Celtic knots and designs, such as the Celtic shield knot, have been popular for hundreds of years. In our modern times, they are often used to adorn Irish-themed jewelry, clothing, and accessories, and they are even used as inspiration for tattoos that honor a person’s Irish heritage.
Many Irish Celtic Knots, especially the ones used as protection sigils, don’t actually come from the Celts and are more modern interpretations of these knot-like patterns. However, the Celtic Shield Knot may be one of the oldest Celtic knots still in use today. This protective sigil is still rampantly popular, and for good reasons.
Want to learn more about the Celtic shield knot, then keep reading
What Is The Celtic Shield Knot?
Symbolizing strength, endurance, and protection, the Celtic Shield Knot was a well-respected symbol of ancient Celtic communities and Celtic culture.
Now, I have to quickly tell you that if you just google Celtic shield knot, you will be inundated with a million and one different designs. Do not be fooled by these most of them are modern interpretations of this ancient Celtic symbol.
A truly authentic Celtic shield knot design features a continual line that loops in and around itself. It has a rounded shape with four mirroring quadrants, the perfect shape to sit in the center of a Celtic warrior’s shield.
The woven design often created some cross in the center of the knot. Although it is unlikely that this had many relations to the Christian faith and its cross, it is an accidental design that may have helped assimilate Christianity within the pagan Celtic communities.
All Celtic knot symbols feature an unending design. This eternity meaning meant many of the Celtic symbols would also represent the never-ending cycle of birth, life, death, and rebirth. This symbol would easily have been found not only on the shields of the Celtic warriors but also in the homes of the Celtic people to provide protection and safety from evil spirits that brought illness and death.
Celtic knots have become popular tattoos for those with Irish heritage thanks to their strong representations of strength, passion, and protection.
The Celtic Shield Knot Meaning
With such a definite and important meaning, the Celtic shield knot is one of many Celtic knot designs that have stood the test of time. Symbolizing strength, endurance, and protection, the Celtic shield knot continues to weave its way into our modern lives.
As well as many other Celtic knots, this design helps people worldwide remain connected to their Ancient Celtic roots.
Do you know what the Celtic shield knot means and how important it is to our Celtic ancestors?
History Of The Celtic Shield Knot Symbol
The Celtic shield knot is one of the oldest Celtic knots we know of. Many Celtic knot patterns and patterns we see today are actually artists’ impressions of the Irish symbols. That is why the shield knot is so popular because it is a Celtic symbol that really was used by our Irish ancestors.
The Celtic shield knot was a symbol of protection, and its common use is in its name. Often this particular symbol was carved into the shields of the fearsome Celtic warriors to keep them safe and give them strength on the battlefield.
It would have helped these warriors by instilling them bravery, banishing fear, and helping to remove any panic they may have felt at the prospect of not escaping the battle. That was how strong the Celts’ belief and trust were in their symbols and knots.
However, the Celtic shield knot wasn’t only used on the battlefield. The Celts experienced many times of peace in their long history, which is when the ancient Celtic symbol took on new life.
The Celtic shield knot would be given to friends as gifts and carved on the doorways of the homes of sick people to help ward off evil spirits. Celtic shield knots were even carved onto the tombstones of those who had passed.
Two other theories that are a little harder to prove are that Celtic shield knot designs would be hung in homes to protect against bad luck and evil spirits. As well as being gifted to newborns to protect them until they were strong enough to protect themselves in the world.
The Celts lived during very dangerous times. Times when it wasn’t certain that you would live to see another day.
Sickness was more rampant thanks to no modern medicine, battles were a commonly fought issue, and many community problems would result in fatal fights between people. That is why Celtic knots were so important to the ancient Celtic people.
Usage And Meaning Of The Celtic Shield Knot
Throughout Celtic history, the Celtic shield knot was carved onto warriors’ shields, around the doorways of the sick, and even on the tombstones of the dead because it was believed that this particular design brought strength, protection, and endurance to those who used it.
We can still find some ancient artificers that have the beautiful Celtic shield knot carved into them.
One of those artifacts is the Battersea Shield which was dredged up from the bottom of the River Thames in London sometime before 1857. It is considered to be the most famous Celtic shield.
Believed to have been constructed sometime between 350 – 50 BC, this ornate shield features three Celtic shield knots surrounding twenty-seven red glass pieces.
However, archaeologists are certain that this shield was never intended to be used in battle. Made from a very thin sheet of bronze, the Battersea shield would not have been able to withstand battle and was probably crafted as an offering to the Celtic gods.
As times have gone on, not only has our belief and trust in Celtic knots all but disappeared but also our need for this folklore protection during war and battles. Nowadays, the Celtic shield knot is used to adorn many of our luxury items.
