Cat Card Ideas

Eye-candy inspiration for you using our Cat Rubber Stamps

Cat contemplating the full moon behind Stonehenge card idea by Kim victoria for HighlanderCelticStamps
Halloween Cat on a Fence card idea by Kim Victoria for HighlanderCelticStamps
Orange cat with trees card idea by Kim Victoria for HighlanderCelticStamps
Celtic Knotwork Cats card idea by Kim Victoria for HighlanderCelticStamps
3-Cats Spiral rubber stamped card idea by Kim Victoria for HighlanderCelticStamps
Cat on Stonehenge with Crop Circle moons rubber stamped card idea by Kim Victoria for HighlanderCelticStamps
Hot pink 3-Cats Spiral rubber stamped card idea by Kim Victoria for HighlanderCelticStamps

All the cats, Stonehenge, labyrinth, circle and corners, crop circle moons, and Postoid are all available on the Etsy Shops.

Big trees stamp is from Impression Obsession.

Lattice stamp is from Judikins.

Stones and grass stamp is from Alextamping (retired)

Happy Halloween is a custom order HighlanderCelticStamps

3-Cats Spiral rubber stamp card idea by Kim Victoria for HighlanderCelticStamps

Cornwall History in Stamps

Cornwall has a rich, interesting, but much forgotten, history.

In September I was inspired to draw Cornish images.

I like to research and understand what I draw as it helps me be more accurate.

Now that I’ve learned all those things, I thought you might enjoy knowing a snippet of history too.


(Artist note: I am building this web site myself and the images don’t always appear accurately. Please click on a button to go to the Shop and see the correct proportions of the stamps. Thank you)

Cornish Fun Facts

•    Kernow is the native language name for Cornwall
•    The Cornish language is of the same linguistic branch as Welsh and Breton but different
•    The Kernowyon people are a Celtic group that pre-date Roman invasion
•    Pheonicians sailed to Cornwall 5000 years ago to acquire copper and tin for forging bronze weapons
•    Cornish mining has existed continuously until 2007, yet one mine may be opened again. Cornwall mined many different metals.
•    Stone Wheal House (Cornish spelling not a typo) ruins of the old mines can still be seen
•    Cornwall is famous for its Pasty (The Cornish never spell it pastie) a fully enclosed pie that was easy for miners to carry to work and eat
•    The Cornish Saint Piran’s Flag is a white cross on a black background, and was integrated into the design of the Union Jack of the United Kingdom.
•    Saint Piran is the patron saint of tin miners
•    Cornwall is now famous for the TV programs Poldark and Doc Martin, especially Port Isaac and Bodmin Moor, yet The Pirates of Penzance pre-dates those
•    King Arthur was said to be born in Tintagel Castle, and Camelot was in Cornwall
•    It is one of the 7 Celtic nations: Brittany (Breizh), Cornwall (Kernow), Wales (Cymru), Scotland (Alba), Ireland (Éire) and the Isle of Man (Mannin or Ellan Vannin), and Galicia in Spain. Some might include the diaspora of the Celtic nations: USA, Canada, Australia, New Zealand, etc.

Cornwall Rubber Stamp Images

Cornish Pasty rubber stamp image by Kim Victoria for Highlander Celtic Stamps


The Cornish never spell their pie ‘pastie.’ This was the miners only lunch away from home. There were no bags, containers, refrigeration, ovens, break rooms, or eating implements in the mine. Women made a strong pastry, with a tight edge, to enclose meat and vegetables into a baked pie. The men would keep the pie inside their shirt next to their skin, while they worked, so it would be with them wherever they were, and warm at lunchtime. (I imagine it also had an unique salty, sweaty taste, too.)

Cousin Jack

Cousin Jack is the friendly, generic name to address a miner.
Candles were the source of illumination in the mines until the early 20th century. The hat helmet is felt. A wad of sticky pine tar holds the candle to the hat. The miner wears a “necklace” of the candles he will need to get through the day. The brim of the hat collects the dripping wax.

