Monday, March 12, 2012

The Shamrock

May your blessings outnumber
The shamrocks that grow.
And may trouble avoid you
Wherever you go.
—Irish Blessing 


Irish legends tell us that when St. Patrick brought Christianity to Ireland, he used the shamrock—the three-leaf clover—to teach the island dwellers about the Holy Trinity, the divine Three-In-One.
Long before St. Patrick, however, the herb was used by the ancient Celts as part of their fertility ritual. The three leaves represented the triple goddess (maiden, mother, crone), and the ashes of burned plants were broadcast over the fields to promote growth.
During the Irish Rebellion in 1798 the shamrock took on still another meaning as a symbol of defiance. Anyone caught "wearing the green" could be condemned to death as a traitor. Today, the shamrock is recognized around the world as a symbol of Ireland, especially on St. Patrick's Day, when everybody is Irish!
In The Herbal or General History of Plants (1597), John Gerard describes several important medicinal uses of the three-leaf clover, which he called trefoil. "The leaves boiled with a little barrowes grease [the fat of a neutered male pig], and used as a poultice, take away hot swellings and inflammations." To treat the eyes: "Trefoile (especially that with the black halfe Moon upon the leafe) stamped [pounded] with a little honie, takes away the pin and web in the eies [film], ceaseth the paine and inflammation thereof..."
In The English Physician (1652), the astrological herbalist Nicholas Culpeper says that the plant is ruled by Mercury, and adds: "Country people do also in many places drink the juice thereof against the biting of an adder; and having boiled the herb in water, they first wash the place with the decoction, and then lay some of the herb also to the hurt place."
The word "shamrock" is derived from the Gaelic word seamrog, "summer plant." 
May your thoughts be as glad as the shamrocks,
May your heart be as light as a song,
May each day bring you bright, happy hours
That stay with you all the year long.
—Irish Blessing

From Susan Wittig Albert's blog "All About Thyme"

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