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Irish Celts, the Original Tree-Huggers

The Irish Celts had a deep respect for the land, water and forests around them. They believed our natural world was sacred, and treated their resources with a reverence similar to our modern concepts of limiting waste, and preserving and recycling every resource.

Interestingly, like most ancient peoples, they used animals not only for food, but also to make tools, clothing, and rugs which doubled as seating areas in their homes, even the ancient Celts had the same love of comfort as their modern counterparts! They were adept at animal husbandry, using cattle for transportation and to farm. Meat was salted and preserved, so there was no throwing away anything they couldn’t immediately eat. Every bit of food was used and if not used immediately, preserved for later. Mmmmm, jerky!

They farmed the surrounding lands, sometimes clearing parts of forests to create space to grow the grains they ate. As farmers, the Irish Celts were so successful they had to come up with a way to preserve excess for winter, they would dig a pit in the ground, and use it to

irish celts

Trackway dating to B.C. 148/147 which was discovered in Mountdillon Bog, Co. Longford
photo courtesy of discoverloughneah.com

place grain in layers, so only the top layer fermented, while the other layers remained good for eating. The original grain silos!

They used the surrounding forests to hunt as well as gather fruit and herbs. Trees were a major part of the Celts spirituality, and were treated with special reverence. Although they would clear trees and deforest small areas, those areas were used to cultivate plants, and the felled trees were often used to build roads and for housing. Nothing usable escaped their attention, even rushes found by rivers were used for roofing as well as flooring, and even baskets and other common household items.

Celts were successful traders, trading jewelry, art, and salt. Salt, as we know, was a valuable resource worldwide, the Irish Celts mined it and traded it for other goods as well as using it for their own purposes as a preservative and seasoning. Perhaps this was the beginning of Irish cuisine?

Irish celts

Salt mine Carrickfergus Co. Antrim Ireland
image courtesy of postcardsireland.com

Irish Celts were a resourceful group, finding ways of nurturing and sustaining the earth, treating it with reverence while still using it for survival.

 


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Trinity knot: Sacred Symbol

The trinity knot is one of the most used and recognized symbols in Irish and Celtic jewelry, art, and decorations of all kinds. Why is it featured so prominently? Ancient Celts believed that there were three stages of life, three elements, three domains; earth, sea and sky, past, present and future. The trinity knot is an unending knot, connected with no break, which also symbolizes the unending connection we have with everything.The importance of three is not only prevalent in Irish and Celtic lore but also in most ancient and modern cultures, as well as mathematics.

trinity

Anu sterling silver and marcasite trinity knot pendant

The trinity knot is also associated in modern Christianity to symbolize the Holy Trinity, of Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. The number three is used 467 times in the Bible, notably when Jesus prayed three times in the Garden at Gethsemane, the amount of time Jesus was dead prior to his resurrection (three days), and the three hours of darkness that covered the land while Jesus suffered on the cross. For more information on the Biblical importance of the number three visit biblestudy.org.

In China, the lucky number three, or trinity,  is associated with mystical abilities and powerful creativity. It also has origins in Confucianism and Taoism, it stands for Heaven, Earth, and Human Being, and Tao actually means amiableness among the above three elements. To read an article about this go to travelchinaguide.com

In Hinduism, the trinity, or three, is also a spiritual number. It is representative of the order of the universe by the working together of the trinity of gods Brahma, the creator, Vishnu, the preserver, and Siva the destroyer. It is believed that in working together these three elements of god bring about Rtam, the rhythm of the universe. Find out more on hinduwebsite.com

Pythagoras, Greek mathematician, developed many theories around the number three. His theories on triangles are taught today. Trinity, triangle…storyofmathematics.com

The number three figures prominently in so many natural phenomena that we don’t have space to list them here. The trinity is a spiritual and holy symbol, loved at once for its balance and mathematical perfection, as well as for its endless form.

Trinity

Trinity knot ring by ShanOre Celtic Jewelry

 


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Newgrange: Mystery and History

Ireland is well known for its remnants of past societies. Ancient Celtic crosses, stone ruins, pottery, metalwork, and monuments speak of a people whose rich culture and spirituality blossomed in even the harshest of times. Newgrange, located in the Boyne Valley of Ireland, is a neolithic monument that is a favorite of tourists as well as historians.

