A connection of circles
by Lynda Archard
©: June 1998
In the spiritual sense, the circle of life represents a continuous cycle of life after life, experience after experience, for eternity. Nature is filled with these by seasons and tradition. Fashion and fads are prone to come full circle and repeat there popularity in each generation but the symbolic use of rings will never change.
The theory of a wedding ring is that it symbolically connects us to our partner in life. A few think that it symbolises a leashing rather than a connecting and choose either not to wear a ring after marriage, or opt for both partners to wear each others rings to symbolise equality. The history is now forgotten but the legends are very romantic for this traditional.
Diamond engagement rings were given by medieval Italians, in the belief that the diamond was created from the flames of love. It is the hardest stone used in industry for it’s strength, and therefore made the relationship and promise to marry that much stronger. When added to a gold ring it symbolises the promise of the man to complete the first cycle of love and make his love a bride.
First Wedding Rings
It is unknown when wedding rings were first worn. They were probably made of a strong metal, such as iron, so that it wouldn't break easily which would have been a bad omen. The ancient Romans believed that the vein in the third finger ran directly to the heart and wearing the ring on that finger joined the couples hearts and destiny.
It is believed that a ‘finger ring’ was first used around 2800 BC, in the Third Dynasty of Egypt. The Egyptians believed that a circle, having no beginning or end, denoted eternity and symbolised the length of time a marriage was supposed to last.
Tertullian, a Christian priest in the second century AD said that ‘most women know nothing of gold except for the single ring they wear on their finger. In public, she proudly wears her ring of gold, but at home she wears a ring of iron.’
In early times, wedding band design often conveyed its meaning. Some Roman wedding bands had a miniature key welded to one side to symbolise, in Roman law, that a wife was entitled to half her husband's wealth, this could have represented the key to his coffers. She could help herself, at will, to whatever she wanted, a bag of grain or his money.
How should you wear a ring?
In the sixteenth century what you wore, and which digit you wore it on, had more meaning than of today. Modern people might choose their thumb to denote independence but it was first worn on the thumb in the 1500s, by medical practitioners. If you feel you should wear one on the thumb then it could show an interest in medical care from hands-off healing to herbalism to surgery. Perhaps from a past life connection?
The wearing of a ring on your index finger means you're a merchant. You like to sell, hawk or trade for a living.
The middle finger, back in history, meant you were a fool. According to ancient Hindu belief it meant that it was likely that you were going to get bitten by a scorpion.
Wearing a ring on your third finger means that you are a student at college. You might wear one if you were still going to night school while working. Anybody could justify the wearing of a ring on this finger simply by learning anything.
The little finger is for lovers. When you wear a ring on your pinkie, you are telling the world you are involved and happy that way.
There is some evidence to indicate that, in mediaeval times, if you wore rings on the left hand, they were for adornment purposes only, whereas the right hand was reserved for marriage rings. It is not clear when this procedure was reversed into the tradition we have today. The emperor Maximinus of Rome was said to have such fat hands and fingers that he used his wife's bracelet as a thumb ring.
Open-work gold rings were worn in the summer in order to avoid excessive finger perspiration. A much appreciated help in hot climates.
The Curative Rings of Magic
There is a gem stone, metal or mineral for every ailment and sometimes changing your rings from finger to finger is thought to be an accurate cure. If you are sneezing or hiccoughing, holding your breath or drinking from the opposite side of a glass is one way. According to one ancient superstition, a better way is to take a ring, any ring, switch it from one of your fingers to the middle finger of the left hand, then immerse your hand in hot water. You are then cured.
For short-sightedness or weak eyes, you need a special ring. Lizards have the uncanny ability to naturally recover their sight when blinded. So if you hesitate to wear glasses or contacts, take one blinded lizard and put him into a vessel in which your gold ring has also been placed. When it becomes clear that your little pet has recovered his sight, take your ring out and put it on your finger. The lizard's restored vision will, apparently, travel through the ring to your eyes. I would venture a word of caution here and advise that you go to the optician instead. If you do try it then please contact me if this one works!
To gain a good nights sleep for insomniacs, wear a ring set with a sardonyx weighing about twenty grains. It is said to guarantee a deep and peaceful sleep. If however, you experience nightmares then the ring needs to be made out of the hoof of a rhinoceros. This is a cure for poison but Rhinos are an endangered and protected species, this remedy is no longer an option.
