Kim Doherty
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What do Celtic Designs & Symbols Mean_ “KNOTWORK”

So…continuing on in this series of info, and  bits & pieces regarding Celtic designs & symbols, let’s have a little look at Knotwork.  Knotwork is incorporated into most of Celtic designs, in some form or another.  As I have previously mentioned, there is a common belief that each knot, spiral & interlacing animal has an individual specific meaning;  and indeed, the question “what does it mean” is often put to me.

Because there is no definitive historical guide to Celtic designs (unlike the ancient Egyptian Rosetta Stone), and the history & stories were only begun to be recorded some 2000 years down the track makes it difficult to interpret symbology. However, from discovered artefacts and ruins and sites, we can see patterns (no pun intended) forming as to positioning of types and styles of designs. So we do rely on scholars and archaeologists who study the symbols in context.

The various styles of knotwork can be generally thought of as representing the crossings of the spiritual and physical paths in our lives.  So, with no visible end and beginning, and the continual looping of the designs suggests themes of eternity and interconnectedness.

Generally speaking, the shape of the knotwork can suggest its meaning.  Circle knots represent eternity or the eternal cycle of life, death and rebirth.

Triangles represent the three-fold dominion of earth, sea and sky.

Square knots are shield knots;  symbols of protection.

Interlaced animals and men represent relationship, or emphasise the interdependence of humankind and nature.

Of course, a great deal of knotwork is purely decorative, particularly that which we see appearing in the exquisite illuminated manuscripts of the 7th to 9th centuries.

Celtic knotwork variations are as endless as the artists who created them thousands of years ago and continue to create them now.  Here’s some of my simplified & dynamic designs and a bit of the Book of Kells! The motivation for the design determines the meaning……….. I’m constantly agog at the endless variations & meanings to me……

What does it mean for you?   I’m interested……………

Circle Knot BlackIMG_0289IMG_9184Brayde Blackbook of kells detailBook of Kells knotwork