Program & Replays

The Irish Keen: Lament of the Ancestors

Broadcast on January 19, 2022
With Mary Mc Laughlin, PhD
Hosted by Lisa Bonnice

The ancient Irish Keen had three main functions. In pre-Christian times it was most probably part of a shamanic-like ritual to spiritually transfer the soul into the Otherworldly realms. Later the Keen became more focused on comforting mourners and helping them express their grief; it was known as "The Irish Cry." In this talk, Mary Mc Laughlin, PhD, will focus on the history of the Keen, how its sacred ritual context amplified its power, and how understanding it can teach us a great deal about how to handle grief.

In this session, you'll discover:

  • The history and development of the Keen in Ireland
  • The practice of the Keen within the greater ritual of the wake 
  • What valuable lessons about death and grieving can be learned from this ancient practice
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Mary Mc Laughlin, PhD

Singer, Teacher, Academic, Certified Sound Healer and Shamanic Practitioner

Born in Northern Ireland, Mary Mc Laughlin, PhD, has gained international recognition as a singer, songwriter, scholar and teacher. She spent many years in London and later California, where she practiced as a teacher/workshop leader, and founded a Gaelic community choir which she directed for 7 years while simultaneously pursuing a singing career in folk music. 

Having taught internationally at community events, schools and universities, she is sought after as an enthusiastic online teacher of Irish traditional song, and also runs classes in Irish fairy song and the Keen. Mary's become increasingly intrigued by the power of sound and the shamanic qualities of the Keen, and is currently working on a book that will explore the context, ritual and influence of this ancient Irish tradition. 

Mary’s academic achievements include... PhD in Otherworld Irish song... MA in chant and ritual song, specializing in the Keen (the Irish funeral lament)... graduate teaching certificates in education and vocal training... BA in English literature... and recognition as an Irish research council scholar. She's recorded five CDs, and was featured on the first three tracks of the “Celtic Voices” album, which reached #3 on the Billboard world music charts. 


Mary Mc Laughlin, PhD