Monday, 24 March 2014

Hunting the Wild Shamrock

                            Oh the shamrock,
                             The green, immortal shamrock!
                            Chosen leaf
                            Of  Bard and Chief,
                             Old Erins` native Shamrock.
                                                                          Thomas Moore, 1812,
                                                                                                                Irish melodies volume 5.  

A couple of weeks ago I finished off an article saying that I was then going to go looking for some wild shamrock to adorn my lapel on St. Patricks day. Well this years St. Patricks day and all its celebrations has come and gone and thankfully I was able to find enough shamrock for friends and family.
         Each year I hear the same comments on the wearing of the shamrock ranging from how it should be worn ( whether on your lapel or on your hat) to what is the best way to keep it looking fresh to the topic which gets most heated of all being which is the proper
shamrock. Now unfortunately St. Patrick himself doesn`t make too many public appearances these days to put an end to the argument which is probably a good thing as it provides some people a yearly chance to jump on their soap box.
       From my own readings of the tradition over the years it seems that the plant that you call the true shamrock is very much down to local custom.
        In Connaught and Ulster the plant which has most following as the true shamrock is White Clover (Trifolium repens) and all other forms of shamrock would often be seen as the imposter.

                                     White Clover (Trifolium repens)

Farther south in my own province of Munster the plant which has the largest following as the true shamrock is  the Lesser Clover
(Trifolium dubium) also known as Lesser Trefoil.

                                            Lesser Clover or Lesser Trefoil.

 In between the strongholds of these two proclaimed kings of the shamrock world can be found a number of other plants which are also used as shamrock on 17th March each year.

                              Black Meddick (Medicago lupina) which is often 
                    used a shamrock.

                    Wood Sorrel (Oxalis acetosella) which can also
                     be found being used as shamrock.

                      Red Clover (trifolium pratense) which is another
                      common plant worn as shamrock.
          The use of shamrock and its association with St. Patrick spring from the legend of how the saint used its three foiled leaf to explain to the Irish people the idea of the Divine Trinity and the theory of three beings in the one God. However, the historians  all seem to agree that there is no reference to shamrock in any of St. Patricks own writing and that the shamrock legend doesn`t come into being until about one thousand years after his death. Now this was still a long time before the creation of  FailteIreland
 but I am sure that they are truly thankfull for this most Irish of stories.
      One thing that all the historians and theologians alike are in agreement about is St. Patricks prayer "The Deers Cry" which is said to be the first prayer written in Gaelic and is based on how St. Patrick and his followers were able to appear as a herd of deer to avoid capture and death by the soldiers of an Irish king who he upset by lighting his bonfire on the hill of Tara before the king could get his own fire lighting. It is truly a wonderfull piece of writing. The following version is a translation by Kuno Meyer  .
Reading it early in the morning is a lovely way to start your day. Try it!

                              Deers Cry.
I arise today
Through a mighty strength, the invocation of the Trinity,
Through belief in the threeness,
Through confession of the oneness
Of the Creator of Creation.
I arise today
Through the strength of Christ's birth with His baptism,
Through the strength of His crucifixion with His burial,
Through the strength of His resurrection with His ascension,
Through the strength of His descent for the judgement of Doom.
I arise today
Through the strength of the love of the Cherubim,
In the obedience of angels,
In the service of archangels,
In the hope of the resurrection to meet with reward,
In the prayers of patriarchs,
In prediction of prophets,
In preaching of apostles,
In faith of confessors,
In innocence of holy virgins,
In deeds of righteous men.
I arise today
Through the strength of heaven;
Light of sun,
Radiance of moon,
Splendour of fire,
Speed of lightning,
Swiftness of wind,
Depth of sea,
Stability of earth,
Firmness of rock.
I arise today
Through God's strength to pilot me:
God's might to uphold me,
God's wisdom to guide me,
God's eye to look before me,
God's ear to hear me,
God's word to speak to me,
God's hand to guard me,
God's way to lie before me,
God's shield to protect me,
God's host to save me,
From snares of devils,
From temptation of vices,
From every one who shall wish me ill,
Afar and anear,
Alone and in a multitude.
I summon today all these powers between me and those evils,
Against every cruel merciless power that may oppose my body and soul,
Against incantations of false prophets,
Against black laws of pagandom,
Against false laws of heretics,
Against craft of idolatry,
Against spells of women and smiths and wizards,
Against every knowledge that corrupts man's body and soul.
Christ to shield me today,
Against poising, against burning,
Against drowning, against wounding,
So there come to me abundance of reward.
Christ with me, Christ before me, Christ behind me,
Christ in me, Christ beneath me, Christ above me,
Christ on my right, Christ on my left,
Christ when I lie down, Christ when I sit down,
Christ when I arise, Christ in the heart of every man who thinks of me,
Christ in the mouth of every one who speaks of me,
Christ in the eye of every one who sees me,
Christ in every ear that hears me.
I arise today
Through a mighty strength, the invocation of the Trinity,
Through belief in the threeness,
Through confession of the oneness
Of the Creator of Creation.

Just to end this little piece on St. Patrick and the shamrock. He is also the patron saint of Nigeria and of Monserrat in the Carribbean so maybe I should head for the sun on next St. Patricks day and possibly have a rum cocktail or two instead of a few hot whiskeys.

                                    Monserrat St. Patricks day. 

       Some people said to me that the Google friend connect gadget was not working on the blog. I think I have it fixed now. If anybody else has had difficulty with it would you let me know?