The Encyclopædia Brittanica Describes the Neolithic Period, also called New Stone Age,  as the final stage of cultural evolution or technological development among prehistoric humans. It was characterized by stone tools shaped by polishing or grinding, dependence on domesticated plants or animals, settlement in permanent villages, and the appearance of such crafts as pottery and weaving. The Neolithic followed the Paleolithic Period, or age of chipped-stone tools, and preceded the Bronze Age, or early period of metal tools.

What is it? Previously considered a passage tomb (tomb with passages leading into a chamber or chambers), Newgrange is now thought to be more of an ancient temple. The passage and chamber is built to align with the sun on the winter solstice, so that the sun shines through and illumines the chamber. Because of this, it is believed that Newgrange had greater astrological and religious significance than originally believed.

Newgrange

Newgrange monument during winter solstice. Photo from newgrange.com

Who built it? The neolithic people of the Boyne Valley were farmers, raising crops and animals (such as cattle) in their settlements.  Their tools were made of stone, wood, antler or bone, as they had not yet developed metal. The carvings done on Newgrange were done without metal tools.

What are the symbols? No one is entirely sure what the symbols on Newgrange mean, or their purpose. Some believe that they are decorative, while others think they have a greater significance, because they are on areas of the monument that aren’t visible.

Newgrange is more than a popular tourist destination, along with the similar mounds nearby at Knowth and Douth, it is a deeply spiritual connection to the past. Visit the Boyne Valley Tours website to  get more information on Newgrange and touring the area.

newgrange

Outside Newgrange
Photo from ancient history encyclopedia
ancient.eu.com


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The Flag of Ireland, Three Variations

Ireland has multiple flags, each with a different meaning and significance. The Tricolor Irish flag, the Gold harp on green background, and the four provinces are especially rich in history and significance.

The most recognizable is the Tricolor, with its bright colors and rich history. It was first flown

by Thomas Francis Meagher during the  Young Irelander Rebellion of 1848, on March 7 in Waterford City. “The white in the center signifies a lasting truce between the orange and the green,” he said, “and I trust that beneath its folds the hands of the Irish Protestant and the Irish Catholic may be clasped, in generous and heroic brotherhood.” -Thomas Francis Meagher.

Originally given to Meagher by the French, it flew over the Wolfe Tone Confederate Club in Waterford, Ireland. For more information on Thomas Francis Meagher and the tricolor, view this article on Celtic Life International.

irish flag

Irish Tricolor Flag
Courtesy of Travelinireland.com

Probably the second most recognizable flag is the green flag featuring a gold harp with the phrase “Erin go Bragh” (Ireland forever) written on it. Before the tricolor was adopted, it was used as the national flag. The harp is the symbol of Ireland, with the “Maid of Erin”, a mythical woman forming part of the harp.

irish flag

Erin go Bragh Flag
picture courtesy of commons. wikimedia.org

Another perhaps lesser known flag is the four provinces flag. It has a representation of each of the four provinces of Ireland, with each symbol being the heraldic symbol of the prominent family of each province. Leinster has a silver stringed golden harp (symbol of Brian Boru), Munster is three gold crowns on a blue background, which is thought to represent the three most prominent families of that region (O’Briens (Thomond), of the Butlers (Ormond), and the Fitzgeralds (Desmond). Connaght is the image of the arm and sword (O’Connors) with the black eagle perhaps representing the Browns, the origins of this symbol are particularly vague.  Ulster is represented by a red cross on yellow background (de Burgos), with the red hand in the center (O’Neills of Tyrone).

For more detailed information read this article on Clancorrigan.ca

irish flag

Four Provinces with map of Ireland
picture courtesy of www.uni-due.de

Irish history is rich and full of exciting symbols, the Irish flags represent not only the patriotism of Ireland, but also the history of its wars and national strife.

To purchase any of these flags, visit our brick and mortar store. Or call us at: (816)640-2881 and we’ll ship you one!

 

 


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Irish Time

We all know someone who is perpetually late. The person who shows up 2 hours to their birthday party, then tells you they need a minute to get ready. A minute which takes an hour. The person who unapologetically starts their dinner party preparations twenty minutes after the guests arrive.  These people are running on what we here at the Ranch like to call “Irish Time”.

