Celtic knotwork is one of the most ancient and most prolific Irish design motifs. Concentric circles have been found carved into stone around this island, and we’ve been knitting knotwork designs into sweaters for generations. It’s etched into glassware, engraved into silver and gold Celtic jewelry and printed on t-shirts. In a culture known for literature, the book that stands out the most isn’t one written by Irish author. It’s the Bible, specifically the Book of Kells, and its pages are adorned with intricate, delicate knotwork that was painstakingly handwritten by monks.
What Is a Celtic Knot?
Celtic knotwork is an umbrella term rather than a single design. While this iconic design can take many forms, they have some key things in common. The main one is that there is no beginning or end to the lines. The knots are always made with an infinite loop. The lines are also flowing and rounded. Sometimes a trinity knot might feature pointed loops, but Celtic knots are more round than square. This reflects the same approach as the earliest neolithic carvings in Ireland, which are spirals and circles.
What Does Celtic Knotwork Symbolize?
Because they are made with a single, unending line, all styles of Celtic knots can symbolize eternity. That’s why they are so popular on wedding and engagement rings, as well as other romantic Irish gifts. These knots go so far back in time, it is difficult to link each style of knot to a very specific meaning. But some are less mysterious than others.
The trinity knot is formed of three loops. Three was a very important number to the ancient Irish. In pre-Christian times, the people worshipped a triple goddess. Most families have three generations of a family living at the same time – children, parents and grandparents – and our lives can be seen in three major stages – childhood, our working adulthood and our golden years. Time is divided into the past, present and future. And of course, in Christianity we have the Holy Trinity of Father, Son and Holy Spirit. The trinity knot has been used to represent any and all of these.
Irish Gifts with Celtic Knots
These intricate knotwork designs are stunning when they are center stage as the focal point of a necklace, ring or earrings. But they also give many other Irish gifts the detail that makes them so distinctly Celtic.
The Tree of Life design often involves knotwork elements in the branches, roots and trunk. That is such a perfect combination because both motifs date back to ancient times. Christianity came to Ireland after these styles were well established, and embraced them. Celtic crosses are decorated in elaborate knotwork designs. And of course, some of the most famous knotwork designs are those in the Book of Kells. The colorful creatures such as hounds and herons with their bodies and necks rendered in knotwork are amazing works of art. Incorporating knotwork into another traditional motif makes for a stunning, very Irish look whether it is jewelry, textiles, pottery or some other Irish gifts.