Shamrocks Versus Four-Leaf-Clovers: A Charlie Explanation

Charlie’s Corner is the domain of Charlie, the four-legged lady’s man of Market Common. Each month, he’ll share information to help all new, visiting, and existing doggie community members get the most out of life alongside their human companions. Here we’ll feature his reflections on what it’s like to be a dashing downtown doggie, as he reminds all of us how to play well with others. This month, Charlie reinstates his research cap with a leaning towards his mystical side, as he explores the origins of the four-leaf clover.

“It’s that time of the year in Myrtle Beach to celebrate everything green. Well, it’s always pretty green here, but spring is decidedly in full sway now, and what makes it that much greener is the celebration of St. Patrick’s Day, and all the people who will be sporting that color as a result of the ensuing parties they’ll attend. Maybe this year I’ll go all out and ask Megan to dye my fur green. After all, it can’t be that harmful since I’m already white to begin with— I can skip the requisite bleaching treatment.

I’ll have to ponder that a bit, and will certainly share pictures if I do. But in the meantime, an interesting and note-worthy correlation between St. Patrick’s Day, the color green, and our blossoming landscape, is four-leaf clovers. To get into the St. Paddy’s Day-spirit-of-things, I went hunting around for one in the park across the street. There was so much clover to be found, but they all had three leaves, not four. That got me thinking more about four-leaf clovers in general, and how and why they’re associated with Irish culture and this holiday in particular. And I think you all know where my wonderings take me.   

Get excited— it’s research time.

To begin, let’s clarify something generally confusing (at least it always was for me, so I’ll assume perhaps it is for you as well) — the difference between a shamrock and a four-leaf clover. A shamrock is just another name for the ubiquitous three-leaf clover found all over Ireland and the United States; a four-leaf clover is a genetic abnormality of the three-leaf clover, and the one that’s associated with luck, and hence, St. Patrick’s Day. Although a little further research reveals that both figure prominently in St. Patricks’ Day legends and celebrations.

The legend of the shamrock is shrouded in mystery (which I love)! The plant has always been instrumental to Celtic culture and rituals across the centuries, as the number three was considered spiritually significant and a powerful one.

It is said that the Druids placed great import on the shamrock as well. But because the Druids were so secretive and so mystical, the number could have represented a variety of positive spiritual concepts including the sun, moon, and stars; or the earth, sky, and underground, deep within the earth. 

At any rate, legend has it that not only was the shamrock already important to the Celts by the time St. Patrick arrived teaching about Christianity, but it was also a visual symbol by which they could more easily understand the esoteric concept of the Christian Trinity of Father, son, and Holy Spirit in one form.

As far as four-leaf clovers go, it’s estimated that for every four-leaf clover there are 10,000 three-leaf clovers. And this little product of nature is packed with some fascinating tales. 

According to one legend, Eve, when she was expelled from the Garden of Eden, carried a four-leaf clover with her for luck. 

Since she was no longer residing in paradise, she thought she’d need it. 

And going back to Celtic beliefs, the four-leaf clover was used to ward off evil, as it was said to magically repel bad luck. 

During the Middle Ages, children believed if you carried a four-leaf clover, you would be able to see fairies, and when they found the four-petaled clover, they would search for the fairies in the fields. 

It’s safe to assume that since the shamrock with its common three leaves was held in such high regard and esteem spiritually, that having one additional petal would instill that much more luck in the bearer, and became a symbol that was rolled into and accepted as part of St. Patrick’s Day culture. 

So which one will you use to celebrate St. Patrick’s Day this year? As for me, I know which one I’ll choose. I love encounters with fairies!” 

Until next time,