In the spirit of St. Patrick’s Day, we taken a look at the significance of the shamrock.
The Irish word for shamrock is seamróg, which literally translates to: “Little clover”.
There is often some confusion around the phrase “The luck of the Irish” as it is generally associated with the four-leaved clover – the rare fourth leaf being for good luck! However, the traditional Irish symbol, and the symbol widely used for St. Patrick’s Day is the shamrock and here’s why:
St. Patrick’s Story
Did you know that Patrick was not actually Irish? He was presumably kidnapped in 403 AD at the age of 16 by an Irish raiding party of pirates somewhere along the west coast of Britain, most likely Wales or Scotland.
The story goes that St. Patrick was brought to Ireland and was sold as a slave. He worked at a sheep farm in the Slemish Mountains in County Antrim, ensuring the lambs were not attacked by foxes or wild dogs overnight.
St. Patrick spent 6 years as a slave in Antrim. During this time his father, a deacon, prayed constantly for his safe return home. St. Patrick also recounts a “vision” he had one night of an angel of the Lord, informing him of a ship returning from Dublin.
Patrick took advantage of this information and returned home on this ship, much to the relief of his parents. He was adamant that his faith got him through these challenging 6 years he spent in Ireland. Upon returning home he decided to join the priesthood.
Return to Ireland
The Irish people remained on Patrick’s mind even after he returned home. He prayed that they would convert to the faith. He described being tormented by an Irish voice in his head, begging him to return to the Emerald Isle.
After being ordained Patrick asked to be sent to Ireland as a missionary. He was determined to convert any pagan Irish. He travelled the length and breadth of the country through towns and villages spreading the message of Christianity, as it’s now known. He baptized people during his travels and set up monasteries, schools and churches.
It’s widely believed that he used quite an effective analogy in his preaching. He described the shamrock as a symbol for the Trinity; that in one God (the shamrock as a whole) there are three beings: the Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit (each individual leaf).
St. Patrick’s Day
St. Patrick died on the 17th of March, which has now become his feast day. His shamrock analogy, however, lives on to this day with many people wearing pieces of shamrock to celebrate the occasion.
Grow your own shamrock
If you decide to grow your own shamrocks, make sure to plant them at room temperature. Ensure the area is well lit.
Water your shamrocks every so often, but be sure not to over-water them. Shamrocks grow best in relatively moist soil. Keep fertilized every couple of months.
In late spring or early summer, take your plant away from the bright location to a cooler, darker area. At this stage you should stop fertilizing. Check your plant weekly for any growth, and return it to its original location once new shoots begin to appear.
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