Cousin Jack Cornish miner rubber stamp image by Kim Victoria for Highlander Cetlic Stamps
Wheelhouse Ruin rubber stamp image by Kim Victoria for Highlander Celtic Stamps

Wheelhouse Ruin

I drew this image from photos of Wheal Coates engine house and stack. The engine powered a huge wooden wheel that lowered miners and raised ore from the mine shaft. Stonework is all that’s left of these industrial complexes. However Wheal Trewavas is being restored by the National Trust. It is perched on a cliff in SW Cornwall, and the Project Manager is amazed that men could have built it 150 years ago without modern equipment since they are finding it especially challenging.

Cornwall stones Mên-an-Tol rubber stamp image by Kim Victoria for Highlander Celtic Stamps

Mên-An-Tol (Holed Stone)

This stone arrangement is believed to be about 3,500 years old and of the Bronze Age. There may have been a full stone circle associated with it, since stones are detected underground in a circle around it.
Historians can only conjecture as to its significance, so I will leave you to investigate that further. What I do know is that the ancients lived with, and connected to, nature in every way. To carve a stone like this took a massive amount of effort, which means they believed it would help them connect with nature even more, whether it was health, fertility, spiritual, something else, or all of the above. Visually speaking, it is totally cool.

Tartan of Cornwall

Each colour in the National Tartan has a special meaning: White on Black for St. Piran’s Banner (The Patron Saint of Tinners), Black and Gold were the colours of the ancient Cornish kings; red is for the beak and legs of the Chough, the Cornish National bird and blue is for the sea surrounding Cornwall. The ancient kingdom of Cornwall is remembered in this tartan, designed by the Cornish poet, E.E. Morton-Nance. 1984 . He regarded tartan as the “heritage of all Celts” and extoll brave Cornishmen to wear the kilt of black and saffron, “Tints blazoned by her ancient Kings”.

Tartan of Cornwall

Cornwall Stamping

8 Trading-Card-Size Designs to Inspire You

Cornwall is Celtic too!

I’ve created a lot of images for Scotland, Ireland and even Wales, but have neglected Cornwall and do apologize for this oversight. So now I’ve got some for you who have Cornish heritage, and for those of you who simply like this fascinating corner of the United Kingdom.

This post is about some of the stamping play I’ve been doing with the new group of Cornish theme stamps.
I hope you get some fun ideas here.

The stamps are available from the Etsy Shop as clear polymer only.

Miner's Mainstay, Cornish rubber stamps by Kim Victoria for Highlander Celtic Stamps

Miner’s Mainstay

The Pasty was a miners daily meal. Read the fun story in the newsletter or the next blog.
Miner is embossed with black, the Pastys with Distress ink, all masked, cosmetic sponges used to dab on Distress inks, remove masks

Mists of Time

Black embossing for the mine ruin, then dark gray Distress ink for the miner and pasty. I used cosmetic sponges to dab and swirl Distress inks to create a misty, ghostly effect.

Mists of Time, Cornish miner, rubber stamps by Kim Victoria for Highlander Celtic Stamps
Life Light, Cornish miner rubber stamp art by Kim Victoria for Highlander Celtic Stamps

Life Light

Using a reverse mask of the miner, I used a cosmetic sponge and white embossing ink rubbed onto dark blue cardstock, then heat-set the ink with NO embossing powder. Then I embossed with black powder the miner, being careful to wipe off the tip of the candle part of the image first. I created a little more of a cloud of light with the white ink, heat-set it, then used colored pencils to add to the effect. Black dye ink stroked on the bottom of the card adds depth.

Light of the Past

Simple embossing with black ink & powder, and lots of colored pencils.

Light of the Past, Cornish miner and mine ruin rubber stamp art by Kim Victoria for Highlander Celtic Stamps

Cornish Holed Stone – Mên-an-Tol

All Trading Card size.
Starting with dark blue card stock, emboss the stones with clear ink and powder. The moon stamp is from Stampscapes. Then I simply used colored pencils to play with the lighting effects.
The third one is purple embossing ink and colored pencils.

