Legend has it that the Claddagh symbol was originated by Ricard Joyce, a Galway seafarer kidnapped by pirates and sold into slavery in North Africa where he learned the art of a goldsmith. When he was released, nothing could keep him from his beloved Galway where he returned to become a master goldsmith and where he created the Claddagh ring. For centuries this was used as a wedding ring by fisher folk of Claddagh village, which nestled outside the walls of Galway city in the west of Ireland. Claddagh rings are worn as friendship, engagement, or wedding rings depending on how they are worn.
How to Wear a Claddagh Ring
Friendship: by placing the ring anywhere on your right hand.
Engagement: by placing the ring on the third finger of your left hand with the heart pointing outwards,
Marriage: by placing the ring on the third finger of your left hand with the heart pointing inward towards your heart.
The subtle merging of cultures characterizing the ancient Celtic Church is brilliantly represented in the Celtic Cross. Here the Sun Wheel, the symbol of the eternal cycle of life, death, and rebirth is joined with the Christian Cross symbol of the risen Christ. It is believed that St. Patrick combined the symbol of Christianity, a cross, with the symbol of the sun to giber pagan followers an idea of the importance of the cross by linking it with the idea of the life-giving properties of the sun.
To this day, at dozens of monastic sites throughout these islands, these exquisitely carved monuments bare silent testimony to the deep faith and bold artistry of their creators.
The simple, yet profound, beauty of the unbroken line, forming delicately complex patterns of weaves and knots, perfect in their achievements of Celtic art. The interlacing lines of the Celtic Knot stands for “no beginning, no ending, the continuity of everlasting love and binding together or intertwining of two souls or spirits”.
Christianity has embraced much of the ancient Celtic symbolism and had adapted many Celtic Knots into high crosses and illuminated manuscripts.
Perhaps the best-known of all Celtic motifs the spiral dates back to the 5,000-year-old tomb complex at Newgrange.
Thought originally to have symbolized the Eternal Cycle of Life, Death, and Rebirth, in later times it came to represent the Great Goddess and her threefold manifestation of virgin, mother, and crone. It was a much-favored ornamental device used in the Christian Golden Age and remains a unique symbol of our Celtic Heritage.
The Celtic Warrior design is inspired by Ireland's foremost treasure, the Ardagh Chalice. The Chalice was discovered in 1868 by two men digging in a ring fort in Ardagh, Co. Limerick, and is the finest example of 8th Century metalwork ever discovered.
A rich heritage of Irish dances has been collected over the centuries including Jigs, reels, hornpipes, sets, half sets, polkas & step dances. The Feis (Irish dance & music competition) is still an important part of Irish culture. The worldwide success of Riverdance has placed Irish dance on the international stage, filling dance schools worldwide. Competition dress is flamboyant, often with trademark wig of ringlets to emphasize the high kicks. Soft shoes are worn for jigs and reels, hard shoes for the Hornpipe. Today Irish dancing is still a regular part of social functions.
Ceilis are held in many Irish Towns, visitors are always welcome, with informal instruction, any can master the first steps and share the enthusiasm for Irish Dance.
Based on the ancient lyre, the Irish harp is one of the world’s oldest instruments.
The Harp motif commemorates the rich legacy of the Bardic tradition. For a thousand years in his multifaceted role as a poet and storyteller, teachers and historian, guardian of the law, and of the sacred rituals, the Bard was revered throughout Celtic society as a man of wisdom.
The ancient Irish Kinds employed harpists to entertain them. At one point in Irish history conquering invaders made it illegal to posses an Irish harp and set out to burn every hard 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 hard is the national emblem of Ireland.
Ogham script is an early form of old Irish, the first known Irish writing. The characters comprise a series of lines and notches that are scored across a long stemline often on standing stones. In the majority of cases, the inscription is read from the bottom up and usually names the person being commemorated along with their ancestors and the carver of the inscription. Over 350 Ogham stones are known, with the majority found in Southern Ireland from Kerry to Waterford and in South Leinster. They also occur in small numbers in western Scotland, the Isle of Man, and in Cornwall at Lewannick, where Irish settlers from Munster landed and founded communities.
While the stones in Ireland are written purely in Ogham, those in Britain often have the Ogham repeated in Latin and carved in Roman Characters on the same stone. In legend, Ogham was said to have been created by Ogma, the son of An Dagda. Ogma was both a warrior and the God of Eloquence and Literature. He fought the second battle of Magh Tuireadh where he slew the Formorian Indech, son of the Goddess Domnu.
The Shamrock is a three-leaved clover that grows in Ireland. It is said that while Patrick was preaching an open-air sermon on the Holy 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 Tara Brooch is a Celtic brooch of about 700 AD. It is generally considered to be the most impressive of over 50 elaborate Irish Brooches. It was supposedly found in August 1850 on the beach at Bettystown, Co. Meath.
The finder a woman and her two young sons claimed to have found it in a box buried in the sand. It was sold to a Dublin Jeweler who named it the “Tara Brooch”.
Tree of Life
The Tree of Life symbol can be found in many cultures including that of the Ancient Celts (Druids).
The Celtic Tree of Life depicts the forces of nature which converge together to create harmony, unity, and balance of the universe. Celts believe the Tree of Life or Crann Bethadh to be the symbol of ‘Creator’ which provided food, warmth & shelter. Celtic people attribute qualities such as wisdom, strength, longevity, prosperity, abundance & protection to the Tree of Life, the design of which has roots & branches that are interwoven to form an endless knot, representing eternity & the timelessness of nature.
The simplest of the Celtic Knots symbolizing a triune God. For the Celts, everything came in threes, maid, mother, crone & three elements earth, fire, and water.
Christianity embraced this knot to symbolize the Father, Son, and Holy Spirt in many of the early Christian illuminated manuscripts such as the Book of Kells.
The use of the Trinity knot in jewelry design is associated with eternity and eternal love.
The Winter Solstice is a Celtic celebration of the shortest day, and longest night, of the year. It is thought to be a period of quiet energy. This can allow you to take the chance to reflect on yourself and focus on what you want to achieve. The Winter Solstice is also a time to set goals and intentions for the coming year, examine and release your past, and to make positive personal changes.
The Newgrange passage tomb is a UNESCO World Heritage Site, for one. It predates both the Pyramids of Giza in Egypt and Stonehenge in Britain.
Every year, many people travel to Newgrange, Co. Meath to view the Winter Solstice through the Newgrange passage tomb. The light from the rising sun, if visible, lights up the inner chamber of the 5,000-year-old passage tomb. Newgrange passage is older than Stonehenge and the Egyptian pyramids.
As the sun rises on the shortest day of the year, a ray of light breaks through a narrow slot at the entrance, illuminating the central chamber at the end of a sixty-foot-long tunnel.
What happens there every year is described as a miracle.