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Irish Love Story - Celtic Legends of Romance

Planting a native Irish tree in honour of a loved one is a deeply meaningful and heartfelt gesture. Whether it be a memorial tree or an anniversary tree, there are few better ways of expressing your love.

Incidentally, when it comes to tales of love and romance, the Irish are particularly well-versed. Ireland’s mythology of ill-fated, star-crossed lovers is rich and vast. The Irish have a long tradition of epic love stories that are breathtakingly romantic and heartbreakingly tragic in equal measure. These love stories have been crafted with the singularly Irish sensibility of poetic sorrow and poignant beauty, many serving as inspiration for legions of love stories told throughout history.

We have compiled a collection of just some of the most famous Celtic myths and legends concerning love and loss that have been passed down from generation to generation in Ireland for centuries.

Clíodhna and Ciabhán

According to ancient Irish mythology, Clíodhna was the Queen of the Banshees and the Goddess of Love and Beauty. A woman of staggering beauty, she was a member of the Tuath Dé Danann, an ancient family and supernatural race of God-like beings with great powers. The Tuath Dé Danann lived in a magical otherworld which presided over Ireland, but would occasionally descend and make contact with humans and the mortal world.

Clíodhna resided on the island of Tír Tairngire, also known as the Land of Promise. There she was forever surrounded by three mystical birds who fed from the apples of a magical tree and, as a consequence, had the ability to cure any mortal ailment. Their birdsong could lull any ill human who heard it into a deep sleep. When the human awoke, whatever malady they had been afflicted with was miraculously cured.

But it was the song of another which would prove to be her undoing.

Clíodhna fell hopelessly in love with a mortal from Ireland named Ciabhán and, so great was their love, she chose to leave the magical realm of Tír Tairngire and live a mortal life in the human realm. This was a considerable sacrifice on her part, but to many of her fellow gods and goddesses, it was a grave affront.

As she travelled across the ocean to be with her mortal lover, she stopped to rest for the night in the harbour of Glandore. It was here that the other gods exacted their revenge and inflicted a cruel punishment upon Clíodhna, for her selfish and disrespectful transgression.

Manannán Mac Lir, the God of the Sea, began to play a beautiful song which lulled Clíodhna into a deep sleep and then summoned a powerful wave. While still sleeping peacefully by the oceanside, Clíodhna was swept out to sea by the merciless wave and drowned, never to reach her lover.

To this day, whenever a particularly strong or forceful wave crashes down on Glandore harbour in County Cork, it is called ‘Clíodhna’s Wave’.

Fionn and Sadhbh

Fionn Mac Cumhaill was the leader of the Fianna, a heroic band of fearless hunter-warriors who embarked on various quests of valour and honour. One day, Fionn was out hunting when he suddenly came across a beautiful doe in a sunlit clearing. Fionn’s magical hounds, Bran and Sceólang, who were humans enchanted into animal form, immediately saw that this was no regular doe. The doe was, in fact, a woman named Sadhbh transformed by dark magic.

Sadhbh was the daughter of Bodb Derg, the King of the Tuath Dé Danann. She had refused the marriage proposal of an evil druid named Fear Doirich (a name which translates as ‘The Dark Man’). Humiliated by her rejection, he cursed her to take the form of a doe and left her to be brutally killed by hunting hounds. However, a servant of Fear Doirich took pity on her and told her that if she were to ever step foot in the land of the Fianna, the spell would be broken.

Sure enough, as soon as Fionn and his mystical hounds led Sadhbh back to their homeland, the curse was shattered. Sadhbh became a beautiful young woman once more and Fionn immediately fell madly in love with the daughter of the King of the Gods. They married swiftly and not long after, Sadhbh was expecting a child. As long as Sadhbh remained within the land of the Fianna, she would be safe and protected. But evil forces were drawing closer and their happiness was not to last.

While Sadhbh was still awaiting the birth of their child, Fionn and his warriors were called away to do battle. After several days’ absence, Sadhbh finally saw Fionn returning home in the faraway distance. Overjoyed, she ran to greet him, only realising the grave mistake she had made when it was too late. As soon as she crossed the threshold of the Fianna’s land, the image of her husband disappeared, revealing the Fear Doirich and his magical disguise.

