Sunday, October 7, 2007

In closing...

Throughout the project I have been sharing the steps with my family and friends. Several of them are as interested in Irish culture as I am. I'm excited to share the finished product with them as well. Though I designed this project mainly for my own use and enjoyment, I think it could be a beginning tool for anyone who is interested in the topic. It's easily accessed on Google maps and simple to decypher. It also includes links to a great deal of more in depth information on the topics. Had I found something like this while researching I would have found it very useful. Others might even find my process interesting if not useful. I usually keep a private blog to share with only those close to me but the public blog might give someone ideas for their own projects.

I enjoyed this project. Though at first I was concerned about having no guidelines as to what topic I could choose or how to form the project, I was happy to be able to choose something which is as interesting to me as Irish folklore. The idea of the map came after much thought on the research of the project itself. It is always the most difficult for me to begin a project as I am unsure as to what direction I am going to go in. When an end result is not defined it makes it harder. Thinking about what to do ended up taking a great deal more time than actually doing the work. Having some idea of the area and symbols that I wanted to know more about helped. It gave me a little bit of concrete knowlege to start off with. Making the list of what I might want to understand more, even though it did change along with my basic questions as I went along, was useful as well. There were a few times I let myself become frustrated and had to walk away and rethink things. If I had this project to do again I would have attempted to make a topic decision earlier so that I could be thinking about the 'how' more than the 'what'. Had I had more time for the investigation I would have loved to utilize more materials, have gotten into more of the books and been able to locate and watch some of the videos which I found. I like the way the final project has come together but I have a serious lack of focus in my research meathods. I am a messy researcher. A graphic organizer used in place of my lists would have made it easier to sift through and understand later. If I had taken any great amount of time between the search and the organization I might have been lost with those random notes.

I can definitly relate to the frustration of choosing a topic as well as researching that topic that children and young adults face. Sometimes educators forget how difficult this process can actually be. It's hard to know where to start and once you have started, often times materials which seem to be great sources turn out to be road blocks. It can be very discouraging. As a graduate student I have both years of experience at this and tools which these students do not yet have. I also research every day in the library setting. I know my way around a web search. Younger researchers don't have this experience. I was frustrated, having the tools that I had. I can only imagine the frustration with not even having these tools.

At the beginning of this project I looked at standards from a high school level. I still think this project best suits students at this level. The standards I addressed then were:

Standard 1
Culture Hearths*

Students will examine the physical and human geographic factors associated with the origin and development of culture hearths in various regions of the world.

GHW.1.1 Use maps, timelines, and/or other graphic representations to identify the location, distribution, and main events in the development of cultural hearths in various regions of the world. (Origins, Spatial Distribution, Human Environment Interactions, Human Livelihoods)
Examples: Irrigation-based civilizations: Tigris-Euphrates (Fertile Crescent), Nile, Indus, Huang Ho (Yellow) Rivers (3300–500 B.C.E.); land-based civilization: Mongols of Central Asia (700–1200 C.E.); the rainforest- and valley-based civilizations of Mesoamerica (1200 B.C.E.–1492 C.E.).

GHW.1.2 Ask and answer geographic and historical questions* about the locations and growth of culture hearths. Assess why some of these culture hearths have endured to this day, while others have declined or disappeared. (National Character, Change Over Time, Physical Systems, Spatial Distribution)
Examples: Using the geographical/cultural areas mentioned in examples for GHW.1.1, answer questions such as the following: “Where are culture hearths located and why are they located where they are?” “What are the locational advantages and disadvantages of particular culture hearths?” “How have these advantages and disadvantages changed over time?” (3300 B.C.E.–present).

The AASL standard which would most closely work with this project would be Standards 3 and 4:

Standard 3: Students use information effectively and creatively

Standard 4: Students pursue information related to personal interest.

Though I don't think I would use this project with students younger than high school, sixth graders could use aspects to cover nearly every part of Social Studies Standard 6.5: Individuals, Society, and Culture
Students will examine the role of individuals and groups in societies of Europe and the Americas, identify connections among cultures, and trace the influence of cultures of the past on present societies. They will also analyze patterns of change, including the impact of scientific and technological innovations, and examine the role of artistic expression in selected cultures of Europe and the Americas.

