At one point in Irish history conquering invaders made it illegal to posses an Irish harp and set out to burn every harp in Ireland in an attempt to kill the "Irish spirit". Successors to the Bards, wandering poets and storytellers played a unique role of preserving and nurturing our Celtic identity. Today, greatly honored, the harp is the national emblem of Ireland.
Early 16th century legend tells us that a man from the village of Claddagh, Co. Galway, Richard Joyce was enslaved to be shipped off to the West Indies. Captured the same week he was to be married, his bride-to-be was inconsolable. While at sea, the slave ship was attacked by Moor pirates. Its contents intercepted, Richard became a Moor slave. As the years went by he became a master of his trade (Goldsmith). His skilful hands shaped a unique ring for the woman he could never forget at home. Two hands cradling a crowned heart, the heart for love, the hands for friendship and the crown for loyalty. The design represented the wish that love and friendship should reign supreme. After eight years he was released. He returned to his native Ireland and to his great joy, her heart remained with his, never to be separated again.
Originally a great traditional wedding ring among the people of Claddagh, in Galway, two centuries ago, today it is commonly accepted that the joining hands, heart and crown represent a perpetual bond of friendship, love and loyalty.
Traditionally the Claddagh ring can be worn three ways. When placed on the right hand with the heart facing out the wearer's heart is still searching. When placed on the right hand with the heart facing in, there are possibilities When worn on the left hand with the heart facing in, the wearer's heart is promised forever.
Irish DanceIreland has a strong dance tradition dating as far back as the 15th Century. It, together with native music was the focal point of community gatherings down through the ages. The most popular of the Irish dances are the Jig and the Reel, with many involving both solo and group dancing.
From 1829 the dance master came into existence. He was a wandering dancing teacher who traveled from village to village teaching dances to children. These dance masters existed in rural Ireland right up to the early 20th Century but gradually they were replaced by the dance schools that we have today.
The costumes worn by the dancers are as important as the dance itself. Each Irish dance school has its own distinct costume and most of the dresses are adorned by embroidery designs inspired by the Book of Kells.
The story is set at the River Boyne which is at its largest flowing through counties Louth and Meath in Ireland. In this river lived a magical salmon. Its skin shone like silver and it ate hazel that grew on the riverbank. The fish was called the Salmon of Knowledge. A druid had foretold that anyone who ate the salmon would gain its magical powers and have the knowledge of all things. An old poet, Finnegas who lived along the Boyne had spent many years trying to catch the salmon. He had hoped to be the first to eat it and gain its magical powers.
One day a young boy came running towards him. "Who are you?" asked Finnegas, "why are you running?".
"My name is Fionn" said the boy. "My father has been killed in battle, now his enemies want to kill me too".
"Do not be afraid", said Finnegas kindly. "Stay with me and I will look after you".
Fionn lived happily with Finnegas learning to be a poet. A poet was held in high esteem in Celtic civilization. Fionn thought that by becoming a poet of high esteem he would be protected from the warriors. In return Fionn would spend the day cleaning the hut and cooking the meals at night. He loved to listen to the old man telling wonderful stories.
One day Finnegas went out fishing as usual trying to catch the salmon. After a short time he came rushing to the door of the hut. In his hands he carried a huge fish. "I have caught the Salmon of Knowledge," he cried happily. "Now I will have great knowledge". Quickly Fionn lit a fire and soon the salmon was cooking. "Look after the fish, while I get some more firewood," ordered Finnegas, "but you are not to taste it", he warned Fionn.
Fionn sat watching the salmon cooking over the fire. He sat there dreaming of what wonderful powers the salmon would bring. As he sat dreaming looking at the salmon cooking he noticed a blister rising on the cooking salmon. Not thinking he burst the blister and in the process burnt his finger. Automatically he put his finger in his mouth to cool it down. Unknowingly he was the first to taste the Salmon of Knowledge. Finnegas came back and Fionn told him what had happened. Finnegas decreed "You will gain great powers, you must now go and become leader of the Fianna." and so it was.
Sheela na GigSheela na Gigs are figurative carvings of naked women. They are found on churches, castles and other buildings, particularly in Ireland and Britain, sometimes together with male figures. One of the best examples may be found in the Round Tower at Rattoo, in County Kerry, Ireland. A replica is located in the County Museum in Tralee town.
Ireland has the greatest number of known Sheela na Gig carvings. These carvings are said to ward off death and evil. Other grotesques such as gargoyles and Hunky Punks are frequently found on churches all over Europe and it is commonly said that they are there to keep evil spirits away. They are often positioned over doors or windows, presumably to protect these openings.
Rushes were the common floor material that covered an Irish home. Her father saw the cross and asked her to explain its meaning. After Bridget explained the cross' significance, her father wanted to join the Church and was baptized by St. Patrick before he died. Today, people place a "St. Bridget Cross" in their homes and farm buildings believing that, with their faith, it protects them and their animals from evil and deprivation.
