The Shamrock (Unofficial) Symbol of Ireland
The Shamrock and St. Patrick – The Shamrock grows in Ireland and is easily recognisable by its three heart shaped leaves. The shamrocks worldwide fame is directly linked to Irelands patron saint, St. Patrick.
Patrick was first brought to Ireland from Britain as a slave. It was during his time working as a pig farmer under his uncaring master that he turned to God for comfort and company. He prayed day and night, as we worked, as he ate, in everything he did. Then, one day, God spoke to Patrick and told him of a ship that was anchored near by. With God’s guidance Patrick managed to gain access to the ship and make good his escape from Ireland and slavery.
Patrick fled to a monastery in France and devoted his life to God. However, God had other plans for Patrick and in time he spoke to Patrick and told him to return to Ireland and to preach Christianity to Irish people. So, as a missionary Patrick returned to Ireland and brought Christianity to the pagan Irish.
It was during his efforts to convince the Irish of the power of the One God that Patrick first employed the use of the modest Shamrock. The pagan Irish had many Gods that they revered and Patrick had a tough time convincing them that his God could be more powerful than several Gods. It was on one such occasion while trying to argue his case with an Irish tribal chief and his people that Patrick spotted a clump of Shamrock growing near by. Pinching a single Shamrock from the ground he explained that God was, in essence, similar to a shamrock. God the Father, God the Son and God the Holy Ghost were each represented by one of the three leafs on the Shamrock. Just like the three leaves, distinctly separate for each other, combined they made up the whole shamrock. So too did the three separate entities of God make up the one Almighty God.
Well this must have appealed to the Celtic Irish who respected nature and power. Imagine a God that was actually made up of three Gods! Almighty indeed. In typical Celtic manner, the Irish quickly adopted this new God into their belief system. Since that day, the uniquely Irish Shamrock has a place in the hearts and minds of the Irish for evermore.
Modern Popularity Of The Shamrock
There is a little more to say on the Shamrock’s modern popularity as a symbol of all things Irish. A long time after St. Patrick’s work had been done the Shamrock was put on the world stage and became an internationally recognised symbol of Ireland.
After the establishment of the Irish Republic in 26 of the 32 counties of Ireland, and the Irish Civil War; Irelands first Taoiseach Eamon deValera looked for ways to quickly establish a unique Irish identity for the nation. The Shamrock and Harp were brought to the fore as symbols of Ireland and the Irish people. This was done more so to help focus the Irish people on their rich culture and heritage than for the world at large. The Irish emigrants brought this national symbol with them as ‘they spread their grey wing upon every tide’, making the humble Shamrock the internationally recognised symbol of Ireland that it is today.
So, on this St. Patrick’s Day (March 17th) make sure you join in the festivities with “the wearing of the green” and remember the humble origins of the famous Irish Shamrock.
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