Pendants and other jewelry are an incredibly popular way to wear the Celtic shield knot. Clothing, bags, and other accessories are also often decorated with this ancient Celtic sigil. Many people still use the Celtic shield knot for home decor, such as wooden carvings, framed artwork, and even woven into rugs, curtains, or wall hangings.
Another popular way to honor this ancient symbol is to have it tattooed on the body. Tattoos have long been a way to honor our history and Celtic culture. Those who feel strongly connected to their Irish heritage have taken having these Celtic knots of strength and protection turned into beautiful and permanent tattoos.
FAQs About The Celtic Shield Knot
What Other Knot Symbols Are There?
Although the Celtic shield knot is one of the better-known Celtic knot symbols, many different types of Celtic knots, such as the Celtic spiral knot, stem from Celtic history. However, there are also many that people may believe to be historical but are really modern interpretations.
Here are some other authentic knot symbols:
The Trinity Knot
Also known as the Triquetra knot, the trinity knot symbolizes eternal life and unity. By far, this particular design is the most easily recognizable of all Celtic knot designs.
The Celtic Sailor’s Knot
Another symbol that holds much of its usage in its name, the sailor’s Celtic knot, was a symbol used by Celtic seamen. The sailors’ Celtic knot meant protection, strength, and fortitude. It was also thought to symbolize a sailor’s love that waited for him back on land.
The Eternity Knot
With no beginning or end to this design, the eternity knot symbolized the unending devotion shared between two people.
It is thought that this symbol, also known as a Celtic love knot, would have been exchanged, much like rings, when two Celtic people would betroth themselves to one another because of its endless appearance.
The Dara Knot
The Dara knot was very similar to the Celtic shield knot but had an entirely different kind of symbolism. Symbolizing strength, power, and wisdom it was also thought to have symbolized the highly respected oak tree.
There are also many other Celtic knots that you may find advertised as ancient symbols but are in fact modern interpretations or symbols that came long after the ancient Celts, such as:
- The Celtic Cross
- St Brigids Cross
- The Celtic Motherhood Knot
- The Awen Symbol
- The Triskelion
Is A Celtic Knot Irish Or Scottish?
Although most Celtic knot designs are considered Irish pieces of art, many of these knots are also Scottish.
Celtic tribes travelled, settled in the Scottish highlands, and brought their culture with them. Many of these symbols and sigils can be found all over the highlands. However, it’s not just Scotland and Ireland they can be found. The Celts were wanderers at heart and they also settled in Wales.
This is why these three places share not only ancient symbols but also old languages that share Celtic roots.
Was The Shield Knot Used In Different Cultures?
Many Celtic symbols can be found all over the world and used throughout many different cultures. Although these other symbols aren’t considered Celtic they bear a striking resemblance to many of the Celtic knots we know and love.
Celtic and Norse cultures, especially the Vikings, were very similar. The Norse version of the Celtic shield knot was called the solar cross but it also had some other names. Often called Odin’s cross or the sun cross it represented the strongest and most powerful of the Nordic gods, Odin.
The Christians are well known for taking elements of other cultures and claiming them for their own. It was one of the ingenious ways of culling other religions and replacing them with their own and the Celtic shield cross was just one of its many victims. Christian believers took the Celtic shield cross and renamed it, St Hannes Cross or St. Johns Arms.
Many Celtic designs can be found on Mesopotamian artifacts. They had their very own variation of the Celtic shield knot. Although not much is known about Mesopotamian beliefs, it is thought that their version of the ancient symbol would have been used for protection and to aid them when they called upon their Gods from the four corners of the earth.
How Is The Shield Knot Used Today?
Although we may not engrave shields with the Celtic shield knot to prepare for battle or carve it into the walls of our homes to protect us from evil anymore, the Celtic shield knot is still used in many ways today.
Celtic designs, like the Celtic shield knot, have become part of modern-day fashion. They can be found as decoration on different types of Irish-inspired clothing. Fashionable Celtic sigils have become more stylized to cater to our newer tastes, but they are still popularly worn symbols.
Irish jewelry is favored especially by those who share Irish or Celtic history in their DNA. From pendants to bracelets and even rings – like the very popular Claddagh rings. Celtic knots are easily and discretely worn and engraved onto our jewelry pieces.
Some people still love the old beliefs behind the Celtic shield knot, that it protects from harm and brings strength and endurance. That’s why many homes still display the Celtic shield knot through their home decor. This can be in the form of framed prints, tapestries, wooden carvings, and much more. You may even have a Celtic shield knot in your home, and you didn’t even know it.
Another popular way of utilizing this powerful sigil is by creating a personal and permanent tattoo. Although not an original design, the Celtic shield knot can feel like an incredibly personal symbol to have tattooed onto our bodies.
I am a British-born copywriter who moved to Ireland over a decade ago and have been captivated by Irish culture, landscape and folklore. I enjoy sharing my passion for Ireland through my writing as a freelancer.