Celtic Knotwork is a common type of motif in Celtic artwork and is the inspiration for much of our jewellery. There are many kinds of Celtic Knot designs that symbolise different qualities, such as loyalty, love and faith. Below are a few of these interpretations.
The interlacing Celtic Knot is a symbolic pattern of a looped rope that has no start or finish. The looped pattern goes on infinitely, symbolising the eternity of life.
Celtic Knots date back to 8th century, and were used to decorate jewellery, stone carvings and illuminated manuscripts, like the Lindisfarne Gospels and the Book of Kells.
Celtic Knots are open to different interpretations, but they are generally viewed as positive symbols which can represent emotions like love and happiness, as well as virtues such as faith and friendship. The underlying metaphor can be thought of as the interconnectivity of life.
What are the different types of Celtic Knot?
There are eight main styles of Celtic Knot used historically, each has its own interpretations.
- Trinity Knot (Triquetra)
- Celtic Cross
- Celtic Love Knot
- Solomon’s Knot
- Shield Knot
- Sailor’s Celtic Knot
- Dara Knot
- Celtic Spiral Knot
Trinity Knot – Triquetra
The Trinity Knot is one of the most recognisable styles of Celtic Knot and is identified by its three overlapping and interconnected loops. The knot is otherwise known in Latin as ‘Triquetra’, which means ‘three-cornered’.
The number 3 is significant in ancient Celtic culture – the Celtic people favoured anything that came in threes. This is the basis for the Trinity Knot’s meaning, which can be interpreted in various ways:
- The Father, the Son and the Holy Ghost.
- Past, present and future.
- Life, death and rebirth.
The Celtic Cross is a Christian symbol that represents the bridge between heaven and earth. The vertical element represents the heavenly realm, the horizontal element represents the secular realm and the circle in the middle represents the Holy Spirit that connects everything.
Popular legend has it that the Christian Celtic Cross was introduced by Saint Patrick, and that he combined the symbol of Christianity with the idea of the life-giving properties of the sun in order to appeal to pagans. Other interpretations claim that placing the cross on top of the circle represents Christ’s supremacy over the pagan sun.
The Celtic Cross is sometimes referred to as the Irish Cross and can be found in many churches throughout the British Isles, especially Wales, Ireland and Scotland and is made up of a crucifix, with a ring around the crossing of the lines to make four semi-circles. Some Celtic Crosses also have interwoven looping patterns along the beams of the cross, similar to the pattern of most Celtic Knots.
Today the different versions of the Celtic Cross can be seen on carved stone cemetery monuments in many church graveyards throughout the British Isles and further afield as an emblem of Celtic identity, in addition to its more traditional religious symbolism.
Celtic Love Knot
A Celtic Love Knot is very distinctive. It combines two interlacing knots, each forming two heart shapes – one heart facing downwards and the other facing upwards. Although appearing like two separate knots, the Celtic Love Knot consists of one continuous line.
The Celtic Knot symbolises love – the two interlocking hearts representing the two souls joined together in love and the continuous line, the eternity of love. Celtic Love Knots appear on jewellery and carved wooden Love Spoons that were exchanged between lovers as a token of affection, much like how we exchange rings today.
Solomon’s Knot is one of the lesser known Celtic Knots, consisting of two closed loops, which are doubly interlinked in an interlaced manner. The Solomon’s knot is seen to have four crossings where the two loops interweave under and over each other.
Since the knot has been used across a number of cultures and historical eras, it can be given a range of symbolic interpretations.
Because there is no visible beginning or ending, it may represent immortality and eternity
Because of religious connections, the knot is sometimes designated the all-faith symbol of faith, but, at the same time, it appears in many places as a valued secular symbol of prestige, importance, beauty.
Solomon’s Knot appears on tombstones and mausoleums in Jewish graveyards and catacombs in many nations. In this context, Solomon’s Knot is currently interpreted to symbolize eternity.
The Shield Knot was a very commonly used design, with this Celtic Knot’s Meaning unmistakably representing defence and protection. The noticeably compact style of this knot intentionally resembles a shield, with its overlapping lines leaving little empty space within and the curved outer corners enclosing the knot.
In Celtic history, the Shield Knot would often be placed in battlefields to ward off enemies by demonstrating strength and protection. They were sometimes also placed outside of homes, places of worship and around sick people, as they were thought to also protect people from evil spirits.
Sailor’s Celtic Knot
A Sailor’s Celtic Knot consists of an interlacing rope that weaves in and out of itself making a long, weaving knot. Despite the appearance of two ropes, the design of this knot is actually just one rope looping around itself, then joining back up to itself to make an infinite loop.
The meaning behind this Celtic Knot can be determined by its history. It’s thought that this design was created by sailors who were at sea for a long time. In their spare time, they would create these knots as a way of remembering their family and feeling closer to them. Some say the strength of this knot represents the strength of the bond between family.
The theory behind this Celtic knot is that the two ropes intertwined were created by sailors.
Either during long voyages or while waiting for their following passage. Said to be a means for remembering their loved ones.
What I like about this knot is that while it is the simplest to make or draw, it is actually one of the strongest. A bond that cannot be broken.
In Celtic culture, the Dara Knot is often used to representation strength. The Dara Knot design takes its inspiration from the oak tree. The name, Dara, is a derivation of the Gaelic word for oak tree – dair.
The Celts believed that the roots of trees were connected to their ancestors and indeed to all living things. The design of the Dara knot illustrates this spiritual connection with the oak tree. The Dara Knot has one intricately interwoven rope that makes a complex and infinite pattern.
Celtic Spiral Knot (Triskelion)
Spirals are one of the earliest symbols that humans used as a decorative device. They were probably based on natural observed spiral forms like seashells – the container of early man’s staple food. The ancient peoples of the middle-east made extensive use of spirals to decorate their art, however it was the Celts that developed a spiral design that split off into three coils. First used in enamelled bronze ornaments and then in the age of ornamented stone monuments and late pagan and early Christian jewellery.
Also known as the triple spiral, or Triskele / Triskelion, this ancient Celtic symbol represents three connected domains of material existence – earth, water and sky. It can also symbolise growth and evolution in nature, cycles of life and rebirth, and the movement of the cosmos.