† Symbolism †
If we had to answer what does the Celtic Knot mean, I would say that it's origins are to do to the observation of the cycle of time. For the ancient people saw time as an endless wheel that has no beginning and no end. I give credit to the Neolithic stone builders of all those years ago that studied the stars in the sky. The wheel was based on a solar/lunar wheel and it had two half's, a light and a dark. At May I st, Bealtine, we cross into the light half, Is a time when the work began in the fields and a time for outer action. At Samhain, Oct. 31st. the other side of the wheel we cross into the dark half, a state of inner contemplation or All Souls Day in the Christian calendar, They saw this a being like a marriage of day and night, life and death, the seen and unseen worlds and believed that when we cross to the other side we will continue and return again in search of the sacred. like time itself, we belong to this endless cycle. The Wheel of the year is broken up into four corners and four cross quarters. These representing the equinoxes and solstices and the four Celtic fire festivals, Imbolc, Bealtine, Lugnasagh and Samhain, . The Celtic people lived in harmony with the natural cycle of the wheel of the year. They saw this as being an endless cycle towards the spiritual journey.
Became associated with Ireland in 532ad when St . Patrick picked one to describe the Holy Trinity. Before that time, all things in Irish tradition had three aspects but it was Patrich brougn in the comcept of one God and from the stem grew the three aspects. We can also see it as the old representing the Youth, adult and elder. Mind, body and spirit.
The thistle seems to have emerged as a Scottish emblem through a Danish invasion. In those days it was considered unwarlike to attack an enemy at night. The Danish invaders, however, decided to attack barefooted and under the cloak of darkness to silently approach the unsuspecting Scots. One soldier, stepping on a thistle, cried out and alerted the Scots. In the ensuing battle, the Danes were routed. The grateful Scots adopted the thistle as a symbol of their nation.
1. Celtic Knotwork
These knots were used in all forms of decorative skills influencing the artwork and spirituality of the Celtic people. The interlacing knotwork symbolizes the spiritual evolution of humanity on the journey to the divine center. The endless riddle of life through successive rebirths, no beginnings and no end. The early Celts left behind an enduring legacy of almost hypnotic knots, fierce beasts, and spirals, some of them drawn so finely that people called them "the work of angels". We know that the Celts believed strongly in the interconnectedness of all life, and that their interlaced patterns reflected this belief. We can glean a bit more information about their symbols and beliefs from the old Celtic myths and legends.
These entwined knots shows how our lives are woven together creating a fabric of love and friendship. The Knots have been inspired by the by the work from the early Christian monasteries from between the 7th and 9th century. The monks excelled at illustrating their religious manuscripts and books with intricate decoration and elaborated interlacing knotwork. The most well known manuscripts are the Book of Kells, the Book of Durrow and Lindensfarne gospels.
Simple beauty the unbroken line
That weaves and curves in style
perfect in its symmetry
What meets the human eye.
The work of humble craftsmen
With steady hand and quill
Devoted to creation with
Masterpieces from their will.
This offers a sense of unity
And offers a sense of style
That all things are connected
In this life and when we die.
These knots they tell a story
Two knots run side by side
Four corners to the universe
To the journey, yours and I.
Triple Spiral (Triscele)
The Triple Spiral dates back to the many many years but the one we will begin with is the carving at the 5000 year old structure at Newgrange Co. Meath, Ireland. It has many said to have many meanings and all began at the study of the moon. The waning, waxing and new moon representing the life. the death and the rebirth cycle of life. This is also seen as the matriarchal forms of the great Goddess. The Maiden being inspiration, the Mother is life giving and the Crone is age wise and has the gift of healing. At the Celtic festival of Imbolc, Feb. 2nd. the crone goes to drink from the sacred well and in doing so she rejuvenates to become a young maiden. This represented the coming of spring. Also the earth, sea and sky or the life, death and rebirth cycle of the natural world.
From there it seems that everything in the Irish lore had three forms whether they be blessings, curses, Goddesses, music, stories and of course the Shamrock. St. Patrick continues this tradition when he picked the shamrock and explained that out of the three experiences that there is one stem or God. From there is became the Trinity. We also know it collectively as the Spirit of Ireland reflecting on the three great Tuatha de Danann queens known collectively as the spirit of Ireland were Bamba, Eiru and Folda. Bamba was all beneath the Earth, Eiru was the 7 forms of life that lived on the earth and Folda was the spiritual essence. When the celts arrived they made a deal with Eiru and called the land Eire for ever more.
from our own experience and learning's the truth is that in if we are to find oneness we will only find it in the three experiences of being. Connection with earth, with self and with the divine. They knew that one could not fine oneness in self but only in the three. The sooner we return to this age old wise knowledge, the better chance that we can continue the traditions of living through youth, adult and elder.
