Celtic Symbols — the art, the symbols, the Celtic symbolism and the meaning of their handiwork is associated with people known as Celts. Celtic symbols, Celtic signs, and Celtic art carry great meaning and power and you can learn how to use Celtic symbols in your life. Many of the meanings of the Celtic symbols that were used within the Celtic languages in pre-historic Europe during the medieval period and beyond, including the art, symbols, and symbolism were derived from the old tribal clans whose the language may be unknown, but the cultural and stylistic similarities lead us to believe they were linked with the Celts. Meanings behind the symbols, in many cases, can now only be assumed based on the context or surroundings in which the symbols are discovered or exist, but often, the repetition of such circumstances is frequent enough that assumptions can be made with some modicum of certainty or at least confidence.
With Celtic Symbols, the art, the symbols, and the Celtic symbolism is ornamental and markedly lacking in the use of straight lines with only occasional symmetry and absent a defined imitation or attempted representation of nature or ideals central to the harmonic beauty we find in the classical traditions, but nevertheless it remains such that one can understand and even appreciate its involved and frequently complex symbolism. Celtic art includes a variety of styles and frequently incorporates elements that have been just subtly modified from those of other cultures. A good example of just this sort of thing is the characteristic on-and-under interlacing—weaving—that only arrived on the Celtic scene in the 6th century; a style that had fallen out of favor with the Germanic peoples. Celtic art has three "traditions" with the symbols and the symbolism, first to be the continental art of the age of iron, and the symbols and symbolism associated mainly with the cultural extraction from native sources, some being roughly classical and perhaps some that originated in the Mediterranean's eastern regions.
As the art of the age of iron expanded with its symbols and the symbolism of Great Britain and Ireland being intertwined, extractions in the continental tradition occurred and added and shaped distinctive regional styles. The "Celtic Renaissance" affected the advanced and even average people of Ireland and in part, the symbols and symbolism of Great Britain, which sprang from that period and today are also called art, remain unique. This third tradition gave form to the basis for the foundations of the art, the symbols, and the symbolism of the revival of Celtic decoration that started with a dim spark, but carried through—the 19th century. The results are extremely pretty, not only in the styling's of the decorative writing, but also in the pictures and sculptures.
We've just opened up an exciting new archive of ancient and rare Celtic symbols and meanings from the mysteries of the Druids. Great new full-color images of Celtic signs, symbols and sigils:
Some Nordic types and Celtic trends of the art that emerged from the Northern Basin required a virtual suspension of reality to be understood and appreciated. These pieces for the most part had been created by Celtic craftsmen during the time of conquests of the Anglican armies of England. They had been based on projects that were distinctly Roman and made generally of copper with 3 or 4 rows of the brass throughout the superior edge, such that they had been undoubtedly formed with the use of superior tools and methods of metallurgy. Some of the finest examples of the handiwork that have been found had even been enameled. These were shining examples of technological advances and the knowledge of their manufacture spread through Scotland and Ireland in the 8th century.
There exist several transversal monuments of rock that capture scenes from biblical stories in the relief that was carved and that also generally copy scenes of sculptures of the ivory and frescoes of the day that existed in the more civilized areas of the continent. Known in Ireland, Scotland and Wales, the people who produced such works were also known for their production and perfection of the form of the Celtic cross. Likewise with the Rock of Pictish. The Rock of Pictish is a rectangular flagstone of the with a cross carved in relief in the face of the flagstone, with other pictures and forms carved throughout. Organized in three basic design areas, and based on the period of the origin, which was likely Hiberno-Saxon, it is the fusing of illuminated techniques practiced by Celtic peoples and rarely seen in any manuscript of instruction, even with techniques of the metalworking Anglicans, that are most overtly outstanding. Such an occurrence, at a time when the missionaries of the Celtic Irish had traveled the North Umbria in the 7th and 8th centuries, allowed for the production of some of the most prominent Celtic art of the ages, found in illustrated and ornate manuscripts, fine and precise metalworking, and breathtaking sculpture.
