What Is the Meaning Behind Celtic Knots?

by Cristian I

Most people have seen a Celtic knot before, even if they didn’t realize what they were looking at during that experience.

The Story Behind Celtic Knots

Muckross Abbey under the sunlight in Killarney National Park
Muckross Abbey under the sunlight in Killarney National Park

A Celtic knot is an intricate motif you can find representing Irish culture in numerous places, ranging from sculptures to jewelry to crosses.

You’ll find plenty of people sporting tattoos with intricate Celtic knots to represent their heritage or other important elements of their lifestyle and culture.

You may not know that there is a history to these designs and a specific meaning behind their display.

The primary characteristic of the Celtic knot is that there isn’t a beginning or an end to the creation.

Spirals and Knots Were Spiritual Designs in a Pre-Christian World

Celtic Cross
Celtic Cross

When we examine the spiritual facets of human culture during the BC years, you’ll find that many cultures incorporated spirals and knots into their various motifs. Some of the first interlace patterns arrived in the area when Romans made it up to the UK around the third or the fourth century.

When Ireland, England, and Scotland converted to Christianity, the artwork around the knot patterns started transforming. By the 7th century, you could see Celtic knots getting formed into the shape of crosses.

The first artists to perform this work were Celtic monks, but it quickly became part of the region’s culture, history, and politics. It would become part of the metalwork, get included with the manuscripts published during that era, and even come to represent individuals in the local monarchies.

After the Viking invasions occurred around the 9th century, the practice of creating knots disappear from most of the UK. 

The Irish continued to incorporate the designs until around the 12th century.

Viking Ship
Viking Ship

What Are the Different Kinds of Celtic Knots?

You can find Celtic knots in the same places today where our ancestors displayed them before. They’re often located at churches, on crosses, and around other historic public places in Ireland.

The Celtic knot has also become a cultural symbol for Irish-Americans or those who live in diaspora from the island.

Celtic knots are often worn in jewelry today, making the design a meaningful gift for loved ones. They’re also on Christmas ornaments, engravings, and household plaques. You don’t need to be Irish to celebrate their beauty and significance!

Several different styles are available to consider. Here is a closer look at some of the most popular designs that are found today.

1. Trinity Knots

This Celtic knot is composed of three arcs representing the traditional Christian perspective of God the Father, God the Son, and God the Holy Spirit. You’ll find embellished or repeated designs are some of the most common artistic endeavors in this area. The Trinity Knot signifies the three life cycles of a woman in relation to the phases of the moon.

Triquetra Knot
Triquetra Knot

2. Love Knots

Another familiar Celtic knot you’ll find today is this one, prized for its interpretation of what two interlocking hearts create. The design forms an infinite bond that cannot break. It’s often found on lockets to represent one’s affection for another.

Celtic Love Knot
Celtic Love Knot

3. Sailor Knots

This simple Celtic design only uses two strands to create an infinite result. The tradition of this option is that sailors would craft them as mementos to help them remember their loved ones at home. It can symbolize love, affection, or friendship.

Celtic Sailor Knots
Celtic Sailor Knots

4. Shield Knots

You can find this four-cornered knot featuring complicated or simplistic designs. The oldest versions date to the Mesopotamia region, and they’ve been a part of numerous cultures over the centuries. When you see it as a Celtic design, the goal was to use the shield for protection against invading armies, unwanted spirits, or illnesses that would appear.

Celtic Shield Knot
Celtic Shield Knot

5. Solomon’s Knot

This design is likely the one that inspired the rest of them in Ireland and throughout the UK. It’s two endless loops, woven together and interlocking, that can often be found in Roman mosaics. The meaning has come to be variable across different cultures, with the Irish believing that it represents infinite faith or love.

Solomon Celtic Knot
Solomon Celtic Knot

6. Dara Knot

The eternity knot from Celtic culture takes its inspiration from the oak trees, representing the roots that let it stand tall and strong. If your life requires anchoring or you feel it is time to settle down to raise a family, the intertwining pathways of this design anchor people within their strength to accomplish great things.

Celtic knots have helped people over millennia to find their center. The designs might represent something different to everyone, but they also offer some common ground. When these artistic elements are in your life, it can help you to feel complete.

Dara Knot
Dara Knot

 

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