The Celtic Knot Meaning And The 8 Different Types Explained

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There is an immense number of ways in which the Celtic knot design can be used.

I have discussed this many times in my main article on Celtic Symbols.

Today I am going to break down the meaning of the Celtic Knot.

Along with that the various ways a Celtic knot can exist.

So if you are possibly looking for that next tattoo, art piece or clothing you can make the best decision. 

But more importantly, you will learn some insight into the incredible Celtic civilisation. You can find remnants of it everywhere you look. 

Not just in Ireland but around the world in many shapes and designs. The Celts truly hold a special place in history, and it is through this that I am going to break down the Celtic Knot. 

I’ll break down different Celtic Knotwork meanings.

The Celtic Knot Meaning explained

Did you know there are over 8 basic variations of the Celtic Knot!?

These were based on three and four-chord plaits. There is no shortage of books on the topic.

  • Including the Trinity knot, Celtic Love knot, Celtic Cross, Spiral Knot, Celtic Shield knot, Dara knot, Solomon’s knot and the Celtic Sailor’s knot.

Yes, there really is that many variations of the Celtic knot. But if you are thinking about a Celtic Tattoo, why not have a good understanding behind the meaning so you can wow your friends who ask “Is that a Celtic knot?

But of course, we know it is knot(see what I did there?) just in tattoos but also in plenty of jewellery designs.

The most typical being rings, pendants and necklaces.

But what exactly is a Celtic knot?

Glad you asked! These knots are complete loops that have no start or finish.

They could be said to represent eternity whether this means loyalty, faith, friendship or love.

So if you were to create or draw a Celtic knot, you would have one start point and eventually finish back where you started which symbolizes how life and eternity are interconnected.

The Celts were certainly a wise bunch.

  • You can find Celtic knots in the Book of Kells(seen below), 8th century St. Teilo Gospels and the Lindisfarne Gospels.

    The book of Kells written in Latin featuring a Celtic knot
    The book of Kells, written in Latin and stored safely in Dublin. Clear evidence of a Celtic Knot. Created around 800AD.

  • It spread like wildfire after that. Heck even in the Roman Empire there is evidence of handicrafts with Celtic knots interwoven onto them.
  • Quickly followed up in the 3rd and 4th Century with floor patterns to architecture, even spreading into Islamic art and Byzantine architecture.

So yes, while that may look just like a pretty necklace or a leg tattoo it, you are actually wearing a piece of history. 

Some historians even believe that Celtic knots could date back as far as 500 B.C. However, when looking into this further, the evidence is vague to back up their claims.

But that being said anything from B.C lacks a lot of proof. It was over 2000 years ago, after all! 

The different types of Celtic knots

Great now you know a bit of history behind the various types.

Now let’s break down the main 8 types of Celtic knots and what they mean(or at least can be interpreted to mean.)

1. Trinity Celtic knot(Triquetra)

The first and probably the most popular of all Celtic Knots!

This is the one that you will likely be most familiar with even if you didn’t know it!

Triquetra power of three

 It appeared recently modern-day movies such as on Thor’s hammer(see below) and even that old TV series Charmed. 

The triquetra in a circle became well known as the cover motif on the Book of Shadows in the American TV show Charmed.
The Celtic Symbol even made into the series Charmed.
The symbol on Thor's hammer is actually an ancient Celtic Symbol the Triquetra you can see it in this image.
Thor’s Hammer

The triquetra is a Latin word, meaning “triangular” or “three-cornered.”

In its purest form, the triquetra is three interconnected ovals — one pointing upward, the other two pointing down, to the left and right.

I actually wrote a more in-depth article on the Trinity Knot here. It is the most spoken about, so I felt that it required some additional research. 

What does it mean?

Meant initially as “triangle”  it was used to refer to various three-cornered shapes.

Sometimes, the traditional triquetra symbol is accompanied by a circle.

As previously mentioned in the Celtic tree of life, the Celts favoured that everything in this world came in threes.

For example:

  • Three stages of life: life, death, and rebirth
  • Three elements: the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit
  • Three domains: earth, sea and sky, past, present and future.

2. Celtic Spiral Knot

Spiral knot - three-sided knot which stands for water, fire and earth
Mesmerising isn’t it?

Said to mean eternal life and believed to be one of the oldest Celtic designs

This is another three-sided knot which stands for water, fire and earth which are the forces of nature.

These designs feature a single continuous line which represents the oneness of spirit and unity.

In the Neolithic Age of Europe, it was common to see single and double spirals on temples and other monuments in Europe.

