There are so many myths and legends springing from the misty, romantic island of Ireland I can’t even count them. Some of my favorites include Finn MacCool and the Fianna, Oisin and the Land of the Ever Young, and the Children of Lir.
But my absolute favorite Irish story is the legend of the Claddagh Ring, Ireland’s unique symbol of friendship, loyalty and love.
The Claddagh ring dates back centuries to the small Galway fishing village of Claddagh. The word “Claddagh” comes from the Irish term An Cladach, meaning a flat, stony shore.
Richard Joyce, a native of the village, was captured by Algerians and sold as a slave to a Moorish goldsmith. When William III of England demanded the release of all British subjects, Joyce, too, was released. The Moorish goldsmith offered Joyce a major portion of his wealth and his daughter in marriage, if Joyce would stay on in Algiers. Joyce refused the tempting offer and returned to the village of Claddagh. It was there he turned his skills to the creation of an emblem of love, friendship and loyalty: two hands (friendship) cradling a heart (love) topped by a crown (loyalty).
Wear the ring on the right hand, the crown turned inwards, and let the world know your heart is free. On the right hand, the crown turned outwards, and it’s clear love is being considered. But when it’s worn on the left hand, the crown turned outward, two loves have become inseparable.
In my novel, In Sunshine or in Shadow, Rory O’Brien presents Siobhán Desmond with a Claddagh ring at their wedding:
When it came time for the ring, Rory’s voice echoed in her head, deep and loving. “Siobhán take this ring as a sign of my love and fidelity, in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Ghost.”
It was then that she looked down at her finger, where Michael’s simple had rested until just that morning. In its place, Rory was sliding on a delicate scrap of silver. A design of two hands joined together to support a single heart, topped by a crown, symbolizing friendship, love and loyalty.
“Let love and friendship reign,” Siobhán murmured, touching the ring reverently as she quoted its motto.
I cherish my own Claddagh ring, given me by my husband as a birthday gift several years ago, as much as Siobhán.