Irish culture is rich in folklore, mythical stories and traditions. March 17th is celebrated as St. Patrick’s Day in Ireland. This day honors Saint Patrick and is often recognized as the day of arrival of Christianity in Ireland. It is believed that St. Patrick used shamrock, a three-leaf clover to explain the concept of Holy Trinity to Irish natives. Shamrock is also called the “seamróg” by the Celts, loosely translates to “little clover’.
Shamrock was a sacred plant in ancient Ireland because it symbolized the rebirth of spring. The Celts placed great emphasis on the number 3. For them, it represented life-as a whole. Life was represented through the three branches of past, present and future, and all of earth through the three elements of sky, earth and underground (info. from claddaghdesigns). The three leaves also depict hope, love and faith.
While shamrock remains a national symbol, the four-leaf clover is rather difficult to find (1 in 10,000) and has become the talisman of good luck for those who can find them. It was the priests of the ancient Celts, called "Druids," who elevated four-leaf clovers to the status of good luck charms, potent against evil spirits. This is the origin of the modern belief in their power to bring good luck (spruce.com).
In the US, St. Patrick's Day is marked by lively parades and vibrant festivals. Green colored clothes are donned much like the green shamrocks- to blend in and escape being pinched by Leprechauns! Infact, to commerorate St. Patrick's Day, Chicago River is colored green using eco-friendly dyes!
I have always been inquisitive about symbolisms behind cultural traditions. In an effort to understand Irish heritage and their celebrations on St. Patrick’s Day, I reached out to my neighboring communities, seeking input from Irish-Americans about their own family traditions and ways in which they celebrate St. Patrick’s Day. I am truly thankful to Ms. Lynn Biviano who graciously shared her family's traditions with us.
“I always felt fortunate and blessed to celebrate St. Patrick's Day. It is certainly a happy day as my Mom would make Corned Beef & Cabbage; my sister Patricia would make her Irish Soda bread and I would always bring Rye Bread. There were a lot of us so my mom would make 4 corned beefs.
After dinner, we would go up the street to the Friendly Sons of Shillelagh where there would be Irish music, dancing, singing, playing pool, throwing darts or playing shuffleboard. Most of the town would be there, and we would just have fun discussing growing up in Old Bridge. My brother Jim belongs to the Friendly Sons of Shillelagh and on the first Sunday in March, Belmar hosts its annual St. Patrick's Day Parade. Most of my family would head down to the parade early because parking and getting a good spot on Main Street is utmost. It was veryexciting seeing my brother, Jim, and many friends from town. It's one of the biggest in the state, it's great listening to all the marching bands, watching the Irish Dancers and just feeling the happiness.”
Festivals offer all of us the opportunity to celebrate our native traditions and cultural roots. Families come together and communities bind. A beautiful segment of the past connects to the present and segways into future. Faith in traditions is revived. In this respect, I find the significance of shamrocks quite appealing. The concepts of faith, love and hope precede the concept of luck. With faith in something arises hope and with hope, we can seek love.
In Yoga Sutras of Patanjali, 1:20, we learn about Shraddha (faith) in the yogic context. Shraddha comes from two Sanskrit words: shrat (shrad), which means “truth” or “faithfulness,” and dha, which translates “to put or place; to direct one’s mind toward.” Shrat is also a precursor to the English word heart. Assemble these meanings and they tell you that faith blooms when the mind directs itself toward a deep-seated truth—a truth arising in your heart (Rolf Sovik). Place your faith in your practice of yoga and the rest will follow!
The concept of luck is a captivating one and propagates numerous viewpoints that draw contradicting conclusions. Personal incidents, symbolisms (like the four leaf clover), traditions and beliefs determine our outlook on luck. My next blog (soon to follow), will examine "luck" with a yogic lens. In the meanwhile, keep faith, love and hope as your pillars of strength and perhaps you will discover luck!
Four Leaf Clover
I know a place where the sun is like gold,
And the cherry blooms burst with snow,
And down underneath is the loveliest nook,
Where the four-leaf clovers grow.
One leaf is for hope, and one is for faith,
And one is for love, you know,
And God put another in for luck--
If you search, you will find where they grow.
But you must have hope, and you must have faith,
You must love and be strong – and so--
If you work, if you wait, you will find the place
Where the four-leaf clovers grow.
Author : Deepti Gupta
All of us have a story to tell. Turning ideas into words and life's experiences into stories is empowering and fulfilling.