To coincide with the launch of our new Anam Cara Pendantshere in the Claddagh Design workshop, we wanted to share the meaning of Anam Cara and the concept of a soulmate.
'Anam Cara' is the beautiful Celtic phrase which loosely translates as 'Soulmate'. 'Anam' is the Irish Gaelic word for 'soul', 'cara' translates from Irish (Gaelic) to friend. The literal translation is soul friend. It doesn't just describe the union of two souls but rather, it describes a very specific and special relationship between two people. In contrast to the more general concept of a soulmate, Anam Cara may be a platonic or romantic relationship. They may be your partner, friend, family member or even a spiritual teacher. Anam Cara is far more than a simple term used to describe a close relationship. It is a Celtic philosophy and Irish belief that two souls that experience this unique connection will be stronger together than they are apart.
Anam Cara as a Concept
Anam Cara is based around spirituality and the bonding of two souls. Similarities can be drawn to the idea of soul mates from other cultures. It is the belief that every soul is connected to another since the beginning of time. When you meet your anam cara, two souls join and you will always recognize each other.
The Celts believed that your Anam Cara could be a friend, a companion or spiritual guide. Everyone, either directly or on a more subconscious level, ultimately sought to find their true soul friend. Without an Anam Cara, you can never be fully whole. Saint Bridget, one of Ireland's only female patron saint, is said to have declared that “A person without an Anam Cara is like a body without a head.” Once missionaries from mainland Europe arrived on the island of Ireland (around the 6th century), the tradition and concept of Anam Cara is thought to have transferred from Celtic practices to Christianity.
Although the Celts clearly had a well thought-out concept of souls and soulmates in Anam Cara, the idea did not originate with them. Little is known about where it came from. The earliest mention was by the ancient Greek philosopher Plato. In his philosophical text from 380 BC, 'The Symposium', he sets out an equally interesting theory. This concept is a little more out there. Plato saw human nature as being different from how you and I may see it today. Plato theorized there are three genders – male, female and male-female. This third gender was round. It had a back and sides that formed a circle. Four hands, feet and ears with two faces that looked opposite directions. This was a male and female back to back. It could walk upright or cartwheel if it needed to move fast. Honestly, we're not making this up! Plato was very specific. Man came from the sun. Woman came from the earth.
Man-woman came from the moon. According to Plato, the moon was made up of sun and earth. The androgynous gender had forceful energy and strength, and was very passionate. Their intellect was substantial too. They attempted to attack the gods by scaling the walls of heaven. The gods were thrown into disarray and fought about how to proceed. Some argued they should kill all of the men-women with lightning as they had done with the giants. However, Zeus suggested the men-women should be cut in two. They would then be diminished in strength and increased in numbers. If they continued to disobey, he would cut them in half again - 'so they shall hop about on a single leg'.
Script Anam Cara Pendant in sterling silverwith natural Connemara marble bead After they were split, Apollo was tasked with healing the two halves in order to allow them to function properly. He smoothed the skin over the broken sides of each being. He then molded the parts back into shape. He left one little reminder of the original form. What we now know as the belly button. From then on, the separated halves were miserable without one another. They spent the rest of their lives searching and yearning for their lost other half. Plato states in his text:
So ancient is the desire of one another which is implanted in us, reuniting our original nature, seeking to make one of two and to heal the state of man. Each of us when separated, having one side only, like a flat fish, is but the tally-half of a man, and he is always looking for his other half.
Plato may have had a very long-winded and not entirely believable story worked out about soul mates, but he never actually called them by that name. The actual term 'soul mate' was originally coined by the poet Samuel Taylor Coleridge. He wrote it in a letter saying “To be happy in married life... you must have a soul mate as well as a house or yoke mate.” Civilization finally had a word to describe the concept that ancient Celts, Greeks, and various other societies had defined long ago. Ever since, it has become synonymous with love, marriage and true friendship.
The concept of 'Anam Cara' is universal. The concept is relatable and recognised in modern culture. Just like other ancient civilizations all over the world, the Celts understood the value of positive relationships and the importance of finding deep and lasting connections to our spiritual and mental wellbeing.
We hope you enjoyed reading our blog post!
Browse our handcrafted jewelry collection: Inspired by Anam Cara
Credits & Sources:Plato’s “Symposium” - All That is Interesting Anam Cara - Wikipedia Soul Friendship in Early Celtic Monasticism - Part I: Edward C. Sellner