Irish time is more than mere lateness. Late is for the ordinary. The Irish have turned a lack of punctuality into an art form. You can’t simply be late, you must be extremely,

Mustache pocket watch

Mustache pocket watch

unapologetically, unexplainedly late.

Like any great art, Irish lateness takes on many different forms, depending on circumstance and the artist executing it. We’ve put together a little tutorial so you too can operate on Irish time.

Dinnertime-dinnertime lateness must be carefully executed so that your companions will not abandon your plans, but will continue to wait for your arrival. This is best done around one hour or sometimes two, depending on whether you are the person who made the plans. If you are, you can safely broach the two hour mark with a minimum of concern. The perfectly crafted and executed late arrival will leave your group somewhere between “Ah, yes, I’ll have another pint” and “Dear God, I’m going to chew my own arm off if I don’t get some food in me”.

Parties-okay, a good party (craic) is not to be missed, in order to fully enjoy a party, your lateness must be calculated so that you don’t miss anyone getting completely pissed (drunk, not angry) and performing “Danny Boy” at a high volume in a rich falsetto (to be posted on Youtube), and that you don’t arrive so early that you’re the one getting completely pissed singing “Danny Boy” in a rich falsetto (to be posted on Youtube). We recommend no more than two hours, but no less than forty-five minutes.

Business meetings-typically, even the Irish like to be punctual when doing business, but a correctly formulated plan can make tardiness an asset to any meeting. Ideally you want to achieve a balance with your tardiness between allowing your colleague to believe they are the most important meeting of your day while simultaneously letting them know how lucky they are you showed up at all because you are very busy and in demand. A rough estimate is between a half hour and three hours depending on whether or not there is a bar where you’re planning to meet.

We hope you enjoyed this tutorial on Irish time

, and will take these tips into consideration the next time you’re planning to be tardy.

 


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What is a Celt?

According to Google, a Celt is:
kelt,selt/
noun
plural noun: Celts
a member of a group of peoples inhabiting much of Europe and Asia Minor in pre-Roman times. Their culture developed in the late Bronze Age around the upper Danube, and reached its height in the La Tène culture (5th to 1st centuries BC) before being overrun by the Romans and various Germanic peoples.
a native of any of the modern nations or regions in which Celtic languages are (or were until recently) spoken; a person of Irish, Highland Scottish, Manx, Welsh, or Cornish descent.

from Latin Celtae (plural), from Greek Keltoi ; in later use from French Celte ‘Breton’ (taken as representing the ancient Gauls).
celt
selt/
noun

ARCHAEOLOGY
plural noun: celts
a prehistoric stone or metal implement with a beveled cutting edge, probably used as a tool or weapon.

So it’s a person or a cutting tool. Sometimes both (heehee). Commonly the term Celt is used to describe persons of Irish, Scottish, Cornish or Welsh descent, although there are seven Celtic Nations (Ireland, Scotland, Wales, Cornwall, Galicia/Spain, the Isle of Man, and Brittany/Western France).

Mostly, the ancient Celts are a mystery. They had no written history, although they had a written alphabet based on trees, called Ogham which can be seen on on monuments around Ireland, Scotland, and Wales among other Celtic countries.

Their religion is also a mystery, there are neolithic monuments throughout Celtic countries, thought to be tombs. One of the most famous of these is Newgrange in the Boyne Valley of Ireland. Interestingly, during Winter Solstice, the light comes through a passage inside the monument and lights up the back. This particular monument pre-dates

Boru Wood Quay warrior inspired pendant.

Boru Wood Quay warrior inspired pendant.

Stonehenge and the Egyptian pyramids.

Ancient Celts were artists, carving spirals on their monuments, as well as making metal chalises  such as the ones found at Arda, the designs on these are used today in Celtic jewelry, cups, plates, wall hangings and other household items.

They were fierce warriors, and painted themselves with woad, a blue dye created from a plant to frighten their enemies. They fought naked, and it’s believed that Celtic women fought along side their male

counterparts.

