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Celtic Symbol Dictionary

Many common Celtic symbols are included in the following Celtic symbol dictionary. Most of them come from early religious beliefs and mythology.

Celtic Symbol Dictionary

This Celtic symbol dictionary has three parts: miscellaneous symbols, symbols for gods and goddesses, and crosses.

Miscellaneous Symbols

  • Claddagh - This is a symbol found on rings and other things that show loyalty, friendship, and love. It is related to the Norse engagement ring symbol that has hands around a heart.
  • Mistletoe - This was the most sacred plant because it grew in magical trees and since it had no roots, it was the sacred plant of the sun.
  • Pictish - These symbols come from the Picts and include animals, mythical creatures like mermaids and dragons, the V-rod (death), and the Z-rod and Double Disks (solar cycle and the afterlife).
  • Shamrock - This stands for anything Irish and is called a trefoil or a cloverleaf. Before St. Patrick used it to show the Trinity, it symbolized the earth, sky, and sea, the phases of the moon, and the three stages of man. It was believed to be a charm against evil.
  • Spiral - This could be the oldest symbol of spirituality. It can be found all over the world on tombs and has a connection with the sun.
  • Tetramorphs - Also called the Four Evangelists, these were four angelic beings. They represented the four fixed signs of the Zodiac: An ox for Taurus, a lion for Leo, an eagle for Scorpio, and a man for Aquarius. They also stood for the four earth elements: earth, wind, fire, and water. Later, it came to stand for the four Apostles who wrote the four gospels.
  • Triquetra - The Triquetra can represent several things. It can represent the three domains of earth: earth, sea, and sky, or the three divisions of humans: mind, body, and soul. For the Celtic Christian Church, it represents the Trinity, Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. It has three interlocked pieces and is often shown with three fish.
  • Celtic Tree of Life - This is a basic symbol of spirituality because the tree provided food, shelter, and fuel for cooking and heating. It was believed the wood from a sacred tree had magical properties and the Ogham alphabet was based on parts of sacred trees. In the Celtic creation story, trees were man's ancestors and provided the entrance to the world of the gods. The most sacred of all was the oak tree, which represented the center of the world.
  • Triskele - This is a triple spiral related to the triquetra and relates to the sun, the afterlife, and reincarnation. It represents pregnancy and the movement of time, shown in a continuous line.
  • Welsh Dragon - This is also called the Red Dragon and is the national symbol of Wales. It was taken from the Draco standard of the Roman Legion and has been in use for 1200 years.

Symbols for God and Goddesses

This section of the Celtic symbol dictionary has some common symbols for various gods and goddesses.

  • Cerne Abbas Giant - This is called the Rude Man because of his big genitalia. It is believed to represent the Celtic god In Dagda, who is similar to the Greek god Hercules.
  • Cernunnos - This is a horned god worshipped in the Iron Age. He is often shown in a meditative position with antlers. He is associated with either the god Derg Corra, the Man in the Tree, or Fionn, who had an affinity for deer.
  • Green Man - He represents an ancient vegetation deity and is sometimes called Foliate Head, or Jack-of-the-Green. The face is depicted with leaves and vines. It is possible this is a symbol for Derg Corra, the Man in the Tree, who was mischievous and traveled with a raven, trout, and a stag.
  • Sheela-na-gig - She is an ugly figure who uses her hands to show her overly large genitalia. These may be symbols of an early Mother goddess religion or they originated in France and Spain and were introduced in the Celtic area in the 12th century.
  • Uffington Horse - This is a white horse that dates back to the Bronze Age. It might be representative of the Celtic Goddess Epona, or the sun God Belenus. Some people speculate it might be a drawing of a dragon instead of a horse.

Crosses

  • Solar Cross - This is basically a two perpendicular lines inside of a circle. It is one of the oldest religious symbols in the world, appearing in religious art all over the world. It is also called Odin's Cross and the Wheel of Taranis. The four arms mark the solstices and sometimes it has eight arms to include the equinoxes.
  • Celtic Cross - This is the Ionic Cross or the Cross of St. Columba and is a variation of the Solar Cross. It was an early symbol of Taranis, the Gallic sun god.
  • Bride's Cross - This is a cross woven from straw in honor of Saint Bridget on her holiday, Candlemas, which is celebrated on the second of February. Many believe there was no St. Bridget, but it was a cover for worshipping the Celtic goddess of the same name.