Tuesday, 1 March 2011

Local icons with universal identity?

Happy St David’s Day! My grandmother, who sadly died years ago, was born in Wales, so I decided to explore my Welsh heritage. Welsh icons include leeks and a delightfully archaic national costume. But it’s not all coal, rugby, sheep and dragons in this curiously Celtic corner of our little island... There are also daffodils and lovespoons too - the latter being rather pertinent in view of Prince William’s impending nuptials - what with him being based at RAF Valley in Anglesey and next in line to inherit the heir apparent's title, Prince of Wales.

Possibly dating from the 14th century, and based on the ‘cawl’ or soup spoon, lovespoons were carved by young Welshmen to demonstrate their practicality and craftsmanship (much needed in rural Wales) to the father of their intended brides. The suitor carved one or more of a selection of traditional symbols to convey his special message:

Single Heart – My Heart is yours
Double Heart – Love is returned, we feel the same way
Celtic Knot – Everlasting
A Flower – Courtship
A Daffodil – Flower of Wales
The Dragon – Symbol of Wales / Protection
A House – My Home is Yours
A key / Keyhole – My Home is Yours
A Chain – Captured Love
Balls in a cage – Captured Love / Number of Children Desired
Heart Shaped Bowl – Fulfilled Love
Double Bowl – The Couple
Triple Bowl – The Couple and family
Vines – Growing Together
Horse Shoe – Good Luck
Bells – The Wedding
A Cross – Faith
A Ship – Safe Journey through Life
An Anchor – I Want to Settle Down
(List courtesy of Lovespoons Wales).

However, accepting this token of love was by no means an indication that a Welsh girl would marry her suitor - and some popular women amassed huge collections of lovespoons

Anyway, I blame the Royal Wedding for my digression onto the subject of lovespoons, when what I really wanted to talk about is identity. These days it’s rare for us to identify ourselves with one particular place and culture. Most of us are a conglomeration of influences, ranging from birthplace and hometown to cities we’ve travelled to and people we’ve met. Our unique psychogeography and the individual stories that make up our lives have become more significant than our local origins.

Unlike lovespoons, today’s gifts and tokens of affection are more likely to reflect globally procured character – like the curiosity charm necklaces by Cartography40N74W at ShopCurious.

But might this curious trend lead to the wholesale globalization of culture, and what will the implications be for future generations? Or has the nostalgia-led backlash already begun? Your comments are most welcome, especially if you’re proudly Welsh.

Are you?


Len♥reNeverM♥re said...

Happy St David's Day Susan!
I found out recently that the men used to have leeks in their pockets~ fascinating tradition!

worm said...

I always wondered where those spoons came from, and I never knew till now! (I had always mentally filed them alongside plates with paintings of wolves on and cuckoo clocks) thanks susan!

Susan said...

Are you sure they were leeks, Lenore?

Sounds like you've been reading too many fairy tales, worm...

Jan said...

I shall be questioning my other half this evening (he's half Welsh) as to why I never got MY love spoon.

Susan said...

Is that a box of chocolates or a diamond ring you're after, Jan?

Len♥reNeverM♥re said...

Susan, I may be wrong huh?


Susan said...

Not wrong, just divinely different dahling! Love your curiously creative style...