The ancient Celts were a mysterious group, full of passion and spirit. That  legacy lives on in their modern ancestors. Next time you meet an Irishman, Scotsman, or Welshman, remember their rich ancestry. If they’re painted blue, well…

Photo courtesy of Lora O'Brien http://www.loraobrien.com/publications.html

Photo courtesy of Lora O’Brien
http://www.loraobrien.com/publications.html

 


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Irish Comfort Food

Winter isn’t over just yet, and in the chilly months nothing beats comfort foods. In America we love our spicy rich chili, mashed potatoes, and of course macaroni and cheese in all its glorious incarnations. While we all have our favorites, sometimes we need to branch out (there’s only so much macaroni and cheese you can eat), at the Celtic Ranch we recommend Irish comfort foods. There’s a comforting simplicity to many traditional Irish dishes, which often include rich blends of spices, root vegetables, meats, and the ultimate comfort food for many of us: the potato. We’ve compiled a list of some Irish delicacies, and included the links to the recipes.

Nothing says “Irish comfort food” like stew. We’re especially fond of any stew that includes a good stout, as many of them do. This recipe calls for garlic potatoes, we also suggest Colcannon potatoes, for a delicious variation. Our thanks to Damn Delicious for the recipe.

Previously we mentioned Colcannon, for those of you who have been at Celtic Ranch when we’ve had food, chances are good you’ve had this delicacy. The combination of potatoes and cabbage make this a really Irish dish, and one that is a favorite of all us ranchers. Recipe courtesy of Simply Recipes. 

Coddle. Just the name implies comfort and indulgence, the best parts of Irish comfort foods! This combination of sausage, bacon, and potatoes makes for a robust almost soup like dish, served hot on a winters day with soda bread and a stout it’s like a blanket for your tummy! Recipe from Epicurious.

We can’t leave off Shepherd’s Pie, with its mashed potato top and savory flavors you’ll have a warm glow inside and out. This recipe calls for spinach, which adds a delightful bit of iron for cold days.  Our thanks to Delish for this recipe.

Soda bread is a popular addition to the meals listed above, it’s a great way to sop up the liquids from a stew or coddle as well as an excellent vehicle for butter (as are most things). It’s a simple bread to make, requiring no rising and few ingredients. One of our favorites around the ranch. (For those of you interested in bringing us baked goods). Recipe courtesy of Kerrygold USA.

Now that we have some basic Irish comfort food covered, let’s move on to dessert. We recommend our famous Celtic Ranch Stout Brownies. Rich chocolatey brownies, with a whiskey fudge topping are a delightful way to stave off winter doldrums, since chocolate releases endorphins in the brain to give you a sense of well-being, as well as containing anti-oxidents to help maintain your physical health. It’s practically a vitamin!

Of course, nothing is more comforting in winter than a hot toddy. We’ve found a traditional

Photo courtesy of irishamericanmom.com

Photo courtesy of irishamericanmom.com

Irish recipe that’s guaranteed to warm those bones. This is slightly different than its American counterparts, we find it very satisfying. To pick up your favorite whiskey, visit the store, or to find you favorite whiskey attend one of our whiskey tastings. Hot toddy recipe courtesy of Allrecipes UK.

All in all, no one does comfort food like the Irish, so fix yourself a hot toddy, get in your kitchen, and make yourself a warm up. Spring will be here soon enough, for now enjoy a little comfort.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 


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The Romance of ShanOre Irish Handcrafted Celtic Jewelry

ShanOre Jewelry stone set Celtic Knot Pendant

ShanOre Jewelry stone set Celtic Knot Pendant

We love Celtic jewelry at The Celtic Ranch. Love. It. We love all the knots, the braids, the crosses, the Claddaghs, stones, pearls and just all of it!

ShanOre Irish Handcrafted jewelry have been creating timeless pieces since 1979, their engagement ring, claddagh ring, and Tara’s Diary collections of Celtic jewelry are among some of the most sought after, not only for their beauty of design, but also for their craftsmanship and modern take on tradition.

ShanOre’s collection of Celtic wedding rings for men and women are among some of the most elegant and unique, they offer many different options of metal and diamonds, and for those who like a simpler look they make a variety of Celtic knot rings which can be wrought in silver, gold, and white gold.

