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Deciphering Celtic Knots in Celtic Jewelry

Nov 2, 2007
If you go to an average website that sells Celtic jewelry, you'll typically find that the "meanings" of knot patterns are based more on marketing than universal truth. What you are not told is how the "meaning" is derived. Indeed, the Celts left no written records. Yet we do know that the Celts were a tribal group that lived intimately with the natural world. All that exists in form has a particular shape and these shapes actually have certain functions. Circles, squares, triangles and crosses are the blue prints. They also are the basis of Celtic knots in Celtic jewelry. Let's take a quick look at the meaning of these blue prints so that you will be able to understand for yourself how to interpret knots in Celtic jewelry.

The line: Everything starts with an individual point of view, a line or vector that is a trajectory toward a certain destination. No matter whether the line is straight, curved or irregular, it has a beginning and an end. Lines in Celtic jewelry design have a cohesive pattern which has symbolic meaning.

Cross motifs: From the line, the most basic element of any piece of Celtic jewelry knot work is the crossing of two lines. Any time that two separate paths cross, you have the possibility of a new perspective. Look at the lines in a piece and decide in a general sense whether the pattern flows with harmony, or is it more jagged with points, suggesting a rich and potent discord?

Circles motifs: The most basic knot is circular or has parts of circles. Consider, now, what a circle symbolizes. Look around you right now with your round eyes and see all that is in the form of the circle. We speak of a circle of friends and the cycle of the days and seasons. Certainly circle teaches about equality and community. Circles are cohesive wholes that allow life to exist as it is. In rings, circles are symbolic of commitment.

Wave motifs: Parts of circles - the arcs - form wave like patterns. Waves are fundamental expressions of all that exists. Particle physics states that matter itself exists in waves. On a more basic level, remember what it is like to be in the ocean and feel the steady rhythm of waves. Waves represent steady, regular movement and flow over time.

Square motifs: Squares are not all that common in nature, be we as human beings do depend upon them. Look at where you see squares around you and you will understand how this blue print concerns structures and foundations. Also, squares are said to symbolize the five senses-four points and the center.

Triangular motifs: In nature, you find triangles in the features of birds, the tops of waves and the end of leaves. Humans use triangles to create arrows and to create pyramids. You can begin to see how a triangular pattern, or vectors, might suggest focused energy directed toward a specific point.

Spiral motifs: The spiral is an ancient motif that is found all over the world. Spirals are actually elements of spheres, which are three dimensional circles. Consider how events in your life may outwardly appear the same, but over time, your view changes. Spirals represent growth or evolution in your own circle walk, which is another way of saying, your life journey.

Trinity motifs: Trinity motifs are common in Celtic jewelry designs. Many religious traditions, of course, have their own profound understanding of what the trinity means. Basically, from the most universal perspective, the trinity represents Unity that is divided into two parts, male or female. The Celtic trinity symbolized the mother, maiden and crone; earth, heavens and the underworld; and the past present and future.

Now, that you have had your quick course in sacred geometry; get started with your interpretation of a Celtic knot! What attracts us to a particular motif is often mysterious, but you can perhaps gain some insight based on these interpretations. Look at one of the jewelry knot motifs. Imagine that you are riding on its track. How does it feel? Next, consider the shapes and begin to interpret the symbolic meaning based on some of the ideas mentioned above. Finally, consider what the knot motif might teach you about your life now.
About the Author
Marc Choyt is President of Reflective Images, an award winning jewelry company, www.celticjewelry.com that sells wedding rings sourced by artisan designers online at www.artisanweddingrings.com. His company produces fair, eco-sourced, fairly trade jewelry. Marc also authors www.fairjewelry.org supporting green, fair trade, socially responsible jewelry practices.
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