The more astute may have noticed that both the Irish government and a particularly popular purveyor of a brand of stout associated with this island both use a harp as a symbol. It isn’t the same harp, mind you, due to copyright laws, but these aren’t the only examples of the harp as a symbol of Ireland. The harp is featured on all kinds of Irish jewelry, including pendants. History buffs may be familiar with various flags from the earlier struggles for independence that feature harps, but in truth, the symbol goes back much further in time than that.
From the earliest dawn of antiquity, the harp was at the center of Irish life. The famous Brian Boru harp, which is displayed Trinity College’s equally famous Long Room in Dublin, is believed to date back to the 15th century, but images of harps have been found on stone crosses and early manuscripts dating back as far as the eighth century. Even Henry VIII put a harp on Anglo-Irish coins.
Harpists were held in high regard by early Irish society, and they played an important role in preserving history and spreading news as they travelled and performed around the island. They also apparently spread the seeds of rebellion so successfully that they were suppressed by British rulers in the 17th century, which puts the harp’s later appearance on various political flags in context. And of course, much of the harp’s appeal has nothing to do with politics. It is a beautiful instrument – beautiful to view and even more beautiful to hear, which is a big part of why it is such a widely loved symbol on Celtic Irish jewelry.
Harp jewelry ranges from simple designs, such as our popular silver green harp charm pictured above, to the bejeweled harp pendant to the left. Whatever the harp means to you, one of the beautiful pieces of Celtic harp jewelry Shanore offers is just right. Whether your heart is drawn to the lore of the ancient Celts gathered around the harpist in a castle courtyard or the flutter of an old Home Rule flag stirs your soul, the harp embodies Ireland through every age.
What else could contain so much meaning and beauty in one simple symbol but the harp? It has been loved in Ireland for centuries because it stirs the heart with its sound. The most famous harpist Turlough O’Carolan was believed to have been inspired by the fairies so intensely moving was his music, which is still played and loved today. Sure it is a symbol used by a big brewery and a modern government, but the real power of the harp symbol is its reach back to the earliest days of Ireland’s Celtic history when people gathered to hear the harpist’s enchanting music.