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Roundstone Musical Instruments
and the World of Bodhráns

Secrets of the Bodhrán

The Secrets of the Bodhrán and How to play it

By Malachy Kearns

Lore and Culture

As was stated in the last section, the frame drum is used mainly in religious and cultural festivals. In Ireland the drum, although rmainly used for entertainment, still on occasions is used for religious/cultural festivals. One that comes to mind is St. Stephen's Day, December 26th - 'The Wren Hunt'! when groups of people with blackened faces, wearing outlandish costumes, usually made of straw, parade a captured wren bird from house to house, playing music and singing a ceremonial song.

Other festivals which may still be in active use are, St. Brighid's Day, February 1st; May Day, May 1st and Halloween, October 31st. The Bodhrán also features in Mummers Plays and many Harvest Festivals (the link with the skin tray for winnowing).

A modern day example of how the bodhrán is still used in a 'ceremonial' way, are the groups of Bodhrán owners who accompany the Irish soccer teams to all international fixtures, beating out the war cry of the Ancient Gael.




The Cross symbolises the 4 roads and Christ's rule over all things- length, breadth, height & depth.


Animals and Birds were sacred to the Celts and many of their Gods and Spirits are represented with Bird or Animal parts. In The Book of Kells the Four Evangelists are depicted as

Man for Matthew, Lion for Mark, Calf for Luke, Eagle for John.


The Spiral is the natural form of growth. In every culture past and present it has become a symbol of Eternal Life. Surrounded by the water as they worked, the Celts (Monks) were constantly reminded of the flow and movement of the universe. The spirals they painted represented : the continuous creation and dissolution of the World; the passages between the spirals being the divisions between life , death and rebirth.


Knotwork represented the Human Soul which it was believed was a fragment of the Divine and would ultimately return to it's Divine Source. Interlacing knotwork with it's unbroken lines symbolises the process of Man's eternal spiritual growth.

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Roundstone Musical Instruments Ltd.
Malachy Kearns,
IDA Craft Centre,Roundstone,
Co. Galway, Ireland.

Tel:+353 95 35808
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