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The symbolism of the Celtic Knot

Oct 04, 2018 0 comments
The symbolism of the Celtic Knot

The Celtic Knot Symbols

Who does not know these splendid motifs that are the celtic knot? In Europe, they decorate many monuments and works from the pagan and Christian periods. Although nowadays it is customary to believe that it is a typically Celtic art, it should be pointed out that this is not true. Certainly, Celtic culture, especially from the 8th century A.D. onwards, was characterised by magnificent interlacing such as those in the Book of Kells, but when studying archaeological finds, it must be realised that interlacing was not only the work of the Celts. As we have seen here, many runic stones and other German-Nordic works of art also have splendid interlacing. Among the Slavs, too, there are beautiful examples of this.

The sifnification of the Celtic Knot

The question at this level is to know exactly what is the origin of the interlacing pattern. It would seem that none of these 3 cultures is at the origin of interlacing, neither Celtic, nor German-Nordic, nor Slavic. And yet it was the Celts and the Nordics who made the interlacing famous. Although not everyone agrees on the subject, everything seems to indicate that the origin is Roman. Indeed, many mosaics from the Roman period have a very high number of intertwining layers, and they are historically the first to be known. Here is a nice example on the following picture


Despite this Roman origin, it can be seen that from the beginning the German-Nordic culture developed its own style after being influenced by the Roman example. A similar phenomenon occurred with the Germanic bracteates, those amulets of Roman origin but which became typically Germanic. The motifs of these amulets were very early adapted to an imagery specific to the German-Nordic culture which has three main phases of interlacing.


In Celtic culture, the appearance of interlacing occurs slightly later than in the German and Nordic cultures. Celtic art inherited from the Bronze Age is originally presented in the following way


But here too, the fantastic artistic fibre of the Celts meant that a specific style of interlacing developed very quickly to reach heights such as that represented in the book of Kells, By clicking on this link, you can see The real book of kells which is currently available at The Library of Trinity College Dublin

What is certain is that the origin of the interlacing is pagan. With the interlacing as with so many other pagan symbols, Christianity has recovered motives by trying to appropriate them.

Celtic Knot Meaning

Now it is time to turn to the symbolism of interlacing itself. These motifs with a graph very close to the labyrinth can be compared to the symbolism of the Ouroboros, the snake that dies with its tail. It is the symbol of the endless movement of evolution and involution. It is the cyclical principle that regenerates itself and in itself. No single centre exists because the interlacing is based on the principle of infinity in constant expansion and contraction. They are thus a metaphor of destiny without beginning or end, an energy developed by the Norns of destiny that is generated in the infinity of space and time. A parallel can be drawn with the yarns of destiny woven by the Norns. The interlacing forms a unit of the cyclic movement that invites us to immerse ourselves in it, an immersion in the entanglement of the interlacing so deep that we thought that evil spirits were lost in it.


By uniting with this entanglement of intertwining, one becomes an integral part of this cyclical destiny and establishes an indestructible bond. With this notion opens up another dimension of symbolism linked to interlacing, that of links. The latter represent a very important value in European polytheistic traditions, because these links symbolize what unites the members of a clan between them, it is the links that connect the members of the same blood community. Let us note in passing, it is exactly this symbolism that is partly hidden behind the Othala rune, also known as the Odal rune. This notion is so important that even the Gods are called Böndr, the binders, the ones who forge sacred bonds.

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