There are few written records regarding Celtic mythology. The little that can be surmised about the Celts and their religious beliefs and practices must be pieced together from the surviving mythology and from the abundance of icons and symbols they so generously left behind for us to decipher. Celtic iconography abounds with symbols of spirit, emblems of gods and goddesses, and images from mythological tales.
Here are some more popular Celtic symbols below.
It originally means “three-cornered”, and often refers to various three-cornered shapes. But now it specifically refers to exclusively to a certain more complicated shape formed of three Vesica Pisces sometimes with an added circle in or around it. Triquetras are often found in relics of Insular art, most notably metal works and manuscripts such as the Book of Kells. The fact that the triquetra very rarely stood alone in medieval Celtic has cast a reasonable doubt on its use as a symbol in the context where it was used primarily as a space filler or ornament in much more complex compositions. However, the Celtic art lives on as both a living folk art tradition and through several revivals.
The triquetra conposes of three overlapped Vesica Pisces symbols.
When used as part of the Christian Trinity ornamental symbol, the triquetra is blue.
The triquetra interlaced with a circle is used as Christian Trinitarian symbol, the Trinity knot.
The cross of triquetras or the Carolingian cross.
It is a cross with a nimbus surrounding the intersection of the arms and stem. This symbol is related to Celtic Christianity, but it is an ancient design which originated in pre-Christian times. Such crosses play a major role in Celtic art. An standing stone-made Celtic cross which is always richly ornamented, is called the Irish cross. A Celtic cross may be originated from the early Coptic church.
There is a widely-known myth in Ireland, which tells that the Celtic cross was introduced by Saint Patrick or Saint Declan when they were converting pagan Irish.
The triple spiral or triskele
It is a Celtic and pre-Celtic symbol found in megalithic ruins and neolithic relics in Ireland, especially inside the Newgrange Passage Tomb and on its entrance stones and kerbs.
The Green Man
It is an ancient Celtic symbol. In Celtic mythology, the Green Man is the god of spring and summer. Year after year and century after century, he disappeared and returned, enacting themes of death and resurrection, the ebb and flow of life and creativity. Sir Gawain is a knight in green in the legend of King Arthur, and also a notable image of the medieval Green Man. Gawain has a green helmet, a suit of green armor, a green shield, even a green horse. He stays alive even when he is decapitated.
Celtic knot is a variety of (mostly infinite) knots which composes of stylized patterns, mainly used by ancient Celts. Such knots are famous for being used as ornaments of Christian monuments and in manuscripts such as 8th–century Book of Kells and Lindisfarne Gospel.
There is no evidence to indicate that a knot had any specific philosophical or religious significance beyond perhaps the most obvious, that being the intricacy capable in the work of humans, itself reflective of the intricacy of Natural forms.
Dara Celtic knot
The meaning of the word “Dara” can be traced to an Irish word ”doire” which means “oak tree”. Dara Celtic knot is related to the root system of oak tree. The Celts, especially Druids, considered the oak tree as sacred. They used to derive meaningful messages applicable to day-to-day life through the language of trees. Oak tree is the symbol of destiny, power, strength, wisdom, leadership and endurance. Therefore, all these attributes were associated with the Dara Celtic knot. Roots of the oak tree represented in the form of Dara Celtic knot are symbolic of the great source of inner strength or divine resources we possess.
Celtic Quaternary Knot
The task of tracking down the exact meaning of Celtic symbols is quite difficult due to the lack of concrete proofs or written documents. In many cases, one has to rely on the artists’ interpretation of a particular symbol. Thus, the quaternary knot symbol could depict or indicate four directions (East, West, North and South). The symbol could also refer to four elements of nature, i.e. Earth, Fire, Water and Air. The fire festivals of Celts i.e. Samhain, Beltane, Imbolc and Lughnasadh could also be an interpretation of the quaternary symbol. The depiction of quaternary symbol might be an indication of the treasures of Tuatha.
The eternity knot could be any of the Celtic knot design patterns that have a closed path. It means that such Celtic knots neither have a beginning nor an end. George Bain, a Celtic art teacher from Scotland attributed this meaning to the eternity knot.
Just like the Arwen, the five-fold symbol also represented a balance of the human nature. Many experts who have studied Celtic symbols and their meanings, claim that this symbol represents the five basic elements of the universe, namely fire, water, sun, earth, and air. However, some experts also believe that the middle fold is the universe, which is surrounded by fire, water, earth, and air.
The single spiral is one of the most common symbols in the Celtic culture. The spiral is actually the figure which had the spiral folds on the same line. This symbol represents the radiation of ethereal energy. However, there are many other different meanings of the single spiral. The most prominent meanings are birth, growth, and death; or expansion of consciousness, its perseverance and knowledge.
Triskelion is a famous Celtic symbol which represents the concept of completion and progress. The symbol looked like a wheel with three legs. According to the meaning of first-order derivation, the triskelion represents action, cycle, progress, revolution and competition. In a word, the triskelion represents the sense of advancement.
As the name suggests, such knots are in circular shape, and they emphasize the continuity of life and eternity. Some people interpret it as standing for the infinite quality of some objects or attributes, while others consider that it emphasizes the “endless” quality. For this reason, this Celtic knot is commonly seen in wedding rings or other gifts exchanged between lovers, as it emphasizes their endless emotions for each other.
Celtic cross is a symbol which combines a cross with a nimbus surrounding the intersection. In the Celtic Christian world, it was combined with the Christian cross, and this design was usually used for high cross, an free-standing stone-made Celtic cross which is always richly ornamented. With the Celtic-revival-style shape, it usually decorated with interlace and other motifs from Insular art, and became popular for funerary monuments and other purposes, and it has remained so, spreading well beyond the British Isles.
There is a widely-known legend in Ireland, which tells that the Celtic cross was introduced by Saint Patrick or Saint Declan when they were converting pagans in Ireland, althrough there is no examples from this period exist now. It has been often claimed that Patrick combined the symbol of Christianity with the sun cross, so as to give pagan followers an idea of the importance of the cross by linking it with the idea of the life-giving properties of the sun. However, now the most art historians thought this theory is unlikely. They think the cross carries a victor’s wreath around their intersection is more likely. Such a cross is found on the reverse side of the Liudhard medalet from Canterbury in England in the 590s.
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