The shamrock is a major symbol of St. Patrick's Day.

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The Shamrock and the Blarney Stone

­According to Encyclopedia Britannica, a shamrock is "any of several similar-appearing trifoliate plants (plants whose leaves are divided into three leaflets). Common shamrocks include the wood sorrel (Oxalis acetosella) of the family Oxalidaceae, or any of various plants of the pea family (Fabaceae), including white clover (Trifolium repens) and suckling clover Trifolium dubium." According to Irish legend, St. Patrick chose the shamrock as a symbol of the church's Holy Trinity because of its three leaflets bound by a common stalk. Wood sorrel is shipped in large quantities from Ireland to other countries for St. Patrick's Day.

The Legend of the Blarney Stone
There is a stone there, That whoever kisses, Oh, he never misses To grow eloquent. 'Tis he may clamber To a lady's chamber, Or become a member Of Parliament.

Just northwest of the Irish village of Cork is the village of Blarney. The name Blarney is derived from the Irish An blarna, "the plain." Blarney is home to the 90-foot-tall (27.4-meter) Blarney Castle. The castle visited today is the third one built at the site and was erected in 1446.

Built on a rock, above several caves, the tower originally had three stories. On the top story, just below the battlements on the parapet, is the world famous Blarney Stone. While its origins are unknown, the Blarney Stone is said to give the gift of eloquence (beautiful speaking ability) to all who kiss it. Today, "Blarney" means "the ability to influence and coax with fair words and soft speech without offending."

Kissing the stone is quite a physical feat. You have to sit with your back to the stone, and a local guide or friend sits on your legs or firmly holds your feet. Then you lean back and down into the darkness between the castle's 18-foot-thick (5.5-meter) walls and, grasping the iron rails, lower yourself until your head is even with the stone.

One local legend claims that an old woman, saved from drowning by a king of Munster, rewarded him with a spell that if he would kiss a stone on the castle's top, he would gain a speech that would win all to him. It is not known, however, when and how the word Blarney entered the English language and the dictionary. ­