Irish Celtic symbols and the meanings behind them are an integral part of the Irish heritage and culture. Let us discover some of the Irish symbols of love.
Ancient Celtic people were known for their aggressiveness and incredible courage. Initially from the Steppes region, they moved throughout Europe, making their way into the Isles of Britain, where they settled down. Despite their prowess on the battlefield, the Celts lived following their rituals and traditions that were rooted in elegance and love. Their signs and symbols are rich in history and impart a subliminal message that impacts the Irish people to date.
Although the messages are available in ‘olde English,’ which is hard to read and interpret, Celtic symbolism plays a significant role in Ireland and has remained unchanged for centuries. Similarly, Celtic symbols of love are brought to life by ancient legends and folklores. It brings into mind a situation where a young man had to prove his love and worth to get married to his lady-love. As a result, many people assume that Celtic symbols of love are the epitome romance and eternal love. Let us go through some of the most common Irish symbols of love and their meanings and historical background.
There are several ancient Celtic Knots throughout Irish culture representing strength, eternal love, and family unity, each adding their unique significance to the culture. In the Celtic, Hindi, and Norse rituals, a husband and wife were physically bound together as a symbol to signify their union as two lovers. The Celts and the people from Norse tied a dyed cloth or rope, while Hindi weddings tied the groom’s scarf together with the bride’s garment. As a result, many people believe that the phrase ‘tying the knot’ originated from these rituals.
The love knot, or the lover’s knot, is a Celtic symbol of love that represents the eternal connection and unbreakable bond between two lovers. It consists of unbroken loops with no beginnings and ends, signifying the infinite love that exists in a married couple. There exist several Celtic love knots, including the sailor’s knots, which told the story of how sailors longed for their lovers. Other examples of Celtic love knots include the Celtic triple drop, the Celtic square knot, Celtic serpent knot, Celtic round knot, and the oval or spiral knot, among many others.
Often, this Celtic love symbols feature in Egyptian sculptures, Celtic knots, and ancient Greek jewelry. Lovers from ancient Arabia utilized love knots as a means of sending messages to each other. Today, you may find the Celtic love knot on rings, bracelets, and necklaces, among different types of jewelry.
The Claddagh ring
Popularly known among the Irish as the ‘Fáinne Chladaigh,’ the Claddagh ring is a well-known Irish symbol of love. It is a traditional Irish ring that consists of a heart topped off with a crown, with hands clasping around the heart. The exchange of these rings in Irish culture is a symbol of unity and loyalty. The hands around the heart on the ring represent friendship, while the heart shape implies eternal love shared between lovers, and the crown means commitment in a relationship. All the symbols come together to symbolize a strong and long-lasting relationship.
Claddagh originates from the Irish phrase ‘An Cladch,’ which implies a stony and flat shore. The phrase stood for a coastal village in Ireland where the ring design originates. Created by Richard Joyce, a fisherman from a seaside village, he made the ring for his lady love, who eventually became his wife. Legend has it that his wife waited for him when pirates kidnaped him and sold into slavery, but he later regained his freedom and reunited with his wife.
Similarly, tradition has it that you should not buy the Claddagh ring for yourself as it is a wedding ring. There are a few ways to wear the ring, including:
- Wearing the Claddagh ring on the right hand with the point of the heart pointing the fingertips implies the wearer is single and looking for love
- Wearing the ring with its point of the heart facing the wrist suggests the wearer is a relationship
- If you wear the ring on your left hand with its heart point facing your fingertips, it means the wearer is engaged
- If you wear the ring on your left hand with its heart point facing your wrist, it shows that the wearer is married
One of the most famous symbols associated with the Irish people is the Shamrock (Oxalis regnelli), which is a three-leaf clover. This powerful Irish Celtic symbol consists of three heart-shaped leaves forming a plant that grows throughout Ireland and thrives in cool and damp climates. As the national flower of Ireland, it bears vital significance to ancient Druids as they linked it with the triad.
Shamrock is a crucial part of Irish culture and heritage. It appears on the Erin Go Bragh flag as a sign of ‘Ireland Forever’ as Saint Patrick actively used it to symbolize Irish identity. You can only find this symbol on the tail of the national airline, Aer Lingus, and the Irish sports teams. Similarly, no St. Patrick’s Day celebrations are complete without it.
The name ‘Shamrock’ comes from the Irish word ‘Seamróg,’ which means young or little clover. Clover is the name given to many plants in the Trifolium genus to indicate they have three leaves. Many experts believe that the clovers from the White Clover are the original Shamrock referred to in Irish symbolic culture and heritage.
Some several legendary stories and folklores give rise to the Shamrock Celtic symbol. One of them states that Saint Patrick used the three heart-shaped leaves to convert ancient Druids into Christianity. The ancient Celtic people believed that many of the world’s most essential aspects came in forms of three. For instance, the phases of the moon, ages of man, and dominions of the sky, sea, and earth, all come in threes.
More so, this three-leaf clover represented the triad. Saint Patrick used the Shamrock to introduce the Christian concept of the Holy Trinity, which symbolizes God-The Father, God-The Son, and God-The Holy Spirit. The Shamrock became so popular that in the 19th century, it was the Irish symbol of patriotism and rebellion against the British Crown. Anyone found with this symbol faced execution. Alternatively, the three-leaf clover is said to represent hope, love, and faith. As such, a bride and groom carry this symbol in their wedding jewelry to bring them good luck as they enter the new phase of their lives.
It is also vital to note that there exists a four-leaf clover that is quite rare and symbolizes good luck. These clovers are a variation of the three-leaf clovers as they are a genetic mutation of this common clover. Due to its limited nature, those who find it are one of the luckiest people on earth.
The Serch Bythol is another significant Celtic symbol, although it is less popular than the other symbols on this list. It contains two defined and closely intertwined Celtic knots or triskeles (three-cornered knots) to represent eternal love. Among the ancient Celtic people, it showed that they were deeply rooted in their relationships and emotions. The intertwined knots implied that two people were forever joined in mind, body, and spirit.
This Celtic symbol consists of a side-by-side design that creates the endless interconnected flow of lines. The unification of the symmetrical right and left halves show the bringing together of the spirit, mind, and body, with the central circle symbolizing the everlasting love that binds the halves together.
Celtic symbolism shows that the ancient Celts heavily relied on spirituality in their day-to-day lives. The Celtic symbols and their background, as found in legends and folklore, are gaining more popularity in this modern era. Their growing popularity is evident as many people getting these symbols as tattoos or wearing jewelry and clothing with similar designs.
If you are going to Ireland or you are intrigued by the culture and heritage of the Irish people, you will definitely come across some Irish symbols of love, like the ones discussed above. You may find them engraved on furniture, décor, etched indoors, or even on clothing. Be sure to familiarize yourself with as many Irish symbols of love as possible before embarking on your trip. You will not regret it!
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