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Gaelic Symbols

Are you looking for information about Gaelic symbols and their meanings? Gaelic symbols are Celtic symbols from Ireland and Scotland. There are symbols for protection, love, and magic.

Gaelic Symbols

If you are interested in learning more about Gaelic or Celtic symbols, you can start by looking at magical Gaelic symbols.

  • Probably the most well-known is the shamrock, also called a trefoil or cloverleaf. It is indigenous to Ireland and represents sets of three things, like three stages of man: child, adult, and elderly; the elements of earth, sea, and sky; or stages of the moon. In the recent past it was used by St. Patrick to help explain the Trinity. It has always been thought of as a lucky charm and many still believe that today.
  • Most people have heard of the tradition of the mistletoe; when you are under it, you are supposed to kiss someone. Most people probably don't know that tradition comes from a very old tradition. Since mistletoe has no roots to connect it to the earth and it grows in sacred trees, then ancient people believed it to be the sacred plant of the sun. It was used during the winter solstice for magical protection and healing. It was also used inside a house to keep the love in. Naturally it would have to be replaced regularly and that is where the tradition of kissing under the mistletoe came from.
  • One of the major early Celtic beliefs is in the Tree of Life. Trees were revered because of all they give us: fuel, protection, and food. It was actually thought trees were our ancestors and they connected us to the supernatural world. The center of the world was the oak tree and it gave blessings, wisdom, healing, and carried messages to the other world.
  • Leprechauns are tricky, two-foot tall fairies that work hard making shoes and hide their gold in pots at the end of rainbows. It was believed that if you were lucky enough to catch one, he had to give you his treasure. He would promise to give you his gold but only if you could keep your eye on him. If you looked away, he and your treasure would be gone.


Animals can be found in carvings, tapestries, clothing, jewelry, and other places. Some of these animal symbols also had important meanings.

  • The bull represented strong will and an uncompromising position or attitude. He was a sign of virility in men and fertility in women. Having his image in the bedroom was supposed to increase stamina and strength. Another thing the bull symbolized was wealth.
  • The meaning of a butterfly transcends many cultures and it stands for rebirth and transition. It is a symbol of the cycle of life and the miracle of transformation and rebirth. Because of these meanings, especially the transition, butterflies could be found in nurseries, on birthing gowns, and on the bedding for new babies.
  • Cats were considered the guardians of the underworld that were good at keeping secrets. They are astute, clever, and wise and can give insights and enlightenment.
  • Dogs represent loyalty because of their relationship to man. They were considered to be good luck and bringers of good health, probably because of their companionship which kept man from being lonely.
  • Dolphins helped early man contemplate the universe and were considered a symbol of luck, friendship, and intelligence.
  • Ducks and Geese were admired for their resourcefulness and were a symbol of transition because they migrated. They also represent simplicity and honesty.
  • Griffins represented duality because they were part lion and part eagle. They were protectors of life and loyal even after death. They were noble and strong and used when the need was greatest. If misused, they would bring violence and gluttony.

Knot Work and Symbols of Love

Following are some symbols of love and some of the common knots that have been made for centuries. Ancient peoples made knots to symbolize nature and love. They also made knots for protection and the more intricate the knot, the better protection.

  • The Claddagh is a symbol of love, friendship, and loyalty and is usually found on a ring. It has a heart with a crown and two hands on either side. They were often used as wedding rings.
  • A shield knot has four corners that represent four seasons, for gods, or the four elements: earth, wind, water, and fire. They are used for protection.
  • The Triquetra has three sections that can represent the Trinity; three parts of man: mind, body, and soul; three elements of earth, water, and sky; of the triple mother goddess: maiden, mother, and crone.
  • Serch Bythol has two knots with three parts each that symbolize mind, body, and spirit. These two knots are put together and unite, showing eternal love between two people.
  • The sailor's knot or the lover's knot was made with two ropes and then the loose ends were joined. These were made by sailors to give their love when they returned.

These are some of the many examples of symbolism you can find in Gaelic or Celtic culture.