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Claddagh ring

The Claddagh ring (Irish: fáinne Chladaigh) is a traditional Irish ring given as a token of love or worn as a wedding ring. The design and customs associated with it originated in the Irish fishing village of Claddagh, located just outside the city of Galway. The ring was first produced in the 17th century during the reign of Queen Mary II, though elements of the design are much older.

Contents

Symbolism

The Claddagh's distinctive design features two hands clasping a heart, and usually surmounted by a crown. The elements of this symbol are often said to correspond to the qualities of love (the heart), friendship (the hands), and loyalty (the crown). The expression which was associated with these symbols in the giving of the ring was: "With my two hands I give you my heart, and crown it with my loyalty." Yet, the expression, "Let love and friendship reign forever" can be found as another meaning for the symbols.

The way that a Claddagh ring is worn on the hand is usually intended to convey the wearer's romantic availability, or lack thereof. The ring is worn on the right hand with the heart facing outward to show that the wearer is not romantically linked but is looking for love. When turned inwards, it is shown that the wearer is in a relationship, or their heart has been "captured". Noting that the heart is pointing down the hand and into the veins which lead to the wearer's heart. The ring worn on the left hand with the heart facing outward shows the wearer is engaged; turned inward indicates the wearer is married.[1]

Possible origins

The Claddagh ring belongs to a widespread group of finger rings called “Fede Rings”.[2] The name "fede" comes from the Italian phrase mani in fede ("hands in trust" or "hands in faith"). These rings date from Roman times, when the gesture of clasped right hands (dextrarum iunctio) was a popular design style (vid. Jones).

Fede rings are often 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 era in the National Museum of Ireland, Kildare Street, Dublin.[2]

According to Jones,[3], the Claddugh (Jones' original spelling) was part of Claddagh's tradition; Jones says the natives of Claddugh [sic] are "particularly exclusive in their tastes and habits."

Jones explains:

The clasped hands [style ring]... are... in constant use in [the]... community [of] Claddugh [sic] at [County] Galway.... [They] rarely [intermarry] with others than their own people [sic]. The [Claddagh] wedding-ring [sic] is an heirloom in the family... transferred from the mother to the daughter who is first [to be] married, and so passes to her descendants. Many of these [rings]... are very old.

Evidence shows the Claddagh to have been a marginal custom at best, until recently. Kunz [4], while showing a photo of a typical gold Claddagh ring which he also spells "Claddugh", merely references an old Irish tradition of the bridegroom renting a gold ring in the event he couldn't afford to buy one. Kunz makes no mention of the "Claddugh" ring in his text.

However, McCarthy [5] merely repeats Kunz, making no reference at all to the Claddagh ring, or anything similar in the Irish tradition section of his "Betrothal Ring" chapter.

McCarthy reminds us that men did not wear wedding rings commonly until World War II, though there was common tradition for men in Victorian times; this tradition for men vanished in Edwardian times, and the ring tradition of women was essentially ignored from Kunz well beyond McCarthy.

It has in recent years become demonstrative of pride in Irish heritage, though none of the above ring experts makes any mention of Claddugh wearing-customs (vid. Jones).

However, there are many legends about the origins of the ring.

One tale is about Margaret Joyce, a woman of The Tribes of Galway. 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 Óg French, the mayor of Galway. With the money she inherited from her first marriage, she funded the construction of bridges in Connacht. All this out of charity, so one day an eagle dropped the Claddagh ring into her lap, as a reward.[citation needed]

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.[citation needed]

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, Robert Joyce was set free. The goldsmith had such a great amount of respect for Robert 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.

Several individuals of this name have long felt grateful to the memory of William III from the following circumstance, on the accession of that monarch to the throne of England. One of the first acts of his reign was to send an ambassador to Algiers to demand the immediate release of all the British subjects detained there in slavery. The dey and council, intimidated, reluctantly complied with this demand. Among those released was a young man of the name of Joyes, a native of Galway, who fourteen years before was captured on his passage to the West Indies by an Algerian Corsair; on his arrival at Algiers, he was purchased by a wealthy Turk who followed the profession of a goldsmith. Observing his slave Joyes to be tractable and ingenious he instructed him in his trade in which he speedily became an adept. The Moor, as soon as he heard of his release, offered him, in case he should remain, his only daughter in marriage and with her half his property. All these, with other tempting and advantageous proposals, Joyes resolutely declined; on his return to Galway he married and followed the business of a goldsmith with considerable success

