Claddagh Rings Myth

Here are some legends and stories concerning the origin and meaning of the Claddagh ring. Check them out, some realistic, some not as much, but there's no doubt they all make this wonderful ring even more magical and interesting than it's already is.

So........here they are! Read and enjoy:)

1) The 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, symbolizing 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.

2) Way back in the sandy mists of time, so the story went, it seemed as there was this king. This king was madly in love with a peasant woman, but as she was of a lower class the love had to go unrequited. In dread despair the king killed himself and had hishands lopped off and placed around his heart as a symbol of his undying love for the woman.

3) It symbolizes love (heart), friendship/faith (hands) and loyalty (crown). Two hands Joined together in love and Crowned by the Glory of Christ.

4) There was a Dublin version of this Ring that appeared some 100 years back with two hands and two Hearts but No Crown Some call this Version the Fenian Claddagh.

5) The Crown to The Father, The Left hand to the Son, and the Right Hand the the Holy Ghost. This Explanation is directly Correlative to the Shamrock, one of the Earliest Symbols of the Holy Trinity among the Irish.

6) By going far back to the time of the Gods, there is Dagda,the father of the Gods was a powerful being, complete with the ability to make the sun stand still. This he did once and stretched a day and night into nine months, in which time he bedded with a goddess and she bore him a son. According to legend, Dagda represents the right hand of the ring.

In the time of the ancient Celts, Anu was the ancestral and universal mother of the Celtic people. She is also known as Danu to her people. She is said torepresent the left hand of the ring.

The crown represents Beathauile. More on this later.

Finally, the heart represents the hearts of each and every member of mankind, in addition to the element which gives everlasting music to the Gael.

7) The romantic story of the mystical and beautiful Claddagh Ring began way back over 300 years ago in the ancient fishing village of Claddagh just outside the walls of the City of Galway on the westcoast of Ireland. It was the first residence of the Celtic settlers in this area. The ring has a design of a heart being encircled by a pair of delicate hands with a crown above the heart. In earlier times this design was the symbol of the "Fishing Kings of Claddagh", its meaning being 'in love and friendship let us reign'. When these sailors would run into other fishermen in their waters, they would check for the ring, and if they did not find it, they would kill them. Later, the Claddagh was used by these people as a marriage ring. Even to the present day the ring has associated with it special customs, for instance, it is not right for a Claddagh person to buy a ring - they must obtain it as a gift. If married, the ring should be worn with the crown nearest the knuckle.

8) There are two interesting versions of the origin design used in the Claddagh, both of which are associated with the "Joyce" family, one of the famous "Tribes of Galway."

Margaret Joyce, surnamed Margaret of the Bridges, from the great number that she built, first married Domingo DeRona, a wealthy Spanish merchant who traded to Galway, where he fell in love with her. Soon after departing for Spain, he died there and left her his immense property. She subsequently married Oliver Ogffrench, who was mayor of Galway in 1596. During his absence on a voyage she built most of the bridges of Connacht at her own expense. One day, when reviewing this work, an eagle dropped a gold ring into her lap. It was preserved by her family in 1661 and was considered as a providential reward for her good works and charity. This ring could well have been the original Claddagh ring.

The story of Richard Joyce is more factual. A native of Galway, who while being transported as a slave to the plantations of the West Indies was captured by Mediterranean pirates and sold to a Moorish goldsmith who trained him in his craft. In 1689 he was released and returned to Galway and set up his shop in the Claddagh. (The Claddagh is said to be the oldest fishing village in Ireland). By tradition the ring is taken to signify the wish that Love and Friendship should reign supreme. The hands signify friendship, the crown loyalty, and the heart love. Some of his work, stamped with his mark, an anchor signifying hope and initials R.I., is still in existence. To Richard Joyes or Joyce, is attributed the Claddagh ring design. Some hold that he brought the design from Algiers, but could have also have obtained the unique and original design from his kinswoman Margaret of the Bridges.

