Category Archives: Celtic Symbolism

Symbolic Meaning of the Celtic Torc

Symbolic Meaning of the Torc
Symbolic Meaning of the Torc


This page on the symbolic meaning of the Celtic torc was inspired by a gift.

The torc is one of the most characteristic and showcased of Celtic adornments for the body. 

Indeed, Cassius wrote how Boudicca went into battle wearing nothing but a “great necklace of twisted gold” (which was a torc worn snuggly around the neck).

Worn with or without clothes, the symbolism of the torc is weighted with power.

There are schools of thought that indicates torcs were symbols of:

  • nobility,
  • strength,
  • status, and
  • hierachy within the clans. 

I’ve wondered if the balled ends of the torcs press against certain meridian points (around the neck where they are worn, as well as around ankles and wrists) that cause heightened awareness and arousal.

I rather like the “C-shape” connotation…the torc is symbolic of a stylized C-moon – a crescent moon.  In this case, we are dealing with a lunar principals dealing with:

  • intuition,
  • metamorphosis,
  • emotion,
  • creation,
  • transformation…all of these which would play back into the symbolic theme of the triquetra  (and its implied phases).

If entertaining the crescent moon symbolism, we may recognize feminine energy.  Further, we may also research the Celtic triple goddess concept in which the great feminine houses three aspects of the Divine:  Maiden, Mother and Crone.   

Each aspect of the divine feminine containing profound symbolism and wisdom to her own devices – shown together with the symbolic triquetra – her forces are unanimously intense (although, there are infinite number of power-triads upon which to draw). 

Maybe this bit on the symbolic meaning of the Celtic torc may inspire you to design one for yourself.  Or, purchase one from your local metalsmith for your beloved.

Other links of interest:

Symbolism of the Moon

Symbolic Full Moons

Celtic Symbol for Warrior

Symbolic Jewelry: An Artists Interview and Perspective

Two Celtic Symbols for Freedom

Image from Aon-Celtic.com

Two of my favorite and (IMHO) more profound Celtic symbols for freedom:

1)
The hawk was considered an animal symbol of victory and freedom to the ancient Celts. It is typically depicted in Celtic art clutching or devouring a rabbit which was symbolic of lust, greed or frittering away resources to the Celtic symbolic mind.   Philosophically, we could interpret this symbolic illustration as freedom (the hawk) from limiting behaviors (rabbit). I’ve written a bit on the symbolism of the hawk (in general) here.

2)
In the Ogham, we find the Ur (or Heather) is considered a legitimate symbol of freedom in the Celtic language.  Specifically, the Ur indicates an outpouring of the soul, a release or catharsis.  Once the inner conflicts have been expelled, we are free to express ourselves with effective clarity.

Other pages of interest:

Celtic Symbol Meanings

Celtic Animals and their Symbolic Meanings

Celtic Symbolism of Trees

Animal Symbolism & Totems

Symbolism of the Compass – Meaning of the Four Directions

Symbolism of the Compass. Meaning of Cardinal Directions


One of my readers asked me about the deeper meaning of the four directions (north, south, east, west).  Specifically, she was given a powerful mandala, and wanted to know in which direction would be most auspicious to hang the mandala in his home.  My response follows…

Dear Coordinated Coordinates: 

Excellent observation.

We can honor and enhance the attributes of something (such as your mandala gift) by placing it in an area that is aligned with appropriate energy.

Different cultures have assigned different meanings of cardinal directions.  Here are a few brief samples of directional energies and what they represent to various cultures:

In Chinese Feng Shui, each direction correlates to the Chinese zodiac animals:

  • North =  Rat: Adaptability, charm, creativity, sociability, wit.
  • East = Rabbit: Trust, sincerity, love, compassion.
  • South = Horse: Physical strength, health, adventure, loyalty.
  • West = Rooster: Confidence, business, energy, persistence.

In ancient Celtic symbolism and tradition, the cardinal directions were acknowledged in several ceremonies and festivals.  Handfasting ceremonies and other earth-based belief systems (pagan) still honor the directions today.  Here is a brief outline of these directional representations:

  • East = air, communication, new beginnings, new growth
  • South = fire, energy, passion, creativity
  • West = water, emotion, psyche, movement
  • North = earth, home, security, fertility

In certain divinatory practices the directions represent time phases:

  • North = Infinite Possibility (no-time)
  • South = Present – Now
  • West = Past
  • East = Future

Native Americans have their own meanings of cardinal directions.  The Lakota, for example hold to the following guideline:

  • North = wisdom/thought
  • East = salvation/spirit
  • South = beginnings/purity
  • West = conclusions/fullness

I’ve written a feature post on Navajo and their meaning of the four directions here:
ative-american-symbol/http://avenefica.wordpress.com/2007/10/02/navajo-medicine-wheel-a-powerful-n

The astrological zodiac provides yet another aspect of the four directions and their symbolism:

  • East = Earth corresponding with Taurus
  • South = Fire corresponding with Leo
  • West = Water corresponding with Scorpio
  • North = Air corresponding with Aquarius

In conclusion, I would encourage you to meditate upon your purpose with the placement of your special gift.  Ask yourself “what are my intentions?”  Invest the time to determine what you truly wish to accomplish.

