“At least in the early seasons of Buffy, Angel is the only vampire in the world who possesses a soul. He became a vampire in 1753; in 1898, Romanian gypsies, to punish him for killing a girl beloved in their tribe, put a curse on him that restored his soul so he would feel eternal guilt and self-hatred for his murderous deeds. At roughly the time of the Easter Rising, he leaves for America, where his intense self-loathing prompts him to live on the streets, subsisting on a diet of rats: he can no longer bear to kill humans, but as a vampire, he still requires blood. A friendly demon – yes, there are good demons and bad ones – attempts to improve Angel’s lot by giving him a purpose in life. He takes Angel to meet Buffy, a high school cheerleader who is on the brink of discovering that she has been appointed Vampire slayer. Unbeknownst to Angel and Buffy, a single moment of happiness will result in the loss of his soul. Buffy thus eventually proves to be his salvation as well as his destruction. ”
“Whereas Angel is usually associated with religious symbols such as the cross he carves into his victims, the tattoo from The Book of Kells, and the silver cross he gives Buffy on their first meeting, he is also associated with a specifically Irish symbol: the Claddagh ring. On the night of her seventeenth birthday, as the two of them say their farewells on the docks, he presents Buffy with a ring, explaining, “My people – before I was changed – they exchanged this as a sign of devotion. It’s a claddagh ring. The hands represent friendship, the crown represents loyalty … and the heart. … Well, you know … Wear it with the heart pointing towards you. It means you belong to somebody. Like this” (Season 2, Episode 13, “Surprise”). The traditional wedding ring of the Irish since the seventeenth century, the Claddagh ring originated in the Irish-speaking Claddagh region in Galway. With massive Irish emigration following the famine, the Claddagh ring became an enduring link with the home country and practically their only savings and family inheritance. It is worn as a universal symbol of love, loyalty, friendship, and fidelity. The Royal Claddagh website lists notable wearers of the Claddagh ring, including Queen Alexandria and King Edward VII of Britain, Queen Victoria, Princess Grace of Monaco, adding that “today in the twenty-first Century, however, perhaps the most famous wearer of the Claddagh ring is the famous Buffy of Buffy the Vampire Slayer fame” (Royal Claddagh, n.d.). The enduring nature of the claddagh ring, and, by analogy, the love it symbolizes, is emphasized throughout the series. For example, prior to the loss of Angel’s soul, Buffy dreams that he disintegrates, as vampires do when they are staked, and all that remains of him is the claddagh ring. After he loses his soul, and she succeeds in killing him, she places the ring on the floor of his mansion, unwittingly summoning him from hell. Angel’s love is equally enduring. As Buffy’s friend Willow aptly observes, even the soulless Angel – ostensibly incapable of love – remains wholly devoted to Buffy, albeit now he is devoted to killing her. Eternal love that outlasts even the lovers is traditionally associated with this uniquely Irish symbol – and with the Irish themselves – perhaps because of the tragically high cost of emigration, which all too often forced lovers apart forever. The most famous example of love, Irish style, may be “Danny Boy,” with its lines: “when I am dead as dead I well may be, you’ll kneel and say an avé there for me.” ”
Potts, Donna L. “Convents, Claddagh Rings, and even The Book of Kells: Representing the Irish in Buffy the Vampire Slayer.” Studies in Media & Information Literacy Education 3.2 (2003). http://www.utpress.utoronto.ca/journal/ejournals/simile.