The Meaning of the Shamrock

The shamrock is one of the primary symbols of Ireland, the other being the Celtic harp. Like the thistle for Scotland, the leek for Wales, and the rose for England, it is a simple, common plant whose qualities are seen as symbolizing the country it represents.

Word Origin

The word “shamrock” is an English corruption of the Irish seamrog, which is the diminutive of seamair (clover). Thus, a shamrock is simply a little clover.

Saint Patrick

It is part of Irish Catholic legend that St. Patrick used the three-leaved shamrock as a visual metaphor for the Holy Trinity. However, the connection between St. Patrick and the clover was not depicted visually anywhere until a series of coins was minted in 1675 in Dublin showing him blessing a congregation while holding a shamrock in his hand.

Symbol of Ireland?

A large part of the identification of the clover as an Irish national symbol was, ironically, due to misperceptions and mistaken reporting by the British.

 

In the 16th and 17th centuries, poets and authors regularly wrote about how the “wild Irish” would eat anything in the case of famine, including shamrocks. (During this period, England was struggling to tighten its grip on Ireland; thus the English and the Irish had low opinions of one another due to the recent ongoing low-level warfare between the two countries, which had caused great suffering to the Irish and economic and political costs to the English). Since the shamrock has virtually no nutritional value, this was touted as an illustration of how savage (and stupid) the Irish were.

 

But it was again a case of misinterpretation. The Irish did regularly harvest and eat wild wood sorrel, or seamsog. British writers simply confused the two words, seamsog and seamrog. Thus, the reason that the British thought that shamrocks symbolized the Irish was that they believed the Irish ate them—something they basically never did.

Migration to America

So the shamrock became an Irish symbol more because the British thought it should be than that the Irish ever identified with it. However, it gradually became adopted by all Irishmen.

 

The shamrock migrated with the Irish to America during the Revolutionary War, when Irish recruits and conscripts were organized into regiments bearing the shamrock on their flags.

Luck of the Shamrock

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Nowadays, the shamrock appears as a logo and symbol for diverse companies, and used in the manufacture of thousands of products.

 

The rare four-leaved shamrock (“four-leaved clover”) is considered a sign of great good luck to the person who finds one.

 

The much more common three-leaved shamrock is seen as symbolizing Ireland’s verdant beauty, the hardiness of its people, and their adherence to their religious values.

By Kevin M. Lewis

The Ancient roots of the Leek

Wearing of the Leek?

One of the traditional ways that Welsh people celebrate their national pride on St. David’s Day is by wearing a leek. There are two intriguing tales from Welsh lore about this custom, one taking us all the way back to the 6th century.

Leek-side

A badge

The first story goes that soldiers of the ancient British king, Cadwaladyr, were about to fight their traditional enemy, the Saxons. Dewi Sant (St. David) advised the Welsh to wear a leek in order to recognize their fellow countrymen during the battle. Many have doubted this tale, as St. David and his followers lead a quiet monastic life, far away from such battle scenes; also, this legend wasn’t recorded until the 17th century.

A field of green

Another legend recounts the tale of brave Welsh archers who helped Edward the Black (the first English Prince of Wales) defeat the French in 1346. Because the archers fought in a field of leeks, this symbol became a reminder of their bravery and loyalty, and the Welsh began to wear a leek in their caps every St. David’s Day.

Ancient roots

It is very likely that the Welsh association with the leek predates St. David by hundreds and possibly thousands of years, to a pre-Christian time when Celtic people lived close to the land and had a deep affinity with trees, plants and other such aspects of Mother Nature. The leek may have had a special status with the Celtic tribes in the area we now know as Wales, although this is speculation.

One scenario is that the druids – who were priests, doctors, poets, teachers, minstrels, and human archives of ancient wisdom – shared and used their knowledge of the healing properties of the leek. Such qualities were alluded to in ancient holy books such as the Bible and the Torah, and leeks were depicted on ancient Egyptian wall carvings and drawings. They were even cultivated in ancient Mesopotamia.

The leek, with its reputation as a medicine to cure a variety of illnesses, would have been highly valued before the era of St. David. It was regarded as a cure for the common cold, alleviated the pains of childbirth and would later be used as a tasty, healthy ingredient in cawl, the traditional Welsh broth. It offered protection against wounds in battle and was supposed to help one keep away evil spirits. One of its benefits was to aid in foretelling the future; young maidens were to place a leek under their pillow at night to see the features of their future husbands.

The proud leek

So when you see this humble plant worn as a proud symbol of Welsh heritage, or see it as an emblem in a coin, flag or banner, you can appreciate its “Celtic connection” to an ancient past.

