has become part of the IRISH heritage.
Claddagh Ring belongs to a widespread group of finger rings called Fede or "Faith
rings" which date from Roman times. They are distinguished by having the
bezel cut or cast in the form of two clasped hands, symbolising faith, trust or
"plighted troth". Fede rings were popular in the Middle Ages throughout
Europe, and there are examples from this time in the National Museum of Ireland,
Kildare Street, Dublin. The "Claddagh" ring is a particularly distinctive
ring; two hands clasp a heart surmounted by a crown.
The ring, when worn on
the right hand with the crown turned inward tells that your heart is yet unoccupied;
worn with the crown turned outwards reveals love is being considered. Worn on
the left hand the crown turned outward shows all, your heart is truly spoken for.
W. Dillon in his publication on "The Claddagh Ring" in the Galway
Archaeological Society Journal, Vol. IV, 1905-6, defines the limits over which
the ring is worn as roughly from the Aran Islands on the West, and through all
Connemara and Joyce Country to Galway, and then eastward and southward for not
more than 12 miles at most. The whole district is the one served by fisherfolk
of the Claddagh village just outside the city of Galway, but became known as the
Claddagh ring probably because of the proximity to the city of the large Claddagh
fishing community using the ring alone.
Huge numbers of Claddagh rings were
left with a Mr. Kirwan following the Great Famine 1846/7 which finally had to
be consigned to the melting pot as there was nobody to redeem or purchase them,
hence the difficulty in ascertaining their origin.
Dillon describes some early
rings, one with a mitre-like crown, rings made from coins, an analogous ring from
Brittany, a "Munster" ring, also Spanish rings with some similarities.
He tells us that the Claddagh ring was the only ring ever made in Ireland worn
by Queen Victoria and later by Queen Alexandra and King Edward VII. Their rings
were made by Dillons of Galway, established in 1750, to whom the Royal Patent
was granted and the tradition has been carried on at Dillons to this day. Prince
Rainier and Princess Grace of Monaco in 1962 were presented with gifts embodying
the Claddagh ring motif set in Connemara marble.
In 1984 when Galway celebrated
its Quincentennial as a Mayoral City, the people of Galway presented a specially
commissioned 18 carat gold Claddagh ring to President Ronald Reagan.
examples of Claddagh rings that can be dated are stamped with RI, the mark of
Richard Joyce, a goldsmith working in Galway circa 1689-1737, of the Joyce Tribe,
one of the renowned "Fourteen Tribes of Galway" City. According to Dr.
Kurt Ticker in "The Claddagh Ring - A West of Ireland Folklore Custom"
(1980) interest in Claddagh rings became dormant after Richard Joyce ended his
manufacturing career in the 1730s, and it was revived a generation or more later,
probably by George Robinson (Dillon in fact had attributed the earliest ring to
Robinson). From then on a number of Galway goldsmiths and jewellers of Galway
made Claddagh rings. Their early manufacture was by cuttle-bone mould casting,
then the cire perdue or "lost wax" process up to the 1840s, when manufacture
The Origins of the Claddagh Ring even yet remains a
matter for conjecture, both popular stories of its origins attribute it to the
Joyce family of Galway City. The two stories are as follows.
first story says that a Margaret Joyce married Domingo de Rona, a wealthy Spanish
merchant who traded with Galway. They proceeded to Spain, where he died,leaving
her a considerable fortune. Returning to Galway she used her fortune to build
bridges from Galway to Sligo, and re-married Oliver Og French, Major of Galway
1596/7. She was rewarded for her good works and charity by an eagle who dropped
the original Claddagh ring into her lap.
second story says that a Richard Joyce of Galway was captured by Algerian corsairs,
sold to a Moorish goldsmith who trained him in the craft. In 1689 he was released
from slavery as a result of a demand from King William III. The Moor offered him
his only daughter in marriage and half his wealth, if he would remain in Algiers,
but Joyce declined and returned home. He brought with him the idea of the Claddagh
ring. The earliest Claddagh rings to be traced bear his mark and the initial letters
of his name, RI (Richard Joyce).
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Fleur de Lis
fleur-de-lis (also spelled fleur-de-lys; plural fleurs-de-lis or -lys; an archaic
spelling is fleur-de-luce) is used in heraldry, where it is particularly associated
with the French monarchy (see King of France). The fleur-de-lis remains an unofficial
symbol of France (along with the bees and the Napoleonic eagle), but has not been
used as an official symbol by the various French republics; the fleur-de-lis is
often referred to as the French lily. It is also used by various Scout organizations
worldwide as part of their logo. In Christianity it is the emblem of Blessed Virgin
translates into English as "lily flower", and the symbol is in fact
a stylised Iris pseudacorus L. It was adopted in the 11th century by King Philip
I of France . His grandson Louis VII was the first to adopt the Azure semé-de-lys
Or (a blue shield with a tight pattern of small golden fleur-de-lis) as his badge,
and this came to be so closely associated with his country that it is now known
as "France Ancient". Three gold flowers on a blue background ("France
Modern") dates to 1376 and Charles V of France.