Night Magic – Men-an-Tol
Mystic Moon – Men-an-Tol
Solstice Shadows – Men-an-Tol

Night Magic by Kim Victoria, Highlander Stamps stones of Cornwall, Mên -an-Tol
Mystic Moon, Cornwall Mên-an-Tol stones rubber stamp art by Kim Victoria for Highlander Celtic Stamps
Solstice Shadows, Cornwall Mên-an-Tol stones rubber stamp art by Kim Victoria for Highlander Celtic Stamps

Cornwall Collage

Just the holed stone of Mên-an-Tol with a mine ruin you can see to this day. Notice the tiny person to give it scale.  Images embossed in black, then colored with pencils, finally mask the image and over-stamp with the Knot-work square.

Cornwall stone and mine ruin rubber stamp art by Kim Victoria for Highlander Celtic Stamps

If Van Gogh Used Rubber Stamps


If Van Gogh Made Cards

I love Van Gogh’s paintings, and have copied 2 of them to learn more about how he thought. So when I needed to create an ad for RSM’s fall issue I had a flash of inspiration: how about a Starry Night scene using my ancient sites stamps.

I did a test run on scrap paper to get the positioning right and to plan the card.

Stonehenge Starry Night How-To

•    Stamp Stonehenge with water-based black ink on matte card stock.
•    Mask Stonehenge and emboss the Labyrinth with orange pigment ink and clear powder.
•    Stamp and emboss the Abelermo Stone (who seems to be photo-bombing the picture) with black pigment ink and black detail embossing powder.
•    Color with pencils.
•    Start with yellow & orange pencils to sketch the outline of the shadow area and color the Labyrinth “moon”, Starry Night stars (which could be stamped first with the Single Spiral stamp), and halo the big stone.
•    Using a light blue pencil I colored over the Stonehenge to soften the inked image, colored the shadow, and started the sky.
•    Using dark blue and 2 different greens I colored the rest of the scene using bold lines and strokes to emulate the brushwork of Van Gogh.

All these stamps available in my Etsy Shop

Looking for Inspiration?

Masterwork paintings are a great resource to inspire your application and coloring.
Use your internet search engine to find images from Monet, Renoir, Rembrandt, Cezanne, any artist that inspires you.
Think about what it is that attracts you the most. Is it the style, elements, use of color, or something else?
Then apply those ideas to your own card making.
Matisse turned to cut paper collage to express himself. This would be an easy thing for you to incorporate into your card-making.
I think I’ll look into doing more of these Masterwork-inspired pieces.
Would you like that?

Let me know in Facebook.
Thanks for being here and reading all the way through.
Happy Stamping!

Nessie In The News


DNA testing for the Loch Ness Monster

A team of scientists is dredging up sludge from Loch Ness to test it for DNA signatures. Among those bits of information could be the answer to the long-standing legend of Nessie: was she actually a wayward sturgeon, or a total hoax, or something else entirely?

This new science of studying “bio-schmutz” for environmental DNA is turning up all sorts of interesting data.

Check out this National Geographic article for more on the search for Nessie DNA.

Lake Monsters Everywhere!

Nessie isn’t the only mysterious lake monster in the world. I did a little research online and am amazed how many lake and sea cryptids there are.

Cryptozoology is the science of studying “hidden” folkloric animals, and there really are a lot of them. Every culture on every continent has their own.



A Plesiosaur?

Nessie is thought to be a Plesiosaur, and since Plesiosaur fossils have been found in England, Germany, North and Central America, Australia and Japan, well – who knows.
Legendary animals are fun; after all, who doesn’t like an Unicorn?

Nessie isn’t alone

The Loch Ness Monster is Scotland’s most famous cryptid; yet Nessie isn’t the only mythic water beastie in the United Kingdom.
Here are few “cousins” I found online (mostly

•    Loch Ness Monster – Nessie, Nessiteras rhombopteryx (She has a scientific name!)
•    M`orag – Loch Morar, Scotland
•    Muc-sheilche – Loch Maree, Scotland (suggested to be a large eel)
•    Stronsay Beast – Orkney, Scotland (possibly a decomposing Basking Shark)
•    Muckie – Lakes of Killarney, Ireland (a recent discovery)
•    Bownessie – Lake Windermere Monster, England
•    Morgawr (sea-giant) – Cornwall


Look at ‘em all!