Researched and written by Kathi Hennesey, owner of Triskelt shops

Fun things to do ~ crafts, recipes

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We found resources for cool activities to get you in the Welsh mood.
Check out these links:
www.Wales.com for free PDF how-tos, recipes, and more

  • Castle pencil holder
  • Pom Pom Welsh Sheep
  • Paper Welsh Dragon
  • Paper Daffodil
  • Welsh Flag
  • Welsh Bunting
  • Welsh cakes
  • Bara brith
  • Welsh rarebit
  • lots more

 

Teachers and Crafters
Here is an United Kingdom site full of home-school activities for all year.

The amount of fun stuff here is amazing! And you don’t need to be a child to enjoy it all.

www.twinkl.co.uk

Scottish Clan Badges

Scottish Clan Crest Badges

A Brief History and Meaning Behind the Images and Rubber Stamps

By Kim Victoria

Going to a Games Event with your stamp?

Get Your FREE PDF GUIDE to Caring for a Rubber Stamp

“Clan” means Family, it’s that simple. All societies have clan groups, which may also be called tribe, family, house, kinship group, band, etc. In Scotland the clans were groups of families, bound together by geographical area and survival necessity for centuries.

 

As interest in genealogy and heritage has increased, so too has interest in knowing about family names and DNA. Many Scottish societies are accumulating DNA and historical family information related to clan groups. Knowing about your family bloodlines is interesting, gives you connection to more of the world, and can help you know how to maintain optimal health for you and your family.

 

A part of that connection is the Scottish Clan Crest Badge, which you may use to show your family ties to that clan.

 

When Scotland was a wild place with few roads and isolated valleys and islands, each district was its own clan society ruled by a clan chief. All the families living there were part of that clan, even when they had different bloodlines. Those with different bloodlines and surnames were known as “septs” of the ruling chief’s name.

 

Heraldry and heraldic art developed as chiefs created emblems for flags, banners, and insignia on apparel; so that when there was a dispute, or war between clans, the colors and emblems would help the combatants know who they were fighting for – and against. These emblems developed into a sophisticated art form. Eventually a registrar was developed for what became known as “Coat of Arms.”

 

Tartan also developed this way; and also because only certain plant dyes existed in specific areas. In-other-words, clans originally only had “district tartans;” clan tartans developed later.

Coat of Arms and the Badge

Only an individual has a coat of arms; which is a display awarded by the Lord Lyon, King of Arms, the official herald-in-chief for Scotland.  No one may use another person’s coat of arms for themselves. Therefore, to show kinship with the same family as the Clan Chief they may use a crest badge emblem.

 

The crest badge is that part of the clan chief’s coat of arms above the helmet. The crest is placed inside a strap and buckle to make the pictorial statement “I support my chief.”

 

Over time, many clans lost having a chief due to death without heir. The Standing Council of Scottish Chiefs resolved that crest badges should also include the words “An Cirean Ceann Cinnidh” to designate that there is a living, recognized chief for that clan. It means “Crest of the Chief of the Clan” in Gaelic. Please visit your clan’s or society’s web site for more information. († for pronunciation guide)

About the Rubber Stamps

Kim Victoria worked with Chiefs, presidents and other officials in the Scottish clan societies to ensure that all the crest badges follow the current recognized heraldic conventions. As new chiefs are recognized, their crest or mottoe of their coat of arms may be different than the previous chief and thus the crest badge must change also.

 

Some of the rubber stamp designs have, and some don’t have, the words “an cirean ceann cinnidh,” either because there is not a recognized chief, or because many stamps went into production before the resolution was made. You may request that the words be cut off of the stamp you purchase, or have a custom stamp made with the words if they are not currently available for your clan.

 

Kim Victoria has designed these crest badge images with rubber stamping in mind. The designs have been modified to display well in the smaller size and to reproduce beautifully with inks. Mounted on Eastern hard maple, and vulcanized from the best red rubber in the industry, by Circustamps of California. Custom stamps are polymer only, which is also an excellent stamping material.

 

If you do not see your clan name and want to have a stamp of that badge please see Custom Stamps Services for more information.

 

All are original hand-drawn art by Kim Victoria © Copyright 1998 through 2018
The name of the clan is usually not part of the stamp design, unless requested custom.
Only one spelling is available with the red rubber.

Red rubber badges are 1 1/4” X 1 3/4” size. Custom polymer stamps can be different sizes.

Useful Information and Links

†     The words “An Cirean Ceann Cinnidh” means “Crest of the Chief of the Clan” in Gaelic.
Pronunciation and literal translation is roughly:
The – Crest – Head – a Clan
un – kirin – keyow’n – keeñee

The Standing Council of Scottish Chiefs requests the use of these words with the badge when there is a living chief for that clan.

