs and buttercups (another casualty!), and so needn’t be introduced to words that served well only with regards to the out-of-doors. They excused their actions on the grounds that they needed room for other, newer words with greater relevance to the modern child. Like: attachment, blog, broadband, chatroom, database, committee, and voice-mail.

In 2015, authors Margaret Atwood, Helen Macdonald, and Macfarlane, among other novelists and nature writers, expressed their dismay in an open letter to Oxford University Press. “Childhood is undergoing profound change; some of this is negative; and the rapid decline in children’s connections to nature is a major problem,” they wrote.

This song, The Lost Words Blessing was written in Scottish Gaelic folkloric form by a group of European musicians – Julie Fowlis, Karine Polwart, Seckou Keita, Kris Drever, Rachel Newton, Beth Porter, Jim Molyneux, Kerry Andrew. The form is inspired by blessings in Scottish Gaelic, particularly from a beautiful collection of charms and incantations called Carmina Gadelica. It is offered both in hope and light, and in grief for the losses yet to come.

Teaching Notes

Coming soon!


Level of teaching speed/ difficulty (1 = very easy, 10 = very challenging)

  • Elizabeth Catherine Argus

    Thank you, from the bottom of my heart. This song found me only a day after my mother died unexpectedly, in June of 2021. Mama was part mystic, part sorceress, part saint, and she could have written these verses. In my shock and grief, I listened to this song over and over, and as I listened, I could feel her with me, blessing me. I come back to this often. Today I was missing Mama a lot, and this song is here, like a perennial herb o’ grace. Thank you!

  • Annye Love

    So heartful! Thank you!

  • This song was my life line while pregnant with my precious son James who we knew would likely not live a long life. Thankfully he was born alive and blessed our family with two beautiful days of pure love. When the time came to say goodbye we played this song as he he too his last breaths. It was one of the most exquisite, raw, heartbreaking and profoundly beautiful moments of my life. This song will forever connect me not only to my sweet son but also the mystery and miracle of life itself. Thank you a million times over. There really are no words for the expression of gratitude I have for the gift of this song. ❤️

  • Lynda Parsons

    A wonderful sing introduced to me by my son who had seen it played live in Yorkshire. When he died 2 years ago we played it at his funeral, when his coffin was lowered into the ground a raven called overhead.

  • Miriam Heap-Lalonde

    Just like a other person who commented here, I lost a full term baby in tragic circumstances. This song reconnected me to life, and has been a gateway to the beauty of life in all its forms and cycles ever since. It’s helped me release baby Theo back into nature and the universe. The powerful magic of words and song.

  • Jan Graveson


  • Owen Curran

    I heard this song a few days ago while I was out walking my dog in the forest. It stopped me in my tracks. Can’t explain why but couldn’t stop crying. What a sublime song and performance. Decided right away after hearing it that this will be my requiem song.

  • Simply put, thank you!

    (To see comments from people similarly moved does my weary soul and fractured heart a world of good. Blessings on you all!)

  • Clive Stanley Stephen Harrington Healiss

    I woke up one morning before nine to this song as part of Radio Four’s Sunday Service.
    I had to trace its source; for its humane beauty, and for its evocation of nature amongst the hedgerows and across the heavens.
    Its origin and reason for being is unquestionably sad.
    Its response to such measly, bureaucratic thinking is so overpoweringly victorious, so unquestionably a riposte.

  • My name is Heather, I tragically lost my full term baby Fisher and in the first few lines of this song my heart stopped to hear our names together. I had two children before him – one meaning bird or aviary, and two after – one named Skye whom we sing the cold play song to, “you’re a Skye full of stars”. Your song so resonates with my love for my children and desire to keep their childhood magical. Believing that there is deep grief in life intertwined with the magic and beauty all around speaks to my heart and is reminiscent of favorite book of the Bible Ecclesiastes. As my husband and I prepare to officiate a funeral for dear friends who lost their 8 month old baby in a few days, discovering this song broke me open to my own memories of loss and allowed for a good cry amidst beautiful comforting lyrics. Thank you.

  • Jane wright

    Reads and sings like the most sublime enchanting incantations and spells in such a rich and beautiful way that connects so deeply to the true magic of nature X invokes tears of joy xxxx

  • Tripp Mikich

    I’m a huge fan of MacFarlane, so I’m very happy to see and listen to this, as tearful and moving as it is. His books have been a goldmine of insight and inspiration. Anything that moves his insight about the very language of the world around us, and moves it into the greater world, is itself a blessing, as is this beautiful song. I urge people to read his several books on disappearing words and language, including Landmarks, The Lost Words, and The Lost Spells.

  • John W Hammond

    very nice though I would recommend doing more of a nature video that would go with the spirit of the song. So many writer for one song wow -not sure how that process works but glad it did. blessings

  • Rosella Susan Byers

    The song got me sitting up and singing. I will learn the words, to keep them circulating. The story of all those words of nature – sacred words, really — being removed from the dictionary for children is heartbreaking. Beautiful, thank you.


    Thank you to the power of forever.

  • Nicola Gent

    Discovered this song last night at Anglesey Abbey winter lights and it has devastated me in the best way. So so beautiful!

