Celtic knots are most associated with the Irish, although they were popular throughout the tribes of northern Europe before the expansion of the Roman Empire. Celtic knots are found at gravesites from Russia to Ireland. They are also found carved into churches and in manuscripts such as “The Book of Kells”. The Celtic Knot is a beautiful representation of the concept of eternity. This is done through the use of one continuous line, with no beginning and no end.
I would like to share what I have learned about the meaning of Celtic Knots.
Celtic knot designs can be dated back to the 3rd-4th century. Each design is believed to have held special significance. Here we must rely on oral traditions because the Celts left no written records. Without written records, some of the pagan meanings are lost. Symbolism has been replaced by new motifs once Christianity took root.
Our understanding of Celtic knots is somewhat limited. What we do know about the Celts comes from records written by catholic monks, and by the writings of Romans like Tacitus. The men who tried to conquer them through religion or warfare. From this information, we can lift the veil of time and get a glimpse of these people and their beliefs. We think that Celtic Knots were used to represent faith, declare unity between tribes or couples, and possibly to protect against evil spirits.
The Meaning of Popular Celtic Knots
The Celtic Cross
The Celtic Cross was a religious or spiritual symbol. The circle in the crosses center was a reference to the Sun God. The Christians appropriated the circle to represent God’s, eternal love. Many examples of Celtic crosses have survived as grave markers. These distinctive crosses have been used into modern times.
The Trinity Knot or triquetra was used to symbolize and honor the Mother, Maiden, and Crone of the neo-pagan triple goddess. It signifies the three life-cycles of a woman in relation to the phases of the moon. It is similar to the Valknut, a Norse symbol. In Christian times, it has come to be recognized as a symbol for ‘The Father, The Son, and The Holy Spirit’.
The triquetra has been found on runestones in Northern Europe and on early germanic coins. It presumably had Germanic pagan religious meaning and it bears a resemblance to the Valknut, a symbol associated with Norse mythology. It appears the symbol remained in use as a Christian symbol after the abandonment of paganism by the various Germanic peoples.
Today, it is commonly worn as a symbol of Irish ancestry or everlasting love.
The Tree of Life
Another Celtic knot is the Tree of Life. This knot harkens back to the Norse tree Yggdrasil, the world tree. The pagan beliefs of the Celts had a similar root across all of northern Europe. The flowing form of the Celtic tree’s branches and roots represents the balance and harmony of the natural world. It illustrates how the world tree (nature) permeates every part of our lives. The Celts had an intimate relationship with nature. The natural world is to be revered and the importance of nature to life is reflected in their use of this symbol.
The Shield Knot
Designed to ward away evil spirits from their homes and to protect the warriors on the battlefield, Celts used the Shield Knot. Typically, these knots contain four corners and can be either circular or square. There are two spiral knots, including the Spiral Knot and the Triple Spiral Knot. The meaning behind these Celtic knots is very different, despite the similarity in design.
The Spiral Knot
The Spiral Knot represents the journey from the physical life to the spiritual life, a spiritual journey into the next world. Modern Christians walk a version of this “The Labyrinth “ in prayer and contemplation.
The Triple Spiral Knot
The Triple Spiral is another trinitarian design consisting of three connecting spirals. They most likely represented land, sea, and sky.