The Tree of Life
The tree is the bridge between the under world, the middle world and the upper world. All that is dead, all that is Life and all that is Spirit. In the Irish tradition the sacred tree grew from the center of the land (Uisneach) and sheltered seven forms of life. Insect, fish, mammal, animal, plant, man and bird. The tree grew 26 miles high and fed the four corners of the world, it's branches reached out and touched every star in the heavens. The ancient people used this as an axis Mundi to align the sun in the sky with entrances and alignments when building stone circles. This became the center of the spirituality. where we are connected to the earth and growing into the heavens. In the center is where the golden child resides. This is the place where we are worth more that gold.
This older sense of Spirituality for the Irish race had an understanding that we are the trees. To find this place you first of all have to recognize the four directions and then you will find yourself in the center. There you become the tree, connecting yourself with the Earth and reaching towards the Spirit.
In Christianity you can see this tradition has been handed down when blessing ones self. All above (north), all below (South), all to the left (West) all to the right (East) Then one brings their hands to the center. This is where the spirit sores.
The CELTIC CROSS
Crosses date from the 6th century but have an older meaning. Some known as the scripture crosses and would depict images from the Bible. Some standing up to 14 feet tall, It many ways, I see it as a union between the old and the new, where the cross meets the wheel. The earlier culture had a great sense of spirituality and regarded the wheel to be sacred. It represented time, which was endless and moves in a great wheel. It had no beginning and no end. They realized that we could never beat time and there was no point trying. The best place to find your self was in the center of the wheel. This is where the two world meet, spiritual axis cross with the earthly, This is where all things are sacred. In ancient Ireland this is where the ancient tree grew, with roots growing deep into the earth, Middle world a place of action and the upper world, the outcome. The idea of past, present and future is always present. To stand in the center is where the spirit sores, It is a place where we become one with the Maker, It is where the sacred grows and time moves around us.
Traditionally, claddaghs are expressions of love and friendship. Like most traditional symbols, the origin of the claddaugh has been obscured by the passage of time. It is almost certainly from the Irish fishing village of Claddaugh, near Galway. Some stories say that "back in the 16th Century a young love torn jeweller from Galway in Ireland named Richard Joyce was kidnapped by pirates. Thinking of the girl he left behind, he designed a ring to express how he felt. It consisted of a heart to express his love, a crown for his loyalty and hands for their friendship. On returning after 5 years he was delighted to learn she had not married, he then presented the ring to her. The Claddagh has been worn as a wedding ring ever since." Others say the design was brought back from the Crusades by a young man captured by the Saracens. Whatever its history, the claddaugh has become an enduring symbol of affection. The heart in the center of the design represents love, the hands that surround it represent friendship, and the crown at the top (if present) is symbolic of fidelity. Claddaghs are worn on the left hand, facing inward, if your heart is spoken for. If you are unattached, wear the ring on your right hand, facing outward. Click on the following link to visit our
As symbols of transcendence, they represent the human soul in flight, liberated from earthly ties, able to soar in spiritual communication with the heavens. They are seen as celestial messengers and carry magical powers. Ravens and pheasants are birds of prophecy, Doves for Peace. The Eagle was represented in the Book of Kells as the gospel of St. John.
The boar is a symbol of masculine power. The meat of the boar was served at Otherworld feasts for the deities. The sow is associated with some Crone/Mother Goddesses, such as Cerridwen, and with Otherworldly feasts. The pig is theimages/ archetypal symbol of plenty, healing, and shape shifting.
Figures heavily in what little Celtic creation mythology surviving from Ireland, though this may not be Irish at all, but rather a myth derived from a Middle Eastern source. In the Celtic world, the bull was a symbol of virility, sovereignty, and wealth. The famous Irish legend, The Cattle Raid of Cooley, surrounds the taking of a famous bull. In Ancient Ireland, a tabhfheis, or a highly ritualized "feast of the bull", always preceded the crowning of a new High King.
Unlike many other Indo-European cultures, the Celts did not revere cats, though there are many references to them in Celtic mythology. Archtypally they serve the same guardian function as demons/angels in the Judeo-Christian myths. Three mythic references to cats which are prominent are; one, a cat which helps to guard the gates of the Otherworld; two, one who is able to shapeshift into a ball of fire; and three, one called Irusan of Knowth who stole humans like the faery. Cat-like monsters were also believed to dwell in dark caves.