There are bunch in the U.S. and Canada – isn’t this list amazing?
•    Champ – Champtanystropheus americanus, Champy, Lake Champlain
•    Bessie – Lake Erie Monster
•    Gloucester Sea Serpent – Scoliophis atlanticus, Massachusetts
•    Igopogo – Kempenfelt Kelly, Lake Simcoe, Ontario
•    Kingstie – Lake George Monster, Lake Ontario
•    Manipogo – Winnipogo, Lake Manitoba
•    Memphre – Memphré, Lake Memphremagog Monster, Lake Memphremagog
•    Mussie – Ontario
•    Ogopogo – The Okanagan Valley in south-central British Columbia, Canada is supposed to look very similar to Nessie in the water. “Ogie” is usually described as more snake-like, with humps rising out of the water, but could still be a long-lost cousin. N’ha•a•itk, Naitaka are the names given it by the Native Nation.
•    Turtle Lake Monster, Saskatchewan
•    Altamaha-ha – or Altie, Georgia
•    Bear Lake Monster – Idaho/Utah
•    Tahoe Tessie – Lake Tahoe monster, reported by the Washoe and Paiute Peoples right up the present day, California/Nevada

There are water monsters in other countries as well:
•    Selma – Seljordsormen, Lake Seljord, Telemark, Norway
•    Storsj¨oodjuret, Sweden
•    Brosno Dragon – Brosnya, Lake Brosno, Russia
•    Lariosauro – Como Lake Monster, Italy
•    Lukwata – African Great Lakes
•    Mamiambo – South Africa
•    Isshii, Issie – and Kusshii, Japan
•    Lake Tianchi Monster – Lake Chonji Monster, China and North Korea
•    Nahuelito – Nahuel Huapi Lake Monster, Argentina


Lake Monster Rubber Stamps

So with so many lake monsters in the world, and the fact that most kids (and let’s face it, most adults, too) love dinosaurs, our Nessie rubber stamps can stand in to represent lots of local legends.

Just about any lake or ocean scene could have a sea monster poking her head out.

Include a little cryptozoology in your stamping fun. I know I have.

Get the entire collection of Lake Monster rubber stamps (AKA Nessie) in my Etsy Shop.



Hire An Artist

2018 Pet Portrait special on Home Page – Please contact me for more information.

Have you ever thought of hiring an artist before?
Is that a novel idea?


Wouldn’t it be fun to have a rubber stamp of your dog, cat, rabbit, horse, hamster, bird, dragon, etc.

How about those antique photographs of your ancestors, or the old homestead in the hills of Kentucky.

Maybe you’ve captured the cutest baby picture ever, and would absolutely LOVE to be able to stamp that darling face on everything (or at least all the announcement cards).


That rubber stamp doesn’t exist – – – or can it?

All those wonderful people, places, pets, and things (your old teddy bear or vintage doll?) that you would thoroughly enjoy having a stamp of; but, of course, doesn’t exist.


It occurred to me that the one thing missing from the rubber stamp world is someone who knows how to turn a photograph into a rubber stamp design – that is personally just yours, no one else’s.

I do that – – – and well.

Computers are great BUT they don’t have discernment

The problem with trying to use a computer program to adjust a photo into black & white artwork, suitable for making into a rubber stamp, is that NO computer program exists that can discern what’s important in a photo and what is not. I’ve tried using programs, and none of them do the job. A computer program will see that old tear in the photo, or the distracting background as just as important, if not more important, than the subject you really want. For discernment you need eyes, a brain, and know-how.

And that’s when you need to hire an artist.

(Computers don’t always scale pictures properly either. This image is squished and the web design program won’t let me change it.)

computer rendering of photo - the photo - my rendering of the photo

computer rendering of photo – the photo – my rendering of the photo

Why would you want a custom art stamp?

Yes, a custom stamp costs considerably more than a mass-produced design. I have to earn a reasonable hourly wage, too, after all.
But think of the advantages:
•    You have a rubber stamp that means something personal to you.
•    This is your exclusive design, no one else has it.
•    Stamps can last for decades, and make thousands of impressions. What other kind of fine art can claim that?
•    This is one stamp that won’t languish forgotten in a drawer – it will get used a lot!
•    This is the perfect unique gift for that special stamper you know
I am classically trained in the fine arts, AND love crafting, AND have been designing and making rubber stamps for over 22 years. I know how to do this.