As a class project, parts of this project could be utilized. They could investigate many of the symbols for what they meant to the culture of each time period. They could also use maps to plot events and cultural change.

Before beginning this project my approach to inquiry was not anywhere near as focused as it became throughout the process. I have had a tendancy in the past to think a great deal about ideas but rarely record them or reflect upon them later and change the focus as I proceeded through the process. Inquiry in the past has almost always had a guide and a focused outcome as well. Even if allowed to choose a topic in a certain area, the end results would all be the same. A completely open ended project was more than a little scary at first. I did learn to work through this. It has been nice to go back through this blog throughout the process to regain focus as well as to make the chnages that were needed. My ideas were all in one place and organized as they never are in my head. I liked using the blog to make sense of random ideas and take the time to think things through and flesh them out a bit more. Giving form to ideas and questions helped greater define them. I do still have a tendancy toward messy research though. I'm not sure that will change even though I am aware of ways to change it. I kind of like my mess and though it wouldn't make much sense to anyone else it does make sense to me.

Saturday, October 6, 2007

All's well that ends...well...

The finished product can be found at:

Ireland: Symbolism and Culture

Wonderful websites...

A great pathfinder which lead me to information on multiple areas of interest.

This site contained a good deal of information in the Celts which I was able to utilize for many of the symbols.

splay_order=2&sub_display_order=4&mini_id=1082 had a lot of information on St. Patrick as well as shamrocks and the trinity.

This site contained not only historic information on Newgrange but also tips for visiting and how to plan a trip.

The best and most in depth information on the history of the harp in Ireland came from this site.

* was a useful site for a few symbols, including the Tricolour.

This site had incredibly in depth information on the history of the Aran sweater. It was also entertaining.

The interactive look at crosses here was very interesting.

The wrap...continued...

So I got Google maps to work very well. I can not only plot points of interest but control the information that will appear both as the title to that point as well as in the text field. I can also place pictures in the box so each entry will begin with a picture that relates to the symbology. It will then contain the information on each symbol as shown in the example for the Celtic cross entry. After each entry will be an area for further reading which will include the links and information for each source used to gather facts. This way I can explain the symbol with not only a place but also another visual in order to best communicate the information. I like the further reading as a way to include my sources in a different way. I have to say I love the map. The only issue I've had with it is that the pictures need to be already online. As I saved the pictures to my computer I now have to go back and upload them to a photo hosting site in order to use them.

Here is an embedded example of the map. I'm not sure how this may or may not change as I finish up the project but I will add the link to the finished product as soon as it is complete.

View Larger Map

It's a wrap (or close)...

I have been thinking a good deal about how I want to present my project since before I really ever picked my topic. I have to admit that the possibilities of how to present the topic had something to do with the topic I chose. Once I knew I was going to look into Irish culture in some way I alternately started thinking about how to present what I had accomplished in both a clear way as well as a useful way.

I thought about organizing a web site with a page for each individual area of interest. The problem with that being that I had no idea how to make a web site and know very little about html at all. So the web site idea was kind of out before it started. I then thought seriously about a powerpoint presentation about the culture of Ireland. This seemed like a pretty good way to show the project and a good final form. Here I ran into a couple of issues as well. The first issue being that the point of my project was to ultimately be used almost as a guide at a later time. I wanted this to be more of a beginning to exploration rather than an end. So I wanted something that I might be able to continue to work with beyond the project. The second issue I had was that I wanted to incorporate a map in some way. I had seen quite a few maps throughout the research project that made it a great deal easier for me to understand the area that the symbols came from. I wanted to be able to better convey this in my own project. Ideally what I wanted was a way to have this map not only on one page of a powerpoint but as more of an active part of the presentation.

While discussing the project with my boss at work she had an idea to use a map as almost a gps type system where each point of interest would lead to information on this place. From that point my ideal changed. What I wanted was some way to have a map of Ireland be the central piece with points plotted on it. Each point would lead to the information from my research when it was clicked on. What I really wanted was something I remembered seeing possibly on google maps where the point of interest had a bubble with information when you clicked on it. This way you wouldn't be redirected elsewhere but get the information from the bubble. I didn't know if I could do this or how much info I could include in a bubble. I also had to think of how to work in pictures I had been saving along the way in my search and the links to the resources used.

