The Celtic culture remains one of the most unique in the world, and for that reason, there is a lot of interests in the different aspects of it. One of them is the intricate knot designs that they have and what they mean. The knots are beautiful, but very few do understand their meaning. Some people take them into their daily life, such as getting a tattoo or jewelry, and not knowing what they mean.
Something to know before we get started is that the Celtic knots date back between the 3rd and 4th centuries. There is, however, little to no evidence of what the knots mean, interpreting the meanings can be somewhat challenging. What instead gets used is the facts about the Celtic culture and then try using that to make educated guesses on the definitions. Another means used in looking at the places where the knots got found, such as the artworks and engravings.
Let’s now explore the various Celtic knots there are and what they represent. That should help you form a stronger appreciation of what they are and stand for. We shall also look at the history and the general meanings of the knots before we break down the meaning of various knots.
Celtic Knot history
The earlier information available about the Celtic knots is in 450AD, but some claim they date back as far as 500BC though there is little information to assert this latter claim. That was when Christianity had become a strong influence among the Celts after the introduction of the same. You will find that a lot of these knots are available in various Christian artworks as well as manuscripts.
The other place that you find Celtic knots is on Roman mosaic floors and literature. During this time, the popularity of the Celtic knots spread, as they also appear in Medieval, Islamic, Ethiopian, and Russia art. The missionaries during their expeditions are said to have been responsible for the spread of the Celtic knots. The reason one cannot pinpoint the exact date the knots came into being was that the knowledge of knots got handed down orally.
As the Celtic knots spread, they were adopted into the culture they incorporated in. That is why you’ll find varied designs of the same knot. The culture the knot made its way into would make slight changes so that it would be considered theirs uniquely. That said, the popularity of the Celtic knots lasted until the 11th century when the Norman Invasion took place. However, the tradition continued in Gaelic areas thanks to the aristocrats who had the wealth to have jewelry made in Celtic knotwork.
Celtic Knot meanings
As mentioned, there is no reliable interpretation of each knot because there is not written work available from those who first came up with the knots. Historians and scholars do, however, believed that the Celtic knots developed for both secular and religious purposes. Currently, a lot of these knots are available in Christian manuscripts. Even so, scholars do wonder if there was more meaning behind these intricate designs; in the scripts, the knots get used as space fillers and appear to hold no special meaning.
Even with that, there is a strong indication that these knots were part of the expression of the Celtic culture and spirituality. The Celts do strongly believe in life continuity and interconnectedness, particularly with nature, the physical world, and the spiritual realm. Their culture was also one of harmony, and so relationships between the environment, themselves, and those gone before them were indeed valued.
Celtic knot design and their meanings
Let’s look at the most popular Celtic knots and the interpretation of the same.
Celtic Cross Knot
The Celts were spiritual people, and therefore this symbol is thought to indicate the same. The cross in the pagan religion showed the meeting of the four directions and elements in one place. The circle, which is part of the cross design, is said to be a reference to the Sun God that was thought about during the ancient times. However, Christians, as the Celtic culture evolved, have come to view the cross as the crucifixion of Jesus Christ and the circle as being the representation of God’s eternal love. The evidence of the knots is mostly found in stone carvings that exist till today.
Celtic Love Knot
Here, we have two hearts intertwined to form one. The pattern is also infinite to show the eternal love between two souls. It is through that the exchange of these knots in the past Celtic culture was the same way that today rings get exchanged. Apart from love, since there is no defined start or finish, the knot also represents friendship, faith, or loyalty. Given that only one thread gets used to make the design, the Celtic Love knot is even thought to show the interconnectedness between life and eternity.
Various designs still get regarded as the Dara knot, but mainly symbolizes the oak tree root system. The oak tree is revered among the Celts. For them, it meant personal and also spiritual strength. The Dara knot is a modern creation, but it was meant to pay homage to the Celtic culture and traditions.
This knot is made from two ropes that get woven together to create endless loops then. The knot does have different meanings, one of which is a sign of eternal love, friendship, or harmony. The Sailor’s knot is said to be the most durable, and for that reason, it is meant to signify an unbreakable bond of love between two people. Lastly, looking at the initial meaning of the knot is that the knot is what sailors made when making long voyages as a way of remembering their loved ones.
This knot was a way of protecting one and shielding them from evil spirits. That was either in the home or on the battlefield. There are different ways you can make the shield knot using spiral knots, but the design features four corners, and it can sometimes be square or circular. The way the knots are intertwined, they do show an unbreakable barrier, in this case, the shield.
This knot is thought to symbolize the transition between the physical life into the spiritual world. The reason for that is because this knot was mainly found in burial and gravesites, as well as passage tombs. The Spiral knot is indeed thought to be one of the oldest signs. Still, the three spirals are said to represent the forces of nature.
Three of Life Knot
The Tree of Life is also among the most known symbols of the Celts. It is a reflection of the respect that the Celts have for nature. The tree itself symbolizes several things, the first being the balance and harmony that exist in life (free from human interference). When making the knot, the tree and branches are woven together and appear to have no end. That shows the continuous cycle of life on earth as we knot it. It also represents positive flowing energy.
The Trinity knot also gets referred to as the triquetra. It is initially said to represent the neo-pagan triple goddess Crone, the Maiden, or the Mother. The knot is also said to show the three life-cycles of the woman with the phases of the moon acting as a reference point. These meanings largely depend on the culture at the time what meaning the trinity knot held. With that in mind, during recent times, the Trinity Knot has indeed taken up new meaning. It is a reflection of the adoption of the Christian culture, and it is thus said to symbolize The Father, The Son, and The Holy Spirit. You will likely see these designs in new jewelry made among the Celt nations.
There are many ways the Celtic knots now get used. You’ll find them in art, clothing, jewelry, pendants home designs, and even tattoos. These intricate designs look beautiful and unique in whatever context they get used. With the growing appreciation and revival of the Celtic culture, you’ll find the ancestors and other appreciative parties alike adopting or paying homage in various ways.
Even though you are not of Celtic origin, you can still get the knot that holds the most significance to you and make it part of your own. When you know the meanings, for example, the jewelry, pendant, or tattoo will hold more meaning for you. It also helps to have something you carry with you through life to remind you of where you stand. If you are spiritual or find tremendous significance in relationships and other virtues, then consider getting something with the Celtic knot of your choice.
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