The initial response to my offer of
Pet Portrait Rubber Stamps has been great:

‘Kim was such a pleasure to work with, and I love my stamp!! She completely captured my dog’s personality for a stamp my fiance and I will be using for some of the decorations at our wedding (and surely for more projects in the future). The stamp is very high quality, and it was clear that Kim took the time to understand exactly what I wanted and to get a real sense of Jane so that her spirit would come through the artwork. I couldn’t have asked for a better experience.’



‘You have done an absolutely amazing job! Your attention to detail is impeccable! I showed my mom and she was absolutely in love with it as well! I just appreciate all of your hard work and effort!’



BTW – I also do fine art oil paintings from photographs.


Talk to me (I don’t bite – honest)

If this sounds interesting to you – here are some links to know more:

•    start a conversation with your idea, no obligation, or
•    visit my Etsy shop to view one of the Custom Stamp listings, or
•    read more about custom stamps above in this blog, or
•    go to my artist web site

This is a new kind of service, one-of-a-kind image-art you can use again and again.
I don’t make a lot of money doing this, but it is gratifying and fun to help people enjoy their creativity more.


I love doing this kind of personal work. I believe art should be meaningful for the person living with it or using it, and this is another way I can provide that meaning.

I look forward to hearing from you.
Happy stamping!

Celtic Wedding

Celtic Love Symbols for Weddings & A Craft Project For You
By Kathi Hennesey

As wedding season gets into full swing, future brides and grooms, along with their families, are busy planning their special day and looking for ways to make it unique and memorable. One popular and time-honored practice is to include symbols of family cultural heritage. And so the wedding day joins two people, celebrates their newly-shared ancestry, and strengthens the bonds between generations.

Our rubber stamps focus on Scottish, Irish and Welsh love symbols, so we want to share ways to incorporate using them for a wedding. The wonderful thing is that these expressions of love and affection can be used before, during and after the big day. As symbols of the new couple‘s bond, they‘re perfect for special occasion gifts and cards, such as anniversaries, birthdays, Valentine‘s Day, Christmas and baby showers.

Most readers here will be familiar with the popular symbols of the love bond used by these cultures for wedding ceremonies: The Scottish luckenbooth, the Irish claddagh and the Welsh love spoon.

Scottish Luckenbooth

The Scottish luckenbooth usually includes one or two hearts with a crown on top, and can include other embellishments such as a thistle. The tradition of the Scottish luckenbooth dates back to the 15th century, when these types of brooches – usually made of silver – were given as betrothal or wedding gifts, then pinned to the newborn children for protection.


Irish Claddagh

The  Irish claddagh features a crown and a heart held by two hands. Legend tells us that the crown stands for loyalty, the heart for love, and the hands for friendship. The claddagh ring has been a traditional design for engagement and wedding rings, in Ireland, for generations. It continues to be extremely popular today.


Welsh Love Spoon

The Welsh love spoon, carved from wood, can include a variety of designs on the handle, including hearts, locks, crosses, bells, dragons, wheels and Celtic knotwork. It was traditionally given to a young woman by her suitor. The earliest known dated Welsh love spoon dates from 1667.

Knotwork Hearts

For a more universal Celtic-theme – and less specifically Scottish, Irish or Welsh – there are wonderful knotwork heart designs to symbolize unending love or the joining of two people in the love bond. The familiar symbol of the heart representing love and romance developed in 15th century Europe and its popular use with Celtic knotwork is a perfect marriage of designs.


Wedding Stationery

So with a few specific motifs in mind, we return to the idea of using them for a wedding. The perfect place to introduce a special love symbol is on stationery: the engagement announcements, then the wedding/shower invitations and save-the-date cards. Many couples choose to design and create these items themselves, or have them custom made with their unique symbol and added personalization. The Scottish luckenbooth, Irish claddagh, Welsh love spoon and Celtic knotwork hearts, with all their variations, are all beautiful and elegant designs for stationery and paper products.

Creative Ideas

For the big day itself, the possibilities are endless. From the guest book, to the décor, wedding favors and gifts, this is a place for creativity to shine.

