Celtic Symbols and their meanings

Celt is a tribe of people sharing similar culture, language, customs and traditions. Ancient celts populate the British Isles and Western Europe. Their history dates as far back as 1200 B.C. You can still find traces of their cultural heritage in Ireland even today.

The people in Ireland still celebrate Celtic mythology and culture and speak the language even today. Many of the Celtic customs have been eroded with the advent of modernization, but several of the cultures are still observed today. One of the factors bearing witness to the Celtic background of Ireland is the Celtic symbol. There are still many of them around today and we will discuss them in a few.

celtic symbols

The symbols are ornate and primitive a single look at them will bring back the memories of a glorious, traditional past and celtic mythology stories.

They have many ancient meanings: protection, family, animals, friendship, father, mother, brother, sister, daughter and more.

In the remaining part of this write-up, we will discuss some of these irish celtic symbols and also inform you about what they symbolize.


Popular Celtic Symbols and their meanings


Carolingian Cross

carolingian cross

It is a cross consisting of four uniform arms. It looks like the Celtic Cross or Brigid’s Cross, but this one is more elaborate than the former. The cross connotes things like the eternity of God, balance and unity in Celtic culture.

Claddagh ring

claddagh ring

This symbol represents love, loyalty and friendship a simple look into its background indicates that it originates more from Irish contemporary tradition than from ancient Celtic background.

Be that as it may, it has a very strong connection with Ireland. The ring is usually given as a gift to someone you love and to pass the message of love across to the recipient.


Celtic tree of life

celtic tree of life

This symbol represents intuition and imagination. It is a stunning symbol indeed and is related to the Emerald Isle. The image is in the form of a tree and its roots with the roots flourishing above the ground. This image suggests the oneness and bond with nature and all its elements.

The meaning can, however, differ slightly from time to time, depending on the type of tree in the illustration. If it is a willow tree, it indicates intuition and imagination. Family, friends and protection.


The Celtic cross

the celtic cross

The image symbolizes energy and light. Celtic crosses have a very strong association with Ireland and you can find many of them close to the Emerald Isle. The symbol is made up of the traditional cross in Christianity with a ring surrounding and interlocking the intersection of the cross.


The Triskele


This image symbolizes spirit, mind and body. This is a Celtic image symbolizing three district points usually referred to as the holy trinity, the father, the son and the Holy Spirit. Studies show that this symbol is among the oldest of all Celtic symbols and has been part of the Irish tradition for eons. You can check the Newgrange prehistoric monument for the examples of this symbol.

The Triskele is derived from a Greek word that means “three legs”. Some other meanings are given to the symbol anyway; some allude it to body-mind-spirit, while some other set of people say it symbiosis life-death-rebirth.


The Awen


It is referred to as the Three Rays of Light and it signifies essence. It is usually seen in ancient Irish tradition and means “inspiration”. This symbol, just like many other symbols in Irish ancient tradition, has three parts or key components.

The harp

the harp

This symbol signifies Royalty. There is also more to it than just an Irish Celtic symbol. The symbol is equally linked with the county itself and Ireland remains the only country placing a musical instrument in its national emblem.

There is a very strong link between this symbol and royalty and its strings represent the arms of the king. You will recall that this is also the logo used by Guinness. You can equally find it on Irish Euro coins.


Brigid’s cross

brigid's cross

This Celtic symbol represents peace and goodness. Anyone that has spent ample time in Ireland would have come across this symptom, which indicates how very popular the symbol is. This symbol is usually created by students in school during craft projects and you will see it being hung on the wall in the home of many traditional families in Ireland.

The cross is a symbol associated with Christianity but linked to Brigid of the Tuatha de Danan. The symbol equally has links with Irish mythology, in which case it symbolizes goodness and peace.


The shamrock

the shamrock

This is yet another Celtic symbol that stands for the Holy Trinity in Christianity and luck. This symbol is even considered as the national flower of Ireland. It has three leaves and it is believed to bring luck by the Irish.

Furthermore, the symbol has links with St Patrick; he used it as a metaphor for the Holy Trinity. Additionally, the image was seen as a symbol of rebellion and nationalism in the 19th century.


The trinity knot

trinity knot

This is yet another ancient Celtic symbol and it stands for being, spirit life and eternal. The celtic knot is about the most memorable of all the available ancient Celtic symbols.

Another name for celtic knots is the Triquetra and it is made up of a knotted triangular shape, which is composed of an unbroken, continuous line. It is usually illustrated using a circle that interlocks the knot.

As mentioned earlier, this symbol translates to being, spiritual life and eternal. It is also a Christian symbol, it translates to the Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit.


The Green man

the green man

This is yet another noteworthy ancient Celtic symbol. It is represented in so many cultures as the head of a man made of foliage.

You can also see celtic symbolism in many structures, celtic art and buildings in Britain and Ireland. It is considered as a symbol of co-dependence between man and nature, as well as, the symbol of rebirth. It equally symbolizes the lushness and beauty of vegetation, as well as, the advent of summer and spring.

This symbol is carved on many Christian churches in many places in Europe. It is equally the idea behind the design of the Seven Green Men of Nicosia in Cyprus; this is a series Seven Carved Green Men dating as far back as the thirteenth century. The image adorns the face of St Nicholas Church in Nicosia.