For centuries, Celtic symbols and signs held incredible power for the ancient Celts in all directions of life. Today, we will learn about and use this power by understanding the language of Celtic symbols and their meaning.
From the magical world of symbols and their meanings, we can say that, in general, Celtic symbols are associated with the spirals of life and number three, held sacred in Celtic culture.
From the simplest to the most compound forms, we will find an exact pattern of centripetal and centripetal movements, representing internal and external movements linked to the cycles of man and the phenomena of nature.
Celtic symbols generally are formed of single, double, and triple spirals.
The Celtic artistic manifestations have remarkable originality, although they denote Asian influences and the civilizations of the Mediterranean (Greek Etrusca and Roman). There is a clear abstract trend in decorating pieces, with spiral figures, scrolls and geometric designs.
Pieces of bronze, silver and gold stand out richly adorned in with incisions, reliefs and notched motifs among the inhumane objects. The influence of Celtic art is still present in medieval Irish illuminations and in many manifestations of folklore in northwestern Europe, along with the music and architecture of much of western Europe. Also many of the tales and popular myths of the European West have origin in the culture of the Celts.
The writing, developed belatedly (ogamic alphabet), was considered magical, and only priests (famous Druids) learned it. Before this, the whole culture was passed down orally, and therefore much of what we know today is a tiny part of the real contribution of this people to mankind and yet mixed with classical paganism and Christianity. Let’s head on the most famous and common celtic symbols along with their meaning and explaination.
1) We Celts
There is little information about the nodes and their exact symbology according to each type of folding. But what we can conclude from what we have is that the Celts expressed with this type of design the idea that everything is linked, tied and symbiotically, where the evolution of all takes place together.
It is a symbol of equality of essences and the interconnection of all life (as coming from one thing only).
Like almost everything that has the Celtic culture, the symbolism of the Claddagh ring was derived from a legend:
By the sixteenth century a young passionate goldsmith Galway named Richard Joyce was kidnapped by pirates.
Thinking of her maiden, he drew a ring to express what he felt. It consisted in a heart, as an expression of love, a crown as his loyalty and in hands as friendship.
Upon returning after five years, he was ecstatic to learn that she had not been married, and presented her with the ring. The Claddagh has been considered a wedding gift ever since.
Other legends say that the drawing was brought from the Crusades by a young man captured by the Saracens.
Whatever the story, it has become a strong symbol of affection. The heart in the center of the picture represents love, the hands that surround it represent friendship, and the crown above (if present) symbolizes fidelity. The Claddagh are used in the left hand, facing the body, if your heart has already been conquered. If not, use the ring on the right hand, facing the nail.
3) Celtic Cross
The symbol of the cross, much older than Christianity, was one of the main forms of artistic expression among the Celts. It is followed at its base by a circle, which represents oneness and the eternal cycle.
Associated with courage and heroism, the Celtic cross helps to overcome obstacles and win victories with our own efforts. It attracts recognition, fame and wealth, but these blessings are only guaranteed for those who work hard and earnestly. Therefore, the Celtic cross also grants will and willingness. The divinity related to this talisman is Lug, the Lord of Creation in Celtic mythology.
It is a symbol used in magic, witchcraft and Wicca, and represent the three faces of the Great Mother, the creative energy of the universe, whose three faces are the Virgin, the Mother and the Elder. It also represented the seasons, which were formerly divided into three phases, spring, summer and winter.
The triquetra, in Latin triquætra, is similar to a tríscele and can be interpreted as a representation of the Infinity in the three dimensions or Eternity. It was a very common symbol in the Celtic civilization because of its enormous power of protection.
Found inscribed on stones, helmets, and armor of war, it was interpreted as the interconnection and interpenetration of the Physical, Mental, and Spiritual levels. The circle in the middle, just like the pentagram, represents perfection and precision. Plagiarized by Christianity, this symbol came to represent the Christian trinity, the Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit.
