When you look at a Celtic know you may be mesmerized by its infinite loop which has no starting point and no end. Although their design is universal, they are not fully understood. It is believed that they are meant to represent eternity.
First Known Celtic Knots
The first evidence of Celtic knots has been found to be after 450 A.D. due to the prevalent influence of Christianity on the Celtic civilization at that time. Many early Christian manuscripts and art pieces have Celtic knots within them, surrounded by plants, animals, and human figures. In Roman floor designs of the third century, many Celtic knot designs are clearly visible as well.
Throughout the world, Celtic knots have been found not only in Russian books but in Ethiopian, Medieval, and Islamic art. However, the greatest difficulty in finding a precise date for the first uses of Celtic knots is quite hard to determine due to the fact that the traditional culture of Celtic knots was passed down orally. Yet, there is no doubt that its influence started spreading aided by missionary expeditions that helped ensure that these complex designs made their way first to Europe and finally to the Scottish Highlands.
Assimilation of the Celtic Knots
Celtic knots suffered assimilation and adaptation in the different cultures that adopted their use. In the 7th century, its use became prevalent in northern Italy, later traveling to Ireland after having been used by the Picts and Northumbrians, among many others.
While the Celtic knot in the Irish culture of that era features consistently unending loops, Roman and Germanic cultures present it with occasional loose ends.
The Golden Age of Celtic Knots
The Celtic knots’ golden age lasted until the beginning of the 11th century when it coincided with the Norman Invasion. The tradition was kept alive due to its appreciation by wealthy aristocrats in Gaelic regions who paid handsomely for ornaments decorated with Celtic knotwork.
What is the meaning of the Celtic knot?
Through the years, many researchers have endeavored to find the meaning of these globally-known knots. They have come to believe that they were developed for both religious and secular reasons. There is evidence in the biblical manuscripts of the Christian era that their pages were adorned with Celtic crosses as were the pieces of jewelry in use at that time. What has turned out to be a much more difficult problem to decipher has been whether or not each particular Celtic knot design has its own significance.
As for the Celts themselves, history has revealed that these knots were not necessarily a reflection of their beliefs but rather a theme used as decorations when the need arose to fill empty areas, whether in the decoration of homes or religious spaces or, as mentioned above, to decorate manuscripts.
What seems to be clear, however, is that these interlaced designs are a positive reflection of the Celtic belief that in life there is interconnectedness as well as continuity. In more recent times, many scholars have attached personal interpretations to each design.
In some cases, the knots have been interpreted as symbolizing the connection between our lives and our place in the universe. Other designs are believed to represent an individual’s balance between their inner and outer self. Click here for more information on Celtic knot jewelry.