Luckily google maps does have a feature which allows you to create your own maps and does have quite a bit of space to put in my information. I'm not sure how I will use the pictures or links yet but as soon as I figure that out I'll update.

I have to say I'm excited about how this project if taking shape.

Friday, October 5, 2007

Taking shape...

In order to help me organize the information that I found and to present it in a useful and interesting way, I made myself a graphic organizer of sorts. This organizer consisted of four basic thoughts:

What? (What or who is the symbol? Describe the object, person or place)
When? (When did this become an important part of Irish culture? What time period can it be traced to?)
Why? (Why is it important to the culture? Why has it continued to be intertwined and timeless in its importance?)
Now? (What does it mean to current culture? How has it changed? How has it stayed the same? How is it remembered or celebrated?)

This approach allowed me not only to make sure I included each area of interest and question I wanted answered but also allowed me to keep the answers in a pattern, to organize my thoughts and make the information easier to understand. The first paragraph often included the 'what' and 'when' while the second focused on 'why' or the folklore of the symbol. The third paragraph then revealed the 'now' aspect of the area.


Celtic Crosses

Celtic crosses are a well recognized symbol of Irish and Celtic culture. The crosses date back to the 8th through 12th centuries and are distinguished by both the cross appearing within a circle as well as the ornate carvings which can be found upon the entirety of the monuments. Each cross is unique in the size and patterns which can be found on them. The crosses have been found to vary in height from the smallest of about 4ft to some upwards of 18ft. Carvings on the crosses include images of biblical stories, celebrations to the current kings, dedications to certain individuals, and ornate Celtic knot work. Historians believe similar crosses were probably made from other materials such as wood and bone but only the stone crosses have survived the passing of time. These crosses were found mainly near churches or as markers to important crossing along the roads.
Irish folklore credits St. Patrick with introducing the cross. Legend has it that St. Patrick took the cross and held it up to the sun making the impression of the first cross surrounded by the light of the sun. The Celts held the sun in high regard, and so the sun being related to the cross was embraced by the people as St. Patrick attempted to convert them to Christianity. The Celtic cross was then established as a symbol of the joining of old and new ideas.
The Celtic cross is extremely prevalent today in Irish religion and culture. Religious beliefs have the circle representing eternity and God’s endless love circling the cross which is a symbol of the crucifixion. The symbol is not only used in churches but is a popular symbol in jewelry making both in Ireland and around the world. A revival of Celtic crosses has made this symbol popular in memorials and new crosses are becoming more prevalent in cemeteries. Similar crosses have been found in other countries as well but the symbol is nearly always synonymous with Irish culture.
Though crosses can be found throughout the country, this particular cross called Muiredach’s Cross is one of the best preserved. Found in Louth, the 10th century cross stands 18 feet high and includes illustrations of many biblical stories.

Weaving (insert cheesy aran sweater joke here)...

This morning I printed out the 13 pages of information I gathered yesterday. It is currently something I don't even want to attempt to understand, much less ask someone else to decypher. So I have to find a way to put this information together in a useful manner. Each individual cultural symbol will remain independant from the others but the information within must make some sense. For this I'm going back to my original questions to give me some kind of pattern to follow but I have decided to change them a bit.

The original questions are:

Where did the event/lore originate?
What time period did this take place?
Who was involved? Are the people still remembered?
How has this been embraced and/or changed over the years to continue to be of importance to the culture of today?

I want to keep with this basic thought process but I want to organize each entry so that it makes more sense to the reader. What I'm looking at right now is to begin by explaining what each symbol is or who the person is. From there I want to explain the lore which surrounds the person, object, or place. After that I want to discuss how these symbols are celebrated and used in current culture of Ireland and the world. This is slightly different than my initial questions but I think still includes most of the questions I had, refocusing them to better comunicate the answers.

I will post the first entry as soon as I finish it for an example of how this turns out.

Thursday, October 4, 2007

The research...a glorious mess...

