Claddagh Ring

Friendship, Love, Loalty

Here is another one that you will see around the booths of the Ren Faire:  the Claddagh Ring.

claddagh1The Claddagh is easy to spot.  The ring features two hands holding a heart and most of the time, traditionally if you will, the heart is topped by a crown.  The ring in most cases is a symbol in modern times of love.  The ring has become a favorite for engagements and wedding rings.  The ring has also been popularized in pop-culture on the TV show Buffy the Vampire Slayer (the ring that Angel gave to Buffy) and other pieces of mass media.  The three pieces of this symbol are easy enough to understand:

The Heart

The heart symbolizes love, whether it be found, sought after or hoped for.

The Hands

Friendship.  I huge part of love is the fact that you are looking for a friend as much as a lover.

The Crown

Loyalty.  A very appropriate symbol and an equally important part of love.

Colin Murphy a writer on Irish traditions and legends explains the possible origins of the Claddagh thusly:

“There are a variety of legends about the origins of the ring. One tale is about Margareth Joyce, a woman of the Joyce clan. She married a Spanish merchant named Domingo de Rona. She went with him to Spain, but he died and left her a large sum of money. She returned to Ireland and, in 1596, married Oliver Ogffrench, the mayor of Galway. With the money she inherited from her first marriage, she funded the construction of bridges in Connacht. All this she did out of charity, so one day an eagle dropped the Claddagh ring into her lap, as a reward.
Another story tells of a Prince who fell in love with a common maid. To convince her father his feelings were genuine and he had no intentions of “using” the girl, he designed a ring with hands representing friendship, a crown representing loyalty, and a heart representing love. He proposed to the maid with this ring, and after the father heard the explanation of the symbolism of the ring, he gave his blessing.
One legend that may be closer to historical truth is of a man named Richard Joyce, another member of the Joyce clan and a native of Galway. He left his town to work in the West Indies, intending to marry his love when he returned. However his ship was captured and he was sold as a slave to a Moorish goldsmith. In Algiers, with his new master, he was trained in his craft. When William III became king, he demanded the Moors release all British prisoners. As a result, Richard Joyce was set free. The goldsmith had such a great amount of respect for Richard Joyce that he offered Joyce his daughter and half his wealth if Joyce stayed, but he denied his offer and returned home to marry his love who awaited his return. During his time with the Moors he forged a ring as a symbol of his love for her. Upon his return he presented her with the ring and they were married.”
claddagh2In times past, the ring held a little more information about the wearer.  In his book The Feckin’ Book of Everything Irish, Murphy explains what the ring may have meant when worn:
  1. On the right hand with the point of the heart toward the fingertips, the wearer is single and may be looking for love. (This is most commonly the case when a young woman has first received the ring from a relative, unless she is already engaged).
  2. On the right hand with the point of the heart toward the wrist, the wearer is in a relationship (suggesting their heart has been “captured”).
  3. On the left hand with the point of the heart toward the fingertips, the wearer is engaged.
  4. On the left hand with the point of the heart toward the wrist, the wearer is married.

Obviously for young men looking to woe a fair lady, being able to know the status of fair lady simply by looking at their hands was a plus.  Maybe this will give you a little more insight the next time you are browsing through a jewelry booth and you see a line of Claddagh rings… or maybe you see a young lady wearing one and it is obvious that she is in need of some woe-ing.