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Celtic Symbols

Posted by Pete PJ on

Celtic symbols
are associated with the polytheistic beliefs of the Celts, peoples who lived in
Iron Age Europe.
These peoples spoke various variants of the Celtic language. However, closely held relations
with the Roman Empire, between some of these groups, eventually contributed to the
abandonment of the original Celtic language and conversion to Christianity.
Much of Celtic mythology was written in prehistoric times, long before the invention of
writing. However, through the later writings of Greek and Roman authors, knowledge of
Celtic beliefs and traditions has survived to the present day.
These records, along with archaeological finds, and the legacy of Celtic culture that we can
find still alive in the British Isles today, have allowed us to partially reconstruct beliefs and
establish the meaning captured in Celtic symbols.

Table of contents
1. Tree of Life
2. Celtic Cross
3. Triquetra
4. Triskelion
5. Celtic Bull
6. Celtic Star
7. Celtic Knot
8. Quaternary Node
9. Awen

Tree of Life
The Tree of Life, originally known as Crann Bethadh, was a fundamental element in Celtic
mythology. It represented harmony between the forces of nature and was a symbol of strength
and wisdom.
Trees – the source of life: they gave fruit and shelter. While the seasons with which trees
changed were a reference to the cycles that accompany life.
Many of the Celtic legends point to the tree as a link between the world of living and the
world of ancestors, being also a gateway to another world. For this Tree of Life reflects the
connection of three dimensions of the world:
 Underground through its roots, which delved into the most inhospitable depths of the
earth, all the way to the world of dead.
 Earth’s surface, represented by the trunk coexisting in the world along with humans.
 Sky, the divine and spiritual space, represented by branches and leaves, being both the
path to the firmament and the divine.

However, trees not only reflected the essence of life. The infinite wisdom of nature that the
Celts believed in, through trees, allowed the Druids to predict the future. Trees that shed their
leaves ahead of time spoke of the quicker arrival of winter…
In addition, the Druids believed that every person carried a tree within them, which allowed
them to develop knowledge.

Celtic Cross
The Celtic Cross is one of the most famous Celtic symbols and the one with the most
important religious significance.
Due to its resemblance to the Christian cross, it was easily adopted by followers of that
religion during the Christianization of the Celtic peoples, but its history can be traced back
long before the rise of Christianity.
One theory is that the Celtic Cross is based on one of the oldest solar symbols of the Indo-
European peoples, the solar cross. This symbol was said to give the Celtic Cross protective
properties against dark forces.
Its four arms were interpreted as a symbol of the four elements: air, earth, water and fire, or as
the four sides of the world: north, south, east, west.
This symbolism connected the cross to what the Tree of Life was to the Celts. It referred to
the energies of the four elements, connected by a circle that acted as a bridge between divine
and human energies.
Such powerful symbolism gave the Celtic Cross properties of warding off evil forces,
connections to the universe, and access to energy and knowledge.
The Triquetra symbol, also known as the triquatra, is a Celtic symbol formed by three arcs in
the shape of a triangle. It is sometimes inscribed in a circle to symbolize infinity and eternity.
The word triquetra comes from the Latin triquetrus, meaning three angles, or simply triangle.
For the Celts it was a sign of reconciliation with nature. Symbolizing life, death and
However, over the centuries, the triquetra has taken on more and more complete meanings. It
symbolized the triple dimension of equality, eternity, and indivisibility. It was an expression
of Celtic philosophy, in which each whole consisted of three levels: physical, mental and
With the advent of Christianity, the symbol of the holy trinity of father, son and holy spirit
began to be inscribed in this sign.
Given its three-part nature, this symbol has some connection to St. Patrick’s clover, which
also represents the most holy trinity.


A triskelion, also known as a triskele, is a Celtic symbol consisting of three spirals connected
in a triangular arrangement.
The name by which the Celtic peoples referred to this symbol is unknown. The modern name
was introduced by Greek authors and means as much as a tripod.
In Celtic tradition, three was a sacred number, representing perfection, divinity and balance
between the forces of the universe. Circles, on the other hand, represent unity, cyclicity and
infinity, where everything begins again and again. The same point is both the beginning and
the end.
Triskelion was a magical symbol representing the perfection of the balance between
beginning and end; between body, mind and spirit; between past, present and future. Hence,
each of the spirals had its own symbolism:
 First of the spirals represented sensation and senses, the limits and possibilities of our
own bodies.
 Second, consciousness and reason, the way in which ideas and thoughts enter the
depths of our mind.
 Third, was related to the spiritual aspect, the soul’s development on its arduous path to
gain knowledge of the unknown world of spirits and gods.
For the Druids, it was one of the most powerful symbols. It represented strength, wisdom or
love, a trinity of divine energy. As a whole, it symbolized eternal evolution through

Celtic Bull
The bull represented physical strength, endurance, and power. The Celts perceived it as a
symbol of masculinity, and therefore it signified fertility and the power of procreation, which
was synonymous with the extension of life. As a livestock animal, the bull was also a symbol
of luxury and wealth.
It was particularly associated with the rituals of the Celtic Druids. The Druids associated the
bull with solar energy and the cow with earth energy.
Celtic Star
The Celtic Star, also known as the Celtic symbol of the pentacle, is a sign consisting of five
overlapping circles.
This sign refers to the unity and balance between the four elements: water, fire, earth and air,
which are united by a central circle, a reference to the universe, which gives rise to life.

Celtic Knot
Celtic Knots are a type of decorative weave commonly used in Celtic art. In modern times, we
can also find them in Christian manuscripts or buildings.
They are distinguished by two elements. First, they are represented by closed weaves, in the
form of a braid. This means that different parts of the ribbon intertwine, passing sometimes

above and sometimes below. Second, Celtic Knots have no beginning and no end, being thus
infinite. The ribbon closes in on itself.
It is difficult to give Celtic Knots a specific meaning, as their variety is mostly decorative. It is
quite possible that in the past, some of them were given a specific symbolism, but due to the
lack of written accounts of Celtic culture, such references are unknown today.
It must also be taken into account that with the Christianization of the Celtic peoples, the
original meaning of the symbols was lost to the new religion.
Celtic Knots are not known to represent specific concepts such as love, friendship, or strength.
However, quite often, knots refer to other Celtic symbols with a more clear meaning. Thus,
there are knots in the shape of a triangle, trisquel or in the shape of animals. In case of the
latter, this allows the motif to relate to the character of specific animals.
They also often come in the shape of a circle. As a result, Celtic Knots can be associated with
concepts such as unity. Furthermore, the infinite nature of these knots has served in modern
times to relate them to eternity as well.

Quaternary Node
One of the more common motifs among Celtic symbols is the Quaternary Knot, also known
as the shield knot. It generally has a square shape inscribed in a circle and is divided into four
parts. This division is often interpreted as a reference to the four elements, the four sides of
the world, or the four seasons.
According to contemporary beliefs, it was a protective symbol. It was placed both by the sick
and on battle shields.
Although the knot originated in Celtic times, other cultures also incorporated it into their own
symbolism, such as the Vikings.

Awen refers to a Gaelic word meaning inspiration, enlightenment.
This symbol, inscribed in a circle, consists of three lines, running like lines of light from three
points. They refer, depending on the interpretation, to:
 body, mind, spirit;
 sea , land, air;
 truth, wisdom and love.
Awen is a symbol used by Neo-Druidism, a neo-pagan religion inspired by Celtic beliefs.