The Shamrock. It’s Ireland’s most famous emblem. While most commonly associated with luck, good fortune, and St. Patrick’s Day, the Shamrock has a very interesting back story that’s worth exploring. Unfortunately, not everyone is familiar with the history of the Irish Shamrock, which is the national flower of the Emerald Isle. Fortunately, that’s what we’re going to remedy today.
In this blog post, we are going to take a closer look at the history of the Shamrock in Ireland and how it became the symbol of the Emerald Isle. In addition to this, we will take a look at how the Celtic story influenced the beautiful and intricate designs we know and love (and wear) today.
What is the Story of the Shamrock?
The Shamrock’s story begins with Saint Patrick, Ireland’s patron saint. While St. Patrick was originally kidnapped and enslaved to Ireland when he was a teenager, he later escaped and returned to help spread the teachings of Christianity.
Legend has it that, back in the 5th century, Saint Patrick used the Shamrock in a demonstration of the Holy Trinity — the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit — due to the plant’s unique, three-leafed shape. The 5th century is known for being when Christianity was first introduced to Ireland and oftentimes, Saint Patrick is credited for being the one who spearheaded this.
Shortly after the Shamrock was used by Saint Patrick, it became the country’s most popular symbol. However, it’s important to note that the Shamrock did technically get mentioned in the English language back in 1571. Edmund Campion, an Elizabethan scholar, stated that the Irish people ate Shamrocks, but this turned out to be a misuse of the Irish word for Shamrock, Seamóg, which translates to young clover. The Irish word for clover is seamair.
Why is Shamrock a Symbol of Ireland?
The reason why the Shamrock is a symbol of Ireland is twofold. Not only did it become the symbol of Ireland after being used by Saint Patrick, as mentioned above, but much of the reason is rooted in Celtic history. See, the Shamrock was commonly linked to the Celtic goddess Ana. While also commonly known as being the goddess of prosperity and death, Ana was also associated with the goddess of nature. It was believed that praying to her would result in a good harvest. It’s here that you can begin to see the connection between a bountiful harvest and good fortune.
Despite the Shamrock’s pagan connections, it remains an important symbol in Ireland due to its unique design. Celtic culture recognized the importance of the number three, believing that all important things come in threes. Because of this, Celtic designs usually incorporate patterns of three. An example would be the Trinity Knot, which features three corners, commonly symbolizing the Holy Trinity. The Celts believed that the number three held a variety of meanings and could symbolize everything from birth, adulthood, and death to nature, knowledge, and truth, and mind, body, and soul. They also thought the number three could be indicative of the land, sea, and sky, as well as eternal life.
But how did the Shamrock in Ireland become “lucky?” Before Saint Patrick plucked the Shamrock for his demonstration, the Druids actually used to carry it around to ward off evil spirits. They believed that the shamrock’s three-lead shape would allow them to see the evil spirits, which would ultimately give them enough time to run away and protect themselves. In fact, it’s the Druids who helped establish the Shamrock as a Celtic charm. Ultimately, the Shamrock became the national flower of Ireland because of Saint Patrick, the Celtic importance placed on the number three, and the Druids’ establishment of the young clover as a Celtic charm. Pretty neat, right?
Irish Clover Celtic Cross
Ask any person what one of the most recognized Irish symbols are and they’ll probably say the Celtic Cross. The Celtic Cross is a cross that has a circle going through it. The exact meaning of it is hotly debated, with some people believing that the circle represents a halo, while others think it depicts the sun. And in essence, both ideas are kind of right.
According to legend, Saint Patrick came across a pagan creating a stone circle in honor of the pagan god of the sun. When Saint Patrick noticed this, he blessed it by combining it with the cross used in Christianity. Historians commonly believe that Saint Patrick used this symbol in an effort to convert pagans to Christianity, as it would have combined something familiar to them.
Over time, the Celtic Cross transformed from a way of converting people to Christianity to being prominently used in graveyards during the 18th century. Today, they have transformed again and have become fashionable jewelry statements for men, women, and children.
Many people have added Shamrocks to the Celtic Cross, creating an Irish Celtic Clover that is commonly used in body art and clothing designs. This is because the Celtic Cross and Shamrocks are two of the most popular Irish symbols that have gained mainstream recognition.
The Shamrock has such an interesting history that dates back centuries. While it’s known the world over as being lucky, it’s so much more than that, having become a symbol for so many different groups and occurrences. Without the Shamrock, who knows where Celtic jewelry design would be today.
With Celtic jewelry, you get an opportunity to honor your Irish heritage. Celtic DNA Jewelry offers a wide array of designs, ranging from shamrock necklaces and earrings to the Tree of Life, Ogham and countless other Celtic designs that you and your loved ones will adore. Whether you’re looking for a gift for your spouse, parent, or a little treat for yourself, our store offers the top Celtic designs in the United States. Check out a list of our shamrock designs. All of our designs are handcrafted in Ireland. We also offer free deliveries to the United States and Canada.