Origin and signifcance of some well-known Irish Icons. 

Celtic Cross

Celtic Cross

St. Patrick is widely credited for coming up with the Celtic Cross, which combined the existing pagan sun-worshiping ideology of the day with that of the Christian cross.

Green: The Color of Independence

St Pats greensceneEvolved from St Patrick’s popularization of the shamrock, The Emerald Isle’s green, lush vegetation became a natural theme for its identity. During the earlier Irish Rebellion of 1798, the “wearing of the green” clover lapel pin or green uniforms became a symbol of nationalist defiance. A patriotic song of the day went like this:

stpatrick blue 150


“Oh, Paddy dear, did you hear the news that’s going ’round?
The shamrock is forbid by law to grow on Irish ground
Saint Patrick’s Day no more to keep, his color can’t be seen
For there’s a bloody law again’ the Wearing of the Green.”

However, contrary to modern perception, the original color associated with Saint Patrick’s color was not green, but light blue. St. Patrick’s blue, as it was called, was later used in the 1916 Easter Rising toward its independence from Britain as the Republic of Ireland in 1921.


The Triskel, semiotic predecessor of the shamrockIn ancient pagan Ireland, the number three had special siginifcance, since many "triple deities" were worshipped. The triple god Brigid was depicted simutaneously as Poetess, Smith (as in industry), and Healer. Parallel mythology depicts Boann, Brigid and Ceridwen as the Triple Goddess of Creativity, Inspiration and Vision.

Other popular myths cite the triplets or stages, of female life, Maiden, Mother and Crone. However, the true origins of "three-ness" are much more profound. Three moves one beyond the "one" (ourselves) and even the "two" of duality into the greater mystery "otherness". The Triskel (right), a three-fold Celtic spiral appears carved into even the most ancient artifacts, not only in Ireland, but in many other parts of the world. The Celtic Triadic was a three-part verse, an ancient Celtic "haiku" of sorts, which was easy for children to remember and pass on wisdom in oral tradition or song.

When St. Patrick came along in the 4th century AD, he popularized the three-leaf shamrock as a Christian metaphor in his teachings to explain the Holy Trinity. Ireland has come to use the shamrock as a symbol of national identity.