The French monarchy first
adopted the fleur-de-lis as a baptismal symbol of purity on the conversion of
the Frankish King Clovis I to the Christian religion in 493. To further enhance
its mystique, a legend eventually sprang up that a vial of oil descended from
heaven to anoint and sanctify Clovis as King. The thus "anointed" Kings
of France later maintained that their authority was directly from God, without
the mediation of either the Emperor or the Pope. Other legends claim that the
lily itself appeared at the baptismal ceremony as a gift of blessing from an apparition
of the Blessed Virgin Mary, which is often associated with the lily.
heraldry, the fleur-de-lis is always separated from lily, which represents a natural
lily flower. On the other hand, heralds of many other countries do not differentiate
between fleur-de-lis and natural lily flower. Some historians of heraldry have
discussed whether the fleur-de-lis might have originated as a stylised bee, or
a stylised frog (as the legend of Saint Remi states). Other explanations include
the shape having developed from the image of a dove, an ornate spearhead or a
sceptre. Whatever its origin, it is an ancient design which has been found in
various cultures, usually as an emblem associated with royalty. On the other hand,
the majority of heralds agree the fleur-de-lis originates from a stylized flower.
As a curiosity, the Florentine fleur-de-lis always poses the stamens between the
petals. This charge is often called as Florentine lily (see Florence) to separate
if from the conventional fleur-de-lis.
Through this connection to Clovis, the
fleur-de-lis symbolised the Merovingian dynasty and then became a symbol of the
entire Christian Frankish Kingdoms. The fleur-de-lis was also the symbol of the
house of Kotromanic, a ruling house in Christian Bosnia (13th century until mid
By the 13th and 14th centuries, the three petals of the lily
of France were being described by writers as symbols of faith, wisdom and chivalry.
As in Ireland, they also came to be seen as symbols of the Holy Trinity. By the
14th century, the fleur-de-lis had become so closely associated with the rule
of France that the English king Edward III quartered his coat of arms with France
Ancient in order to emphasise his claim on the French crown. This quartering was
changed to France Modern in the early 1400s. The fleur-de-lis was not removed
until 1801, when George III gave up his formal claim to the French throne.
feature prominently in the Crown Jewels of both Scotland and England, and have
been heraldic devices of those monarchies for centuries, such as the Prince of
Wales. The tressure flory-counterflory has been a prominent part of the design
of the Scottish royal arms and flag since James I of Scotland.
fleur-de-luce he claims
To wreathe his shield, since royal James
Scott, The Lay of the Last Minstrel
In English heraldry, the fleur-de-lis is
the cadency mark of difference of the sixth son. Fleurs-de-lis are also used in
the Papal Crowns and Coat of Arms.
In building and architecture, the fleur-de-lis
is often placed on top of iron fence posts, as a pointed defence against intruders.
Modern remained the French royal standard, and with a white background was the
French national flag until the French Revolution, when it was replaced by the
tri-colour flag of modern-day France. The fleur-de-lis was restored to the French
flag in 1814, but replaced once again after the revolution against Charles X of
France in 1830. In a very strange turn of events, where a flag actually influenced
the course of history, after the end of the French Second Empire, Henri, Comte
de Chambord, was offered the Throne as King of France, but he would agree only
on condition that the French give up the Tricolor and restore the royal standard
with the fleur-de-lis; however, his condition was rejected and France became a
The "France modern" fleur-de-lis pattern was also on the
coat of arms of the old French province of Île-de-France (as for instance
as a badge on the uniforms of the local gendarmerie legion).
In 1948, a new
flag of Quebec was introduced that incorporated the fleur-de-lis. Prior to this,
the Union Jack had flown over Quebec's legislature.
The fleur-de-lis is also
a popular symbol of New Orleans, Louisiana, USA, used in much New Orleans art
and architecture, as well as the city's official flag. A black fleur-de-lis is
also the logo of the New Orleans Saints football team.
The fleur-de-lis is
also a symbol of the city of St. Louis, Missouri, USA. The flag of the city marks
the Mississippi, Missouri, and Illinois rivers' convergence with a fleur-de-lis,
representing St. Louis. This shared iconography among Quebec, St. Louis, and New
Orleans relates to the fact that all three share a history of French heritage
and/or French colonialism.
