There was a very popular post on social media the other day about a wonderful Welsh word, hiraeth. It doesn’t have a single word English translation or equivalent although if you look it up it might say ‘longing’ or something like that. However it is more akin to homesickness and a sort of sense of loss and as I understand it, it means a loss of Welshness or Welsh culture, or I guess if you’re away from the country, the loss of Wales itself. Wikipedia says ‘It is a mixture of longing, yearning, nostalgia, wistfulness or an earnest desire for the Wales of the past.’ There is also a heavy metal band (or maybe two) called Hiraeth, but nobody mentioned that! There was a very interesting selection of comments explaining that it’s not just nostalgia, or homesickness, although they are part of it, it’s an almost spiritual feeling maybe of loss, maybe of yearning, maybe of feeling there’s a part of you missing, and that part is Wales – although I believe it’s something that some of us feel about places which we have a deep connection to and love.
I was thinking about this and how you can have these strong feelings for places and a deep sense of connection to them – I don’t mean that is hiraeth, but it has a sense of it. I have no Irish family or connections, but when I go there, I have a sense of something which I can’t properly explain, not jus love of the place, or feeling happy there, but almost a sense of recognition – even when I go to place I’ve never been before, or a sense of really deep familiarity with places I’ve only visited a couple of times before. I had a similar experience when I went to Tasmania,, as I stepped off the plane and breathed in it was as if I remembered the smell or recognised it and there were places which seemed familiar even though they weren’t. It isn’t just liking a place or feeling at home there, although I suppose that’s also true, and it’s tempting to think of the idea of having lived before or, as I wrte about in my 100 days/100 words challenge the other day, genetic memory!
Here’s an article about hiraeth: