Celtic Knot Meaning And Origins, All Symbol/Design Variations Explained

Most likely, you have come across  Celtic knots, either on jewelry, tattoo shops, a Cross, or in a church. Most people do not know what they mean other than they have unique patterns characterized by infinite knots. A Celtic knot is a symbolism of something more in-depth like love, friendship, and life.

Origin of The Celtic Knots

Celtic knots originated from a small group of people called the Celts in the 3rd and 4th Centuries.  Before the influence of Christianity, Celtic culture was in the form of plait, braid, knots, spirals,  and patterns symbolizing seven creations. These creations included man, plant, bird, reptile, fish, mammal, and insect.  The Celtic knots came with several themes like strength, unity, loyalty, love, and religious beliefs.

A common feature in Celtic symbols is three intertwined parts representing the concept that all-important things come in three. Before Christianity, the idea stood for the earth, sky, sea, and the past, present, and future. Later, the holy trinity, God the Father, the Son, and the Holy Ghost were incorporated into it.

The different variations of Celtic knots include;

The Celtic Trinity Knot/ Triquetra Knot

The Celtic trinity knot consists of three sections formed by a continuous line symbolizing the significance of the number three in Celtic Culture. It has been used to represent various things like everlasting life, unity, and protection.

Triquetra, the Celtic Trinity Knot
Triquetra, the Celtic Trinity Knot by Intueri on Shutterstock

The knot is considered one of the oldest Celtic symbols dating back to 500 BC, where it was used to symbolize three faces of the goddess (maiden, mother, and crone). The design was popular in early Celtic artifacts depicting people, animals, and plants.

Christians, on the other hand, believed that the monks started the use of Trinity knot. It is said that the Monks came with the trinity design when converting the Celts into Christianity. At times, the Trinity Knot is drawn weaving around a circle to symbolize eternity or the three parts’ unity.

The Celtic Trinity Knot/ Triquetra Meaning and Uses

In Ireland, the symbol has been used in a Christian context to represent the holy trinity, thus being called the trinity knot. It is also used to illustrate several concepts like; the past, present, future, the mind, body and soul, air, water, and earth.

The symbol is used as a design element in jewelry, knotwork, emblems, and logo in the modern world. The symbol is also common in most supernatural TV shows.

Triquetra, the Celtic Knot Representing the Trinity
Triquetra, the Celtic Knot Representing the Trinity by 4Luck on Shutterstock

The Celtic Shield Knot

This Celtic knot comes in several variations with a common feature of four clear corners. The shield knot can be dated back to Mesopotamia culture, where it was used as a protective symbol. The Mesopotamia people used it to call on the God of the four earth corners.  In the Celtic culture, it was used as a protection symbol against evil spirits and harm.

Celtic Shield Knot in Green and Grey
Celtic Shield Knot by Polosatik on Shutterstock

Soldiers used to carry amulets of the charm while going to the battlefield or place them on the battlefield to win wars. It was also placed next to sick people to ward off evil spirits.

The Celtic Shield Knot Meaning and Uses

The shield knot’s continuous loop represents eternal love, unity, and loyalty among family, lovers, and friends.  For that reason, you will find the design engraved in promise rings, engagement rings, and wedding rings.

You can also find the design carved in diaries, journals, or mugs for one to draw strength from them. Due to its many variations, the Celtic shield knot is becoming popular among people.  It can be styled to one’s taste while leaving behind the main element.

Celtic Shield Knot, Meaning and History of the Celtic Knots Explained
Celtic Shield Knot by Polosatik on Shutterstock

The Dara Knot

Dara comes from the word doire, the English name for an oak tree. The Celts believed that trees connected the world of the spirits and ancestors to the world of the living. To them, the oak tree was the most sacred of them all.

the Celtic Dara Knot Design in Dark Blue and White
The Celtic Dara Knot by Yulia Buchatskaya on Shutterstock

The oak was a symbol of power, endurance, and strength due to its ability to live for over 300 years. Just like the other Celtic symbols, this too has intertwined lines with no beginning and end.

The Dara Celtic Knot Meaning and Uses

The Dara Celtic knot is centered on the oak tree and its roots. We believe that each of us has our roots where we anchor ourselves and derive strength in challenging situations. There are several variations of the Dara knot, but each is still centered on the oak tree and the roots. You can find the design on gifts, jewelry, or tattoo designs.

The Solomon’s Knot

This Celtic knot is one of the oldest symbols consisting of two interlinked loops. It is also common in stone-age carvings. The symbol dates back to the stone age period, common among ancient civilizations. It is associated with various ancient synagogues linked to King Solomon hence the name the Solomon’s knot. We believe the knot represents the union between a man and the divine.

Solomon's Knot, Celtic Knot Design
The Solomon’s Knot, Celtic Knot Design by Polosatik on Shutterstock

The Solomon’s Knot Meaning and Uses

The symbol is common in several cultures, therefore open to different symbolic interpretations. The lack of a beginning and ending can be used to represent immortality and eternity. The symbol can easily be spotted in Jewish graveyards and catacombs. The Kuba and Akan people who use the mark on cloths attribute mystical meaning to it.

The Triskelion/Triskele, The Celtic Spiral Knot

The spiral knot, also known as the Triskelion, is among the ancient Celtic symbols believed to have originated in the Neolithic era around 3200 BC.  It became popular among the Celtic culture in 500 BC. From the three spirals connecting in a Triskelion, the Celtic believe that anything significant comes in three.

Triskele Celtic Strength Symbol
Triskele, the Celtic Triple Spiral Knot by Biljanacvetanovic on Creative Fabrica

Triskelion, The Celtic Spiral Knot Meaning and Uses

According to the Celtic people, the three spirals are said to signify water, fire, and earth. However, the symbol has several diverse meanings depending on the culture, history, mythology, and era. It represents several concepts like life, death and rebirth, mother, father, child, power, intellect and love, spirit, mind and body, past, present and future, and creation, preservation, and destruction.

Triskele The Celtic Knot Spiral
Triskelion, the Celtic Knot Spiral

This Celtic knot symbolizes strength and progress. The spiral design represents a moving forward motion, trying to overcome adversity. Today, this symbol holds more significance than the other Celtic knots, especially in Celtic jewelry. You can get them in Irish charms, Celtic pendants, earrings, and Celtic brooches.

The Celtic Cross Knot

Arguably, the Celtic cross is one of the most recognized Celtic knots today. It is said to have been present since the middle ages in Ireland. There are different claims on the true origin of the Celtic cross.

Celtic Knot Meaning Explained, Celtic Knots on a Celtic Cross
Celtic Knots on a Celtic Cross by Yulianas on Shutterstock

One noticeable theory, though, is that when St. Patrick was converting pagan group to Christianity in Ireland, he used the cross. It was, therefore, a symbol of culture and Faith. The sign comes in several variations, but the most distinct feature is the cross.

Celtic Knots on a Celtic Cross, Red and Yellow
Celtic Cross by Szasz-Fabian Jozsef on Shutterstock

The Celtic Cross Knot Meaning and Uses

To the Celts, the cross was a representation of their hopes and ambition. While in ancient times, the circle was a reference to the Sun God, in modern Christianity, the circle represents God’s eternal love. Today, the symbols are common in Christian figurines to symbolize spirituality.  The design is also typical in tattoos and jewelry.

A Celtic Cross Featuring Green and Brown Celtic Knot Patterns
A Celtic Cross Featuring Celtic Knots by LeshikMemory on Shutterstock

The Celtic Sailor’s Knot

Celtic sailors wove this two-strand knot when they left home as a way of remembering their loved ones. The knot was a symbol of eternal love, friendship, and affection.  The two entwined knots represented harmony and unity.

The Celtic Sailor’s Knot Meaning and Uses

The interwoven knots denote the union of two people becoming one. It shows how two individuals blend into one with a common goal. It is easy to tie, but it forms one of the most muscular knots representing a strong bond that keeps growing stronger even under pressure. The sailor’s knot design is typical on Celtic wedding bands, charms, and jewelry.

The Celtic Love Knot

It is also referred to as the Anam Cara Knot (derived from Gaelic roughly meaning ‘soul mate/soul friend’). Its design is simple, and it dates back to 2500 BCE, symbolizing eternal life.  In ancient times, lovers would exchange these knots, just like couples exchange wedding rings today. The infinite pattern suggests everlasting love.

Celtic Love Knot Meaning and Origins Explained
A Celtic Love Knot by Polosatik on Shutterstock

The Celtic Love Knot Meaning And Uses

This is one of the Celtic knots that stand for love and passion.  It is common in jewelry and tattoos. We believe that tattooing this design on your body brings the attached meaning to your life and consciousness.

The Celtic Tree of Life Knot

Trees played a significant role among the Celtic people. They were believed to be the ancestors of human beings. According to Celtic mythology, we understand that the Celtic tree of life had special powers. With each new settlement formed in Ireland, a tree named Crann Bethadh (tree of life) would be planted.

Celtic Tree of Life Knot Design
Celtic Tree of Life Knot by Artdock on Shutterstock

At times, when an area was cleared for settlement, the Celtic Druids would leave one tree in the middle, which later became the tree of life. Tribe leaders gathered for meetings under the tree. It was also believed to take care of all life forms by providing food, shelter, and wildlife habitat.

Several Irish legends revolving trees; for example, if you fell asleep next to a particular tree, you would wake up in the fairy realm. That is why the tree is associated with knowledge and longevity. During tribe wars, if one party managed to cut the other group’s tree of life, they had defeated them.

Celtic Tree of Life Knot Meaning Explained
Celtic Tree of Life Knot by Artdock on Shutterstock

The Celtic Tree of Life Knot Meaning and Uses

Several cultures have adopted the tree of life to symbolize something significant to them. Due to the seasonal changes that a tree goes through, the Celts believed that the tree was a symbol of rebirth.  They also thought that the tree could bless them with prosperity. Today, the Celtic tree design is famously used for tattoos. You can also find it in items like fine art tapestries, bedsheets, and jewelry.

The Shamrock Knot

The Celtic associated the shamrock with the  Celtic goddess Ana or Anu. The three leaves represented her status as the mother, maiden, and crone of Ireland. Again the significance of the number 3 is seen here since the shamrock flower is divided into three parts.

We also believe that since St. Patrick knew how significant the number was to the Celts, he used it to explain the concept of the Holy Trinity, that is, the father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit. However, concepts like love, wisdom, truth, nature, knowledge and truth, mind, body, and spirit have also been attached to Shamrock’s three parts.

The Shamrock Knot Meaning and Uses

Today, the shamrock is a national flower in Ireland. It is considered a symbol of good luck. It can be seen in the airline logo, Aer Lingus, and other companies, organizations, and sports teams. It is also part of the ancient tradition, drowning in the shamrock, which takes place on St. Patrick’s Day.

The Awen Knot

We believe that this Celtic symbol was invented in the 18th Century by a welsh poet named Iolo Morgannwg. The design features three lays with three dots on tops, inside three circles.

The Awen Knot Meaning and Uses

The ordinary meaning of this symbol is three lays of light. Each ray of light is considered to stand for something significant, like love, wisdom and truth, and the underworld, middle, and upper world.

The Ailm Celtic Knot

This Celtic symbol comes from the letter ‘A’ of the Celtic Ogham alphabet and takes the shape of a cross. It represents endurance, strength, and resilience. According to the Celtic people, the circle in the symbol represented the soul’s wholeness and purity.

The Ailm Celtic Knot Meaning and Uses

The symbol represented healing, protection, fertility, good health, objectivity, and clarity to the community members.

One major thing with the Celtic knots and symbols is how the Celtic people attached significance to each. It was part of their culture, and they believed that these symbols represented aspects like love, strength, and life. Something also of importance to note is how sacred the number three was to them.

In fact, the Celtic society was organized in three colors, three principal gods, and three classes. Even today, these Celtic knots are still prevalent in Irish culture, and you will find people having a great interest in them. This is because they represent timeless concepts like energy, wisdom, love, and conflict.

We hope you liked our post about the Celtic knots and their meaning. Thanks for reading!

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