Other notable places that use the symbol informally
or as part of their heraldic arms are: Quebec; Canada; Spain (ruled by the Bourbons);
Augsburg, Germany; Florence, Italy (whose lis-sporting currency fiorino influenced
the Dutch gulden and Hungarian forint); Lako, Slovenia; the Fuggers medieval
banking family; the House of Lancaster; Bosniaks in Bosnia and Herzegovina (who
call it Lillium Bosniacum); New Orleans, Louisiana; Detroit, Michigan; Louisville,
Kentucky; Odense, Denmark; Wiesbaden, Germany; Lille, France and St. Louis, Missouri.
fleur-de-lis is the major element in the logo of most Scouting organizations.
In that usage, it is considered to represent the outdoors, which is a major theme
in Scouting. The symbol is also often used on a compass rose to mark the north
direction. Robert Baden-Powell, the founder of the scouting movement, explained
that the scouts adopted the fleur-de-lis symbol from its use in the compass rose
because it "points in the right direction (and upwards) turning neither to
the right nor left, since these lead backward again".
is used in modern Israel as a religious and a scout symbol located in the middle
or on top of the Star of David, in Christian/Islamic symbolism, the Star of Bethlehem.
The fleur-de-lis is also used on top of the Crown and combined with the Menorah.
fleur-de-lis is used in modern Israel as the insignia for the IDF Miltiary Intelligence.
fleur-de-lis is the symbol of the Madison Scouts Drum and Bugle Corps, based out
of Madison, Wisconsin.
In Finland, the fleur-de-lis forms a part of city arms
of Turku (Azure, a Mary monogram Or surmounted with four fleurs-de-lis Argent).
The arms of municipal community Liljendahl is per chevron Argent and Azure, a
fleur-de-lis countercharged; an example of canting arms.
In Dan Brown's novel,
The Da Vinci Code, the fleur-de-lis makes an important message as the symbol for
the Priory of Sion.
Symbolism in religion and art
lily symbolism are closely linked, with lis meaning lily in French. An ancient
legend tells how the lily sprang from the tears shed by Eve as she left the Garden
of Eden, just as the lily of the valley (a botanically unrelated flower) was said
to have grown from the tears of Mary, the mother of Jesus at the foot of the Cross.
As a symbol of purity it was accordingly readily adopted by the Church to associate
the Virgin Mary's sanctity with events of special significance.
The three petals
of the fleur-de-lis "explain" its association with the Holy Trinity.
As a Trinity symbol it symbolizes the Resurrection. It also became a favorite
symbol in the Assumption of Mary. The lily is often used in the Annunciation.
Usually it is depicted with a Madonna lily, which is traditionally associated
Michel Pastoureau, a French historian, says that until the end
of the 12th century Jesus Christ was sometimes represented amidst stylised lilies
or fleurons. Gradually, such imagery came to include Marian symbolism, and became
associated with the Song of Solomon's "lily among thorns" ("lilium
inter spinas"), as well as with other scripture and religious literature
in which the lily is presented as a symbol of purity, virginity and chastity.
In iconography, the fleur-de-lis became an attribute of the Virgin Mary: for example,
the Black Madonna of Czestochowa shows the Madonna in fleur-de-lis robes.
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Blue Waterlily (Nymphaea caerulea), also known as the Egyptian Blue Lotus or Blue
Lotus, is a blue water-lily in the genus Nymphaea that grows upon the Nile, amongst
The leaves are broadly rounded, 25-40 cm across, with a notch
at the leaf stem. The flowers are 10-15 cm diameter, open in the morning, rising
to the surface of the water, then close and sink at dusk. It has sky-blue petals,
smoothly changing to a pale yellow in the centre of the flower.
It was considered
extremely significant in Egyptian mythology, since it rose and fell with the sun.
Consequently, due to its colourings, it was identified, in some beliefs, as having
been the original container, in a similar manner to an egg, of Atum, and in similar
beliefs Ra, both solar deities. As such, its properties form the origin of the
lotus variant of the Ogdoad cosmogeny.
The flowers are rumored to contain aporphine,
a drug that purported to have divinatory properties, and nuciferine, an antispasmodic.
The Lotus's narcotic effect is central to an episode in Homer's Odyssey, when
Ulysses and his crew arrive at an island populated by "lotus eaters"
and the sailors, made indolent by the plant, do not wish to leave. It is also
the flower that lent its name to Alfred, Lord Tennyson's (fl. 1850) poem, The
Lotos-Eaters, based on the Odyssey.
The lotus flower appeared in legends originating
both from India and from ancient Egypt, playing an important part in religious
The lotus flower played a prominent role in the version of the
Egyptian creation story that originated in Heliopolis. Before the universe came
into being, there was an infinite ocean of inert water which constituted the primeval
being named Nun. Out of Nun emerged a lotus flower, together with a single mound
of dry land. The lotus blossoms opened, and out stepped the self-created sun god,
Atum, as a child.
