The ancient Celts believed in the eternal spiritual life and the relationship with the divine and with nature. The most important things in life came in sets of three, and various Celtic designs represented those relationships; air, fire and water; land, sea and sky; maiden, motherhood and matriarch.
The Celtic Cross
Also referred to as the High Cross, the Irish Cross and the Cross of Iona, the Celtic Cross is traditionally a Christian Latin cross with a circle around the centre arms. The circle and cross combination symbolize the harmony and stability of powerful divine energies of a solar life source. The circular shape was an important pagan symbol. Incorporating this pagan circle on the cross helped to convert pagans to Christianity — indeed, some believe the idea was first conceived by St. Patrick in an effort to convert the Druids.
The Celtic Dragon
The ancient Celtic dragon was a symbol of wisdom, fertility, and immortality. Celts believed dragons were wingless creatures like worms or water-serpents. Representing the untamed forces of nature, dragons were very powerful and the symbol of the chieftain, the Celtic word for which is ‘pendragon.’ Christians saw the dragon as representing chaotic natural disasters and evil, and they regarded the Druids as devil worshippers. St. Patrick drove the serpents out of Ireland — some suggest this represents a religious conflict between Christianity and Paganism, ‘serpents’ being the Pagan way of life.
The Triskelion is also known as the Triskele. This design symbolizes the unity of the three: eternal life, flow of nature and spiritual growth and land, sea and sky. This symbol can be found on the amazing historic site of Newgrange, which dates back to Neolithic times, proving this symbol is more than 5,000 years old.
This spiral appears in many Celtic designs and ancient Celtic art. The spiral is believed to be an ancient symbol of even pre-Celtic times and can be found carved on pre-Celtic stone monuments. The Triple Spiral design signifies the spiral of life, i.e., birth, death, rebirth. The spiral shows the continuity and cycle of life.
The most common Celtic knot is the Triquetra, which literally means three cornered. This design is also known as the Trinity Knot, and, when encircled, it is known as the Trinity Circle. This Celtic design symbolizes unity of the body, mind and soul — physical, mental and spiritual. The triquetra can also represent the past, present and future. In the Christian faith, the three points of this design represent the Holy Trinity, i.e., Father, Son and Holy Spirit.
The double spiral design represents the equinox, which occurs each year about the 20th of March and the 22nd of September. At these times, the length of the day and the night are the same, i.e., 12 hours each. The spiral is a solar symbol, and the double spiral represents the journey of the sun. The double spiral is frequently found in stone carvings and signifies the combination of nature and balance.
Celtic Love Knot
The Celtic Love Knot is also known as Eternity Knot or Round Knot. The design of this Celtic knot is complete interlaced loops that have no start or finish and so is everlasting. The Love knot represents faith, friendship, and love between two people, where the knot crosses it symbolizes the unity and wisdom of the couple. It is thought the Celts exchanged these Love Knots to proclaim their devotion, just as rings are exchanged now.
The ancient Celts believed this knotwork had powers of protection. This shield knot would have been marked on the shields of warriors to protect them in battle. It was also placed on children’s clothes to keep them safe from danger. This knot was also used when people were sick, to ward off the evil spirits who brought illness. The four corners of this knot are thought to represent the four gods who protect the people of the earth and who bring us the four seasons and the four elements of earth, water, fire and sky.
The Dara knot is derived from the Irish word ‘doire,’ meaning oak tree, and this design represents the deep root system of the oak tree and in turn our own source of deep inner strength. The trees were sacred to the Celts, especially the Druids, who felt the trees embodied life and had spiritual powers and wisdom. They considered the oak tree to be the king of the trees. the tree of life, with an impressive root system, as such the Dara knot symbolizes wisdom, stability and endurance.