Art History

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Symbols of the Celtic Heritage

Celtic art is the traditional art form connected with the Irish, Welsh, Scots and other nationalities with Celtic Heritage. It is easily identified by its geometric and abstract art elements. While the most common elements include elaborate knot work and interlaced designs, there are often spirals, key patterns and even human form incorporated as well. Although there is always something being explored, the original themes and motifs have been around for thousands of years.

Crosses

The Celtic cross is commonly associated with the eternal nature of God. The circle in the background is believed to represent the halo of the angels. One of the most widely believed origin stories is that St Patrick introduced this symbol to help bridge the gap between paganism and Christianity in the Irish region.

Knots

Knots are widely used in Celtic art and contain no beginning or end. Since it is a never ending path, it represents eternity and the ever changing nature of the world. It also shows how the cycles of life, including the rapid changing of the seasons, is everlasting. This pattern is supposed to give a person strength, knowing that everything in life is always continuing to go forward.

Line and Key Patterns

This often simple and elegant pattern is used to create the illusion of a maze, only it has no beginning or end. It is meant to represent the struggle in life and challenges we are all faced with. There is not finish line where it all becomes easier. This pattern is often used during meditation, to help the person focus on finding their path and accepting that there is no end to the puzzle.

Spirals

This pattern can represent different things, depending on how it is incorporated into the artistic design. A Single spiral is for the element of water and is expected to enhance your own sense of power. Two spirals is to show the dual nature inside of all of use, that good and bad that are constantly fighting for balance. A triple spiral is for the continuation of life, how time flows through life, death and rebirth. All of these are related to the nature of the human soul.

These are some of the most common symbols found in Celtic art, but not the only ones. Discovering new elements is part of the beauty in their art. You can find their influence in paintings, sculpture, jewelry, and much more. Explore and art form derived from a rich and ancient culture until you find a piece that speaks to you personally.

Amanda Hadley

About the Author

Amanda graduated from the University of Kansas, where she studied English literature and got a masters degree in library sciences. She enjoys reading, cooking and playing with her nephews. Her best friend is her little dog Brady.