A slightly different version of the creation story originated
in Hermopolis. In that version, the sun god who formed himself from the chaos
of Nun emerged from the lotus petals as Ra. The lotus is a flower which opens
and closes each day. His history went on to say that the petals of the lotus blossom
enfolded him when he returned to it each night.
The lotus flower has been
featured extensively throughout the art of ancient Egypt. In various works of
art, you may see it held in the hand of a god or human, serving as a border to
outline a section of the artwork, unfolding to reveal various gods or humans,
and many other depictions.
In the Near East (Mesopotamia), the lotus was the
flower of Lilith, the Sumero-Babylonian goddess that Jews claimed was Adam's first
of years the Lotus flower has symbolized spiritual enlightenment. From ancient
times, the lotus regularly appears as a symbol of purity, peace, transcendence,
enlightenment, rebirth, beauty, and fertility. The purpose of the essence of the
flower is believed to accelerate spiritual evolvement and enhance healing on every
level within the system. The Lotus in Eastern Culture bears a similar symbolism
to the Rose in Christianity. In Buddhism and Hinduism many of the deities are
pictured sitting upon a lotus or holding a lotus blossom, the symbol of enlightenment.
Buddha was said to sleep on a lotus six months of the year, and Shambala (Buddhist
heaven) is sometimes represented as a field of flowering sacred lotuses. Christ
is known as the Rose of Sharon. Rose of Sharon blooms in arid desert conditions
just as the lotus rises and blooms in all its magnificence from the muddy depths
of the rivers.
idea of enlightenment is symbolized by the life cycle of the sacred lotus plant
because it begins its life humbly in the mud of ponds but soon grows and sends
stems and flowers well above the surface of the water (up to 50cm), thus showing
the path of spiritual enfoldment. It also has unusual flowering habits; its flowers
'wake up' (open) at dawn and go to sleep (close) at about 2pm. Some lotuses are
even known to open up at night and close during the day, ignoring the normal sunlight
hours favoured by the majority of flowering plants, and effectively transcending
normal time cycles.
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ankh (pronounced 'ahnk', symbol ?) was the Egyptian hieroglyphic character that
stood for the word 'nk, which means life. Egyptian gods are sometimes depicted
carrying it by the loop, or bearing one in each hand crossed over their breast.
Latinists interpreted the symbol as a crux ansata, "cross with a handle".
In ancient Egypt, the Ankh (the actual Hieroglyphic sign) was a symbol of life,
but today it is an enduring icon that remains with us even today as a Christian
cross. It is one of the most potent symbols represented in Egyptian art, often
forming a part of decorative motifs.
The ankh seems at least to be an evolved
form of, or associated with, the Egyptian glyph for magical protection, sa. What
it was intended to represent remains a mystery to Egyptologists, and the original
meaning is still unknown, although there are many educated theories. One suggests
that it combines the male and female symbols of Osiris (the cross) and Isis (the
oval) and therefore signifies the union of heaven and earth. As a hieroglyph,
it likely encompassed a range of meanings depending on its associated hieroglyphs
but all of these expressions centered around the concept of life or life force.
example, Sir Alan Gardiner thought that it showed a sandal strap with the loop
at the top forming the strap, but if so, the symbolism is obscure and so his theory
found little real favor early on. However, this interpretation received some acceptance
among modern writers. It would seem that the ancient Egyptians called that part
of the sandal 'nkh (exact pronunciation unknown). Because this word was composed
of the same consonants as the word "life", the sign to represent that
particular part of the sandal, was also used to write the word "life".
Another theory holds that the ankh was symbolic of the sunrise, with the loop
representing the Sun rising above the horizon, which is represented by the crossbar.
The vertical section below the crossbar would then be the path of the sun
Westendorf felt it was associated with the tyet emblem, or the "knot of Isis".
He thought both were ties for ceremonial girdles. Winfried Barta connected the
ankh with the royal cartouche in which the king's name was written, while others
have even identified it as a penis sheath. The presence of a design resembling
a pubic triangle on one ankh from the New kingdom. Period seems to allow for the
idea that the sign may be a specifically sexual symbol. In fact, guides in Egypt
today like to tell tourists that the circle at the top represents the female sexual
organ, while the stump at the bottom the male organ and the crossed line, the
children of the union. However, while this interpretation may have a long tradition,
there is no scholarly research that would suggest such an exact meaning.
ankh, on some temple walls in Upper Egypt, could also symbolize water in rituals
of purification. Here, the king would stand between two gods, one of whom was
usually Thoth, as they poured over him a stream of libations represented by ankhs.
