How Modern People Interpret Celtic Art


Celtic art is connected to the people known as Celts. Celts are defined as the people who spoke Europe’s Celtic languages from the time of pre-history all the way to the modern period. Something which is "Celtic" also includes the art of the ancient people, whose language is a mystery, but whose culture and stylistic sensibilities are similar to the Celtic people. Celtic art is hard to precisely define because it covers a big expanse of time, cultures and geography. Much of Celtic design was planned without a specific meaning in mind, yet modern people have given these old designs meanings for both marketing as well as sentimentality. Since meaning in Celtic art is mostly a mystery, people are at liberty to come up with their own, personal meanings, even if they are different from the accepted, modern meanings.

The Eternity Knot:

The Eternity Knot is part of a variety of knots and stylized representations of knots that are used in decorations, mostly in the Celtic style that is known as Insular art. The Eternity Knot is known largely for its use in the ornamentation of manuscripts and monuments that are of a Christian nature. The meaning of the Eternity Knot, as its name already implies, relates to both beginnings and endings. This meaning is valid because upon viewing an Eternity Knot, a person cannot detect either a beginning or an end to the knot.

Celtic Knot Image: From the University of Aberdeen website comes an image of a Celtic knot.

Celtic Knot Image 2: This website from the University of Houston-Clear Lake provides another image of a Celtic knot.

The Celtic Cross:

The Celtic Cross is a symbol or an image that combines the cross with a ring that is enveloped by an intersection. In the part of the Celtic world that was Christian, the Celtic Cross was mixed with the Christian cross to be used for high crosses, which were free-standing crosses created from stone and elaborately decorated. While the Celtic Cross can be interpreted as a sign of faith, this was not always true and is a more modern interpretation that is applied to the historical use of the cross. This meaning is valid because the Irish were, contrary to popular belief, not always Christian.

Celtic Cross Image: From a Carnegie Mellon University website comes a depiction of a Celtic cross.

Celtic Cross Image 2: From a Central Michigan University website comes another depiction of a Celtic cross, this time in an eggshell design.

8 Hearts Bound by a Celtic Circle (also called Celtic Love Knot)

The Celtic Love Knot comes in a variety of styles. For example, there is the Triple Drop Love Knot, the Celtic Oval Love Knot, the Celtic Round Love Knot, the Celtic Four Love Knot, and the Celtic Square Love Knot. What all these types of Celtic Love Knots have in common is that they are all symbols of love. This meaning is valid because the Celtic Love Knot was used on Celtic wedding rings to represent two, unbroken loops that intersect and are inseparable from one another.

Celtic Love Knot Image: This website from the Rochester Institute of Technology shows an image of a Celtic love knot.

Celtic Love Knot Image 2: This website shows another Celtic love knot image, this time from a pendant.

The Triscele

The Triscele, sometimes called the Triskelion, is a motif that is made up of three interlocking spirals. At other times, the Triscele can also be depicted by three human legs that are bent or even any other similar symbol that has both three protrusions and threefold, rotational symmetry. Though the Triscele has shown up in many periods and places across history, it is primarily part of the La Tene’s culture and its Celtic art. The meaning of the Triscele is a sacred one that represents the pagan Great Goddess in all of her forms, which are maiden, crone and mother.

Triscele Image: This website from Drexel University shows an image of the Triscele.

The Shield Celtic Knot

The Shield Celtic Knot is a symbol that was used as a sign of protection. This meaning is valid when one looks at the positioning and the placement of the Shield Celtic Knot in the Celtic world. Much of the time, the Shield Celtic Knot was used on battle shields as a sign of protection and, sometimes, even next to sick people. It was also believed to ward off evil spirits.

Shield Celtic Knot Image: This website shows an image of the shield Celtic knot.

The Shamrock

The shamrock is a white, three-leaved, old clover. The shamrock was utilized a lot for its medicinal properties. The meaning of the shamrock was that it stood for the Holy Trinity, which is the Father, Son and Holy Spirit in Christianity. This meaning is valid because the Oxford English Dictionary records St. Patrick as having used the plant to symbolize the Holy Trinity.

Shamrock Image: This Boston University website provides an image of the shamrock.

The Sailor's Knot (aka The Lover's Knot)

The Lover’s Knot is a name that has been employed to describe a wide range of knots. The meaning of the Lover’s Knot varies, indidcating everything from love and friendship to affection and unity. Due to the wide array of symbolism used for the Lover’s Knot, it is impossible to simply use a single knot to represent the “true” knot. The Lover’s Knot is used in artwork that is meant for a person’s beloved.

Lover’s Knot Image: This website from the University of Buffalo provides an image of the lover’s knot.