In order to spare everyone having to see 13 pages of mass insanity, here is the interestingly assembled hodge-podge that is the current state of one subtopic:

Celtic crosses

- celts came to Ireland around 600bc

- The Cross did not become a common symbol of Christianity until the 4th century. Images of the cross were in fact quite rare before the Golden Legend became popular and the "discovery" of the "True Cross" promoted fragments of the "True Cross" as powerful relics.

- cross in a circle as is common in many Welsh crosses of the early Celtic Christian period which followed the Roman withdrawal from Britain.

- There are many regional variations. The Iona group crosses are distinctive in their shape. Many of the Irish High crosses of the 10th century are capped with a pitched roof or "house cap" that are similar to reliquaries made to resemble a Celtic oratory.

- Some of the stone crosses even back to some of the earliest ones have inscriptions that dedicate them to the memory of certain individuals. While many of these were not specifically grave markers, some quite likely were and in this way the purpose of the monumental stone Celtic Cross has remained constant since the beginning.

- It is my opinion that the story of St. Patrick making the cross over the circular pagan symbol is in itself symbolic of the way things really happened. Celtic Christianity used symbols and ideas that were familiar to the Druids to bring them to Christ. The Celtic monks of the early Church practiced a simple life, close to nature that found joy in the love of God’s creation. This was what the Druids already sought in their worship of nature so the missionaries were able to build on what they already had in common with the Druids to convert them to Christianity.

- St. Patrick’s CrossCarndonagh, County Donegal. Carved of red sandstone and accompanied by two short pillars. This primitive sculpture probably dates to the 7th century. It stands about 8 feet tall by the roadside at the church graveyard.The art historian Francoise Henry wrote that this cross represents a transition in design in that it is one of the earliest stone cross sculptures to break free from the slab. Earlier cross monuments were carved on slabs but the Carndonagh pillar is cut out in the shape of a cross.

- Muiredach's Cross dates from the early 10th century. It is one of the finest and best preserved of the Irish High Crosses. It is a "scripture cross" illustrating the crucifixion on the east side and the last judgment on the west side, with other Biblical stories and histories of saints illustrated in the many panels of relief sculpture. The total height is 18 feet, 5.5 meters.

- Cross of the Scriptures
or King Flann’s Cross
Clonmacnoise, County Offaly, 12 foot tall, buff millstone grit. Dated circa. 900 naming Flann Sinna, King of Ireland 879 - 916.

- The Irish Catholic priest will have no hesitation telling you that the circle of the Celtic Cross is a symbol of eternity that emphasizes the endlessness of God’s love as shown through Christ’s sacrifice on the cross. That is unless he says the circle is a halo. He may go on to explain that the crucifixion is important not just as an event at a certain point in time but, as the circle symbolizes, as the unending mystery of how through the crucifixion and resurrection Christ continues to offer the hope of salvation to the faithful throughout all time.

- There is a legend of how St. Patrick when preaching to some soon-to-be converted heathens was shown a sacred standing stone that was marked with a circle that was symbolic of the moon goddess. Patrick made the mark of a Latin cross through the circle and blessed the stone making the first Celtic Cross. This legend implies that the Saint was willing to make ideas and practices that were formerly Druid into Christian ideas and practices. This is consistent with the belief that he converted and ordained many Druids to lives as Christian priests.

- scholars generally agree that they date from the late 8th century to the 12th century, with the ninth and tenth centuries as the most productive period. (revival crosses used today)

This is my cut and paste method of researching. I will figure out a way to work this out into something useful in the morning.

History vs. folklore...

I spent the day searching for information on Ireland and the various symbols that I had been interested in learning more about. I began the search with the two pathfinder addresses from the comments area of my blog and used quite a few links from them. With these links I took information on any of the subtopics I found and started lists but it didn't seem to work out as well as it could. It seemed to be taking a good deal of time to find little information. From there I decided to change the meathod a bit and focus on one subtopic at a time. I started with a google search of each topic, typing in keywords such as "history of celtic crosses" and followed many of these links to information. This was a bit easier as I had a focus and I didn't have the issue of dead links with the google search. I used my basic questions for each subtopic to help me keep on track and not get too deep into any particular area and go beyond the information that I was looking for.

Once I began to get into the research I decided that I needed to take my previous list of possible subtopics and decide on ten that I was particularly interested in. After listing which were the most important to my project I came up with eleven.