There are gold rings which, when inscribed with magical words and symbols, will cure colic, burns from fire, wounds and other injuries.
A sapphire, set in a ring is known to cure boils and pimples and abscesses.
A garnet ring may well be one of the more essential things you will need to take with you on holiday. It is said to be an insect repellent.
The Claddagh Ring Legend
By far the most romantic description of any ring is the Claddagh.
The Dagda Mor, the father of the gods, was said to have had the ability to make the sun stand still. The Dagda represents the Right hand of the Claddagh ring.
Anu, later known as Danu, was the ancestral and universal mother of the Celts. Anu is thought to represent the Left hand of the Claddagh ring.
Beathauile represents the Crown. And although there is not much evidence to show who Beathauile is, the three can also clearly represent the Christian trinity, father, mother and child or the three aspects of the goddess. This explanation is directly related to the shamrock, one of the earliest symbols of the Holy Trinity among the Irish.
The heart represents the hearts of all of mankind and that element which gives everlasting music to lovers.
The legend originated in the small fishing village of Claddagh, near Galway city. The design of the ring was the symbol of the ‘Fishing Kings of Claddagh,’ the meaning being then, ‘in love and friendship let us reign.’ It was thought to be a symbol, or amulet, to be painted on the sides of Claddagh ships.
An unofficial tale circulates; of a king who was in love with a peasant woman. His love was unrequited because she was of lower class. After plunging to the depths of depression, he killed himself and had his hands chopped off and placed around his heart as a symbol of his undying love for her.
The official tale tells of Richard Joyce, a native of Galway, who was shipped by sea to be sold as a slave to the West Indies plantation owners in 1698. He was due to be married that same week but was captured by Mediterranean pirates and sold to a Moorish goldsmith who taught him the craft of a goldsmith. Joyce was released after William III came to the throne of England and devised an agreement for all his subjects, held in captivity by the Moors, to be returned to their homes. Upon his return to Galway he was reunited with his love, set up a business in Claddagh and designed this ring for his love. It was rumoured that the Moorish goldsmith offered Robert Joyce his only daughter in marriage and half his wealth if he would remain in Algiers. He declined and returned to marry his only love. The earliest Claddagh rings still bear the initial letters of his name, RI (Richard Joyce).
Another version states that the people of the town designed it to be worn by their own sailors. In their working day, if they did not see the ring or sigil, they would kill the sailors of that ship as enemies. Either way, everybody loved it and all of Ireland wanted one.
The mass spread of its popularity was caused by the great Famine of 1847-1849. It caused a mass exodus from the West, and the Claddagh ring was kept as heirlooms and passed on from mother to daughter. High scale production techniques of today ensures anyone can be a proud owner of one of these magnificent rings. Today, the ring is worn throughout Ireland and the world. This is the way its supposed to be worn:
1, On the right hand, crown in, heart out, the wearer is carefree and single.
2, On the right hand, crown out heart in, the girl is spoken for.
3, On the left hand, place of choice, heart in crown out, she is happily married.
In Grecian times, brave and mighty soldiers of the land wore protective bands of leather, often decorated with gold, silver and or gem stones on their forearms. They were known as ‘Bracels,’ from the Latin Brachium, meaning, ‘arm.’ When women caught on that these Bracels would look great on them, they started wearing smaller versions, called little Bracels...or ‘Bracel-ets.’
Records of bracelets being worn by Sumerians date back to circa 2500 BC. Samples were found in the royal tombs at Ur. In those days, when their King died he was buried with his servants, guards, musicians, and a ton of his jewellery, including bracelets.
By circa 2000 BC, in Ancient Egypt, bracelets emerged as major pieces of jewellery and were worn by, among other people, Princess Sit-Hathor-Yunet. She had her jewellers make things for her hair, head, fingers and her ears.
When Vesuvius erupted in 79 AD in Pompeii, bracelets were found. Most of it was thought to be made by the great Roman Jeweller, Tyleria Adamia.
In the 10th Century, at the Battle of Maldon, The Vikings demanded arm rings as tribute from the vanquished. Bracelets had once again become a man’s jewellery.
The history of bracelets stretches forward through the Middle Ages of medieval Europe through the Baroque period of the 18th century, and on right through to the present. And this unisex item really where the rings of great warriors of the past, who had their mighty biceps, bulging with power, wrapped in gold.
© Lynda Archard