While we may never be sure why some Celts apparently preferred to battle in the buff, we do know that they considered symbolism to be of great importance both in the physical and spiritual realms. Today, their contribution to symbolism is alive and prospering in many forms including artwork, architectural adornments, and jewelry.
However, the purported meanings behind Celtic symbols are often lost on many admirers – and honestly, we can only surmise their meaning due to the lack of historic records – but here are some bare-bones, common interpretations of popular Celtic knots and spirals.
Celtic Spirals – The Premise of Progression in the Physical & Spiritual
SINGLE SPIRALS: As one looks at the single spiral, there is a sense of ethereal energy radiating from the center, (or towards the center) indicating its relationship to MOTION. Many view the center stage as birth, the arm – as life, and its ending – as death, while others see it as the process of consciousness expansion, evolution, and perseverance. It is thought that the ancient Irish used the spiral to represent the sun, with a clockwise spiral indicating the shrinking winter sun.
DUAL CENTERED SPIRALS: Most often thought to represent the balance of nature, much like the Yin Yang is the balance of masculine and feminine. In Celtic culture it likely had a special significance to the equinoxes, where the light and of day and dark of night were equivalent.
TRIPLE SPIRALS: Triple spirals look as though they are in constant motion, literally prepared to ‘roll’ off-screen at any moment. The number three has been noted as a powerful one representative of ideals ranging from the Holy Trinity and the phases of the moon to those of the time continuum, and the Celts also harbored such concepts bringing the spiral together in a triad symbol. The triple spiral is often viewed as symbolic of one’s struggle to balance the internal, external, and spiritual components of their being.
TRISKELIONS: Triple spirals were likely the precursors to the triskele, which seamlessly extends each spiral arm to form a perfect circle that may represent actions, revolution, competition – literal advancement or progress. The outer circle brings those components to a culmination of completion and unification.
Classic Celtic Knots Meanings and Interpretations
There are literally dozens of knot patterns, so we’ll just cover a few here so we don’t get too tangled up!
TRINITY CELTIC KNOTS: The most common knot ilk is also called a Triqueta, and the trinity symbolizes the culmination of three parts. As with the triple spiral’s arms, some widely accepted representations view the trinity as:
- Father, Son, Holy Ghost
- Mind, Body, Spirit
- Mother, Crone, Maiden
- Past, Present, Future
- Creator, Destroyer, Sustainer
- Mother, Father, Child
- Thought, Feeling, Emotion
- Other World, Mortal World, Celestial World
- Creation, Preservation, Destruction
Presence of the trinity within Celtic symbols could also represent the three ruling aspects of the goddess Brigid – art, healing, and metalsmithing.
CELTIC CIRCULAR KNOT: Keeping in tradition with the circle representing unification, the circular knot likely stands for the infinite quality of some attribute or object in an all encompassing way. In this tradition, Celtic circular knots are commonly exchanged on wedding days as the bride and groom emphasize the endless nature of their eternal devotion as ‘one.’
- Natural Elements – Earth, Fire, Water, & Air
- Planetary Directions – North, East, South & West
- Jewels of Tuatha – Lia Fial, Sword of Nuada, Spear of Lug, & Cauldron of Dagda
- Celtic Fire Festivals – Imbolc, Beltane, Samhain, & Lughnasadh
DARA CELTIC KNOT: The Dara Celtic knot is a more complex and ornate version of the quaternary knot, and it is associated with the oak tree – consider sacred by the Celts, and particularly the Druids. The Oak Tree symbolizes strength, power, destiny, endurance, and leadership, and this knot is believed to offer one inner strength and access to intrinsic divine resources.
We could go on and on about knots and Celtic symbols all day long, but with a few related designs coming out soon, I thought we’d explore a bit about some of the possible translations of the new and exciting original pendant styles.
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