James Hardiman, [6]

The Irish Potato Famine (1845–1849) caused many to emigrate from Ireland, and the Claddagh ring spread along with the emigrants to the United States and elsewhere. Now the design is worn worldwide. These rings are often considered heirlooms, and passed on from mother to daughter as well as between friends and lovers.[citation needed]

A "Fenian" Claddagh, without the crown, was later designed in Dublin for the Irish Republican community, but that is not an indication that the crown in the original design was intended as a symbol of fidelity to the British crown. The Fenian Claddagh, while still in use, does not quite share the popularity of the ancient design. In any event, it seems likely that the crown of the Claddugh was intended to represent the ancient kings of Ireland[7].

Modern usage

Claddaghs continue to be worn, primarily by those of Irish heritage, as both a cultural symbol and as engagement and wedding rings.[1] At their Celtic Pagan handfasting, Irish/Scottish American[8] musician Jim Morrison of The Doors and Irish American author Patricia Kennealy-Morrison exchanged claddagh rings.[9] Although most of her claims regarding her relationship with Jim Morrison have been questioned. A picture of the rings was included on the cover of Kennealy-Morrison's memoir, Strange Days: My Life With and Without Jim Morrison, and the claddaghs can be seen in most of her author photos as well.[9]

Claddagh rings have made periodic appearances in movies and television, often as a plot device to indicate the ethnic origins or relationship status of a character, to illustrate wedding scenes, or to subtly indicate that the relationship of two characters has changed. In a scene loosely based on the above wedding ceremony, Val Kilmer and Kathleen Quinlan, as fictional versions of Morrison and Kennealy-Morrison, are seen exchanging the rings in Oliver Stone's movie, The Doors.[9]

Sometimes authors of fiction and fantasy works have given the ring a somewhat altered or fanciful symbolism to better suit their purposes, such as writer/director Joss Whedon's use of the ring as a recurring plot device in the television series, Buffy The Vampire Slayer.[10] Whedon reinterpreted the meaning of the ring - when worn on the left hand, facing in, in the usual "married" configuration - as meaning, "the wearer is destined to be with his or her love forever."[10] While the actual meaning ascribed to the ring in this instance is incorrect,[1] it is used in much the same way as claddaghs have been used in more traditional roles in fiction: to provide an ongoing visual reference to the type of relationship that exists between two of the lead characters, Buffy and Angel. The claddagh ring could also be an indicator of Angel's Irish heritage which is minutely mentioned in the television series.

See also

Notes

  1. ^ a b c Murphy, Colin, and Donal O'Dea (2006) The Feckin' Book of Everything Irish. New York, Barnes & Noble. p.126 ISBN 0-7607-8219-9
  2. ^ a b The Story of the Claddagh Ring from Pot O'Gold online. Accessed 18 Oct 2009
  3. ^ Finger-ring Lore, by Sir William Jones, Chatto & Windus, 1890.
  4. ^ Rings for the Finger, by George Frederick Kunz, J. B. Lippincott Co., 1917.
  5. ^ Rings Through the Ages, by James Remington McCarthy, Harper & Brothers, 1945.
  6. ^ Hardiman, James, History of the Town and County of Galway, Part I, Chapter I, PDF Edition. Retrieved 22 December 2007
  7. ^ Jones, ibid.
  8. ^ http://www.thebiographychannel.co.uk/biography_story/1930:2450/1/Jim_Morrison.htm
  9. ^ a b c Kennealy, Patricia (1992). Strange Days: My Life With And Without Jim Morrison. New York: Dutton/Penguin. ISBN 0-525-93419-7. 
  10. ^ a b Stafford, Nikki (2002) Bite Me! An Unofficial Guide to the World of Buffy the Vampire Slayer. Toronto, ECW Press. ISBN 1-55022-540-5 p.213

References

External links

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The Claddagh ring (Irish: fáinne Chladaigh) is a traditional Irish ring given as a token of love or worn as a wedding ring. The design and customs associated with it originated in the Irish fishing village of Claddagh, located just outside the city of Galway. The ring was first produced in the 17th century during the reign of Queen Mary II, though elements of the design are much older.

Contents

Symbolism

The Claddagh's distinctive design features two hands clasping a heart, and usually surmounted by a crown. The elements of this symbol are often said to correspond to the qualities of love (the heart), friendship (the hands), and loyalty (the crown).

