Ireland has a rich Celtic history and culture, and is associated with a fairly large amount of things. Ranging from legends and stories to items of clothing, colors, and jewelry, there are many symbols associated with this small but famous country.
These symbols are quintessentially Celtic at first glance, but over many years many interpretations, (and dare I say misinterpretations) have left it so that very few people actually grasp why these symbols have become synonymous with Ireland.
Due to the volume of symbols, I’ll focus on two of the most iconic symbols of Ireland; the shamrock and the harp.
You see a shamrock; you think “Ireland”. Known well as the badge of the country, the green three leaved clover is worn on St. Patrick’s Day as a sign of Irish pride. Most Irish people have been taught in school, that St. Patrick used the shamrock to teach the pagans of 5th century Ireland about the mystery of the Holy Trinity.
Each of the three leaves representing the Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit respectively. There is no mention of the use of shamrock in the writings of St. Patrick, but this story remains the popular belief of most people.
The shamrock has been used as the symbol of Ireland since the 18th century and the wearing of shamrock on St. Patrick’s Day is well observed. It is used in many logos of Irish businesses and sports teams of Irish origin throughout the world.
Shamrock even has a place in weddings! It’s very often included in an Irish bride’s bouquet and in the boutonniere of the groom for good luck and prosperity. Jewelry incorporating shamrocks into their design are extremely popular in Ireland and there are many beautiful pieces available from Celtic Rings Ltd.
The harp has long been associated with Ireland. This association has no specific origin but may stem from the 6th century, as written and oral evidence denotes its presence. The belief that the High King of Ireland Brian Boru played the harp as did many nobles and higher classes from the 11th to 17th century.
The Trinity College Harp is said to have been owned by the High King and is displayed in the college and is also included in the college’s coat of arms to this day! So popular it was, that it became the symbol of the Kingdom of Ireland and has appeared on the coinage ever since, with the present day Euro minted in Ireland having a harp on its “flipside”.
Along with the appearance of the harp on our coins and coat of arms, many other Irish institutions and businesses have adopted the musical instrument as a part of their branding.
The most famous of these, may be that of a particular drink, black in color and served by the pint; Guinness. Guinness is an iconic drink and could almost be talked about as a symbol of Ireland in its own right!
Brewed since 1759, the company has been using a right facing harp (modeled off the Trinity College Harp) as its logo for 153 years.
The harp is a very beautiful and elegant instrument to listen to and to look at. It can be a great alternative to wearing a shamrock or even a leprechaun hat, to show your Irish pride!
The Irish Harp Pin, to be worn on a tie, is a gorgeous piece stocked here and is a subtle way to celebrate Irish culture and heritage.
So, the shamrock and the harp are the first two symbols that come to MY mind when I think of Irish or Gaelic symbols. What symbols do you think are distinctly Irish, and do you know why they’re associated with the Emerald Isle?