The ancient gods of Egypt are often depicted as carrying ankh signs. We find
Anqet, Ptah, Satet, Sobek, Tefnut, Osiris, Ra, Isis, Hathor, Anibus and many other
gods often holding the ankh sign, along with a scepter, and in various tomb and
temple reliefs, placing it in front of the king's face to symbolize the breath
of eternal life. During the Amarna period, the ankh sign was depicted being offered
to Akhenaten and Nefertiti by the hands at the end of the rays descending from
the sun disk, Aten. Therefore, the ankh sign is not only a symbol of worldly life,
but of life in the netherworld. Therefore, we also find the dead being referred
to as ankhu, and a term for a sarcophagus was neb-ankh, meaning possessor of life.
It is interesting that the ankh word was used for mirrors from at least the
Middle Kingdom onward, and that indeed, many mirrors were shaped in the form of
an ankh sign. Life and death mirror each other, and in any number of ancient religions,
mirrors were used for purposes of divination. The ankh sign in ancient Egypt seems
to have transcended illiteracy, being comprehensible to even those who could not
read. Hence, we even find it as a craftsman's mark on pottery vessels.
Christian era eclipsed Egypt's Pharaonic religion, the sign was adapted by the
Coptic church as their unique form of a cross, known as the crux ansata.
The ankh appears frequently in Egyptian tomb paintings and other
art; it often appears at the fingertips of a god or goddess in images that represent
the deities of the afterlife conferring the gift of life on the dead person's
mummy. The ankh symbol was often carried by Egyptians as an amulet, either alone,
or in connection with two other hieroglyphs that mean "strength" and
"health." Mirrors were often made in the shape of an ankh. Sometimes,
in art, the Ankh was shown being touched by a god onto a person, which usually
ankh and the cross
The long-standing importance of the Ankh, and its deep symbolism
to the dynastic Egyptians, led to it being gradually adopted by the very early
Christian church in Egypt (which eventually became the Coptic Church). This is
highly significant, as it is almost certainly the genesis of the cross, as the
central thematic symbol of the Christian religion. It was non-anthropormorphic,
not even animal-like. The gods had all been animal faced-human figures. Anknaton's
benevolent sun was the only other symbol that was so esoteric. The cross implied
all the "god ideas" that are very infinite in nature. As monotheism
is at the core of Christian belief, the ankh seemed a good choice to symbolize
the belief in one all-powerful God. Over time, the idea that his son had died
on a kind of cross, made it seem all the more appropriate. To other Christians,
outside of the ankh's influence, the image the Roman cross of execution was 'shameful"
in the manner that a hanging noose would be, or headsman's ax. The association
in Egypt of the ankh cross, with both God the Father, and Jesus the Son, felt
right. Elsewhere, the main Christian symbol at the time had been a stylised alpha,
resembling a fish, and therefore known as Ichthys, the Greek word for fish. However,
the new "more positive" symbol of a cross eventually spread throughout
the Christianized Empire. The distinct circular or "gothic arch-like"
upper part of the Ankh was kept well into mediaeval times. The Ankh symbol was
often used as a Christian talisman.
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are considered a good luck charm in many cultures. A common tradition is that
if a horseshoe is hung on a door with the two ends pointing up then good luck
will occur. However, if the two ends point downwards then bad luck will occur.
Traditions do differ on this point, though. In some cultures, the horseshoe is
hung points down (so the luck pours onto you); in others, it is hung points up
(so the luck doesn't fall out); still in others it doesn't matter so long as the
horseshoe has been used (not new), was found (not purchased), and can be touched.
In all traditions, luck is contained in the shoe and can pour out through the
In some traditions, any good or bad luck achieved will only occur to
the owner of the horseshoe, not the person who hangs it up. Therefore, if the
horseshoe was stolen, borrowed or even just found then the owner, not the person
who found or stole the horseshoe will get any good or bad luck. Other traditions
require that the horseshoe be found to be effective.
One reputed origin of
the tradition of lucky horseshoes is the story of Saint Dunstan and the Devil.
Dunstan, who would became the Archbishop of Canterbury in AD 959, was a blacksmith
by trade. The story relates that he once nailed a horseshoe to the Devil's hoof
when he was asked to reshod the Devil's horse. This caused the Devil great pain,
and Dunstan only agreed to remove the shoe and release the Devil after the Devil
promised never to enter a place where a horseshoe is hung over the door.
theory concerning the placing of horseshoes above doorways is to ward off Faeries
(the Celtic kind); the theory being that Faeries are repelled by iron and as horseshoes
were an easily available source of iron, they could be nailed above a door to
prevent any unwanted, otherworldly guests. One can see how the custom, as people
began to forget the stories concerning the Fair Folk, eventually morphed into
a simple good luck charm. It is also possible that the Romans, when arriving in
Celtic countries, came across horseshoes nailed above doors and simply borrowed
the concept of horseshoes as good luck charms, failing to understand the background
of the Celtic custom, and made their use more widespread.
