Saturday, March 17, 2012

Clover and Moss and the Shamrocks of Ireland

St. Patrick's Day is an interesting holiday, but I realized
I didn't know a lot about it besides the more obvious
cultural pursuits associated with it. So I did some research.
According to, Patrick was a wealthy British boy
who was kidnapped by Irish Raiders
when he was in his teens.
Taken to Ireland and held captive for several years,  
 he managed to eventually return to Britain.
Patrick had been very lonely during his captivity and had turned to
the Christian religion for comfort. And after returning to Britain,  
 he had a dream in which an angel told him
to become a missionary to the Irish people, so he entered the priesthood.
As an Irish missionary, he honored Irish traditions
by incorporating them into Christian ones. In that regard,
he is credited with developing the Celtic cross
by adding the Irish symbol for the sun to the Christian cross.
And according to, he demonstrated the trinity by
holding up a 3-leafed clover, a seamrog 'shamrock.'
But sorry, these sources say he didn't drive any snakes out of Ireland.
He died March 17 in the 5th century.
And as it turns out, St. Patrick's Day parades are purely Irish-American, 
the first having taken place in the 18th century in New York. 
Even so, when I think of St. Patrick's Day,
 I don't really think of corned beef, revelry, or even St. Patrick,
I think of green clover and and soft carpets of moss.

This first image actually shows "lemon clover" wood sorrel, a type of oxalis;
although not a true clover, its three heart-shaped  leaves are beautiful
and very shamrock-like.

 I also think about my Irish great great grandmother, Mary O'Brien.
She was born in Limerick, Ireland and travelled alone to the US
in 1853 to join her two sisters Elizabeth and Ellen, 
who were already here and married--
Elizabeth to a man named Patrick, Ellen to a man named John.
And I imagine there were times when,
 in their hearts, Mary and her two sisters
secretly longed for the emerald green seamrogs of Ireland.

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