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St. Patrick's Day facts

Here are some odds and ends of Irish culture and trivia, for your St. Patrick's Day enjoyment.

• One of Ireland's most popular exports is Guinness beer, which the University of Wisconsin found, in 2003, may be actually good for you. A pint a day greatly reduces the blood's ability to clot — making it as good as an aspirin a day for your heart.

• Those mischievious leprechauns or lore are cobblers by trade, and they're extremely thrifty. Hence, the pots of gold they hoard. If you fix one with your gaze, they can't escape, and they're required to answer questions truthfully, so it's easy enough to find out where his treasure is stored.

• Blarney Stone: This stone was set in a tower of Blarney Castle in 1446. But its true history is shrouded in legend. Some claim it was Jacob’s Pillow, brought to Ireland by the prophet Jeremiah and used as an "oracular throne" to divine Irish kings. It may have been the deathbed pillow of St. Columba on the island of Iona, thereafter removed to mainland Scotland to serve as the prophetic power of royal succession, the Stone of Destiny. Still other claim it was a stone brought back to Ireland from the Crusades — the Stone of Ezel behind which David hid when he fled from his enemy, Saul. Still others claim it was the stone that gushed water when struck by Moses.

• Shilelagh: A walking stick or club. It's pronounced "shih-LAY-lee," and is named for the forest that offered the hard, old oak from which they were made — at least until the best of the wood was exported from the country. Now shilelaghs are made mostly of blacktorn.

Sources: BBC News,,