Horseshoes were also
considered lucky because they were made by blacksmiths, which is also considered
a very lucky trade. Because they worked with elemental fire and magical iron,
they were thought to have special powers. It was believed that a blacksmith could
heal the sick and if a couple was married by a blacksmith, their marriage would
be a happy one. Their work with horses also brought them much power and prestige,
not just because they made the lucky horseshoe but also because they were the
keepers of the Horseman's Word (the basis for the movie, The Horse Whisperer.)
At one time, the Irish believed that the element of Iron had magical properties
and was capable of bringing good luck. This reverence also extended to those who
worked with it; it was also believed that blacksmiths possessed secret knowledge
that they could use to cure illnesses and cast out evil spirits.
were originally made from iron, which may also account for the superstitions that
are associated with this object. Iron was considered magical because it was able
to withstand fire and was much stronger than other metals. The superstitions for
iron are thought to originate in prehistoric times. It was used as a charm to
ward off evil spirits.
Another aspect of the horseshoe that added to it's
good luck was the fact that it was commonly held in place by seven iron nails.
Since ancient times, the number seven was considered very important. Life was
divided into seven ages; a rainbow has seven colors; astrology once held that
seven planets made up the universe; there are seven deadly sins; a seventh child
was thought to have special powers; there are seven days in a week; the moon changes
from one phase to another every seven days; and a long-held belief states that
the body goes through a radical change every seven years.
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Superstitions and Beliefs
wedding ceremony in modern western traditions tends to have more in common from
one nation to another than there are differences. Even most of the prevelant customs
such as the bride's white dress, rings, wedding cake, flowers and attendants as
well as the feast and pranks played on the couple as they make their final exit
are pretty much universal.
But where did these customs and traditions come
from? Every one knows a bride wears a veil, but do you know why? Where did the
tradition come from of carrying the bride over the threshold? And why do brides
carry flowers? Here we have some of the more common wedding traditions - where
they came from and how they started. Many of the traditions have several explanations
but these are the most common. Some date back many hundreds of years so their
origins are not fully known but most have their roots in ancient superstitious
or pagan beliefs.
In the 18th and 19th centuries,
the Irish believed that if the sun shone on the bride, it would bring good luck
to the couple. It was also lucky to hear a cuckoo on the wedding morning or to
see three magpies. After the wedding ceremony, it was important that a man and
not a woman be the first to wish joy to the new bride. Some other Irish superstitions
and customs are:
It's good luck to have your birthstone in your engagement
ring, even if that stone is otherwise thought to be an unlucky gem.
you wear on your wedding day will bring you luck & happiness ever after.
lucky to tear your wedding dress accidentally on your wedding day.
luck if a happily married woman puts the veil on you, but bad luck to put it on
It's lucky to be awakened by birds singing on your wedding morning.
If you look at the sun when you leave for your wedding, your children will
also lucky for rainfall on your wedding day, as this means both abundance for
crops, and thus signals fertility, and in other beliefs, it means all the tears
for your wedding have already been cried.
THROWING THE BOUQUET
custom of the bride tossing the bouquet to the unmarried guests dates from the
14th century and probably originated in France. The woman who catches the flowers
is supposedly the next to marry. The same is supposedly true when the bride tosses
her garter to the unmarried men.
SOMETHING OLD, NEW, BORROWED AND BLUE
full wording of this popular bridal attire rhyme, which dates back to the Victorian
times is 'something old, something new, something borrowed, something blue and
a silver sixpence in your shoe'.
Something old refers to wearing something
that represents a link with the bride's family and her old life. Usually, the
bride wears a piece of family jewelry or maybe her mother's or grandmother's wedding
Wearing something new represents good fortune and success in the bride's
new life. The bride's wedding dress is usually chosen, if purchased new, but it
can be any other new item of the bride's wedding attire.
borrowed, which has already been worn by a happy bride at her wedding, is meant
to bring good luck to the marriage. Something borrowed could be an item of bridal
clothing, a handkerchief or an item of jewellery.
Wearing something blue dates
back to biblical times when the colour blue was considered to represent purity
and fidelity. Over time this has evolved from wearing a blue clothing to wearing
a blue band around the bottom of the bride's dress and to modern times where the
bride wears a blue or blue-trimmed garter.
...And a silver sixpence in your
Placing a silver sixpence in the bride's left shoe is a symbol of wealth.
This is not just to bring the bride financial wealth but also a wealth of happiness
and joy throughout her married life. An Irish 5 pence coin can be worn in place
of the sixpence in the shoe but stock up now, the Euro-Dollar will not be as poetic.
