Kim Doherty
Unique handmade textiles
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What do Celtic Symbols & Designs Mean? “The Hounds”

Symbols since the 5th century B.C.,  hounds appeared as companions of both male and female divinities, and have many layers of symbols.  The basis for its many layers is the dog’s senses of hearing, smelling and orientation, which is shared in humans.

The female side stands for fertility, healing ( licking wounds ), and love.  The male side stands for hunting, fighting and death.   They symbolise the strong bond between human and animal, and are protective watchers, and traditional guardian animals of roads & crossways, both in this world and the Otherworld, where they are believed to protect and guide lost souls.

Gallic (around Turkey) Gods of healing springs had sacred dogs, and votive offerings to these Gods often portrayed dogs and their owners.

Hounds, invariably magical, were the constant companions of many Celtic heroes.  To be called a “Hound” was an honourable name for a courageous warrior.


Hounds Black  Page 29r Book of Kells Hounds in Matthew  Page 29r Book of Kells Hounds in Matthew Detail

Embroidered Celtic Hounds as           Page 29r Book of Kells       Page 29r Book of Kells showing

appears on my T-shirts                                                                         detail of Hounds (bottom right)



This representation of the hounds, which I embroider onto my range of T-Shirts, cushions, bags & scarves, is from the “Book of Kells”, which is one of the finest and most famous hand-illustrated manuscripts of its kind.  It is currently on display at the Trinity College, Dublin, Ireland.  It is a gospel manuscript, made probably around 800 A.D..  The Book of  Kells is pone of the best examples of what is known as the Insular style.  This style of art was produced in post-Roman history in Britain & Ireland, when Christianity had become widespread.  It employs extremely intricate decoration & knotwork, spirals, illuminated manuscripts & many motifs.  It is quite unique in Britain & Ireland, and quite recognisable as different to the European style.

This Hounds design also incorporates knotwork, which we  will discuss in more detail next time.  As you can see, there is no visible end & beginning, symbolising the endless cycle of life.  It also incorporates the all-important “3”, and all it represents, as previously discussed.

Humankind has had a close relationship with animals, particularly those seen as companion animals, such as dogs & cats.  I know in my own life, they play an important role, giving me much pleasure, laughter, and mutual love and loyalty.  This design is a bit of a favourite for me.