Irish Symbols

Animal Motifs – Zoomorphic

An agricultural people, who lived in harmony with the land and the turning of the seasons, the Celts had a deep love for the natural world. This is aptly demonstrated throughout the ancient manuscripts, where vivid animal motifs abound. Some like the eagle and the lamb, are profoundly significant, while countless others emerge from the delicate harmony of knots and weaves in an exuberant celebration of the natural world.

Book of Kells

The Book of Kells is the best known source of Celtic knots as well as other types of Celtic ornament. It is a fantastic collection of paintings that illuminate the four Gospels in Latin, penned circa 800 AD.

To a large extent, the great reputation which Celtic art and design have today is based on the exceptional quality of the images found in the Book of Kells. The incredible degree of ornament and detail caused Giraldus Cambrensis in the 13th century to call it: "the work not of men, but of angels."

Celtic Cross

The subtle merging of cultures which characterised the ancient Celtic Church is nowhere better represented than in the imagery of the Celtic Cross. Here the Sun Wheel; symbol of the eternal cycle of life, death and the rebirth is joined with the Christian Cross symbol of the risen Christ.

To this day, at dozens of monastic sites throughout these islands, these exquisitely carved monuments bare silent testimony to the deep faith and bold artistry of their creators.

In Ireland, it is a popular myth that the Celtic cross was introduced to the island by Saint Patrick during his time converting the pagan Irish. It is believed that he combined the symbol of Christianity, a cross, with the symbol of the sun, to give pagan followers an idea of the importance of the cross by linking it with the idea of the life-giving properties of the sun.

Celtic Ogham

Ogham was a system of writing which used horizontal or slanting notches cut on stone or wood to indicate letters. Existing examples suggest that Ogham was used primarily on grave and boundary markers. Evidence exists however, to support its use by Druids for recording tales, histories, poetry, genealogies, and the like. In addition, each letter was named for a particular tree, and a vast lore of religious and mythological knowledge could be encoded in cryptic verse. The names of the main twenty letters are the names of 20 trees sacred to the druids.

There is no direct evidence that the Ogham alphabet was used [in antiquity] for divination or any other magical purposes. It has twenty letters, grouped into four 'aicme' of five letters each. A fifth Aicme (consisting of another five letters) was invented later to account for sounds in Latin that do not occur in Gaelic.

OGHAM LETTERSTREES
 LetterStandard NamePronouncedEnglish NameScientific Name
B Beth (BETH) Birch Betula pendula
L Luis (LWEESH) Rowan Sorbus aucuparia
F Fearn (FAIR-n) Alder Alnus glutinosa
S Saille (SHAL-yuh) Willow Salix alba
N Nion (NEE-uhn) Ash Fraxinus excelsior
H Huath (HOO-ah) Hawthorn Crataegus spp.
D Duir (DOO-r) Oak Quercus robur
T Tinne (CHIN-yuh) Holly Ilex aquifolium
C Coll (CULL) Hazel Corylus avellana
Q Quert (KWAIRT) Apple Malus sylvestris
M Muin (MUHN) Vine Vitis vinifera
G Gort (GORT) Ivy Hedera helix
Ng Ngetal (NYEH-tl) Reed Phragmites australis
Ss Straif (STRAHF) Blackthorn Prunus spinosa
R Ruis (RWEESH) Elder Sambucus nigra
A Ailm (AHL-m) White Fir Abies alba
O Onn (UHN) Gorse Ulex europaeus
U Ura (OO-rah) Heather Calluna vulgaris
E Eadha (EH-yuh) Aspen Populus tremula
I Idho (EE-yoh) Yew Taxus baccata

Celtic Spiral

Perhaps the best-known of all Celtic motifs this triple spiral dates back to the 5,000 year old tomb complex at Newgrange. Thought originally to have symbolised the Eternal Cycle of Life, Death and Rebirth, in later times it came to represent the Great Goddess and her threefold manifestation of virgin, mother and crone. It was a much-favoured ornamental device used in the Christian Golden Age and remains a unique symbol of our Celtic Heritage.

Harp

The Harp is the oldest official symbol of Ireland. Used on coins and all official documentation.

Celtic Knotwork

The simple, yet profound, beauty of the unbroken line, forming delicately complex patterns of weaves and knots, perfect in their symmetry, permeates all of the great achievements of Celtic art. The interlacing lines of the Celtic Knot stands for "no beginning, no ending, the continuity of everlasting love and binding together or intertwinning of two sould or spirits

Christianity has embraced much of the ancient Celtic symbolism and had adapted many Celtic Knots into high crosses and illuminated manuscripts.

Leaf

Award winning range from the Autumn Gift Fair in Dublin . Inspired by the picturesque Irish landscape and crafted in quality sterling silver.

Original Celtic Cross

A cross woven with a sun wheel – a symbol of ancient Celtic cultures. In modern times it inspires vital energy.

Shamrock

Comes from the word ‘seamrog’ meaning little clover. St. Patrick the patron saint of Ireland used it to explain the Holy Christian Trinity.

Spiral

Perhaps the best known of all Celtic Motifs, the spiral dates back the 5000 year old tomb of Newgrange. Thought to represent the Eternal Cycle of Life, it has become a much favoured ornamental device and remains a unique symbol of our Celtic Heritage. This is a stylish range of Irish spirals.

Sun wheel

The Celts were the ancient inhabitants of much of Europe. A spiritual people, their rich mythology and symbology later merged with the Christian beliefs they embraced to create a distinctive art seen especially in Ireland and Scotland.

The Celtic Cross is known throughout the world as the emblem of Celtic Christianity and it can be considered the symbol of Celticness itself. Celtic Crosses began to appear during the fifth century A.D. Its shape is derived from a pagan sun symbol, the sunwheel, which later became a symbol of the Christian Godhead. The sunwheel was originally a cross surrounded by a circle with a center stone representing the sun and "mock suns" at the four quarters. The stone at the center of the circle also represents the navel of the world. The stone pillar of the cross also embodies phallic and fertility characteristics. The cross represents eternal life; it's horizontal axis being the earthly world and the vertical axis the heavenly world coming together as the union of Heaven and Earth.

Celtic Crosses are imbued with continuous and interwoven knot and spiral motifs symbolizing the continuity of life, death and rebirth. Celtic Crosses often have images of the Christian crucifiction, patriarchs and saints.

Trinity Knot (Triquetra)

The simplest of Celtic Knots symbolizing a triune God. The Celts were very familiar with the idea of the trinity, everything came in threes; the three stages of womanhood: maid, mother, crone; and the three elements: earth, fire, and water. Christianity embraced this knot to symbolize the Father, Son, and Holy Ghost in many of the early Christian illuminated manuscripts such as the Book of Kells. The combination of the trinity knot into rings, linens, jewelry, and other bridal designs is associated with eternity and eternal love.

Triskelle (Triple Spiral)

The triskele, or triple spiral, a symbol closely related to the triquetra, is a tripartite symbol composed of three interlocked spirals. The spiral is an ancient Celtic symbol related to the sun, afterlife and reincarnation. This symbol can be found at the Neolithic "tomb" at Newgrange, where it is supposed by some to be a symbol of pregnancy (the sun describes a spiral in its movements every three months; a triple spiral represents nine months), an idea reinforced by the womb like nature of the structure. The symbol also suggests reincarnation- it is drawn in one continuous line, suggesting a continuous movement of time.

Triskeles are one of the most common elements of Celtic art; they are found in a variety of styles in both ancient and modern Celtic art, especially in relation to depictions of the Mother Goddess. They also evoke the Celtic concept of the domains of material existence- earth, water, and sky, and their interrelations.