In Ireland, one heritage of an entire Celtic tribe existed before and during all of the Roman Age in Great Britain. It was a tribal heritage that the Roman consulates never discovered, and thus the 5th and through the 7th centuries, there remained a continuation of the heritage that greatly impacted the progress made in the age of iron. Through the heritage, and by the 7th and 8th centuries, Irish art mixed with the Germanic traditions through an amalgamation of Irish contact remnants of design carried by the missionaries with the Anglican tribal clans and their cultural traditions, and resulted in the creating of a style that today is called Hiberno-Saxon. Later in this same period, Scandinavian influences were added through contact with the Vikings and this caused the then original Celtic Work Lode to come to a fruition of style, form and design with the Norman invasion in 1169-1170 and a subsequent introduction of the style that would come to be known as Romanesque. All of this took place, in large part, because of the seemingly unimportant travels through the 7th and 8th centuries of the missionaries that had come from the Celtic Irish clans and subsequently traveled the North Umbria in Great Britain and brought with them the Irish tradition of the illustration of the manuscript, that brought contact with knowledge and motifs of metalworking that were uniquely Anglican.
In monasteries of North Umbria these abilities were considered to be fundamental and had been transmitted probably to wide areas of Scotland and Ireland. Again, this product of this fusing of Celtic and Germanic that was called the style of Hiberno-Saxon produced masterpieces that were created by craftsmen and artists of unparalleled skill for their day, including the Brooch de Tara, the Ardagh Chalice and the Derrynaflan Chalice. The new techniques they were using were filigree and fine carving, and when motifs that were newly developed were introduced, these craftsmen and artists quickly learned them and tested them for possible new applications and improvements. The Book of Durrow is an example of such innovative handiwork. Along with it, the illustrated book of the Gospel produced in approximately 700 C.E. and the Gospels de Lindisfarne, done in the style of Hiberno-Saxon and probably developed entirely with detailed pages that seem to become incandescent through a broad palette of shimmering colors. This art form reached its apex in the late 8th century, which only delayed such works as the Book of Kells.
In the 9th and 10th centuries the applications of smooth silver changed a popular way of presentation in Olde England, probably because of the improvements in distribution and circulation, but also likely due at least in part to the Viking ways of negotiation and invasion. These Viking ways became self-fulfilling during this time and a magnificent number of brooches of silver were created in Ireland. Around the same time, a popular manuscript of the time, whose production had started to decline, was blamed on those same Vikings, but all data seems to show that the decline had actually started long before the Vikings arrived. Sculpture on the other hand had started to blossom in the form of a cross of great rock that captured and conveyed Biblical scenes, carved in the relief style. Relief carving in rock, and in particular the carving of crosses in rock, reached its apex in the 10th century, but left many fine examples, such as the Cross of Muiredach in Monasterboice and the High Cross of Ahenny.
The real impact of the Vikings in Irish art is not truly seen until the 11th century when the Irish metal work began to imitate the Scandinavian styles of Ringerike and Urnes: works like the Cross of Cong, found in Mayo county. These Viking influences have also been found in abandoned jousting arenas like one near the center of the Norse de Dublin, where throughout the entire field there are rock monuments such as the Cross of Doorty in Kilfenora and the crosses found in the Rock of Cashel.
The following Celtic symbols are commonly used in the practice of magic.
The Spiral is probably the oldest symbol of human spirituality. One has been being scratched on rocks for thousands of years and on every continent in the world. The religious meaning can be only conjectured, but it has been found in the tombs and it possibly has a connection with the sun since it is that the sun does a spiral form every three months in its routes. A triple spiral adornment discovered in the Celtic tombs was formed unicursally, that is to say, in a solid continuous line, suggesting a cycle of the Renaissance period styles or even perhaps symbolizing the resurrection. This resurrection hypothesis is encouraged by the fact that many of these spirals appear to be deliberately placed where the first rays of the sun appear in the solstice. Even today, spirals continue to be spiritually significant. It is an important symbol in Wicca and an emblem of the goddess.