  • Heather Shepherd

    I will be teaching this to my class of grade 6 students to perform at our winter concert. Such a perfect message after a difficult year. I look forward to weaving these words into their dream life.

  • Elisa

    Thanks from the bottom of my heart, now split open and quite raw.
    We ARE nature, without our connection to her, we’re truly lost!
    I hope one day we establish ourselves in a society that loves it and truly nurtures as its mother, soul, source of inspiration and home.

  • Doug Thiele

    I’m probably late to the ceremonies, but I’ve been moved by the song and the process.

    It was Russell Means who said “If you’ve forgotten the names of clouds you’ve lost your way.”

  • Joel Berman

    I’ve informed my wife that I want those who attend my funeral to sing this. It cracks my heart open!

  • I haven’t been able to cry this deeply in years. This touched something grown over in me and had completely broken me open.

    Searching for the lyrics I found this article, and the comments about this song, which apparently held so many others the same way it has me.

    For someone perpetually lonely that connection, even digitally, feels like a salve.

    Thanks to Robert MacFarlane and all of the musicians and everyone here, and to the human hearts that won’t stop loving.

  • Barb Gale

    Discovering and rediscovering this song, every time I listen to it brings tears of joy and resilient compassion Beyond Words, Beyond Worlds. Sharing this song is like sharing a united prayer for our Great Mother. I will put this song to good use sharing with others working with indigenous languages. Thanks Merci beaucoup, Miigwech ❤️ ♥️

  • Shauna Love

    These aren’t the exact original, but how I’m playing it on piano at beginner level:
    Em G G/D D
    Em G D
    C G G/E D C
    G/E D C (repeat as many times at end as verse requires)

  • Marisa Orth-Pallavicini

    I fell in love with this song at first listen! If there are chords available I would love to see them. Otherwise I will and am learning it a capella. I love and have the books which inspired it and Thanks to all who wrote and sang it!!

  • Su warner

    I heard this song last night on the NHM lost words event – I cannot stop listening to the Lost Words Blessing – such a beautiful and evocative piece of music – capturing the life lessons I have endeavoured to pass on to my children, when they were young. This song moves me to tears – it is a bittersweet song – hope for a better world where people will become more connected with nature (thus also save it), but also despair that this should have been lost in the first place. I thank you all – the musicians, the artist, the writer of these truly spellbinding arts works, in all their forms, creating a new imaginary for a saved world.

  • Finding this magical song in such a dark time. Thank you for hopeful words and beauty.

  • Catherine Scribner

    Was just sitting here at my desk in Montana, studying the Gàidhlig, listening to birds chirping out my window..and this beautiful song finds me. As a hospital chaplain, deep in the crazy grief of covid, Thank you for this blessing song.. for the tears and cleansing I’ve so very much needed. Mòran taing ..tha e cho brèagha.

  • Dave Hampton

    couldn’t be more grateful – for this exquisite creation of all your love
    thank you thank you thank you – may this healthily ‘haunt’ every human soul x

  • Penny Douglas-Barton

    Shame on the editors of The Junior Oxford Dictionary. Just when children are again getting involved with nature due mostly to climate change, they omit words such as buttercup; surely one of the first words a parent teaches a child when they go walking! As a grandparent and an English teacher I despair .
    May your truly beautiful song and music make them think again. Thank you

  • eleanor gibson

    is the music available anywhere? or the chords?

  • This is one of the most beautiful songs I have ever heard. I am a musician, a nature-lover, a writer, and a traveler, and I have never felt such a synthesis of these transportive modalities. It is breathtaking, tear-inducing, and I can’t stop playing it. I am so deeply grateful to have found it. Blessings to all the artists who wove their hearts together to make this come to life.

  • Jennifer French

    This is an inspiration and very calming. Cannot get enuf of it. I have lived for as long as I can remember in a bubble with my dog. I did donate it purchase the full deal and admire it all. Wish I could downloaf

  • Bethany Chos

    This is lovely! So glad a friend posted it! Bethany Chos

  • Iona River

    The Lost Words Blessing has cut deep into my soul in the most profound and beautiful way. It came to me at the exact moment my heart needed this care and healing last night and today. I am forever grateful.

  • Jan Keen

    I woke to the song on Radio 3 this morning (Elizabeth Alker’s thoughtful and inspiring breakfast show). It was so beautifully performed and the words so heartbreaking it had me in tears in the best possible way. It touched me deeply. Thankyou to all involved.

  • Hazel Rodgers

    love the song so looked for the words. I knew of the book but do not remember seeing I have been wiped from the dictionary 🙁

  • Absolutely lovely. Thanks for this.

  • Taylor Smith Kent


  • Margaret Boag

    Well done….this is wonderful and beautiful. It really touches my heart.
    Thank you.

  • Elizabeth Gowan

    So deeply moving!

  • This is really, really beautiful. The tune, the lyrics, the harmonies, the thoughts expressed. I have listened to it over and over. So, so good. Thank you for posting it.

    I referenced the final stanza in a FB post a few days ago:

  • Michal Raz Shahar

    Soooo beautiful

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