Saturday, 19 March 2011

Shamrock Folklore

Are you recovering from getting royally sloshed on St Patrick's Day? I'm sure a vast amount of our Irish cousins are still nursing a hangover (or maybe they're immune now) from excessive amounts of the liquid black. Proper Guinness, as you may know, comes with a clover etched into the bubbles with the tap. But what is the significance of the clover (or shamrock) in Irish folklore and why is it tied to St Patrick's Day?

It apparently came from St Patrick himself, who, when teaching Christianity in the 5th century, used the three leaves of the shamrock to represent the holy trinity - Father, Son and Holy Spirit. However, it is believed that this story was likely spread by monks after St Patrick's death and may only be a myth.

The shamrock is more well-known for being synonymous with good luck, especially the rare four-leafed clover. Even before St Patrick supposedly used the shamrock to teach his religion, Celtic druids held the the plant sacred, believing the leaves formed a triad of hope, faith and love - with the fourth being for luck.

It seems likely that Christians took the symbol of the shamrock as they were converting Ireland to Christianity (which they have been known to do throughout history). Nevertheless, the shamrock presents an interesting piece of folklore.