Here are some places where Celtic, Scottish, Irish and Welsh love symbols can be used:

  • Guest book cover and guest book table décor (setting the stage!)
  • Decorations: Banners, wedding favors, table cards and card holders.
  • Wedding reception: Engraved glasses for bride and groom toasts, unity candles.
  • Wedding cake: Cake topper, cake pulls (special themed charms), cake embellishments, engraved/decorated cake serving sets..
  • Gifts for bride and groom: Household items, such as engraved glassware, wall plaques, photo frames, framed prints, keepsake ornaments.
  • Jewelry worn by the bride and her bridesmaids, wedding rings (especially the Irish claddagh).
  • Groomsmen gifts: Engraved money clips, flasks/barware, business card holders, and pocket watches.

After the wedding, love symbols can continue the theme in wedding scrapbooks and memory books, thank-you cards and even anniversary gifts.  Keepsake items from the wedding, such as toasting glasses engraved with love symbols, can be displayed in the newly-married couple’s home.

Just The Beginning

This article just scratches the surface, but hopefully it will provide a few ideas and some inspiration for anyone involved with an upcoming wedding. There’s no lack of wonderful websites with many more ideas and DIY projects that can be found through Internet searches. Pinterest is also a great place to browse for themed wedding boards and great visuals.


Let us end with an Irish wedding toast:

Here’s to you both, a beautiful pair
On the birthday of your love affair
Here’s to the husband and here’s to the wife
May yourselves be lovers for the rest of your life


Muslin Bag Crafting How-To

Get the Free PDF for stamping on muslin bags – CLICK HERE


These handy little bags are great for lots of uses:

  • jewelry – keep it protected
  • jewelry – gift bags
  • wedding favors – fill with Jordan almonds or chocolate
  • wedding favors – fill with rice or bird seed to throw
  • gift bags – whatever your imagination decides
  • bag for selling items – rubber stamps set and a mini ink pad

Want more ideas for muslin bags?
Put the following in your search engine, and click on images.



Tie-Dye T-Shirt Card

RubberStampMadness issue #200  Page 25

Tips & Techniques article by Christina Hecht and Kim Victoria, designed by Kim Victoria


Supplies you will need: T-Shirt Template, Mat Card Stock or Mixed-Media Paper, Watercolor Markers (Crayola work great) I used yellows, pinks & light blues or turquoise, Large Blank Rubber Sheet or Craft Sheet, Fine Spray Water Mister, Brayer, Scissors, Pencil, Bone Folder, Black felt-tip marker

Step 1: Template

Make a T-shirt template or get both the A2 and 5” X 6-1/2” for free –

The link should work. If you have difficulty please email me and I’ll send it to you..


Step 2: Make the card

Using template for the size you want, fold card stock well with a bone folder, place template “shoulders” on fold, trace around template with pencil, cut out both layers at once.


Step 3: Set up your ink surface

When using a craft sheet – slip template underneath so you see where to color. When using a rubber sheet – trace around template with a watercolor marker, remove template.
Idea: If you plan to emboss an image on top of the tie-dye later, slip a stamping of that image under the craft sheet in the location where you want it on the T-shirt so you can see where to put the yellow center.

Step 4: Ink the tie-dye

Now is the fun part. Using the lightest color marker (yellow), lay color down on the rubber or craft sheet in the pattern of tie-dye leaving a wide white space between the yellow spiral. Lay down the next color in pattern by scrubbing a jiggly, irregular, back-and-forth movement, going into the yellow. Add the third color in the same way. Don’t worry about the ink drying, you have lots of time to get the pattern the way you want it, and you do want a lot of ink.


Step 5: Do the print

Tricky part. Clear away everything around the rubber or craft sheet, hold the water mister well away from inked surface and spray lightly OVER the surface, not on it. You want the surface evenly moist, not runny. You don’t want the colors to start merging together too much.

Carefully line up your T-shirt card folder and lay it down in one go. Lay scrap paper over the top and brayer firmly to transfer the ink to paper. (The back of a spoon works well too.)


Carefully lift card from sheet and voila! You have tie-dye. Let paper dry, or use heat gun.


Step 6: Add details

Remember to add “stitching” lines along the hem, sleeve and neck edges with a black felt-tip marker.


