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Harps Around Ireland

Updated on November 23, 2011

The Harp is the Symbol of Ireland, but ...

The harp is the symbol of Ireland, It represents Erin's mythology, its beginnings of human life here, its poetry, its music, its sacred magic and even it's most famous brew.

For all this many visit Ireland without seeing a harp, and seeing a harp actually being played is more unlikely. Its even harder to find a singer, poet or storyteller being accompanied by a harp ...

... but this is changing.

Harps Around Ireland is a project to not only showcase harpers in Ireland and harpers visiting Ireland but also the venues that we are campaigning to increase where songs, poems, stories and harps can be enjoyed together inspired by traditions new, within the last 400 years, and ancient, within 6000 years. We also wish to showcase the harp makers and restorers in Ireland, many of whom do not have an online presence yet.

We celebrate all of this this through our Words And Harps Day at Misummer and a few days of Words And Harps Day School for a few days before this.

This is a page to bookmark and return to if you have a passion for what is offered here as this is one that I will probably develop more than others I write

About The Celtic Bards

Many people see the Bard, often in movies and told of in fairy tales, as being an entertainer playing the harp, singing and reciting poetry at feasts and celebrations. The actual bard's role was to guide the people in some way.

In earliest times a chieftain could not be a chieftain without also being a bard. The position of king, druid, seer and bard was once the role of one person. King David with his harp in biblical texts as an example image of that role.

Eventually these tasks became positions of 2 people then 3 people, 4 people

and eventually more.

A Bard's position became one of being reporter and healer through stories, historian and clan genealogist through memory, and motivator and praise giver through inspiration and encouragement.

Celtic myth stories tell us of the three strains of bard performance,

these being "sorrow", "joy" and "sleep".

It is said these three strains were performed in that sequence to aid a course of medicine and healing, thr words and music often being the medicine.

The sorrow strain was played to make the listener cry in deep sorrow.

The joy strain played to make the listener laugh and release

and be illuminated by the presence of spirit

The sleep strain was to assist those present

to fall into a deep healing slumber

and walk with their great spirit as guide, protector and healer.

Even in a home fireside ceili today, a tradition almost died,

these three strains are shared by those present.

Actually it is four strains.

First is a catch up of local chat, like bardic messengers

Second is the joy and celebration of the day after a couple of drinks

Third is the sorrow and melancholy of those not with us

Fourth is the ailing fire, prayers and blessings before we enter slumber.

Timeline Of Harps & Bards

Earliest origins of harps in Ireland is hard to define.

There are myth legends of Tuatha De Dannan harper bard landing from the sky

There is another Tuatha De Dannan legend of Cian wooing Eithne by playing the fine rib bones of a skeleton of a beached whale this inspired the idea of creating harps.

Other Tuatha De Dannan legends of Dagda's Harps

and his deeds with them are quite famous

There are tales of harps arriving in Erin from the ancient lands of Iran and how Iran and Erin come from the same word inspired by its harp and bard links.

The MacFirbis Book of Genealogies mentions three more great Tuatha de Danann musicians

Ceol, meaning music

Bind, meaning sweet

Tetbind, meaning sweet strings

and MacFirbis mentions these were under the training of a harper bard

called Uathne, who's name means harmony.

There are tales of the first harps of the Tuatha De Dannan being made from rowan, later with willow sound boxes and oak pegs. These were know as Coarran, a word very closely related to Coirinn meaning a place of the fairies and close to Coire, a sacred place for council and celebration with the presence of the goddess.

Then these evolved into tales of a harper called Coarran or Coarran who was the first to practice and teach the three strains of sorrow, joy and slumper.

Unfortunately, there are very few historic harps preserved in Ireland, but Egypt does have preserved harps from 2000 B.C., from around the time of Rameses II. It is most likely that harp players, their skills and their descendants travelled north of the Mediterranean, particularly from what is now northern Turkey, and across to Ireland.

More info of these lengends then onto a known timeline of the earliest harps, harpers and their music will be added here soon ......

Celtic Bards, Celtic Druids
Celtic Bards, Celtic Druids

co-writer Robin Williamson is perhaps best known as a founder of Incredible String Band, Celtic storyteller and honorary Chief Bard of The Order of Bards, Ovates and Druids.

