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10 Ancient Celtic Symbols And Their Meanings

10 Ancient Celtic Symbols And Their Meanings September 4, 2018

There is so many Irish around the world, this website was created to help connect and spread the Irish connections. We are so far apart but so connected at the same time. Enjoy

The Claddagh Ring - Celtic symbols

For centuries, Celtic symbols and signs held incredible power for the ancient Celts in every way of life.

The word “Celtic” refers to people who lived in Britain and Western Europe from 500 BC and 400 AD.

Celts were of the Iron Age and lived in small villages which were led by warrior chiefs.

With its rich history and culture, Ireland has been home to various civilisations for thousands of years.

These ancient communities used Celtic symbols that now have become part of the Irish identity and heritage.

Some of these symbols have even become symbols of Ireland itself.

But did you know that these symbols have deeper and even surprising meanings?

Let’s take a look at some of the most popular Celtic symbols and what exactly they mean.

If you are looking to trace you Irish DNA or Irish heritage be sure to read our article about Ancestry DNA kits next.

Or order your DNA kit here

If you see any Celtic symbols you particularly like be sure to Pin them to our Pinterest board or your own.

I have also added some Celtic jewellery to each symbol if you wish to explore more.

1. The Awen of the Three Rays of Light – Celtic Symbols

Awen - Celtic Symbols

This neo-Druid symbol, which is a popular design for tattoos, jewellery and artwork, is said to be invented by Iolo Morgannwg, an 18th-century Welsh poet.

However, studies suggest that the symbol might be older than initially thought.

The word “Awen” means inspiration or essence in the Celtic language and it first appeared in the 9th-century book “Historia Brittonum.”

It was said that it represents the harmony of opposites in the universe. For instance, the two outer rays represent masculine and feminine energy, while the ray in the middle represents the balance between them.

You can learn more about the Awen here.

Recommended reading: The book of Celtic magic: Transformative Teachings from the Cauldron of Awen. View on Amazon here

2. Brigid’s Cross – Celtic Symbols 

Brigids Cross - Celtic Symbols

Widely believed to be a Christian symbol, Brigid’s Cross is tied to Brigid of the Tuatha de Danaan, which, in Irish Celtic Mythology, is known as a life-giving goddess.

It is woven out of rushes and sometimes straw on the feast of Imbolc to mark the beginning of spring.

When Christianity came to Ireland, the goddess Brigid became St Brigid of Kildare and many of the goddess’s attributes, including the symbol and her association with the destructive power and productive use of fire, were transferred to the latter.

Recommended purchase: St. Brigid Cross Bronzed Wall Hanging – Made in Ireland. View on Amazon here

3. The Celtic Cross – Celtic Symbols

Celtic Cross - Celtic Symbols

Like with the Brigid’s Cross, many people have come to associate the Celtic Cross with Christianity. However, studies suggest this symbol predates Christianity by thousands of years.

In fact, the symbol has appeared in many ancient cultures. According to one theory, the Celtic Cross represents the four cardinal directions.

There’s also another theory saying that it represents the four elements of earth, fire, air, and water.

You can learn more about the Celtic Cross here.

Recommended purchase: Irish Wall Cross with Traditional Irish Blessing – View on Amazon here

4. The Green Man – Celtic Symbols

green-man-legend - Celtic Symbols

The Green Man is represented in many cultures as a head of a man that is made of foliage.

Seen in many buildings and structures in Ireland and Britain, the Green Man is said to be a symbol of rebirth and the co-dependence between nature and man.

He represents the lushness of vegetation and the arrival of spring and summer.

Recommended purchase: Cast Iron Hanging Bearded Leaf Man Garden Face – View on Amazon here

5. The Harp – Celtic Symbols

Image of the harp - Celtic symbols

The national emblem of Ireland, the Harp is one of today’s most widely recognised Irish symbols apart from the Shamrock.

It is on the Irish Euro coins and is the logo for Guinness, which is considered by many as the country’s national drink.

It is believed that the Phoenicians brought the harp to pre-Christian Europe from Egypt as one of their trading goods.