The Fear Doirich had heard of how Sadhbh had once again made a fool of him by undoing his magic, and he sought vengeance. He once more transformed her into a doe, only this time the spell could not be broken. He then set a pack of wild, rabid dogs on her and Sadhbh fled into the forest, never to be seen again.

The heartbroken Fionn spent many years desperately searching for his lost wife, but she was nowhere to be found. Then, one day, he came across a small fawn, alone and lost, in a sunlit clearing. Fionn instinctively knew that this was his child and when he brought it back home, the fawn instantly transformed into a young boy. Most fittingly, the boy was given the name of Oisín, the meaning of which is ‘little deer’.

Deirdre and Naoise (Deirdre of the Sorrows)

Countless centuries ago, there lived a powerful man named Conchubar mac Nessa, the King of Ulster. The King had a storyteller and a druid, both men being highly valued and respected members of his court. But one day, the druid foretold that the storyteller would have a daughter who would grow up to be so beautiful that men would go to war over her and much blood would be spilt.

When the storyteller and his wife did have a child, who they named Deirdre, the King’s warriors wanted the child killed. But the king had other plans. He decided that the child would be raised in isolation deep in the forest, where she could cause no harm and no harm could come to her. Then, when she came of age, the king would take this beautiful young woman to be his bride.

And so, the young girl grew up alone in the solitude of the woods, growing ever more beautiful and waiting for the king to come and marry her. However, one day Deirdre was suddenly discovered in her hiding place in the woods by Naoise, a young and handsome warrior in the King’s court. The two fell in love and decided to flee together to Scotland, where they lived for a brief spell in happiness and peace.

But the King, incandescent with rage, was not to be humiliated in such a manner. He would not rest until he had his revenge and immediately sent his warriors to track down the young couple. Before long, the lovers’ new life together was cruelly and savagely cut short. As soon as they were found, Naoise was killed by a flying dagger and the devastated Deirdre was captured and returned to her infuriated fiancé.

Deirdre had no choice but to marry the vindictive king, but the hatred she felt for him only burned more intensely with every passing day. After a year of marriage, the king was further incensed by the obvious resentment and contempt Deirdre had for him. Seeking a means of ruthless punishment, the King asked Deirdre if there was anyone whom she hated more than him. Immediately, she gave the name of the man whose dagger had cut down her beloved Naoise.

With gleeful spite, the king announced that Deirdre was to divorce him and marry the man who murdered Naoise instead. While being escorted to her wedding with the man who had killed her one true love, Deirdre was overcome with dread and despair at the prospect of her new life. She threw herself from the chariot in which they journeyed and dashed her head upon a rock, freeing herself from an impending life of unending misery. In doing so, she was reunited with her darling Naoise and forever became known as ‘Deirdre of the Sorrows’.

Irish Trees - Anniversary Tree Gift

The Irish certainly appear to have a distinct perspective when it comes to tales of love, one that seems to be innately melancholy. Hopefully, your own love story is more strongly favoured by romance than tragedy, unlike these Celtic tales.

You can express your own love for your other half in a uniquely Irish way by planting a native Irish tree in their name. You can plant an Anniversary Gift Tree and have an Irish tree of your choosing grown in honour of your relationship.  All trees are planted on 10 acres of beautiful lakeside woodland in North Co. Dublin and are expertly tended to by our devoted caretakers so they grow to be healthy, strong and everlasting. There is no better symbol to represent a loving and lasting relationship.

You can also have an Irish tree planted for a number of other occasions, such as birthdays, weddings or the birth of a baby. We are happy to plant a tree for any reason you wish. To find out more, browse our options here.

There are few better ways of expressing your love for someone dear to you than the planting of a native Irish tree.

Article written by Nicholas Collender.

The Tree of Life - An Ancient Celtic Symbol

The Tree of Life has appeared in countless cultures, religions and mythologies all over the world and throughout history. Clearly, the idea of a mystical tree which embodies the essence of life is not unique to any one civilization.

Almost every faith has its own version of the Tree of Life, including Christianity, Buddhism, Islam, Judaism and Hinduism. The Tree of Life symbol even appears on Ancient Egyptian tomb carvings, possibly predating any other culture. However, the Tree of Life is particularly prominent in Celtic tradition and is one of the most enduring and meaningful Celtic symbols.