The wearing of a Claddagh ring in modern usage is usually intended to convey the wearer's romantic availability, or lack thereof. The ring is worn on the right hand with the heart oriented away from the wearer, to show that the wearer is not romantically linked. When turned the other way, it shows that the wearer is in a relationship, or their heart has been "captured". When worn on the left hand with the heart oriented again away from the wearer, it implies the wearer is engaged; turned the other way, it indicates the wearer is married.[1]

Origins

The Claddagh ring is closely related to a group of European finger rings called “Fede Rings”.[2] The name "fede" comes from the Italian phrase mani in fede ("hands in trust" or "hands in faith"). These rings date from Roman times, when the gesture of clasped right hands (dextrarum iunctio) was a symbol of pledging vows, and they were used as love and marriage rings in medieval and Renaissance Europe.[3]. Fede rings are cast in the form of two clasped hands, symbolizing faith, trust or “plighted troth.” Nowadays the Claddagh ring is seen as a distinctively Irish variation on the fede ring, [4] although the hands, heart and crown motif was once used in other European countries too.[5] Galway has produced Claddagh rings continuously since at least 1700,[6] but the name "Claddagh ring" was not used before the 1840s.[7] [8]

An early written description of this kind of ring was published in 1843, along with an illustration. Ireland, its Scenery, Character etc. by Mr and Mrs Samuel Carter Hall has a section about the Claddagh fishing community and their wedding rings. In a footnote the Halls mention a "strong analogy" with older gimmal rings, despite the "rudeness of their [the Galway rings'] construction" .

The wedding ring is a heir-loom [sic] in a family. It is regularly transferred by the mother to her daughter first married; and so on to their descendants. These rings are large, of solid gold, and not unfrequently cost from two to three pounds each. The one we have here copied had evidently seen much service. Some of them are plainer; but the greater number are thus formed.

There are very similar descriptions in later 19th century books and journals. The Victorian antiquarian William Jones[9] gives Chambers' Book of Days [10]as the source for Claddagh information in his book "Finger-Ring Lore: historical, legendary, anecdotal". Chambers uses the Halls' account "almost verbatim".[11]

Jones explains:
The clasped hands [style ring]... are... still the fashion, and in constant use in [the]... community [of] Claddugh [sic] at [County] Galway.... [They] rarely [intermarry] with others than their own people. The [Claddagh] wedding-ring is a heirloom in the family... transferred from the mother to the daughter who is first [to be] married, and so passes to her descendants. Many of these [rings]... are very old.this ring has no meaning and is sold on the streets of inglewood and your local swap meets

In 1996 the Halls' information was examined by Ida Delamer, an expert on antique Irish silver.[12] [13] She is sceptical about the Halls' account, and implies it has been romanticised. Her reasons include:

  • The authors were misled by folklorist Thomas Crofton Croker.
  • "...with a few exceptions, all extant... Claddagh rings made prior to 1840 are male [men's] rings"

Delamer refers to a 1906 account by William Dillon,[14] Dillon, from a family of Galway jewellers in business since c1750, claims that the "Claddagh" ring was worn in the Aran Isles, Connemara, and beyond.

The Claddagh ring was a more or less marginal custom in the 18th and early 19th centuries. Knowledge of it spread within the British Isles during the Victorian period, and this is when its name became established.[15] Galway jewellers began to market it beyond the local area in the 19th century,[16][17] and presented a ring to Queen Victoria in 1849. Dublin goldsmiths started to make it too, and more "widespread recognition" came in the 20th century.[18] In the early 20th century American mineralogist George Frederick Kunz does not mention the Claddagh ring but shows a photo captioned with its name; Kunz merely addresses the importance of gold wedding rings in Ireland,[19] but it is unclear how and when the ring's popularity spread in the USA.

A "Fenian" Claddagh ring, without the crown, was later designed in Dublin for Irish Republicans. Claddagh rings have come to denote pride in Irish heritage, while continuing to be symbols of love and marriage.

Legends

There are many legends about the origins of the ring, particularly those connected with the Joyce Family of Galway. Richard Joyce was a silversmith working around 1700. [20] His initials are on one of the earliest surviving Claddagh rings with a maker's mark,[21] but there are three others also made around that time, with the mark of goldsmith Thomas Meade.[22] Suggestions that Joyce originated the design are "extremely unlikely" according to Delamer. Some elements found in the legends appeared in a footnote about Joyce family traditions in James Hardiman's History of Galway (1820).