9) According to a different origin, the meaning of the Claddagh was not nearly as romantic as according to popular belief. It is said by some that the Claddagh rings were actually worn by prostitutes in the ancient days. If the ring was worn with the heart pointing out, it meant the woman was available, while if the heart was pointing in, it meant she was unavailable.

10) On the other hand, here is a more traditional meaning to the rings, again, from a different source: the rings were worn by the Irish as wedding/engagement rings starting the 1600's. The rings were both made of silver and gold and while the meaning behind the symbol was identical in both cases, the gold rings were worn by the richer people, while the silver rings were worn by the lower class. The first time the Claddaghs were exchanged was in the engagement - if a woman or a man were wearing a ring, with the heart pointing in, she/he was engaged to be married. In the Catholic Ireland, the wearing of the Claddagh meant that the wedding was inevitable. Only in the 1800's, under the oppressive English reign, the Claddaghs began to be misused and worn by prostitutes, with the meaning mentioned in (9). As years passed on by, the rings lost even that meaning and all the centuries-long history was being either repressed or forgotten completely - the rings started being used as mere friendship rings.

|| Songs, Verses, etc. ||

In Love and Friendship Let Us Reign

- - - - - - The hands are there for friendship,
The heart is there for love.
For loyalty throughout the year,
The crown is raised above.

- - - - - - The Old Claddagh Ring sure it was my Grandmother's,
She wore it a lifetime and gave it to me;
All through the long years, she wore it so proudly,
It was made where the Claddagh Rolls down to the sea.
What tales it could tell of trials and hardships,
And of grand happy days when the whole world could sing -
So away with your sorrow, it will bring love tomorrow,
Everyone loves it the Old Claddagh Ring

With the crown and the crest to remind me of honor,
And clasping the heart that God's blessing would bring,
The circle of gold always kept us contented,
'twas true love entwined in the Old Claddagh Ring.
As she knelt at her prayers and thought of her dear ones,
Her soft gentle smile would charm a king;
And on her worn hand as she told me the story,
You could see the bright glint of the Old Claddagh Ring

It was her gift to me and it made me so happy,
With this on my finger my heart it would sing;
No king on his throne could be half so happy
As I am when I'm wearing my Old Claddagh Ring.
When the angels above call me up to heaven
In the heard of the Claddagh their voices will sing
Saying 'away with your sorrow, you'll be with us tomorrow,
Be sure and bring with you the Old Claddagh Ring

- - - - - - With this crown
I give my loyalty
With these hands
I offer my service
With this heart
I give you mine

Always and ever
My love ever true
Always and ever
Shall be my love for you

- From Love of the Claddagh by Jillian Godsill

::: Wearing :::

The ring is unique in as much as it is the only ring in the world of a distinctive design used exclusively by a small community for over 400 years. It has become popular outside Connemara since the middle of the last century - its spread being helped by the vast exodus from the West during the great Famine in 1847-49. These rings were kept as heirlooms with great pride and passed from mother to daughter. It was claimed to be the only ring made in Ireland ever to be 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.

Today, the ring is worn extensively across Ireland, and all throughout the world. According to the ancient Celtic tradition, it is to be worn, by men or women, as following:

1) On the right hand, with the heart pointing out and the crown pointing in - the wearer is free and single.

2) On the right hand, with the heart pointing in and the crown pointing out - the wearer's heart is taken.

3) On the left hand, with the heart pointing in and the crown pointing out - the wearer is happily married.

|| Marks ||

Some Marks on Claddagh Rings from the later part of the 17th to the early part of the 18th century:

MARK JEWELER
RI RICHARD JOYCE, GALWAY
GR GEORGE ROBINSON, GALWAY
AR ANDREW ROBINSON, GALWAY
NB NICHOLAS BURDGE, GALWAY
F AUSTIN FRENCH, GALWAY
JD RD WD DILLON
JS (?) JOHN SHADWELL
TH UNKNOWN

More coming soon!

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