I recently had the opportunity to explain my Claddagh ring to an inquiring stranger. I’m sometimes under the impression that everyone knows the meaning of the ring and understands the symbolism but that’s just not the case.
My particular ring has a significance to me individually above and beyond that of the history of the ring. My first trip to Ireland was when I was 15 years old: my grandma had the crazy desire to take my sister and myself there on a tour of the country. We got to see the countryside, the cities, the history (the good and the bad), and meet our Irish relatives, which ended up being a life-changing trip that broadened my vision and perception of the world. It was somewhere in the middle of our 10-day tour of the country that we checked out the Cliffs of Moher in western Ireland, which is where my grandmother purchased the Claddagh ring that I now wear daily. I take it off each night but have worn it nearly every day since that day it was purchased during the summer of 2003. It shows a lot of wear and tear from its 11 years of existence, but I wouldn’t have it any other way.
So for those who don’t know, the Claddagh ring represents love, loyalty and friendship, and it contains three main elements: the hands, the heart, and the crown. The hands symbolize friendship, the heart: love, and the crown represents loyalty. In Irish culture, the Claddagh is frequently used as a wedding ring. The way in which the ring is worn contains symbolism as well. If the ring is worn with the heart facing outward then it means that the wearer’s heart is open (i.e. that girl is probably single) and conversely, if the ring is worn so that the heart is facing inward toward the wearer’s body then it symbolizes that the heart is closed and taken.
I’ve been back to Ireland twice since that first trip, once after obtaining my undergrad degree for a summer internship in Dublin, and another time during what I’ve now dubbed my “quarter century crisis” during a solo backpacking trip in the summer of 2013.
Both the Claddagh ring and Ireland will forever hold a place in my heart, and that, too, I wouldn’t have any other way. ❤