Claddaghs, Triskeles, and Knots: Oh My!

TZ |ET Student

For many years, Celtic artwork has been a source of fascination and beauty for me. I remember studying it briefly in high school for a project about Celtic mythology. I even wear a Claddagh ring on my finger, as a promise ring. While walking around Ireland, I noticed that there are certain patterns and motifs that show up quite a bit in Irish art and jewelry. I found myself wanting to re-examine these symbols and their meanings, so I have chosen three different symbols to extrapolate further.

The Claddagh Ring


A photo of the Claddagh Ring I wear on my finger. | Photo by TZ

This particular symbol consists of two hands grasping a heart. It is named after the Irish town of Claddagh (pronounced “clah-dah”), where there is a local legend of a man who was kidnapped, but then made it back home to present a ring to his true love. The hands represent friendship, the heart represents love, and the crown represents loyalty. The symbol still carries a series of romantic meanings today. If a young woman were to purchase a claddagh ring, then according to tradition, she must wear it on the ring finger of her right hand with the heart pointing inward if she is single, or pointing outward if she is in a relationship or engaged. If she is married, then the ring is worn on her left hand with the heart pointing outward.

The Triskele


In the center of the metalwork, there is an example of a triskele. | Photo by TZ

The triskele is triangular in shape, with each point of the triangle consisting of a spiral. This symbol has a variety of meanings. These include the sun, the afterlife, pregnancy, reincarnation, and the three natural domains: earth, water, and sky. The three swirls suggest continuous movement through time as in the various stages of life. The interconnectedness of the three spirals is thought to suggest how nature is interconnected with itself, as well. The triskele is also closely related to the triquetra, which is a symbol that the Christians appropriated from the Celts, and turned into the modern sign for the Trinity.

The Celtic Knot

There are many different variations of the Celtic knot, but all forms of the Celtic knot consist of a single line that


A bookmark I purchased in Ireland. Celtic knotwork surrounds the Claddagh Ring motif. | Photo by TZ

weaves its way around itself in a never ending pattern. Since the Celtic knot is so old, its original meaning has been lost to the ages. However, one common interpretation of the Celtic knot is that of eternity, due to the cyclical nature of the design. The weaving nature of the knot could represent interconnectedness. Oftentimes, in manuscripts or carvings, there will be animals that are thrown into the knots. These could represent the interconnection of humans and the animal kingdom, which falls in line with the animistic beliefs of the Celtic people.

Categories: Arts & Culture

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