Irish Symbol - Irish Harp

Irish Harp

A comprehensive guide to the Harp traditional Irish Symbol. All you need to know about this symbol which is commonly associated with the wonderful Emerald Isle. Information and facts on the Harp Irish symbol, read about its meaning and origin.

There are a huge number of symbols that are associated with the people of Ireland, learn about the history and origin of Harp, a truly; iconic symbol of Ireland. Read about the symbols history and origins, everything you need to know about the Harp.

Irish: "Cląrsach"

Origin and History of the Harp
The harp is the national symbol of Ireland and the Celtic harp appears on Irish Currency and is associated with popular Irish brands such as Guinness and Ryanair. The harp also features in many Irish Mythology stories. The most famous Irish harp was called Uaithne and belonged to the Dagda who was an important God in Irish Mythology. The Dagda was a protector of the people and legend tells us that his magical harp played itself!

One of the most famous Irish harp players was Turlough O'Carolan who was blind. Born in Ireland in the 18th century, he was famous for playing the Harp but was also a composer and a singer. He is commonly known as Irelands national composer. The most popular Irish Harp is the folk harp, pictures of several of these beautiful instruments are shown on this page.

Harp Irish Symbol - Names
Edward Bunting (1773 - 1843) describes the following variations of the Irish Harp in his book 'The Ancient Music of Ireland' 1840:

  • Clarseach; - Common irish harp

  • Cinnard-Cruit; - High-headed irish harp

  • Crom-cruit; - Down-bending irish harp

  • Ceirnin - Portable irish harp which was used by the priests and religious people

  • Craiftin Cruit; - Craftin's irish harp

  • Lub - Poetical name of the irish harp

Harp Irish Symbol - Description
The harp is a multi-stringed instrument, the strings are made from a variety of materials including wire, silk, nylon or gut.
The plane of the harp's strings are positioned perpendicularly to its soundboard. Musically the harp is in the category of Chordophones (as are all stringed instruments) but it has its own sub category, Harps. 

All harps are made up of a neck, resonator and strings. Frame harps also have a pillar, Harps without a pillar are known as open harps. The harp can be played while held in the lap if it is small enough but more often the Harp stands on the floor and the harpist sits next to it on a small chair or stool to play the instrument.

Facts about the Harp Irish Symbol

  • The Harp is the National Symbol of Ireland

  • The Government of Ireland have Trademarked the Harp Symbol

  • Several Irish companies use the Harp symbol in their logo. Guinness use the Harp as their corporate logo. Ryanair also use a harp as part of their company logo.

  • Queen Elizabeth I of England banned harps and harpists. Harps were burned and harpists executed as travelling harpists were thought to be a focal point in causing rebellion amongst the Irish people!

  • In the 17th and 18th centuries, it was extremely common for harp players to be blind. It's thought they had more patience to learn this difficult instrument, unlike today the blind people had limited job prospects so many were encouraged to learn to play this amazing but difficult instrument

  • It was a very difficult instrument to learn to play and it took many years to master

  • Harp music was often played to accompany 'bards' reciting poetry. The Celtic Triangular Harp was known as the instrument of the Bards!

  • The Harp was associated with the more affluent Irish whereas the accordion was played more by the lower classes

  • Harps are often symbolically associated with Christianity. Many paintings depict Angels and Saints playing harps

  • The Folk Harp is traditionally associated with Ireland

  • Henry VIII of England was believed to be a great lover of Irish harp music and when he took control of Ireland he had a harp embossed on the currency

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