Step 7: Add a feature image

Add words, an image, or multiple images. I found embossing an image made it stand out from the tie-dye best.

Tips & Ideas:

Experiment with small pieces of your card stock and small scribbles of marker. I found heavy-weight card stock or mixed media paper work best. You might need to coax the card flat again when it dries, but not by much.


Of course you can go wild and try all sorts of colors and designs with this technique.


Have fun! ! !

Thank you RubberStampMadness Magazine

for featuring my design in issue #200. It is a great honor to be published.

Kim Victoria

Owner/Artist/Wearer of all hats at Highlander Celtic Stamps

Celtic Cross – Ancient & Christian

How the Celtic Cross Form Came to Be

The Celtic cross, as represented by the few remaining standing crosses in Ireland, flourished as a religious and art form during the early Middle Ages. During this time, Ireland slowly converted from druidism and other so-called “pagan” religions to Christianity, though the conversion was never complete. In fighting for the souls of the Irish, Christian authorities used a tried-and-true tactic: rather than forcing the locals to discard their religion, they assimilated it.
The Celtic cross is a cross superimposed on a circle (not, significantly, the other way around). The circle is thought to represent the sun, the object of many ancient religions; a representation such as is seen on the Celtic cross is called a nimbus. Though no writings survive that explicitly say it, it is thought that the cross-with-nimbus symbolized the acceptance of the old druidic religion (by showing the nimbus) but also its being eclipsed by the new Christian religion (since the nimbus is clearly behind the cross).
Of course, there was a simple practical advantage to this design as well: the circle served to buttress the cross’s horizontal arms. In fact, Celtic crosses without the nimbus usually did not survive long; weathering and age caused such crosses to lose their arms or heads.

The Art of the Celtic Cross

The intricate filigree-like carvings on the surface of Celtic crosses are of a style known as “insular art,” which literally means “art of the islands.” This style combined motifs from earlier runic art with intricate swirls and patterns to form a visually striking mosaic. This made the standing crosses very visually impressive, particularly in a hardscrabble medieval world where very few things were ornate, decorative, or beautiful for their own sake.
You can also see insular art in manuscripts such as the Book of Kells and the Lindisfarne Gospels. If you study it closely, you might be struck by how abstract the art is; even when people are clearly depicted, they are not drawn in a factual style. The more important element is that such depictions be visually arresting.

The Viking Influence

The flourishing of insular art is thought to have been stifled by the Viking raids and invasions of the 8th, 9th, and 10th centuries. At first, the invaders looted, killed, and took slaves, but later, they came back to stay; Dublin and Waterford, Ireland’s first two cities, were founded by the Vikings. They brought their own decorative styles and versions of Christianity with them, and the old Celtic/Druidic form of Christianity was supplanted.
Ireland during the early medieval period was not a unified country by any means; it was a collection of small, often mutually hostile kingdoms and chiefdoms. Thus, when the Viking raids came, first to the west coast and then to the rest of the island, there was no way to organize a unified force to resist them. The Vikings took home as loot many examples of insular art, such as manuscripts, metalwork, and wall hangings; very few such artifacts have survived, as the Vikings also usually destroyed what they could not carry back with them.
The development, both cultural and economic, of Ireland was retarded for centuries by the Vikings; many coastal settlements were abandoned after Viking raids. It was simply too much to painfully build up a small measure of wealth and prosperity and then see the fierce Viking warriors swoop in from the sea and take or destroy it all. Many Irish moved inland, out of the reach of the raiders.

The Stone Celtic Cross as the Symbol of Resurrection

Imagine that you are a poor farmer in a village on the east coast of Ireland. You have heard terrible stories about the Vikings but so far, they have never come to your village—until one fateful morning, a lookout screams “Longboats!” You gather up whatever you can carry and flee to the hills with your family—no one has the weapons to repel dozens of axe-wielding Viking raiders!


You watch from a safe distance as they methodically pillage your village, killing those who were unable to flee in time.
After the raiders are gone, you return to the smoking ruins of your house, which has been burned along with all the other homes in the village. All the livestock are gone, and the bodies of many of your neighbors are lying in the fields. The only thing intact is the stone church, which has been stripped of everything—but the Celtic cross still stands! You and the other survivors gather around it to pray, taking reassurance from its permanence and endurance.