Since the 10th century, it has been an important symbol for the Irish people, personifying the spirit of the country.

In fact, the British Crown was so threatened by the harp that in the 16th century, the British ordered all harps to be burnt and all harpists executed.

Recommended purchase: Irish Harp bone china mug – Irish gift designed in Galway Ireland – View on Amazon here

6. The Shamrock – Celtic Symbols

The Shamrock - Celtic Symbols

If there’s one symbol that is widely associated with the Irish, it’s got to be the shamrock.

Now the national flower of Ireland.

The shamrock is a small clover and was an important symbol to the ancient Irish druids because its three heart-shaped leaves represent the triad.

The Celts believed that everything important in the world comes in threes.

Like the three ages of man, the phases of the moon, and the three dominions of earth, sky, and sea.

In the 19th century, the shamrock became a symbol of Irish nationalism and rebellion against the British Crown, and anyone caught wearing it was executed.

Recommended purchase: Irish Shamrock China Mug – an Irish gift designed in Galway Ireland by Irish Weave by Royal Tara – View on Amazon here.

7. The Celtic Tree of Life or Crann Bethadh – Celtic Symbols

The Celtic Tree of Life or Crann Bethadh - Celtic Symbols

Often represented by a tree with branches reaching to the sky and the roots spreading into the earth.

The Celtic Tree of Life symbolises the Druid belief in the connection between heaven and earth.

The Celts believe that trees were the ancestors of man and had a connection to other worlds.

You can learn more about the Celtic Tree Of Life here.

Recommended purchase: Handmade Large 10″ Embossed Leather Journal Celtic Tree Of Life blank personal Diary notebook refillable gift – View on Amazon here.

8.The Triquetra or the Trinity Knot – Celtic Symbols

The Triquetra or the Trinity Knot Celtic Symbols

Like all Celtic knots, the triquetra is made with one continuous line that interweaves around itself.

It symbolises an eternal spiritual life, one with no beginning and no end.

This symbol matches the Celtic belief that everything important in the world comes in threes.

You might recognise it from Thor’s hammer in the modern day movie.

You can learn more about the Triquetra here.

Recommended purchase: Cast Iron Cauldron: 4 1/2″ diameter Triquetra – View on Amazon here.

9. The Triskele – Celtic Symbols

The Triskele - Celtic Symbols

Another Irish symbol that represents the Celtic belief of the triad is the triskele or the triskelion.

The triskele is one of the oldest Irish symbols, and you can find many of them on the kerbstones of Newgrange.

According to researchers these carvings were believed to be made during the Neolithic times or around 3200 BC.

Recommended reading: Triskele: Book One of the Bwy Hir Trilogy – View on Amazon here

10. The Claddagh Ring – Celtic Symbols

The Claddagh Ring - Celtic Symbols

The Claddagh Ring is widely known in Ireland as the symbol of union and loyalty.

It is believed that Richard Joyce, a fisherman from the village of Claddagh near Galway, made the ring for her lady love.

The woman who eventually became his wife.

Waited for him for years after Joyce was kidnapped by pirates, sold into slavery, and later regained his freedom.

The Claddagh ring has been worn by some famous celebrities over the years. Including Julia Roberts, Walt Disney and Jennifer Aniston. Read the post on the celebrities wearing the Claddagh ring here.

Recommended purchase: Please only order authentic Claddagh rings from Galway. This is the official website.

We also made this video from the first 5 Celtic symbols in this article:

What other Celtic symbols do you know about?

Be sure to pin this Celtic Symbols image to your Pinterest board:

Ancient Celtic Symbols And Their Meanings
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If you enjoyed this article and are in the mood for some Irish humour I have 30 of the best Irish jokes for you to read here.

Thanks for reading,

Stephen Palmer

P.S Love all things Irish? Get your weekly dose of Irish straight to your inbox here. 


There is so many Irish around the world, this website was created to help connect and spread the Irish connections. We are so far apart but so connected at the same time. Enjoy