Claddagh rings are a Celtic jewelry staple. Traditionally Irish, but many people who are not Irish have taken up the tradition as well, because “Love, Loyalty, Friendship” transcends nationality. ShanOre is famous for making some of the prettiest Claddagh ring designs in the industry. They also make the Claddagh symbol into pendants and earrings of all sizes, many designed to coordinate with their rings which make an elegant statement when worn as a set.

Trinity knots, also called simply Celtic knots, have no beginning or end, representing infinite love, possibility, and connection in a spiritual or romantic sense. Trinity knots are widely represented in ShanOre’s designs among our favorites is this simple, elegant ring expertly crafted in sterling silver. Another favorite is the trinity pearl set, which includes a ring, pendant, and earrings of a trinity knot graced at the end with a single pearl.

Celtic crosses are unique in their symbology, decorated with Claddaghs, knots, and depictions of events in the Bible, each design is singular and widely used in Celtic jewelry. ShanOre creates some of the most interesting and ornate pieces, including a St. Brigid’s cross that has become a customer favorite.

ShanOre birthstone Claddagh ring

ShanOre birthstone Claddagh ring

We can’t leave without discussing the tree of life, another traditional symbol widely used in Celtic jewelry. ShanOre’s remarkable tree designs respect the historical aspects of the tree joining heaven and Earth, uniting the worlds, while bringing to them a modern touch.

You can see why ShanOre is one of our favorite Celtic jewelry lines, the pieces we’ve shared here are a very small part of their entire collection. Come to the shop or visit our website and see our extensive collection, and watch our video of a Claddagh ring being made.


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Saying I Love You in Irish

On Valentine’s day we think of love, romance, passion, Ireland… It’s a cool and dreary island, with frequent gray days which makes for a passionate group of folks! Let’s look at some Irish (there are too many to list here) terms of affection:

A chara (uh KHAR-uh): This means friend

Mo anam chara (mo anum KHAR-uh): Soul friend, this differs from soul mate, as it can be used in a less romantic sense, and more of a spiritual sense.

A stór (uh stohr): My treasure, can be used for a romantic love or for a child, a more general endearment.

A ghrá (uh GHRAH): Love, my love, romantic love.A chroí (uh KHREE): Heart, you are my heart. Swoon!

Treasure of my heart: Sweetheart necklace with hidden gold heart.

Treasure of my heart: Sweetheart necklace with hidden gold heart.

Stór mo chroí (stohr muh KHREE) Treasure of my heart, so romantic!

A mhuirnín (uh WUR-neen): Darling, in the Midwest we say Darlin’.

A chuisle (uh KHUSH-leh): Pulse, the person is blood through your veins.

A leanbh (uh LAN-uv): My child, a term of endearment, like your priest calls you.

A rúnsearc (uh ROON-shark): Secret love, wow! A passionate endearment indeed!

Mo shíorghrá (muh HEER-ggrah): My eternal love, soul mate.

M’fhíorghrá (MEER-ggrah): my true love, soul mate.

My heart is in you, Birthstone Claddagh Ring

My heart is in you, Birthstone Claddagh Ring

Here are some longer phrases, to whisper to your beloved on a cold night.

Tá mo chroí istigh ionat. (Taw muh ch(k)ree is-chi un-it) My heart is in you

Mo chuid den tsaol. (Muy ch(k)wid den tay-ol) My share of life.

Here are a couple of great ones, without the phonetics unfortunately.

An luífeása le mo mhuintirse? Would you like to be buried with my people? Now THAT is a marriage proposal, who could resist?

Maireann lá go ruaig ach maireann an grá go huaigh. A day lasts until it’s chased away but love lasts until the grave. This is sweet, and so true.

Finally, a poem by W.B. Yeats

When you are old and grey and full of sleep,
And nodding by the fire, take down this book,
And slowly read, and dream of the soft look
Your eyes had once, and of their shadows deep;

How many loved your moments of glad grace,
And loved your beauty with love false or true,
But one man loved the pilgrim soul in you,
And loved the sorrows of your changing face;

And bending down beside the glowing bars,
Murmur, a little sadly, how Love fled
And paced upon the mountains overhead
And hid his face amid a crowd of stars.

-William Butler Yeats

The Irish, so romantic.


 

 

 


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