When it comes to celebrating St Patrick’s Day, there are a handful of symbols, icons, and traditions that people embrace during the holiday. One of the most significant is the shamrock, which serves as a sign of good luck, solidarity, and good fortune.
One of the first references to the shamrock in English text comes from literature that dates back to 1571. In the past, the shamrock was referred to as the ‘seamroy’ or ‘seamrog’ by the Celts and was seen as a holy plant during ancient Irish times. The plant was important to Ireland because it signified the rebirth of spring. By the time the 17th century rolled around, the shamrock had become a symbol for growing Irish nationalism. When the English decided to take land away from the Irish and create laws that forbid the use of the Irish language and worshipping of Catholicism, many Irish wore a shamrock to show their pride in their culture. The shamrock was also used to express disapproval of English rule.
The Irish Volunteers in the era of Grattan’s Parliament during the 1770’s would use the shamrock as their emblem and became linked to rebellious actions. There was even a time with Queen Victoria banned Irish regiments from displaying the shamrock at a time where wearing a small red and green paper cross was customary.
However, the shamrock fit perfectly into Ireland’s magic number of three. The shamrock was especially important to the Celts, as numbers were incredibly significant in their symbolism. In many circles, three serves as a highly sacred and magical number. Because of this, the shamrock could be used to represent many different references, including:
Ã‚Â· Crone, Mother and Virgin
Ã‚Â· Faith, hope, and charity
Ã‚Â· Father, Son, and Holy Spirit
Ã‚Â· Love, valor and wit
Ã‚Â· Past, present and future
Ã‚Â· Sky, earth and the underworld
Whenever something positive occurs in Ireland, it is believed to have come in threes. The number appears in many Irish settings. For instance, storytellers use a tradition called a ‘ threefold repetition’ when keeping in the rhythm of their Irish tales. This allows people to add intensity to their stories, as well as exaggerate some of the details.
A couple of sayings and blessings centered on the shamrock include:
“There’s a dear little plant that grows in our isle,
‘Twas St. Patrick himself, sure, that sets it;
And the sun of his labor with pleasure did smile,
And with dew from his eye often wet it.
It grows through the bog, through the brake, through the mireland,
And they call it the dear little Shamrock of Ireland.”
“For each petal on the shamrock
This brings a wish your way-
Good health, good luck, and happiness
For today and every day.”
“May your blessings outnumber
The shamrocks that grow,
And may trouble avoid you
Wherever you go.”