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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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

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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.

MUSLIN BAGS DIY IMAGES

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MuslinBagDIY2018

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

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