The story of the Claddagh ring ... has so much folklore and myth attached to it that it is dificult to know where legend ends and truth begins. (Ida Delamer)

Modern usage and the Claddagh in Folklore and Fiction

Claddaghs continue to be worn, primarily by those of Irish heritage, as both a cultural symbol and as engagement and wedding rings.[1] At their Celtic Pagan handfasting, Irish/Scottish American[23] musician Jim Morrison of The Doors and Irish American author Patricia Kennealy-Morrison exchanged claddagh rings.[24] A picture of the rings was included on the cover of Kennealy-Morrison's memoir, Strange Days: My Life With and Without Jim Morrison, and the claddaghs can be seen in most of her author photos as well.[24]

Claddagh rings have made periodic appearances in movies and television, often as a plot device to indicate the ethnic origins or relationship status of a character, to illustrate wedding scenes, or to subtly indicate that the relationship of two characters has changed. In a scene loosely based on the above wedding ceremony, Val Kilmer and Kathleen Quinlan, as fictional versions of Morrison and Kennealy-Morrison, are seen exchanging Claddagh rings in Oliver Stone's movie, The Doors.[24].

Jill Masterton from the James Bond Novel Goldfinger wore a gold claddagh ring.

Sometimes authors of fiction and fantasy works have given the ring a somewhat altered or fanciful symbolism to better suit their purposes, such as writer/director Joss Whedon's use of the ring as a recurring plot device in the television series, Buffy The Vampire Slayer.[25]

See also

Notes

  1. ^ a b Murphy, Colin, and Donal O'Dea (2006) The Feckin' Book of Everything Irish. New York, Barnes & Noble. p.126 ISBN 0-7607-8219-9
  2. ^ Scarisbrick and Henig, Finger Rings, Oxford: Ashmolean Museum, 2003
  3. ^ Scarisbrick and Henig, Finger Rings, Oxford: Ashmolean Museum, 2003
  4. ^ Elizabeth McCrum, Irish Victorian Jewellery, in Irish Arts Review, Vol. 2, No. 1 (Spring, 1985), pp. 18-21
  5. ^ 1706 English ring
  6. ^ Jack Mulveen, Galway Goldsmiths, Their Marks and Ware, Journal of the Galway Archaeological and Historical Society, Vol. 46, (1994), pp. 43-64
  7. ^ Ida Delamer, The Claddagh Ring, Irish Arts Review (Vol. 12, (1996), pp. 181-187
  8. ^ A freely available but incomplete copy of Delamer's article, The Claddagh Ring (1996), without pictures
  9. ^ Finger-ring Lore, William Jones FSA, Chatto & Windus, 1877
  10. ^ Robert Chambers, Book of Days: A Miscellany of Popular Antiquities, 1863 (2004 reprint)
  11. ^ Delamer
  12. ^ Ida Delamer, The Claddagh Ring, Irish Arts Review (Vol. 12, (1996), pp. 181-187 )
  13. ^ A freely available but incomplete copy of Delamer's article, The Claddagh Ring (1996), without pictures
  14. ^ William Dillon, in the Journal of the Galway Archaeological and Historical Society, Vol V 1905-6
  15. ^ Delamer
  16. ^ Letters to Dillon's of Galway
  17. ^ Delamer
  18. ^ Elizabeth McCrum, Irish Victorian Jewellery, Irish Arts Review, Vol. 2, No. 1 (Spring, 1985), pp. 18-21 http://www.jstor.org/stable/20491715
  19. ^ Rings for the Finger, by George Frederick Kunz, J. B. Lippincott Co., 1917.
  20. ^ Galway Goldsmiths, Their Marks and Ware Jack Mulveen, Journal of the Galway Archaeological and Historical Society Vol. 46, (1994), pp. 43-64
  21. ^ Delamer
  22. ^ Delamer
  23. ^ http://www.thebiographychannel.co.uk/biography_story/1930:2450/1/Jim_Morrison.htm
  24. ^ a b c Kennealy, Patricia (1992). Strange Days: My Life With And Without Jim Morrison. New York: Dutton/Penguin. ISBN 0-525-93419-7. 
  25. ^ Stafford, Nikki (2002) Bite Me! An Unofficial Guide to the World of Buffy the Vampire Slayer. Toronto, ECW Press. ISBN 1-55022-540-5 p.213

References

External links


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