8 Types of Celtic Knots and Their Meanings
From the Late Bronze Age on through the Iron Age, tribal groups roamed through Western and Central Europe. Known as the Celts, they were all united by the Celtic language.
That wasn’t the only similarity though. They had the same religion and burial practices. They also were bound together through a collective love for making jewelry. Naturally, they loved to flaunt their designs, which you can still use to represent your Celtic heritage today.
It wasn’t just about wearing jewelry for decoration for the Celts. They wore them as a measure of protection from evil spirits and to symbolize deeper meanings. Now these key patterns have become a part of Celtic tradition, especially in the case of Celtic knots.
A Brief Look at Celtic Knot History
When looking at Celtic jewelry today, you may not realize that it represents history and heritage dating back from 2000 B.C. to 500 A.D. Craftsmen made these beautiful designs using silver and gold.
With Celtic symbols, especially in jewelry, you will see a pattern of threes. Celtic knots, stones, leaves, corners, and other designs are intentionally made this way to reflect the Celtic belief that everything of importance comes in a set of three.
You can clearly see that pattern when looking at the Celtic knot. It features an interlacing pattern that was so revered, it was inscribed on the Book of Kells. It has no beginning or end, a show of eternity that matched the monks’ beliefs, also reflected in the Book of Kells, that the soul carries on infinitely.
As you may have guessed, the origins of the Celtic knot are steeped in Paganism. Believing in the infinite and cyclical nature of all living things, the Pagans left their mark through these symbols. Once Christian influence began on the Celts in 450 A.D., these interwoven designs continued on, merging together to become a part of Christianity that, to this day, remains a recognizable symbol of these beliefs.
Types of Celtic Knot Designs
In Celtic culture, the prominence of Celtic knots is hard to ignore. The Celtic knot is such a treasured symbol that there are eight variations that depict the sacred signs of the sun and coordinate with elements of three or four in a series of complete loops.
Many Celtic symbols revolve around threes to express the different trinities. An ancient symbol depicting four is to display the elements of earth, fire, water, and air. When you see Celtic knots with three parts, these are triquetras. Four parts to a Celtic knot is considered quaternary.
You may see both of these in the same symbol, along with single and double spirals. Celtic spirals are formed from one continuous line that goes clockwise in multiple circles to represent the sun. The double spiral represented the equinoxes in Celtic symbols.
You’ll see these things in Celtic art from the earliest of times, architecture, religious objects, and more. They have no beginning or end, thus making them go on forever.
What Are the 8 Celtic Knots?
Whether you have Celtic roots or not, the history of the ancient Celts and their civilization is utterly fascinating. Every time you wear a Celtic knot, you’re keeping the culture of Celtic people and Celtic knot traditions alive.
There are eight Celtic knots that you will commonly see displayed. These include the Trinity knot, the Celtic cross, the Spiral knot, the Celtic love knot, the Dara knot, Solomon’s knot, Celtic shield knot, and the Celtic sailor’s knot. Celtic knot meanings can vary widely, though like beauty, they are often left up to the beholder of the knot patterns.
1. Trinity Knot
Of all Celtic knots, the trinity knot is perhaps the most widely known. This Celtic knot design is triquetra, which represents three corners, or a triangle. Looking at Celtic knotwork like this, you will find three ovals interconnected so that one points upward while the others point downward, one to the left and one to the right to form a three-sided knot from a continuous line.
In certain designs, you may even see the trinity knot with a circle. If you’re wondering what the three things are that this symbol represents, it depends on who you ask. Celtic knot meanings for the trinity knot could stand for the stages of life with life, death, and rebirth.
Others claim that it is said to represent the Holy Trinity, hence the name “trinity.” This would include those three elements of the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit or Holy Ghost, making this fit with early Christian manuscripts. Another possibility is that it represents the past, present, and future.
Whatever it means to you, the trinity knot Celtic symbol is one of the most beautiful things that you can wear to show your Celtic heritage.
2. Sailor’s Knot
The sailor’s Celtic knot features two intertwined ropes. As the name suggests, the belief is that it was created by sailors. Perhaps they needed something to do on those long sea voyages or while waiting for passage. Simple as it may appear, the Celtic knot meaning is for an unbreakable bond, something they say was created to remember loved ones while they were far away.