The Standing Council of Scottish Chiefs official web pages

 

Lord Lyon King of Arms of Scotland (wikipedia link)

FREE PDF GUIDE to Caring for a Rubber Stamp

I Heart St Valentine

A bit of Valentine history

Valentine’s Day is possibly the most worldwide of celebrations: heart-shaped candies and flowers are exchanged on February 14th in the U.S., China, Brazil, Iran, and almost everywhere else on the planet. But originally, the observance had nothing to do with romantic love, and virtually nothing is known about the man—or men—after whom the day is named.

Multiple Saint Valentines?

There were several—perhaps dozens—of “Valentines” in early Christian history; it was a fairly common name in Imperial Rome. Many Valentines were Christians persecuted and martyred by Roman authorities, and the Church conflated their deeds, both real and imagined, in creating a composite “Saint Valentine.”

 

The two most likely actual candidates are Valentine of Interamna, who was consecrated a bishop in AD 197 and persecuted by Emperor Aurelian (this was before the Empire became officially Christian) and Valentine of Rome, who was murdered in AD 496.

 

Both saints were buried on the Via Flaminia, though in different places. Therefore, the proper way to state the Christian observance day was actually “Saint Valentines’ Day.” Many church frescoes and stained glasses depicted both saints. Almost nothing is known of their lives or deeds, however.

Sacrifice not love

Chaucer_Hoccleve

Since both of the most prominent Valentines (and many of the others as well) had been martyred, the Feast of Saint Valentine was originally associated with sacrifice, not with romantic love. It first became associated with romance due to Chaucer, who mentioned it in Parliament of Fowles in 1382: “For this was on St. Valentine’s Day, when every bird cometh there to choose his mate.”

 

Other poets and storytellers gradually followed Chaucer’s lead and spoke of the day as the beginning of spring and the time when the birds came out and romantic love would flourish.

But it’s still winter

However, if you’re shoveling snow from your driveway after a blizzard on February 14th, you might be wondering just what the heck Chaucer was thinking.

 

The answer is that the Julian calendar was off—way off—by Chaucer’s time.
The Romans recognized that the year is not 365, but rather, 365 ¼ days long, and so invented the leap year—the signature feature of the Julian calendar. However…the year is actually twenty minutes shorter than 365.25 days—the Julian calendar made the year too long.

 

The result was that the start of spring (and all other fixed events) sneaked “backward” about three days every four centuries, so that thirteen centuries after the Julian calendar was introduced, in Chaucer’s time, spring was indeed coming—and the birds were mating—in mid-February.

Re-branding a saint

This brings us back to the Christian Saint Valentines. The Christian Church and religion spread rapidly worldwide in large part due to history’s first successful mass marketing campaigns, many of which involved what we call today “re-branding.” Recognizing that resistance to their new religion would be less if pagan cultural practices were incorporated into Christianity rather than having it replace them, Church authorities installed new, modern versions of Pagan holidays such as the winter solstice celebration (Christmas), “day of the dead” festivals (All Saint’s Day), and so forth.

 

Valentine’s Day evolved in part because another extremely common celebration in almost every society, then and now, is the “coming of spring.” The Romans had Lupercal, a several-days-long festival of drinking, dancing, and “making whoopee,” which was a perfect time to install a more Christian celebration.

From sacrificial mourning to celebrations of love

The thing is, when early Christian authorities decreed February 14th to be the day to revere Saint Valentine(s), the date was in winter—ideal for mourning and remembrance. It was only due to the creeping inaccuracy of the Julian calendar that by Chaucer’s time, the date was when the snow started melting and the birdies started singing. People began to regard the day as a marker of the coming of spring. (In 1582 Pope Gregory fixed the problem, but the British didn’t adopt the Gregorian Calendar until 1752.)

 

The Church, still skilled in re-branding, decided to respond to this (unstoppable) trend by making up some legends to associate one Valentine or the other with romantic love. The earlier Valentine, of Interamna, was now said to have performed secret marriages for Roman soldiers who had converted to Christianity (still highly illegal at the time). He was also purported to have cut out paper hearts as a token of affection for his friends, and he supposedly wore an amethyst ring (the February birthstone). He also cured a young girl, the daughter of his jailer, of blindness. All these legends, and more, were piled on well after the fact, however, by chroniclers ranging from the 8th-century Bede to 18th-century ecumenical councils.

St-valentine-baptizing-st-lucilla-jacopo-bassano
Valentine-and-disciples

Paper hearts

valentine_card_Google_Art_Project

Valentine, or Valentines, proved to be a highly reusable and malleable symbol. When the Christian Church realized that they didn’t have a coming of spring celebration, they changed St. Valentine from a bishop who had had his head chopped off to a hopeless romantic who married people in secret and handed out paper hearts (a much happier celebration). Love was (officially) in the air!

 

Add to all that the remarkable greeting card industry that sprang up during the Victorian era and you have our modern version of Valentine’s Day.

 

By guest contributor:  Kevin M. Lewis

 

Images from Wikipedia