Why is the shamrock Ireland’s national emblem?

May 18, 2017 | Author: | Posted in History

The shamrock is believed to have become the national emblem of Ireland as the result of a traditional incident in the life of St. Patrick.

The patron saint of Ireland, it is said, appeared in 433 A.D. before a large group of Irish pagan chieftains and druids assembled on Slane Hill near Tarn. During one of the meetings St. Patrick found himself unable to explain to his pagan hearers the mystery of the Trinity. Therefore he resorted to a visible image by plucking a shamrock from the sward and using its single stem and triple leaf to explain the doctrine of the Trinity to the assembled chieftains.

A beautiful Gaelic mystic prayer in verse is reputed to have been composed by St. Patrick in preparation for his appearance before the assembled chieftains on Easter Sunday, when the final blow was given to druidism and the triumph of Christianity in Ireland was completed.

There is evidence, however, that trefoil plants have been regarded as sacred in different parts of the world since remote antiquity. According to Greek mythology, a golden, three-leaved, immortal plant afforded riches and protection, and such plants were fed the horses of Zeus. Triple-leaved plants, resembling the shamrock, as well as triple branches, triple fruit and triple figures have been found on Roman coins, Assyrian tablets and Egyptain temples and pyramids.

There has been much speculation as to what the original Irish shamrock may have been. There is no plant specifically called the shamrock. It is variously supposed to have been the lesser hop clover, the common white clover, the wood sorrel and the black medic. The leaves of all these plants are used to some extent as the emblem of Ireland.

Shamrock is derived from Gaelic seamrog, diminutive of seamar, meaning “trefoil” or “three-leaf.” There used to be a belief that the “true shamrock” will not grow in England.

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