Celtic Symbols – Meaning and Use

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The meaning of Celtic symbols is not always easy to determine. There are few, if any written records detailing the meanings. Many of the meanings have been added in recent times and the original meaning is unknown.

It has been identified that 8 basic knots form the basis for all other Celtic knots. No evidence has been found to tie any of these knots to a religious or philosophical meaning. At some point Wicca cultures adopted various knots and attached meanings of their choice to the knots, but these meanings hadn’t existed before. The only possible significance as to the meaning of the knots probably lies in displaying how capable humans are of intricate artwork. That in itself may have been a tribute to a higher being.

The Triquetra is a popular Celtic symbol. It really only means “triangle” and refers to any Celtic three cornered shape. Commonly it is seen as three long interconnecting loops with one circle that goes through the middle of each. It has been found on early stones in Germanic pagan areas and apparently had some “religious” meaning, now lost, but may have been associated with the Germanic God Oden. The meaning to the Celts is uncertain, but is used a lot in most of their early art work. Eventually Christians used the symbol to refer to the Holy Trinity (Father, Son and Holy Ghost). Various modern pagan groups use the Triquetra to symbolize elements of their faith, such as land, water and sky or as the symbol of their connection to the ancient Celts.

The spiral is one of the most common Celtic symbols. There is no written record of the first meaning, but the symbol appears nearly everywhere in ancient Celtic and other pagan drawings, dwellings, caves and tombs. It is thought to be a tribute to the sun, which makes a spiral shape in the sky every three months in its precession or a tribute to the possible endless cycle of life (birth, death and rebirth). Today it is the symbol Wicca’s use as a spirit emblem of their goddess.

Triskeles are one of the most commonly seen symbols. It is three spirals in a triangular arrangement connected by one continuous line. Different meanings have been attributed to this symbol. But since it appears a lot on tombs it was thought to stand for birth, life and reincarnation, or the sun, afterlife and reincarnation. It possibly has similar meanings to the Triquetra. Many have claimed that if the Triquetra stands for the 3-month sun cycle than the Triskele stands for 9-months of pregnancy!

The Celtic Tree of Life can be depicted in several ways but carries the similarity of resembling a tree. Trees were seen as sacred to the ancient Celts. It provided fuel, shelter and food! Life itself was seen possible because of trees, thus the “Tree of Life”. Trees were associated with the supernatural world as well. They were connected to the world of the spirits and seen as doorways to the spirit world, especially the Oak. Trees were thought to carry messages to the “other realm”. Trees, with their roots in the ground and branches in the air, were seen as a connection between realms.

These are some of the more well known meanings of Celtic symbols. Many more symbols exist for you to explore.

write by Guinevere


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