The Shamrock Meaning and Symbolism


Introduction to Shamrock Meaning

Shamrock SymbolThe shamrock is a type of clover with three leaves. The most well-known meanings were imparted to the shamrock by St. Patrick, who compared the plant’s tri-part leaves to the Holy Trinity: Father, Son and Host Spirit. Occasionally shamrocks are found with four leaves. These are rare and considered to be very lucky for the finder. (Photo by Kanchelskis, Wikimedia Commons)

Learn more about St. Patrick in these recommended children's books on Amazon:
St. Patrick's Day
The Luckiest St. Patrick's Day Ever
St. Patrick's Day Countdown
Patrick: Patron Saint of Ireland

Shamrock Meaning and Leprechauns

A common saying associated with the shamrock and the clover family is “to be in clover” or to live a carefree life of ease and prosperity. Shamrocks are often associated with leprechauns, a generally harmless type of fairy said to live in seclusion and protect hordes of gold. However, if a human should attempt to capture a leprechaun to learn the whereabouts of his gold, the leprechaun may turn mischievous or practice hypnotism or trickery to evade or confuse his pursuer. The shamrock can undo the malevolent magic of a leprechaun.

Shamrock SymbolUses of Shamrocks and Clover

In more recent years, highly sensitive drug testing seems to indicate that clover contains traces of morphine, which can be passed into milk produced by cows that graze on clover. This idea is still under investigation. On the positive side, clover is high in protein and quite digestible if boiled for 5-10 minutes. Clover leaves and seed pods can be dried and used for tea or ground into flour for baking.



Irish Shamrock Meaning

Shamrock SymbolismIrish legends about the shamrock include a variety of mystic powers. The leaves of the shamrock are said to stand on end to warn of an approaching storm. The shamrock is claimed to be a remedy against the sting of scorpions and the bite of snakes. Although it is not the official symbol of Ireland (an honor reserved for the harp), the shamrock is associated with Ireland more than any other emblem. (Photo by graymlkn, Wikimedia Commons).

The most visible shamrock worldwide is the logo for Aer Lingus, emblazoned on the side of each plane in the fleet of Ireland’s national airline. On St. Patrick’s Day, millions of people wear shamrocks and Aer Lingus flies fresh shamrocks to Irish embassies all over the world.

The Shamrock as a Symbol of Rebellion

During the late 1700s, wearing the shamrock by Irish regiments was considered to be a rebellious act by the English crown. As a response to this, many in Ireland wore a small cross of red and green instead. For this reason, the shamrock has also come to be associated with the Christian cross.

The Shamrock as a Symbol of Life

Shamrock SymbolismShamrock comes from the Irish word “seamrog”, meaning “summer plant”. The shamrock can be found throughout the Northern Hemisphere, in South America, in Africa and at high altitudes in the tropics. Even prior to St. Patrick, the Druids considered the impressive vitality of the shamrock to be a sign of sacredness. In this way, the shamrock came to represent life itself.    

Wild Shamrocks

Wild shamrocks are also known as wood sorrels, usually found in rich woods and rocky places. The blossoms have five violet-colored petals. The wood sorrel was a mystic symbol for the ancient Druids in Ireland. It was a symbol for joy, maternal tenderness and was associated with the Celtic sun wheel.

Learn More About Celtic Symbolism

Learn more about Celtic symbolism in these recommended books from Amazon:
Celtic Symbols
Celtic Folk Soul: Art, Myth & Symbol
The Book of Celtic Symbols: Symbols, Stories & Blessings for Everyday Living
Symbols of the Celts

Learn More About Ireland and Irish Culture

Try the following recommended books from Amazon on Ireland:
How the Irish Saved Civilization
Anam Cara: A Book of Celtic Wisdom

Ireland (Country Guide)
The Country Cooking of Ireland
Born Fighting: How the Scots-Irish Shaped America

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References:
Martin, Laura C. Wildflower Folklore. Old Saybrook, Connecticut: The Globe Pequot Press, 1993.

 

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