Celtic crosses
Gaelic language
Irish National Flag
Aran stitchwork
Book of Kells/celtic knotwork
St. Patrick/Holy Trinity/shamrock
Irish castles

With these topics set I went on to research in differnet areas. I began with an internet search using Google. In checking that information was authentic, I checked into if an organiazation ran the site as well as the credentials of the site. If the site was a .org or .edu it was easier to trust that the information provided was more reputable. Any sites which listed bibliographies of information were also useful both in that the information was backed up and that the links to books and other materials lead to another source for the subject. The interent search provided me with ideas for other materials such as print materials, dvds, computer software, and digital books (such as those from the google book project). I had planned to look into print materials but the other sources were great resources which I had not thought of.

From the interent resources I found some great book lists. I also did a catalog search of the ACPL materials on Symbology of Ireland and History of Ireland.

I found a few texts that were useful but not as many as I had hoped and most just coincided with what I had already found on the internet. The dvd-rom on The Book of Kells was interesting but didn't give me a lot more information on the book, just more understanding of what was inside.

While I was sorting through the good sources versus the not-so-great sources of information on the topics I felt that the webbing and wiggling begin to blur together. Why I chose certain materials and sources had a lot to do with the evaluation of the source. Even if a source had a lot of inforamtion, if there was nothing there to back it up I couldn't trust the material and I would look for material that was more substantial. I did have a few sites that I used as a basis for further study, to see if the information was represented in the same way on more notable sites. If a site which had no organization or school affiliated with it had information that corroborated with one that did I was much more likely to use both sites as resources. Also, books are generally more widely accepted for information than web sites as they are believed to be more credible sources so I generally didn't need information from another source to go along with the information from books. In this way I was both weebing in choosing different materials and wiggling in evaluating these materials based on credibility and prior knowledge.

On the other hand, Ireland is a difficult area of study for complete accuracy in matters of history. The history of Ireland, its traditions and folklore was very much an oral tradition for many years. As a result much of the tradition has been changed and parts lost throughout the years. Exageration of facts also happens with oral history. Therefor, much of Irish history has to be pieced together to the best of the historian's ability by using information from surrounding countries. There is a good edal of speculation among different researchers on the exact events and seperating folklore from actual historical events. Since there isn't a concrete history to folklore it makes it more difficult to find typical resources for the project.

Time out...

A little reflection in the midst of the search.

I have found some great information on many areas of my topic. Celtic crosses have so much history behind them. I had no idea that there was so much history, from the carvings to the shape of the cross to the meaning behind the circle both religious and structural. It's amazing and so interesting. I could keep at this for months and continue to learn new things. This is why I have taken my research questions and posted them in front of me above my stay on task!

I have found that I need to combine a few of my original topic areas as they are too intertwined to be addreessed alone. The folklore surrounding the shamrock in Ireland is so much a part of the folklore of St. Patrick and the Holy Trinity that they must be together. The same goes with the Claddaugh and fishing villages (I have found a place and name for the original claddaugh which is exciting.)

I have also run across areas which I had forgotten. I can't believe I forgot about Newgrange and the tombs. I have to address these. This would be a place I would definitely want to visit and study in travels.

I also found some Google books which I hadn't though of at all but were pretty useful.

Some online links so far: (newgrange info) (limerick, st. Patrick) (pathfinder) (pathfinder) crosses who were the celts? celtic crosses location of crosses w/pics gaelic language gaelic gaelic claddaugh

Some books to look into:

Hillary Richardson & John Scarry AN INTRODUCTION TO IRISH HIGH CROSSES Mercier Press, Dublin 1990, ISBN 0853429545

Francoise Henry IRISH ART IN THE EARLY CHRISTIAN PERIOD, Methuen , London 1940

J. Romilly Allen & Joseph Anderson THE EARLY CHRISTIAN MONUMENTS OF SCOTLAND 1903 Society of Antiquaries of Scotland, Reprint Pinkfoot Press, Forfar, Angus 1993

J. Romilly Allen THE HIGH CROSSES OF IRELAND, Whiting & Co., London 1887 Llanerch facsimile reprint 1992

Marianna Lines SACRED STONES SACRED PLACES Saint Andrew Press, Edinburgh 1992

I'll proabably try to find as much online information as I can today and go to the library to find print resources tomorrow. There's also a dvd and some online interviews that I would like to get to if possible.

