Hidden Meanings in Celtic Jewellery


When you see a piece of beautiful Celtic jewellery, what is it that catches your eye? Is it the craftsmanship, the graceful knotwork? Or is it the feeling of touching on another time and culture, full of mystery and wonder?  When you wear Celtic jewellery you are wearing a piece of that mystery and taking part in a rich tradition of symbol and meaning.

Because many Celtic symbols have existed for centuries, their meanings have evolved over time, and there is often more than one possible meaning for a symbol. The spiral, for instance, is truly ancient. It was the earliest decorative ornament to be used in Celtic art. Some suggest that the direction of the spiral is significant- clockwise represents the sun and its harmony with the Earth; counter-clockwise is the manipulation of nature in the form of spells. To some, the spiral is a reflection of the cosmos; the Milky Way, after all, is a spiral galaxy. To others, it symbolizes harmony within the cycles of life. Many modern mystics believe it symbolizes the Spiral Path, a journey inward into the unconscious mind. Some even speculate that if left alone in a cave with spiral wall carvings or drawings, the person will experience hallucinations.

When a spiral has three arms, it's called a triple spiral, a triskele, or a triskellion. All of the significance of a simple spiral can be associated with the triskele, but there are also some additional meanings. It is based around the powerful number 3, as many other Celtic symbols are. It may symbolize the Triple Goddess (Maiden, Mother and Crone) of ancient times. The Triple Goddess represents the stages of female life and the phases of the moon. To Christians, the triskele is a symbol of the Holy Trinity (Father, Son and Holy Spirit). Some believe that it represents the path of existence- life, death and rebirth, which is a constant theme in Celtic myths and legends. Passing a spiral barrier meant that you were crossing into the sacred realms, where Heaven and Earth are in perfect balance. The spirals' mystical powers prevent evil from crossing. This is presumably why it is found at some of the oldest and most sacred sites throughout the Celtic world, most famously Newgrange in Ireland which dates back to 2500 BC.

The most common Celtic symbols are the various knotwork that is found in so much Celtic art. The Celtic knot, which has no beginning or end, symbolizes all things that are eternal, such as love. Because Celtic knots are so intricately woven, they also symbolize how our lives are interwoven with the lives of the people around us. They remind us of our place in the universe: a vital part of a larger whole.  The knots symbolize the intricacies of all things in the natural world. Knotwork is said to ward off evil spirits, and some believe the more intricate the design, the better protection against evil it is.

The triquetra or trinity knot, like the triskele, represents the sacredness of things that come in threes. Originally it simply meant triangle, but the symbol has now evolved to represent virtually anything that is threefold. Some of the most common representations include the Holy Trinity, the Triple Goddess, Land, Sea & Sky, Mind, Body, & Soul, or Past, Present, & Future. Sometimes a circle will encompass the trinity knot, which further represents the unity of the three.

Another famous Celtic symbol is the Celtic Cross. One story of the Celtic Cross is that it was introduced by St. Patrick to the Pagans in Ireland. It is said that St. Patrick combined the traditional Christian cross with a sun wheel (a circle with four "spokes" through it) in order to teach the Pagans how important the cross is to Christianity by combining it with the life-sustaining sun. To some modern Christians, the circle around the top of the cross symbolizes the eternal love that God has for humanity. To others, the arms of the Celtic Cross may represent the four cardinal directions, with the circle symbolizing the universe in its unending splendor.

These ancient symbols, kept alive and vibrant through modern craftsmanship, are part of a tradition of symbolism that is as old as human history. When you wear a beautiful piece of Celtic art as jewelry it isn't just decoration or a pretty trinket, it's a celebration of the Celtic culture that first created them.

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