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Bright Star of the WestJoe Heaney, Irish Song Man$
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Sean Williams and Lillis Ó Laoire

Print publication date: 2011

Print ISBN-13: 9780195321180

Published to Oxford Scholarship Online: May 2011

DOI: 10.1093/acprof:oso/9780195321180.001.0001

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The Religious Laments

The Religious Laments

(p.89) 4 The Religious Laments
Bright Star of the West

Sean Williams

Lillis Ó Laoire

Oxford University Press

Heaney's relationship with religion—both its practices and its general philosophies—was thorny and difficult. Raised in a culture of Catholicism, he was most comfortable with the form of vernacular religion that developed during the time of the suppression of Catholicism. Women, in particular, were responsible for the management of grief through keening at funerals. In a lament, women would sing about the death of Jesus from the perspective of Mary as a way to engage the community members in their own grieving process. Joe Heaney performed three laments centered around the life and death of Jesus, each of which had been excluded from the official forms of religious expression. In performing these laments, he highlighted existing tensions between the individual and the collective, the official and the vernacular, and the modern and traditional.

Keywords:   religion, lament, women, death, keening, Catholicism, Jesus, Mary, funerals, vernacular

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