The whirls of the spiral stand for continuous growth while the gaps between the spirals stand for the gaps between life, death, and rebirth.

Of course, with all of these symbols, it is down to your own interpretation and what it means to you. 

3. Sailor’s Celtic knot

I must say I like this one. It just reminds me of the patterns that I have seen somewhere or designs. Might be strange to say but we all have a favourite Celtic symbol which is yours? Comment at the end and let me know. 

Sailor’s Knot celtic symbol

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 next 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. 

Sailor’s Knot celtic symbol celtic, celtic knot, celtic designs
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4.  Dara knot 

I just recently included this on my main Celtic symbols article, and I just had to also speak about it here. 

The Dara Knot Celtic Symbol
A basic Dara Knot – The Celtic Symbol for Strength

The name Dara comes from the word “doire,” which is the Irish word for “oak tree.”

Trees for the Celtis were a connection to the world of the spirits and the ancestors, living entities, and doorways into other worlds.

The most sacred tree of all was the Oaktree. The Dara knot is a modern creation, but it is designed with Celtic knot traditions in mind.

The intertwined lines have no beginning or end. The reason that this is known as the Celtic symbol for strength is because of the analogy that we all have our own roots, and this symbol rises from the roots and has no end. Again they were a wise bunch. 

5.  Shield knot

Moving from the previous Dara knot for strength onto the next one, which is the shield knot. 

The Shield knot, as the name suggests, is the Celtic symbol for protection. It was placed either on battlefields or close to sick people to ward off evil spirits. 

While there is a whole bunch of ways that you can design this Celtic knot, you will always find four distinct corners. The tight patterns depict an unbreakable barrier 

four corners on the shield knot
You can clearly see this basic Shield knot along with the main four corners.

6.  Celtic Cross

Well, this could be argued as the most popular Celtic knot. However, I still think that the Trinity Knot(Triquetra) just surpasses it. 

Again with this Celtic symbol, I have created a more in-depth blog post about it here.

But I have included a summary below for you. You might also be interested in reading how this symbol was actually planted by one man. I explain the story in this blog post, but you can see the image below! Wow. 

Celtic Cross Grown In Donegal
Killea overlooking Inishowen, County Donegal, Ireland

In recent years the cross has been popularised in many Irish symbolic tattoos. The true origins of the Celtic cross are unknown, but there is plenty of theories and legends.

One popular theory is that the cross was introduced by St Patrick when he was converting the pagans in Ireland to Christianity.

It is a Celtic symbol of both culture and faith.

The cross has a few variations, but typically you will always be able to make out the symbol of a cross.

By exact definition, an Irish Cross or Celtic Cross has to have four semi-circles cut away at the four points where the horizontal and vertical beams meet.

7. Solomon’s knot

solomans knot

Well, we are coming closer to the end of this post. I hope you have been enjoying so far, be sure to share this post if you can. 

Solomons knot is not so popular in modern-day but is, in fact, one of the oldest symbols you can find. Even found in stone age carvings! 

Believed to represent the union of a man and the divine. This symbol can actually be found in nearly every single major civilization.

The reason behind the name Solomon is its frequent appearance in several ancient synagogues linked with King Solomon. 

Like with many of the other Celtic knots it has no beginning or end, and it makes for a symbol of the eternal and immortality. 

While the design of two entwined figures makes the know a symbol of love. Just like in the Claddagh ring.

8.  Celtic Love Knot

Ah sure, why not finish the top 8 Celtic knots with some love! This design features interlocked knots and represent the love between two people. 

A Celtic knot The Celtic love knot resembles two interlocking hearts and usually sits within an oval shape.

It is believed that the Celts exchanged these knots in much the same way as we exchange rings in the modern age. The Celtic love knot is one of the oldest and simplest designs.

 

This design features interlaced knots and represents the love between two people. It is believed that the Celts exchanged these knots in much the same way as we exchange rings in the modern age. 

Conclusion of the Celtic knot’s and their meanings

The Celtic Knot Meaning And The 8 Different Types Explained

Well, now, I hope you have enjoyed this post. It certainly took me a long time to put together, and of course, there will be many differences in opinions when it comes to any symbology. 

Just know that whatever symbol you choose to represent a Celtic knot it is for you and not for anyone else. Well unless a love knot of course. 

Symbols are symbols and what you choose them to mean to you is what is important. 

I encourage you to share this article and subscribe to my weekly dose of Irish newsletter. 

Thank you very much for sticking around and have a great day! 

Stephen Palmer 

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