What do the Galo de Barcelos (The Portuguese Good Luck Rooster) and the Irish leprechaun have in common? Well, literally, they have nothing in common, but figuratively, their similarities are surprising. As symbols of their cultures' hope for good luck, in Portuguese stated as boa sorte, they hold an important place in the Portuguese and the Irish people's hearts and imaginations. To learn more about these two, read on my friends and meus amigos!
While there remains some dispute of the Celts' exact geographical spread across Europe during their early history, there is undeniable evidence that they were a force to be reckoned with during the bronze and iron ages in Portugal. The Lusitanians, a Celtic tribe, settled in Central Portugal around 1200 BC. The name "Lusitanian" traces back to the close cultural and linguistic ties between the Portuguese and the pre-Roman Celtic people. Therein we have the first place to see what the Galo de Barcelos and Irish leprechaun have in common: the rooster and the leprechaun share genetics! But what about their stories? Can a trace of common ground be found there? Keep reading, meus amigos and friends.
But wait, before we reach the leprechaun part of the story, let's talk first about the infamous shamrocks of Ireland as they play an important role in Ireland's tales of good luck. The shamrock is ingrained in Irish culture due to its association with the patron saint of Ireland, St. Patrick. Legend has it that St Patrick used the shamrock's three petals to teach the Holy Trinity to Celtic pagans. This explains why images of St. Patrick are often depicted with a cross in one hand and a shamrock in the other hand. Additionally, the number three was believed to hold magical properties long before St. Patrick's arrival; therefore, the three petals of the shamrock were thought to symbolize good luck. Please note, the four-leaf clover has an entirely different meaning for each of its petals and isn't to be confused with St. Patrick's shamrock. Okay, slight sidebar done, now on to our little leprechaun.
The Irish leprechaun is undoubtedly one of the most beloved Irish symbols of St. Patrick's Day and of the Irish culture in general. Much like the Galo de Barcelos, this little guy has mythological associations with good luck. Long featured in Irish folklore, this fellow was first seen in medieval times in a story called The Adventures of Ferus, son of Leti. In the story, three tiny characters are captured by the Prince of Ulster. In exchange for their release, they grant the prince three wishes. One can imagine they're the original leprechauns. Over the centuries, the Irish leprechaun's magic has grown to include a habit of chasing a pot of gold at the end of a rainbow. For anyone lucky enough to catch a leprechaun, according to modern legend, the captor will be granted three wishes and given the contents of the pot of gold. Leprechauns are also known the carry shamrocks in those same pots. It would lead a person to believe that an encounter with an Irish leprechaun is three kinds of good luck. After all, if getting those three wishes and all that gold isn't lucky enough, being the new owner of all those shamrocks would surely seal the deal on good luck! Now onto our Galo de Barcelos and the good luck connection with the Irish and Portuguese cultures.
Much like the leprechaun in Irish folklore, the Galo de Barcelos is the unofficial symbol of good luck in Portuguese folklore. As colorful as the Irish leprechaun in character and appearance, the Galo de Barcelos is tied to a legend that includes good luck. It is believed that the inhabitants of a village were quite alarmed with a crime, and this all the more because they could not discover the criminal. One day appeared an outsider who became suspect at once.
The authorities resolved to seize him, and despite all his oaths of innocence, nobody believed him. Nobody thought it credible that the man was on his way to worship a well-known saint in a nearby town, St. Tiago. Finally, he was condemned to death by hanging. As a last request before his execution, he asked to be brought once more into the presence of the judge who had condemned him. The request was granted, and they lead him to the residence of the magistrate, who was just banqueting with some friends. The convicted man declared his innocence again, and in the presence of the guests, he pointed to a roasted rooster on the table, exclaiming: "My innocence is as certain as the roasted rooster will cry if I should be hung." Everybody laughed at him, but nobody dared to touch the rooster.
However, what seemed impossible became a reality. When the man was to be hung, in that very moment, the roasted rooster stood up on the table and began crying. Nobody doubted any more the innocence of the condemned man. They hurried to the gibbet and saw the poor man with the rope around his neck. But a free knot had avoided his suffocation. Immediately set free, the man went away in peace. From this story was born the belief that the rooster brought the condemned man good luck. Along with the continued belief that the Galo de Barcelos brings its owner good luck, it also remains a symbol of the importance of honesty, integrity, trust, and honor.
In addition to having cultural symbols that loudly broadcast the reverence to good luck in their cultures, the Irish and Portuguese share a practice of wishing good luck upon others in daily living. And is it any wonder that it would be so? In these two ancient cultures where watching loved ones leave for uncharted lands and seas, the words "good luck to you" were commonplace on the lips of those left behind. Both in their early years of exploration and contemporary history, when emigration seemed the only way to survive, the importance of holding hope that things would be better on the journey's other end was prevalent to the citizens of modern Ireland and those of Portugal, and its territories. Therein lies the final proof that the Galo de Barcelos and the Irish leprechaun do have shared characteristics. These two colorful characters represent centuries of holding hope that good luck comes to those who wish it. May good luck and boa sorte be with you all.
Margaret Resendes Peek