3. Celtic Spiral Knot
The beautiful Celtic spiral knot is three-sided, an apt depiction of water, fire, and earth. It is one of the oldest and simplest designs created by the Celts. While it looks intricate, it’s really just one single line meant to show spirit and unity, bound together.
Single and double spirals were quite common in the Neolithic Period. Common belief says it shows constant growth with the gaps meaning life’s journey from birth to death and then rebirth. Interpretation is subjective though, and if this symbol stands out to you, you can allow it to mean whatever you wish.
4. Celtic Cross
Also known as the Irish cross, this popular symbol of the Celts is disputed in origin. Many theories and legends abound, including that Celtic crosses were introduced by St. Patrick as he was converting Ireland’s pagans to the religion of Christianity.
While you may see some variations in the Celtic cross symbol, there will always be the intersecting lines of the cross. The difference with a Celtic cross is that It has four semi-circles. These are open at the four points where the horizontal and vertical points of the cross meet.
Wearing this symbol can show your belief in Christianity as well as uphold your Celtic ancestry.
5. Dara Knot
The name of Dara is from the Irish word ‘doire.’ This stands for ‘oak tree,’ something the Celts held to high esteem. The Celts also have the tree of life symbol with the mighty oak tree, and in their beliefs, the trees are what joined the spirit world of ancestors with the living. These served as doorways into the other worlds.
While all trees are treasures to behold according to Celtic history, the most sacred was the oak tree with its strong roots. The Dara knot is more of a modern design, however, it was meant to keep the Celtic knot traditions growing strong.
The design features interlaced knots, but if you look more closely, you’ll see that they have no beginning or end. It’s meant to represent strength and that rising from our roots, we can endlessly grow from birth to death and rebirth for eternity.
6. Celtic Shield Knot
Just as the Dara knot is meant to show strength, the shield knot is one that is meant for protection. The Celts wore this symbol with pride as they headed into the battlefields to fight away enemies. They also displayed it near those that were ill to ward away evil entities.
The Celtic shield knot will always have four distinct corners, despite the many ways it can be designed. Another common thread of this Celtic knot is that the pattern is tightly packed together which is meant to create an unbreakable barrier of protection for those who adorn themselves with it.
7. Solomon’s Knot
While Solomon’s knot is not as commonly known as the other Celtic knots, it’s still one of great importance. It is one of the oldest symbols you’ll find anywhere as it is shown in Stone Age carvings.
The name is based on links to King Solomon from the synagogues, used as one to show the union of man and the divine creator. Just as the other Celtic knots have no beginning or end, Solomon’s knot follows this tradition. It is meant to stand for immortality and eternal life in ancient Celtic culture.
Some say the interlacing knots that join the two figures together creates a symbol of love that can be used in the same way as the Celtic Claddagh.
8. Celtic Love Knot
The Celtic love knot is recognizable for its two interlocking hearts that typically reside within an oval shape. The interlocked knots of the Celtic love knot resembles these hearts to display love. They say that the Celts would give this Celtic oval knot of love to one another in the way that modern people exchange rings.
Being that many Celtic knots are said to represent eternity, it isn’t a big stretch to think that this Celtic knot meaning was akin to stating your vows. A promise of forever between two, this ancient Celtic symbol is a beautiful way to speak from your heart when you can’t find the words. Celtic love knots make excellent gifts for romantic occasions, or when you simply feel overwhelmed with love.
The Celtic Knot in Celtic Culture: Symbolism for Modern Style
Celtic knots are fascinating because they’ve endured such an expanse of time. While the meanings behind each Celtic knot may vary, the sentiment behind them is one that holds the best of intentions.
If you have Celtic culture or Irish culture in your lineage, you may want to choose a Celtic cross, Celtic tree, or another knot to symbolize this heritage. However, even if you aren’t from this background, you should still feel free to choose the Celtic knot patterns that speak to your spirit.
There’s nothing wrong with having that extra protection and strength, or to symbolize a love that is beyond true. Interpretation is often left up to the one who wears or displays it. You can put it in your home as décor, or even better, wear it in the form of jewelry.Celtic Crystal Designs feature a gorgeous array of unique Celtic jewelry to make your culture and heritage more personal and meaningful. With necklaces, rings, bracelets, kilt pins, earrings, and more, you’ll have the perfect gift for someone special or to display your pride in your Celtic roots.