The Craneskin Bag: Celtic Stories and Poems (International folktale series)
The Craneskin Bag: Celtic Stories and Poems (International folktale series)

The famous our of print but very collectible Robin Williamson book. Get it while you can.


The Role Of Harper Bards Today

The ancient harper bards' main job appears to have beento tell an appropriate story at an occasion or even an event in an individual's, family's or clan's life. Such a thing could be telling a story behind a name given to a newborn at a naming ceremony.

We can use how we tell stories today, of the old myths, for modern situations,

the events of today.

With love anxiety situations we can tell the various stories of Grainne, especially parts of the famous Diarmuid and Grainne story.

Passing through and overcoming mourning can be assisted with the hero passing stories of Lugh's father Cian or the fall of Cú Chulainn from The Tain story, Cattle Raid of Cooley.

Overcoming bullying and intimidation with parts of the story of the Second Battle Of Moytura caused by the bullying of the Formorians and their puppeted high king, Brés.

Even overcoming anxiety of upcoming job interviews with the the story of how Lugh got into Tara and was surprised to be appointed as co-ordinator at the Second Battle Of Moytura.

I will cover this topic in greater detail and bardic guidance as well as entertainment has a huge potential still for protecting, healing and guiding people today ...

Harpers Around Ireland - our growing directory of performing harpers in Ireland

please click the harper links below for more information

about bios, recordings and live performances

Harp Makers Around Ireland

please click the harp maker and supplier links below for more information

about their craft, supplies and services

Coming To Harps Around Ireland Soon ...

Many more harpers and harper bards showcased here

Being showcased here, within the Harpers Around Ireland chapter, will be many more wonderful singers, poets and storyteller that use the harp to accompany, and many stunning harp playing instrumentalists too. Most of these will have expanded lenses about what they perform and where you can experience them too.

Many venues for harpers and harper bards showcased here

Also being showcased here will be more venues in Ireland where these wonderful words and harps people perform, along with a drive to create more venues such as in people's homes. The dinner followed by words and harps evening is always a stunning night out.

Many harp makers, teachers and harp distributors, harps parts distributors

and harp music suppliers showcased here

For the benefit of harpers, and those who wish to become harpers, I will showcase more of the makers and the teachers around Ireland.

Of course, growing information about our

Words And Harps Day and School each midsummer.

What Say Ye About Harps Around Ireland?

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    • profile image


      5 years ago

      Where can you get a harp restored? I have one which the neck is broken on it. I'm in Galway any suggestions welcome :)

    • CircusRunaway profile image


      6 years ago

      Lovely lens, do you play?

    • bilafond lm profile image

      bilafond lm 

      6 years ago

      This is first for me. Thank you for this lens. It was very informative and the stories connected with it.

    • profile image


      6 years ago

      I LOVE your page and the info as to the ancient covenant the harper bards carried with their station. I consider myself one of these people and although I have played Pachelbel's Canon at many weddings, and this also has a role to play, I love to sing the old songs in any language and play as one who is part of that tradition. I use traditional embellishments and play with trad. musicians whenever I can. I live in Bedford, Nova Scotia and look forward to reading your entries.

    • profile image


      6 years ago

      Once again, what a fascinating cultural learning experience I am having as I read through this lens -- I have been linking to each of your lenses, all with the same themes. I appreciate your openness in sharing the cultural nuances of Ireland with the rest of the world through such great niche topics!!!!

    • Sylvestermouse profile image

      Cynthia Sylvestermouse 

      6 years ago from United States

      Harps are such beautiful instruments both in design and sound. I always feel transported to another place when I hear a harp being played. Perhaps, I am being called to Ireland :)

    • MargoPArrowsmith profile image


      6 years ago

      Very beautiful

    • JoyfulPamela2 profile image


      6 years ago from Pennsylvania, USA

      Very fascinating story about Irish harps - thanks for sharing it! *Squidoo Angel blessed and featured. =D

    • WoodlandBard profile imageAUTHOR


      6 years ago

      @Wendy Gillissen: as always, many thanks for your encouragement Wendy :-)

    • Wendy Gillissen profile image

      Wendy Gillissen 

      6 years ago

      Goltrai, geantrai, suantrai... Ah yes the three strains of music! Thanks for sharing your knowledge John... from a storyteller and amateur bard;-)


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