The bride's white gown has become so traditional
that many cannot imagine anything else but this is relatively recent development
in the Celtic lands. Anne of Brittany made the white wedding dress popular in
1499. In the 19th century colored bridal dresses were quite common at country
weddings. Before that, a woman just wore her best dress. In biblical days, blue
(not white) represented purity, and the bride and groom would wear a blue band
around the bottom of their wedding attire. Most of us are aware of the rule that
the groom should not see the bride in her wedding gown before the big day. But
in Ireland, the bride can't see herself in it either. By seeing her entire reflection
while in full regalia it is believed that part of her will stay in her old life.
If either breaks the rules, the wedding is delayed for a year.
The origin of the wedding veil is unclear but it is thought that it
predates the wedding dress by centuries. One tradition comes from the days when
a groom would throw a blanket over the head of the woman of his choice when he
captured her and carted her off. Another is that during the times of arranged
marriages, the bride's face was covered until the groom was committed to her at
the ceremony so he could not refuse to marry her if he didn't like her looks.
Therefore, the father of the bride gave the bride away to the groom, who then
lifted the veil to see her for the first time. It is also thought that the veil
was worn to protect the bride from evil spirits that would be floating around
on her wedding day.
These various origins have all evolved into the tradition
that the veil covers the bride's face throughout the ceremony until the minister
pronounces the couple man and wife and the groom then lifts the veil to kiss his
Another ancient practice in some parts
of Ireland is that of firing rifles and other weaponry into the air as the couple
pass to salute the bride; of course over the past centuries this has occasionally
been observed with devastating results. Honking the horns of the cars in the procession
from the church replaces the firing of guns.
CARRYING THE BRIDE OVER
There seems to be two explanations for this tradition where
the groom carries his bride over the threshold when entering their home as a married
couple for the first time. The first is to protect the bride from evil spirits
that were thought to be lying in wait under the threshold. The second explanation
relates to Roman times when it was believed that if the bride stumbled when entering
the newlywed's home for the first time, it would bring bad luck and harm to their
marriage. So carrying the bride across the threshold would prevent this from happening,
though no reference can be found of what happens if the groom stumbles or falls
while carrying the bride.
THIRD FINGER, LEFT HAND
engagement ring and wedding ring are traditionally worn on the third finger of
the left hand. Although the origin of this tradition can not be precisely pinpointed
there are two strongly held beliefs. The first, dates back to the 17th century
where during a Christian wedding the priest arrived at the forth finger (counting
the thumb) after touching the three fingers on the left hand '...in the name of
the Father, the Son and the Holy Ghost'.
The second belief, referring to an
Egyptian belief that the ring finger follows the vena amoris, the vein of love
that runs directly to the heart, means that wearing the rings on this finger is
closest to the heart.
LEAVING THE WEDDING
In centuries past,
an Irish bride returned home by a different path with her new husband than she
took to the church or wedding with her father. This may have begun as an attempt
to avoid pranks (which often involved kidnapping), but also symbolizes that she
travels a new road in life as well.
Banns of marriage
were required in areas under British rule, including Wales, Scotland and Ireland.
The banns consisted of an announcement in church for three Sundays prior to the
wedding. This prevented people from marrying in haste and also gave any who might
object time to learn of the match. Giving three months notice to the registrar
is still a legal requirement in Ireland.
WHY THE BRIDE STANDS ON THE
During the marriage ceremony, the bride stands on the left and the
groom on the right. The first marriages were by capture, i.e., the groom would
kidnap the woman, and take her away from her tribe with the help of a warrior
friend, his best man, who would help him fight off other men who wanted this woman,
and also help him prevent her family from finding them. The groom would put himself
and his bride into hiding, the honeymoon, and by the time the bride's family found
them, the bride would already be pregnant. When the groom fought off other warriors
who also wanted his bride, he would hold onto her with his left hand, while fighting
them off with his sword in his right hand.
BRIDESMAIDS, BEST MAN
bridal party has many origins, one of which comes from the Anglo Saxon days. When
the groom was about to capture his bride, he needed the help of his friends, the
"bridesmen" or "brideknights". They would make sure the bride
got to the church and to the groom's house afterwards. The bride also had women
to help her, the "bridesmaids" or "brideswomen".
some places and times it seems to mean betrothal and in others genuine marriage.