Wednesday, October 3, 2007

Pathfinders and road blocks...

I started searching a little early when I found a couple pathfinder ideas in my comments (thank you!) and it gave me somewhere to begin. The pathfinders are both great. Each has quite a few links that have lead to some great information already.

The only bad thing about searching online using pathfinders is that they aren't always kept up and many of the links are dead. That's frustrating. Some of the links have been very useful but there have been several that I thought would work really well and the sites are no longer in existance.

I have found some historical timelines and information on the time periods when the Celts and the Gaels came to the country. I also found some great information on the Stone Age and Newgrange which is something I had forgotten about.

I also now know that many believe that St. Patrick and Palladius, first bishop of Ireland, were actually the same person. Very interesting.

Oh the tangled web...

I have the next two days entirely to myself for researching my topic. I'm actually really excited to get into the project in more depth though I am completely unsure of where to start. I'm sure I'll be able to find a good deal of information in books on the history of the country but I definitely don't want to spend the whole day attempting to find the small pieces of information I'm looking for. I'm not sure where to start on the internet though I'm sure there is a good deal of information to be found. I've also been thinking of looking in to online databases but I'm not sure what good that will do.

The wondering stage was frustrating in the beginning, trying to figure out where to go and what questions I really wanted to ask but as I'm entering the webbing stage I have a whole different set of issues. Where can I go to find what I need? I started with the Irish History book but that won't be much good to me moving forward. I'm sure there are scholars out there who have taken interest and studied many of these areas of Irish culture. It's just a matter of finding relavent information.

I have set up a notebook with a few pages for each of the areas of interest I have. This way any piece of information I might find can be recorded with the heading and I can go back later and make sense of it. I have found it useful in the past to start with a loose organization of information and revisit it later to organize in a way that makes more sense and is more cohesive. I will also need to figure out exactly how I would like to present this information and make myself a guide. I'm thinking right now that I might want to turn this into a guide or plan of some sort which would help organize a trip. I have also seen these great maps which allow plotting of points of interest on a map and when hovered over each plot information pops up to explain this place. That seemes like a cool idea but I'm not sure how to do that or where I might find that out so this adds another possible aspect to the project.

Tuesday, October 2, 2007

Onward we go...

It was an insane weekend followed by two full days of work so I haven't had much time to blog. I have been thinking though. I know now what my topic is and what questions I have about this topic but Ireland is a country rich in it's history and culture and what aspects of this would I like to focus on? There are many different ways I could go with this. I could study this for years and never know all of it. The country is old and full of tradition. I knew I wanted to look into some of the parts of culture that are so woven into the culture that when you ask a person what they know about Ireland these are the things they come up with. I began and knew I was interested in some aspects but not sure which. I couldn't get a clear picture of how I was going to go about finding the information or what to focus on to keep this from becoming a huge undertaking. I needed to further focus the topic so I thought about why I wanted to look into this information to begin with. Why did I want to know about the places and people involved in the history of these symbols of the country?

The fact is that I have been looking into taking a class in Ireland or spending a summer there and there is so much to see and do and learn about that I would like to narrow down the aspects of the country and culture that I am most interested in so that when I do get there, however and whenever that may be, I will have a grasp on what to see and where to go to get the most out of the experience. For that reason I decided to get a book on Irish history as a starting point, to look through and make a list of the areas that really interested me.

I found a book called Irish History by Seamus Mac Annaidh. This book was short and not extremely useful for research but included a great deal short pieces on historical events along with many pictures and references to places of interest. From this book, I made a list of pieces of Ireland that I am interested in knowing more about. From this list I will probably choose 10-12 to look further into.

1. Celtic crosses
2. Limerick
3. Gaelic language
4. Irish Dancing
5. Ireland's flag
6. Claddaugh symbol
7. stitchwork
8. harp
9. shamrock
10. celtic knots/Book of Cels
11. St. Patrick
12. Rose of Tralee
13. castles
14. fishing
15. Connamara

These are areas of Ireland's culture so common that they are the symbols that people think of when asked what they know about Ireland or think of when they think of the country.