5) Triskelion or Triskel
Triskelion is considered an ancient Indo-European symbol, Greek word of origin, which literally means “three legs”, and, in fact, this symbol reminds us of three running legs or three curved tips, a reference to the movement of life and the universe. In Celtic culture, it is dedicated to Manannán Mac Lir, the Lord of Portals between the worlds.
Everything indicates that the number three was considered sacred by the Celts, reinforcing the concept of triplicity and Celtic cosmology of: Underworld, Intermediate World and Upper World.
The triskelion is also known as triskle or triskele, triscele, triskel, threefold or triple spiral, and has two major main aspects of symbolism implicit in its representation, which are:
– Symbology linked to the constant movement of going, representing: action, progress, evolution, creation and cycles of growth.
– Symbology linked to representations of triplicity: Body, Mind and Spirit; Past, present and future; Spring, Summer and Winter … The cycles of transformation. Celtic nodes are intertwined variants of symbols from the pre-Celtic, Germanic and Celtic worlds.
– Representation of the Three Kingdoms
Number three connects us to the kingdoms of Heaven, Earth and Sea – elements that made up the Celtic world – and in turn, formed the Three Kingdoms, seen as follows:
– Heaven, which is above our head and offers us the sun, the moon, the stars and the rains that fertilize the earth. It represents light, inspiration (the fire in the head) and the Gods of creation.
– The Earth, which is under our feet and gives us food, shelters us and makes everything grow – are the strong roots of the trees. It represents the soil, the root and the Spirits of Nature.
– The Sea, is the water that is in us, represents the Portal to the Other World, which quenches the thirst and gives us life – without the water everything perishes and dies. It represents the fey beings, the water and the Ancestors.
Being the three elements interdependent, where each one has its own meaning, but that depend on each other to continue existing, thus allowed, that our world also exists in perfect interaction.
This non-dualistic cosmology is quite different from the four elements of Greek view, for the Celts saw everything in the form of triads. The three kingdoms represent places where there is life and fire is the soul that walks among them. In addition, each kingdom was related to a large cauldron supported by three legs, which in turn, had three different attributes.
Although there was no creation myth like other Indo-European cultures. As we mentioned earlier, there were the idea of the Three Worlds among them, described as:
– The Celestial World: where the cosmic energies like the Sun, the Moon and the wind move. Associated with the Gods of creation.
– The Intermediate World: where we and nature live. Associated with the spirits of nature.
– The Underworld: where the ancestors and the faerie beings live. Associated with the Other World.
Therefore, the three tips of the triskelion were associated with the Three Realms or the Three Worlds and the flow of the seasons. And, in a modern version, the three phases of the Moon seen in the sky: Rising, Full and Waning.
With the same characteristics observed in the spirals, its movement from the center can be described as clockwise or counterclockwise. Symbolically, the clockwise: it represents the expansion and growth and the counter-clockwise direction: the protection and the recollection.
According to Jean Markale from – The Great Epic of the Celts, “Considering the number three, the sacred symbol of the Celts, which presents itself both in the form of a triad and a triskel, the triple spiral, which revolves around a central point, symbolizes par excellence the expanding universe.”
In general, this symbol is associated with personal growth, human development, the flow of consciousness and spiritual expansion.
The Triluna represents the aspects of the Goddess; Virgin, Mother and Elder.
The symbol began to be used with the emergence of Wicca and New Age and Neopagan chains, and does not have very significant reports among ancient peoples. The ancient people who worshiped moon goddesses commonly drew circles or semi circles (half moons) as allusion to the moon, but not quite like the triluna.
It is currently widely used by neo-pagan currents to symbolize feminine polarity, held as great mother, and its aspects of transformation in relation to the moon, rising moon-virgin; Mother – Full Moon and Old Man – Black Moon. It serves as a symbol of the Goddess and as an evocative of her blessings.
7) Triquetra, Triskele and Triluna
The three divine phases of woman: The Maiden, The Mother and The Elder, were highly worshiped by this civilization.