You will rebuild.


By Kevin M. Lewis

The Lore of the Leprechaun

The Irish-Roman-British Little Guy

OK, you’re thinking, he must be talking about the leprechaun. But I thought that the leprechaun was just plain ol’ Irish.


Well, not really. In the first place, the name is half Old Irish (lu, small) and half Latin (corp, body). Those Romans really got around.

The Shoemaker

You just want to make sure that you pronounce the word correctly, or a leprechaun may materialize and steal your shoes in retaliation (in Irish folklore, their profession is usually a shoemaker). Don’t be like those people who pronounce it “leper con,” which suggests someone you really don’t want to hang around with.

The Stereotype

The leprechaun actually showed up pretty late in the game in Irish folklore.


Like the shamrock, the leprechaun became a derogatory stereotype of the Irish for the 19th century British, who viewed themselves as far superior to the rest of the planet in general and the Irish in particular. Thus, the leprechaun’s fondness for practical jokes became a symbol of the Irish’s supposed guile and dishonesty; his hoarding of gold became a symbol of their miserliness; his humble occupation became a symbol of the general worthlessness of the Irish.


The Irish themselves never really cottoned to the leprechaun; his ubiquitous nature in our popular culture stems from British influences and media stereotyping.

The Trickster

Of course, just about every culture in human history has its version of the mischievous, magical creature who can appear and vanish at will. From Western European elves to Plains Indian Coyote Tricksters, the theme is always the same:


  • He’s a little guy who works by stealth and guile.
  • He’s smarter than you. A lot smarter.
  • He has a hidden stash, which you’ll never find no matter how hard you try.


He will occasionally get careless and you can capture him, in which case he’ll grant you a wish or wishes in exchange for his freedom. Good luck getting anything of actual value from him, though.
The leprechaun usually comes armed with the power to grant three wishes. Capture a leprechaun and tell him if he wants you to let him go, he’ll have to make you a millionaire. He’ll then hand you an Italian million-lira note. Use your second wish and tell him you want a million dollars. Fine; a locked chest magically appears in front of you. Exasperated, you use your third wish to demand the key to the chest. The key will break when you try to open the chest.

The Pot o’ Gold

The idea of the leprechaun holding the key to wealth, and the image of him having a pot of gold buried in the ground at the end of a rainbow, may have its origins in Roman times.


After the Romans abandoned the British Isles in the 5th century, they left behind a wealth of artifacts—including hoards of buried coins, which are still being discovered today. The average Roman didn’t have any way of preserving and protecting his wealth other than burying his coins on his property. People died, moved away, etc., leaving these stashes intact.
The leprechaun could show you where to dig to find these old coins. All you have to do is wait for a rainbow and then go to where the rainbow touches the ground and start digging. Of course, when you get there, you might find that the rainbow has moved…or disappeared…

The Green, or is it Red, Jacket?

You might be surprised to learn that prior to the 19th century, leprechauns were depicted in folklore as wearing red, not green. The great Irish poet William Butler Yeats helped to shift the image to a little guy with a red beard wearing a green jacket with seven buttons. This is the image we have in America today, down to and including Lucky Charms cereal and the statues in front of Fitzgerald’s casinos in Reno and Vegas (both defunct, sad to say). Specifically, the solitary fairies were supposed to wear green, while the “trooping fairies” wore red.

The Buckled Hat

An odd feature of the stereotypical leprechaun costume is the buckled hat. Such buckles were fashionable in the 17th and 18th centuries but by the time the leprechaun image really got going, were very much out of fashion. This may have been a way of negatively (again) portraying the Irish as old-fashioned and out of touch, much as American popular culture depicts the Puritans as wearing odd, tall, buckled hats, which they rarely if ever actually owned or wore.

The Tradition Today

So feel free to wear something green and have a pint of Guinness, but you should look a bit askance at the green-coated, red-bearded, buckle-hatted leprechaun on the barstool next to you—he’s just a British-American stereotype. But keep an eye on your shoes anyway.


By Kevin M. Lewis