The Irish Shillelagh

The Irish Shillelagh

Creative Irish Gifts |

The Irish Shillelagh

Traditional walking stick, good luck charm, and weapon.

What is a shillelagh?

   A shillelagh is a wooden walking stick or club that originated in Ireland. It typically measures between 2 and 4 feet in length and is made from blackthorn wood. The stick is traditionally used as a weapon for self-defense, as well as for walking and hiking. 

   The name "Shillelagh" comes from the Irish word "séilleóg," which means "little willow." However, the sticks are actually made from blackthorn, a type of tree with dense, hard wood that grows throughout Ireland. 

   In addition to their practical uses, Shillelaghs have also become a symbol of Irish heritage and culture. They are often used in traditional Irish dance performances and other cultural events.


Shillelaghs have been the subject of folklore and mythology in Ireland for centuries. Here are a few examples of the folklore surrounding Shillelaghs:

Magical propertiesAccording to legend, a Shillelagh made from a blackthorn tree that had been struck by lightning was believed to possess magical properties. The stick was said to be imbued with the power of the tree and the energy of the lightning strike, making it an incredibly powerful weapon. 

Leprechaun connectionSome legends also connect Shillelaghs with leprechauns, the mischievous creatures of Irish folklore. According to some tales, leprechauns were known to carry Shillelaghs, which they would use to defend themselves against anyone who tried to steal their gold. 

Symbol of Irish strengthShillelaghs are also seen as a symbol of Irish strength and resilience. In the past, Irish rebels used Shillelaghs as weapons against their British oppressors, and the stick became a symbol of Irish resistance and independence.

Healing properties: In addition to their use as a weapon, Shillelaghs were also thought to have healing properties. Some legends claim that the wood of the blackthorn tree has medicinal qualities, and that a Shillelagh could be used to cure various ailments. 
Luck-bringing properties: In some traditions, carrying a Shillelagh is believed to bring good luck and protect against evil spirits. It is also said to bring success in business or other endeavors. Overall, the Shillelagh has played an important role in Irish folklore and mythology, and it continues to be an important symbol of Irish culture and heritage today.

Why is a Shillelagh known as a president’s walking stick?

The term "President's walking stick" is a colloquialism that refers to a Shillelagh that was presented to President Andrew Jackson by the Mayor of New York City during his presidency in the 1830s. The Shillelagh became associated with the presidency and subsequent presidents were also given similar walking sticks as gifts. The tradition of gifting a Shillelagh to the President continued through the 20th century. For example, in 1963, President John F. Kennedy was presented with a Shillelagh during his visit to Ireland. This particular Shillelagh was said to have been over 300 years old and was passed down from generation to generation of Irish chieftains before being presented to President Kennedy. Since then, various Irish leaders have continued the tradition of presenting Shillelaghs to visiting U.S. Presidents as a symbol of friendship and goodwill between the two nations. However, it's worth noting that not every U.S. President has received a Shillelagh, and it's not an official or formal gift from the Irish government.