They also represent the three phases of the life cycle: being born, living and dying, as well as the three known worlds: earth, sky and sea. In the human being they represent the body, the mind and the spirit, as well as the interconnection and interpenetration of the Physical, Mental and Spiritual levels.
The Celts regarded the three as a sacred number.
The old division of the year into three seasons-spring, summer and winter-may have had its effect on the tripling of a fertility goddess with which the course of seasons was associated. Also it is associated with the three phases of the Moon.
8) Celtic Spirals
The Celtic spirals found in ancient archaeological sites, according to research, are also exact representations of visible planetary configurations, brighter stars, solar eclipses, and lunar ones. Ancient people saw time as a wheel, a circle, without beginning and end.
Celtic spirals are found in various artifacts and ancient constructions. Generally, they represent the balance of the universe within us, that is, the inner spiritual balance and outer consciousness.
They form a pattern that begins at the center and moves outward or inward, depending on its configuration.
Spirals with clockwise motions are associated with the Sun and harmony with Earth or movements that represent expansion and attraction, relative to the center.
On the other hand, spirals with anticlockwise movements are associated with the manipulation of the elements of nature and spells that aim at the interiorization and transmutation of energies, as well as protection.
Remembering that among the Celts, moving around an object counterclockwise was considered a bad omen.
“The Spirals of Life” and which represent, in a general way, the cycle of life, death and rebirth.
The spirals of life are beautiful representations of the eternity of the soul!
The above image represents the AWEN, symbol of triplicity, each of the points are the positions of the rising sun at the Winter Solstice, at the Equinoxes and at the summer solstice, lines or rays part of the sunlight, which stimulates life and gives inspiration. Symbol of modern Druidism represents the inspiration and the three Druidic classes: Bards, Ovates and Druids.
It can also be represented as the first and third ray representing male and female energy.
The middle ray represents the balance of both energies and the fire symbol Arwen is the symbol with the 3 rays down.
10) Five Folds Celtic Symbol
This pattern also represents balance.
The four outer circles symbolize the four elements: earth, fire, water, air.
The middle circle unites all the elements in order to achieve the balance between the four elements or energies.
11) Tree of Life
The trees by themselves were already sacred to the Druids. This symbol also represents the transmutation and the return to the same point, an endless and natural cycle, because the roots and the canopy are united. We can also withdraw the relation with the Worlds (Underworld, World or Over-world).
The fact that the Upper and the Lower are united by us is nothing more than the affirmation “that which is above is also below.” The trees are the portals to the world of the Gods besides guarding the mysteries of the universe. They represent the balance and link between the elements of nature.
The Yggdrasil for the Norse was a colossal tree that held all the worlds and kingdoms. The Druids worshiped the same and that’s why they were the “Sages of the Trees.”
The word Druid means “He who has knowledge of the Oak.”
The oak, in this sense, being one of the oldest and most outstanding trees in a forest, represents symbolically all the others. That is, who has the knowledge of the oak possesses the knowledge of all the trees.
It is important to dissociate the words “Druid” from “Celtic” because a lot of people make confusion. Celtic is the name of the people, while Druid is the name given to a caste of special priests who lived among the Celts and acted as advisers of these. It is the same relation between “Jews” and “Rabbis”.
The connection of the Druids with the Trees is the treatment of respect and exchange that was practiced in ancient times, knowing that wood was the only fuel, also used in the construction of houses. The wood was used with respect and honor, understood as sacred and maintainer of life.
The daily life of a Druid was based on strict subservience to these rules and observing nature, where they discovered the medicinal uses; respect for the woods as sacred places was another of their occupations, for which they had the support of the military aristocracy of the Celtic communities.
The hermetism of these rites, as well as their oral character, made the memory of the druids most admired, so their successors in the tribe should have stood out as young men in this sense, as well as vowing to always honor the gods (knowledge was secret ), not to recklessly act and always be available for services that the community demands.