Trees were pivotal to Celtic life and played an important role in the structure of Celtic society and beliefs. Firstly, the trees of Ireland served a number of invaluable practical purposes. Trees were a natural, abundant source of shelter, food and medicine, and their wood was extensively used for building, weaponry and to create fires for warmth. Native Irish trees were clearly essential to Celtic life and were held in such high regard that they were considered sacred.

It was believed that trees served a significant spiritual purpose and acted as a gateway or portal between this world and the next. The Celts believed that the trees of Ireland held the spirits of their ancestors and that different types of trees had different magical powers that could aid them in times of hardship and adversity.

Tree of Life illustration

Tribes and druids would often hold ceremonies and gatherings under trees that were seen as especially hallowed. Under the sprawling coverage of a vast, tremendous tree, they would appoint chieftains in political procedures or perform elaborate rituals to appease the gods.

The Tree of Life was seen as a symbol of nature’s immense forces coming together and intertwining to create balance and harmony in the world. It was seen as a representation of strength, durability, protection, knowledge, experience and wisdom.

Ultimately, the Tree of Life was a perfectly balanced combination of all the forces necessary to maintain and enrich life on Earth. The entwined branches and roots symbolise how all living things are irrevocably interconnected and bound together, dependent on one another for survival.

The symbol is depicted as an Oak tree, as this tree was the largest, strongest and longest-living of all trees. The Oak tree would often attract lightning due to its staggering size and height. The Celts perceived this as a sign from the gods and worshipped the Oak as the most sacred tree of all the native Irish trees.

The Celtic word for Oak is daur, which is the origin of the word door. This reinforces the Celtic idea that native Irish trees were doorways to other worlds. Some believed that if you fell asleep under an Oak tree, you might awake in another world.

The ancient Irish term for the Tree of Life was Crann Bethadh, which literally translates as ‘The Feeding Tree’. If the Celts ever had to clear land in order to build new settlements, they would plant an Oak tree in the centre of the clearing in order to honour the Tree of Life and ensure prosperity.

If Celtic tribes were ever at war with one another, they believed that cutting down their enemies’ Crann Bethadh tree was a devastating blow to their defences that would render them powerless and vulnerable to attack. During warfare, cutting down such a tree belonging to an adversary was seen as a major victory.

Celtic Symbol of the Tree of Life

The perfect symmetry of the roots and branches of the Tree of Life was also given great meaning by the Celts. The branches spread freely in the open air, reaching for the sky above, while the roots unfurled and burrowed underground, reaching deep down into the earth.

This is symbolic of the connection between heaven and earth, mind and body, the physical and the spiritual. In this way, the Tree of Life also represents the incessant cycle of life and the gift of rebirth. Like many other Celtic symbols, the Tree of Life is comprised of a Celtic knot. This illustrates how the Tree of Life is eternal, without beginning or end.

Today, the Tree of Life is an extremely popular design or symbol, particularly for those of Irish heritage. It is used to decorate and adorn a number of items from jewellery to various types of containers, and is even commonly used as a tattoo.

Due to its potent symbolism, the Tree of Life is the perfect design to feature on a Celtic cremation urn. Handcrafted urns engraved with the ancient Celtic symbol can be found at Irish Urns and make the perfect resting place for anyone with Irish ancestry.

It is possible to continue the Celtic tradition of the Tree of Life today and have your own Oak tree (or any native Irish tree) planted in the Irish countryside. You can have a tree planted for any conceivable reason, whether it be for a birthday, an anniversary, a wedding, or any other occasion.

Planting a native Irish tree in honour of someone you love who has passed away is a wonderful and deeply touching tribute. Memorial trees are a perfect way of celebrating and preserving a person’s legacy. You can also plant a tree in memory of someone as a sympathy gift or memorial gift for a friend or family member who has lost a loved one. The memorial tree can be planted in the name of the deceased with an official planting certificate sent to the bereaved afterwards.

For more information on memorial trees and sympathy gifts, please click here.

Planting a native Irish tree in honour of a loved one helps to keep alive the Ancient Celts deep connection with nature.