The Tara Brooch Tara Brooch CB048-collection/brooch-collection/celtic-brooch-cb0001/prod_890.htmlThe design of the Tara Brooch was in vogue in Ireland from about the 3rd century A.D. to the 10th century; although their ancestry lies in the prehistoric era in Britain.
Used as ornamental cloak fastenings, brooches were normally made of bronze and consisted of a gapped loop and a free-swiveling pin. The pin was stuck through folds of cloth and the hoop rotated underneath it. The Tara Brooch in particular was foundin 1850 in material collapsed from a cliff at Bettystown Co. Meath. The 8th century brooch is now in the National Museum of Ireland.
The name "Tara" was given to it by a dealer through whose hands it passed. The brooch is said to be made of bronze, but is in fact made of cast silver gilt. The broader parts of the ring, the hoop and the pin-head have, on the front, deep cast panels which carry elaborate filigree ornaments - animal designs, snakes, interlace and scrolls. The sophistication and variety of the ornaments make the Tara Brooch one of the three most accomplished pieces of 8th century Irish metalwork.
A long time ago in ancient Ireland lived an Irish Chieftain named Lir. He was married to Aobh daughter of King Bodhbh (also called Bov the Red) of Lough Dergh. They had four beautiful children; Fionnula, Aodh, Fiachra and Conn. Unfortunately Aobh died giving birth and Lir was devastated with grief.
When King Bodhbh heard of Lir’s loss he offered another one of his daughters to Lir in marriage. Lir choose Aoife as his new wife and stepmother to his children. At first, all when well with the marriage, Lir doted on his four children. Soon Aoife became intensely jealous of her stepchildren. She even pretended to be sick for a whole year in order to look for special attention. One day Aoife told the children that they we going with her to visit there Grandfather King Bodhbh, as they had done many times before. Along the way they stopped at Lough Dairbhreach (lake of the oaks) and Aoife ordered the children to wash themselves in the lough. Once they were in the water, Aoife cast a magic spell turning the four children of Lir into beautiful white swans. Fionnuala cursed her but implored her to put some limits on the spell. Aoife regretting what she had done agreed to allow them keep their beautiful singing voices. But the spell still imposed a harsh sentence on the swan children. They were to spend 300 years on Lough Dairbhreach, 300 years in the Straits of Moyle and the final 300 years at Erris. They spell would only be broken when they heard the first bells of Christianity and when a King from the north marries a Princess from the south.
When King Bodhbh found out what Aoife had done to the children of Lir, using a Druids rod he turned her into a “Witch of the air”. As the legend goes Aoife still blows in the howling wind and her screams can be heard when a storm blows.
Over the years Lir and many others continued to visit the swan children. They listened to their enchanting, magical singing that was said to calm even the most savage beast.
Over the 900 years of the spell they faced extremely harsh weather conditions. Near the end they traveled to Inish Gluaire where they first heard the Christian bells and met a Christian missionary called St. Mochaomhog. They told him of their plight and that they were the children of Lir. At this time a King from the north King Lairgnean was due to wed Deach, a daughter of the southern Muster King. King Lairgnean had heard of the swan’s lovely singing voices and wanted to give them to his wife as a wedding present. But while King Lairgnean was trying to capture the swans he touched one of them and the spell was broken. The swans turned back into their human form, but they were very old and Withered looking. Fionnula the oldest asked St. Mochaomhog to baptize them and soon after they died. They were buried the same way they lived, together. Later that night St. Mochaomhog dreamed that he saw four beautiful white swans flying over the sea straight up to heaven. This beautiful Celtic myth has inspired Irish gifts makers over the years to create wonderful works of art. Many Irish jewelry manufactures have incorporated the 4 swan theme into many stunning pieces of children of Lir jewelry.
you go and guide you in whatever you
do--and may his loving protection be
a blessing to you always.
The Shamrock (traditional spelling: seamróg, meaning summer plant) is a three-leafed clover that grows in Ireland. A common image in Celtic artwork, the shamrock is found on Irish medieval tombs and on old copper coins, known as St. Patrick's money. The plant is also reputed to have mystic, even prophetic powers-- for instance the leaves are said to stand upright to warn of an approaching storm.
Legend has it that St. Patrick used the shamrock in the fifth century to symbolize the divine nature of the trinity when he introduced Christianity to Ireland. It is said that while Patrick was preaching an open-air sermon on the Trinity, an old Druid began to heckle him, ridiculing the idea that the three divine beings could somehow be one. Patrick plucked a shamrock and, holding it aloft, replied, "Just as the three leaves of the Shamrock are separate yet part of the whole so it is with the Trinity of Father, Son and Holy Spirit".
Today wearing the shamrock is an integral part of Saint Patrick's Day celebrations. "The Wearing of the Green" also symbolizes the birth of springtime. Irish legend states that green clothes attract faeries and aid crops.
www.irishdolphins.com for a look at the wonderful and sociable dolphins who live in the waters around Ireland. You can find histories photos and current sightings of these beautiful mammals!