Many interpret it as a trial marriage or a step beyond betrothal but not nearly
as permanent as marriage. It is often repeated that this handfasting for a year
and a day would normally lead to regular permanent and valid marriage but if either
parties chose to leave, the relationship was null. Even if children had been brought
forth these children were considered lawful offspring of both parents. Handfasting,
it is claimed is a holdover from pre-Christian Celtic marriage laws. Today handfasting
is now the familiar part of the ceremony where the person officiating the ceremony
asks "Who gives this woman to be wed?" and then takes her hand from
her father or whoever is giving away the bride and clasps it to the hand of the
groom. In olden days the priest or minister would wrap the clasped hands in the
end of his stole to symbolize the trinity of marriage; man and woman joined by
God. With God's grace in time another trinity would be manifest; mother, father
and child. The Celts have always been good at seeing things in threes. This symbolic
binding together in marriage evolved into a the practice of wrapping the clasped
hands with a cord or an embroidered cloth, usually made especially for that purpose.
FIRST ON THE DANCE FLOOR
At the evening celebrations, the bride
and groom traditionally dance first on their own to a waltz. However, as ballroom
dancing is not so popular these days, the newlyweds usually dance to a favourite
romantic song. During the playing of this song, it is traditional for the groom
to dance with his new mother-in-law and then with his mother, while the bride
dances with her new father-in-law and then with her father. The best man also
joins in dancing with the chief bridesmaid and the ushers with the other bridesmaids
when the bride and groom first change. After the first dance, all the guests are
invited to join the newlyweds on the dance floor.
LEAP YEAR PROPOSALS
right of every women to propose on 29th February each leap year, goes back many
hundreds of years to when the leap year day had no recognition in English law
(the day was 'lept over' and ignored, hence the term 'leap year'). It was considered,
therefore, that as the day had no legal status, it was reasonable to assume that
traditions also had no status. Consequently, women who were concerned about being
'left on the shelf' took advantage of this anomoly and proposed to the man they
wished to marry.
It was also thought that since the leap year day corrected
the discrepancy between the calendar year of 365 days and the time taken for the
Earth to complete one orbit of the sun (365 days and 6 hours), it was an opportunity
for women to correct a tradition that was one-sided and unjust.
wishing to take advantage of this ancient tradition, you will have to wait until
Tuesday 29th February in the year 2000!
THROWING OF RICE OR CONFETTI
The origin of throwing confetti over newly weds predated Christ since
it originates from the ancient Pagan rite of showering the happy couple with grain
to wish upon them a 'fruitful' union. Pagans believed that the fertility of the
seeds would be transferred to the couple on whom they fell. The throwing of rice
has the same symbolic meaning.
The word confetti has the same root as the
word 'confectionery' in Italian and was used to describe 'sweetmeats' that is,
grain and nuts coated in sugar that were thrown over newly weds for the same Pagan
reason. In recent years, small pieces of coloured paper have replaced sweetmeats,
grain and nuts as an inexpensive substitute but the use of the word confetti has
Despite the longevity of this tradition, it is on the verge of extinction
because many register offices and churches no longer allow it because of the mess.
The term "honeymoon" is though to originate
from the times when a man captured his bride. The couple would hide from the bride's
parents before marrying. The couple would remain in hiding for a further cycle
of the moon after the wedding. During this period they drank honey wine.
Scotland the custom was for a woman with milk in her breasts to prepare the marital
bed to encourage fertility in the newlyweds.
In Ireland a laying hen was tied
to the bed on the first honeymoon night in the hope that some of its fertility
would be passed on to the couple. Eating a double yolked egg was also thought
to bring fertility.
THE WEDDING CAKE
Cutting the wedding cake
is now part of the ritual celebrations at the reception. The couple make the first
cut together to symbolise their shared future.
Cakes have been associated with
weddings throughout history. The Romans shared a cake during the wedding ceremony
itself. This was not the rich fruit-cake we enjoy today. It was a plain confection
made from wheat flour, salt and water. The Fijians and Some Native American tribes
still incorporate cake in the wedding ceremonies.
In Britain early cakes were
flat and round and contained fruit and nuts which symbolise fertility.
past the custom was to throw many small cakes over the bride in a similar way
in which we throw confetti today. A modification of this custom was to crumble
cake over the brides head and in some versions to break the cake over the Bride's
head. In Scotland Oat Cakes were used for this purpose. This was done to promote
In Yorkshire a plate holding wedding cake was thrown out of the
window as the bride returned to her parental home after the wedding. If the plate
broke she would enjoy a happy future with her husband but if the plate remained
intact her future would be grim.
Another old English custom was to place a
ring in the wedding cake. The guest who found the ring in their the piece of cake
would be ensured happiness for the next year.
The shape of the modern three
tiered iced cake is believed to have been inspired by the spire of Saint Bride's
Church in the City of London. It is said that unmarried guests who place a piece
of wedding cake under their pillow before sleeping will increase there prospects
of finding a partner and bridesmaids who do likewise will dream of their future
The top tier of the cake is often kept by couples for the christening
of their first child.
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