The Meaning of the Shamrock

The meaning of the shamrock clover ranges from religious to rebellious. 

The Shamrock in Early Ireland
The farmers who toiled on the hard Irish countryside had a deep love for shamrocks. This member of the clover family was a favorite food for livestock. Shamrock is a weed that grows quickly and is very difficult to eradicate. Farmers could let their animals eat as much as they wanted, safe in the knowledge that the shamrocks would grow back.

Religious Shamrock Representations
The three-leaf clover was adapted by the Druids for their Celtic religion. They used shamrocks for medicinal purposes and believed they could foretell the weather and keep evil spirits at bay. The number three has religious meaning in Celtic as well as Christian religions.

During the fifth century, St. Patrick adopted the shamrock as a religious symbol, noting that the three leaves represented the Holy Trinity of Christianity. As St. Patrick worked to spread Christian doctrine across Ireland, the shamrock became a symbol of his work. He was so loved that St. Patrick's Day was named for him, although the religious connotations of the shamrock in the holiday celebration have mostly been forgotten.

Political Shamrock Representation
Between 1837 and 1901, during the reign of Queen Victoria, the Irish became subject to British rule. England attempted to outlaw the Catholic faith in favor of the Protestant and Anglican churches. Catholics continued to worship secretly, using the shamrock as a symbol of rebellion and to identify themselves to each other. This gave rise to the phrase, "Wearing of the Green." Wearing a shamrock was no small offense; those found wearing shamrocks were subject to arrest and death by hanging.

Modern Shamrock Symbolism
Ireland has adopted the shamrock as a national symbol. It can be found on stamps, sports emblems, national crests and government buildings. The shamrock simply represents Ireland; on St. Patrick's Day, the shamrock can be seen all over, worn by Irish and non-Irish citizens alike. 

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