Sheela-Na-Gig is a stunningly unusual figure that's immediately noticeable when found in Celtic and medieval stone cuttings. Sheela-na-gig conjures up imaginings uncommonly possible and implausible like a woman in a squatting position, an ugly feminine creature using its hands to exhibit grotesque genital organs. Sheela-na-gigs of several historical ages adorn obelisks of stone throughout the Irish fields and countryside. They can also be seen carved into cathedrals and churches of stone in Ireland and England and in many, are integrated into the ornamental work itself, in and throughout most of greater Europe, often in tandem with images and representations of the green man. Sheela-na-gig is undoubtedly related to the ancient Celtic goddess in a less than currently desirable form. And as their images are believed to be much older than the churches they often appear inside, this would suggest to any rational mind that Sheela-na-gigs are likely elements of some much older religious beliefs and that is why they are commonly found on such sites. In addition, many Sheela-na-gigs closely resemble old figures found in Viking encampments and settlements that are believed to be representations of Ormgudinna, a goddess of the creator.
The Cernunnos is a mysterious horned deity that was worshipped by the Celts during the Iron Age throughout most of Europe until the end of the first century. Very little is known about Cernunnos except his name and his image, which appears in stone carvings found in numerous locations and on implements and objects throughout Europe. The image of Cernunnos typically appears crowned with the horns of the male gender, seated in a meditative position, and almost always surrounded by wild animal images. Cernunnos's Celtic name is not known, although he is believed to be associated with Derg Corra, the Celtic Man in the Tree, perhaps the Green Man. The word Cernunnos has a meaning well-known to the Romans as the One of Horns. The Romans often associated the reference of Cernunnos with Herne the Hunter, a character found in popular British myth and again, with the Green Man found frequently adorning European architecture. The Roman invaders of the northern lands associated Cernunnos with one of their favorite gods, Mercury. They also made an association of Cernunnos linking him once again with not only the European legend, Herne the Hunter, but also with an aspect of the Christian faith, Satan, the devil. The image that appears above was taken from a ritual object of undetermined use, discovered in a marsh in Denmark.
The Triquetra or as it is sometimes called, the triqueta, is a symbol of a trinity. Its trinity is integrated by three fish interlocked at the center, marking the intersection of three circles. It is commonly held that the triquetra is possibly an ancient symbol of the Holy Trinity (Father, Son, and Holy Spirit of the Christian faith) that was used by the ancient Celtic Christian church. The triquetra is sometimes streamlined into three interlaced fish. In fact, the symbol of the triqueta predates Christianity and was probably a Celtic symbol of their Goddess, and farther to the north, a symbol of the Norse god, Odin. Although the "triquetra" is commonly used today as a symbol of a tripartite goddess, there has actually been no real association established to confirm such a belief nor has the triquetra actually ever been factually linked to any known goddess with such a symbol. Symbols similar to the triquetra appear in some Nordic and Celtic images of the Goddess, but it has long been held that such sigils likely represent the divisions of the sea kingdom from the dominions of the Earth above. Triplicities were symbols commonly used in Celtic myth and legend, and one that easily crossed over to the Christian belief for many possible reasons, but especially since it would have been adopted so easily by Celtic people. The triqueta makes an ideal Christian symbol. Firstly, it is a practically perfect representation of the near-and-dear Christian concept of "three in one" in the Christian belief of the Holy Trinity. Secondly, the triquetra incorporates another popular Christian symbol, the fish, in its original form of the Vejiga de Pez (latin), which itself has been the subject of mystical speculation through the ages, the first of these speculators perhaps being the Pythagoreans, who considered the Vejiga de Pez to be a sacred figure. In the beliefs of modern-day Wiccans and Neopagans, the triqueta symbolizes the triple aspect of the Goddess (Father, Mother, and Crone). And while some Christians have protested this "appropriation" of the symbol, their protests are ironic in that, in the triquetra's original form, it served as the pattern for the Christian fish symbol that was derived from an early symbol of Venus, consisting of a representation of feminine generative organs that perfectly made the appropriate symbol of the triquetra for a representation of the goddess. The Triquetra is also considered to represent the triplicities of the mind, the body, and the soul, as well as the three Earth dominions according to Celtic legend of the Earth, the sea, and the Sky.
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