Numerous Celtic myths tell us of a heroic figure or deity who was changed into a crane such as Aife, the Lady of the Lake, or Munanna. Archetypally this bird means an apparent, rather than substantive, change A sign of, or punishment for, deception. Top=
Deer / Stag:
The deer was the principal animal hunted by the Celts for food. The doe was associated with most woodland Goddesses, such as Saba and Flidais, and is their totem animal. The stag was often seen as the incarnate form of woodland Gods such as Cernunnos. White stags were considered to be from the Otherworld and, in myth, their appearance always heralded some profound change in the lives of those in the story. Considered in Celtic mythology to be among the oldest creatures in existence.
Sacred to the faeries of Ireland and Scotland probably because they were held in high regard by the Tuatha de Danann. Many Celtic myths involve dogs or dog familiars, which belonged to heroic figures or deities, and wars were often fought for and over them such as the one between Fionn MacCumhal and King Arthur. Examples of the importance of Celtic dogs are found in the myths of Gwyn Ap Nuada, Cuchulain, Amaethaon, and Taliesin. Dogs are also the archetypal symbols of shapeshifters.
The dragon is another mighty magical animal that appears in British and Welsh stories. It is, of course, a creature of fire but is also related to the Power of the Land. Another word for Ley Lines is Dragon Lines. Another name for raising power is to invoke the "Eye of the Dragon". The whole Earth was viewed by the Druids as the body of the Dragon. Menhirs and stone Circles were located at great Power nodes. The Celts also called Dragons 'Fire Drakes
Eagles were the feared scavengers of Europe and were usually linked to death Gods, such as Beli, in the same way as the crow was linked to death Goddesses. In Welsh mythology, Llew was turned into an eagle at the moment of his murder.
Horses were sacred to many Indo-European Goddesses, and often filled the archetypal place given to cats in other cultures. They were linked to the night, the moon, mystery, and magick. Nightmares, a name which is derived from that of the female horse, were thought by the Celts to be brought by a visiting horse Goddess such as Epona or Mare. In most Celtic myths the horses are black or white.
Usually spelled Ouzel in the United States. This water bird is known for its tenacious and deceptive personality. While it looks harmless enough, it is revered for its ability to staunchly defend itself and its flock. In myth, the Ouzel of Cilgwri once picked a smith's hammer down to the size of a small nut.
The Crow is deeply linked to Crone Goddesses such as Badb, and to Goddess of war or death like the Morrigan. The Raven is similar to the crow in that it is deeply associated with death deities. But, while the crow is usually reserved as a spirit form for feminine deities, the raven has been the Otherworldly body for both Gods and Goddesses. Like the crow, it flew over Celtic battlefields as the deity incarnate. The raven is most closely associated with the Irish/Welsh God Bran.
While the airborne creatures archetypally linked the Celts to the Underworld, sea creatures linked them to great knowledge, sacred mysteries, and deep emotion, (typically, only deities of great wisdom and temperament ruled the Celtic seas). Most prominent among these wise sea creatures was the Salmon of Knowledge. The myths of Nudons and Fionn are among the many dealing with this fish. It is said to have acquired its great knowledge from eating the Nine Hazels of Wisdom that fell from the Tree of Knowledge. This fish is was said to be among the oldest of living creatures.
Represents the cyclic nature of life due to the annual shedding of its skin. It is a phallic symbol, a symbol of the Triple Goddess, and of the earth mysteries. It is important to the Druids, and is found on much old Celtic jewelry. Contrary to popular myth, there are snakes in Ireland, though they are pretty much confined to the rugged western region of the Island.
VI. Geometric Motifs
Geometric motifs have always prominent in Celtic artwork Some of the motifs or symbols date back to 3000 BC and can still be seen today on stone carvings. Newgrange in Ireland, is one of the oldest burial mounds in Europe and is highly decorated with stone (see picture on the right) carvings depicting spirals, lozenges, chevrons and key patterns.
Chevrons resemble arrowheads used by hunters and warriors alike and were a symbol of power among the Celts. The motif is nearly heart shaped and occurs as repeat band patterns in ornamentation.
Flowing scroll patterns were used for decoration rather than symbolic purposes. the Book of Durrow, an illuminated manuscript contains many fine examples of such patterns.
Celtic knotwork designs vary from the elegant single knot and double knot patterns to the very sophisticated interlaced patterns.
The Ulbster Cross depicted here is a fine example of interlaced knotwork. A single thread is used, symbolizing eternity.
The key patterns of Celtic art are really spirals composed of straight lines. It is another universal pattern attributed largely to the Greeks, but in fact originated in the Ukraine some 15,000 years earlier.
The borders of the illuminated manuscripts, the Book of Kells, Book of Durrow, and the Book of Lindisfarne are adorned by various patterns - spiral patterns, key patterns, interlacing, plaiting and ropework.
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