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Celtic Symbols

Your Celtic Wedding : Your Celtic Wedding

Celtic Knots
The interlaced strands of the Celtic knot have no beginning and no ending. They represent the continuity of everlasting and the intertwining of two souls or lives. Christianity has embraced much of the ancient Celtic symbolism and has adapted many Celtic knots into high crosses and illuminated manuscripts.

Circle Knots
The belief in rebirth is a major tenet of Celtic belief, and the intricately woven circle knots found in modern Celtic artwork perfectly illustrate this belief. The unbroken movement of the knotwork gives intense metaphorical power and exemplifies the continuity of existence and man's never-ending spiritual journey. Through rebirth, we are transfored and strengthened, leading to deeper wisdom and spirituality. The circle know represents the delicate dance of nature: life, death and rebirth.


Wrap Text around ImageThe “triskele” symbol appears on Celtic artifacts dating back to the early iron age, specifically, as ornamentation on metal work. Early representations can also be seen on the stone carvings at Newgrange. The triskele is typically represented as a rounded spiral with three symbolic arms or legs, turning clockwise toward its center. The Celts believed in the power of the triad, and the number three is extremely symbolic. It has been suggested that these three figures represent the major forces of nature: earth, sea and sky. The triskele often represents the perpetual motion of the universe, and our metaphorical journey through life, death and rebirth.

Triangle Knots
Wrap Text around ImageThe triangle knot has symbolism similar to the triskele: the power of the Celtic belief in the triple forces of earth, sea and sky, illustrated by the three points of the triangle. Intricately designed triangle knots are found on later (Christian period) artifacts, and show clearly the evolution of the knot from a simple triquetra to the elaborately designed knotwork found on crosses and monuments, as well as in the Book of Kells. Ancient Celtic wisdom, proverbs and blessings often consisted of three parts, and it is believed that the triangle knot represents the Holy Trinity, as well as the sacred Celtic trinity of gods and goddesses. It has been suggested that the triangle knot symbolizes strength and unity.

Cross and Square Knots
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Wrap Text around ImageCeltic crosses are ancient, standing monuments that pre-date Christianity, and are primarily found in Ireland, Scotland and Wales. The Celtic cross has a circle around it, an essential symbol in Celtic belief, which distinguishes it from other types of crosses. Early Celtic crosses have arms of equal length, possibly signifying the points on a compass. As Christian influence spread, the shape became elongated, and the carvings showed a greater complexity of knotwork. The four points on the cross knot can also signify the turning of the four seasons, and their importance for the Celtic calendar. The square knot can denote the four elements of earth, sea, fire and water, as well as the four seasons. The square knot is more frequently found on the bases of crosses in Scotland, with circular forms filling out the square.

Wrap Text around ImageIn the early sixteenth century an Irish man, Richard Joyce, was fishign off the coast of Galway a week before he was to be married when his currach capsized. Richard was "rescued" by pirates, taken to West Africa, and sold into slavery to a Moorish goldsmith. Years passed before Richard escaped and returned home to Ireland, and discovered the woman he loved had never married. He crafted a unique ring for her, fashioned of three symbols: hands signifying friendship, holding a heart signifying love and topped with a crown for loyalty. The pair married and settled in the village of Claddagh.

Wrap Text around ImageFrom the seventeenth century, Luckenbooth brooches (named after the "locking booths" from which they were sold on Edinburgh's Royal Mile) were given to a man's sweetheart upon their betrothal; it was also considered a lucky charm, protecting the wearer against the evil eye and the unwanted attention of the fairies. From the mid-nineteenth century, the intertwined hearts resembling the letter M with thistle fleur de lis forming a crown were used. Most Luckenbooth brooches today are in the form of two intertwined hearts topped by a crown.

Wrap Text around ImageThe "flower of Scotland" is said to have saved an entire Scottish army. During a Viking invasion, advancing warriors stepped on thistles during the night, and cried out in pain. The Scots were awakened and repelled the invaders. Scottish king Kenneth III was so grateful that he adopted the thistle as the nation's emblem. The plant is symbolic of bravery, courage and loyalty.

Wrap Text around ImageIreland's most famous symbol, the shamrock has been reputed to have mystic powers in that its petas will stand upright to warn of an approaching storm. The shamrock is found on Irish medieval tombs and on old copper coins. Legend suggests that St. Patrick plucked a shamrock to demonstrate the meaning of the Trinity—Father, Son and Holy Spirit.


Traditions | Ceremonies & Customs | Toasts & Blessings

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