I’ve only given you a brief background on multiple resources here.  Ultimately only you can decide what is meaningful in directional symbolism.  Trust in your ability to soul-navigate effectively and you will know where to put your mandala in order to achieve the results you are wanting.

I trust this information helps you on your path.

Brightly,
Avia

“There is only one guaranteed, no-risk, high-yield investment and that is SELF-investment.” ~Anguis

Tara: And Celtic Symbols for Beauty

I’ve been asked on more than one occasion for a symbol representing the Celtic Tara landmark and/or a Celtic symbol for beauty held in this place.  The following is my response:

The area of Tara (shown right) that is commonly referred to as a symbol of Tara itself.  This lemniscate-like design is formed by trenches or moat-like formations outlining the Hill of Tara

This landscape design can certainly be used to represent this place of power.  Other Celtic symbol s that represents beauty pertaining to Tara are found below.

Celtic Tara is the place of great brilliance, wisdom, and power as it was the ancient home of the Celtic kings.  It was also thought to be a portal for cosmic forces – as such, the location itself represents vision and great strength.

This in mind, we can turn to two Celtic systems of symbolic language for symbolic representations:  The Ogham and Rune systems are quite helpful in lending symbolism to the phenomenon of Tara (and beauty).

 The Ogham can provide many symbolic images for us as we seek depth in our world.  As you may know, the Ogham is the ancient Celtic art of divination using the poetic language of trees.

The Luis (its Ogham symbol & natural likeness shown left) is a radiant representation of beauty and vision. The Luis (of the Rowan tree) produces the fruit of the Gods in Celtic legend, and emits a power of strength, courage, and protection to all who bear its symbol. Noble, sturdy and divine, the Luis is also symbolic of steady wisdom and honor.  It is also a symbol of classic, timeless beauty.  These qualities and it’s growth in the Tara region make the Luis an excellent symbolic conveyance. 

Next we can consider symbolism of the rune system.  Although Nordic in origin, many Celtic tribes adopted the runes in their symbolic language as well as used them in their divining needs.

The Ing rune (shown left) is the Accomplishment rune and is quite suitable for representation of Tara and/or beauty as it was a revered symbol among kings and queens alike.  This is due to the fact that this rune is/was seen as a symbol of good fortune it is also a symbol of wise judgements, turning points, patience, decisions, renewal, as well as nobility.  The Ing is also symbolic of meeting challenges (as Celtic warriors are apt to do) head-on, and dealing with these challenges with strength as well as diplomacy.  Foremost, it is a symbol of serenity and calm mind which and ultimately a symbol of quite force of beauty and strength…the very concepts that are the embodiment of Tara.

Celtic Symbol for Friendship


I often am asked for a quick/easy/single Celtic symbol for one concept.  For example, I am frequently asked for the Celtic symbol for Friendship.  As much as I wish I could spit out one ancient symbol for each human emotion like a gumball machine dispensing instant sugary highs – it just isn’t that easy (or simple). 

Here is one attempt to address my reader’s quest to obtain “the” Celtic symbol for friendship:

Dear BFF:

It’s difficult to gather accurate information on Celtic symbols and their meanings due to lack or circumspect sources.

However, there are a few Celtic Symbols for Friendship that you may want to consider researching to satisfy your own personal satisfaction.

Primarily…any Celtic knot is said to harbor the essence of friendship simply due to their implied symbolic meanings:  Unity, union, partnering, joining, eternity, connectedness, unbreakable, strength, and a host of like attributes.

According to George Bain, a 20th century Scottish Celtic art professor,  Celtic knots that have a closed path, (no end or beginning), are considered to be a symbol of eternity, eternal connectedness, or symbolic of the infinite.

Another option for a Celtic symbol of friendship would be the symbol of the Claddagh.

Claddagh (pronounced klä dä) is an ancient village just outside Galway City in Ireland.

The symbol gets its origin from Richard Joyce. Captured and taken from his homeland, Joyce was held as a slave in the West Indies. Eventually, he was sold to a Moorish goldsmith, where Joyce learned the art of jewelry making. Joyce eventually gained his freedom, and upon doing so, immediately went back to his homeland and settled down in the village of Claddagh.

Here he continued his goldsmith practice by making Celtic jewelry – specifically producing the Claddagh to celebrate his return home and to have a symbol for his love of kin and country. As seen today, the Claddagh has become quite popular as a sign of friendship and love.

A quick look at the symbols of the Claddagh:

  • The heart of the Claddagh is a symbol for love
  • The crown is symbolic of loyalty
  • The hands represent friendship

I always encourage people to meditate upon the symbols they are wanting clarification about.  Sit quietly in the presence of the Celtic Elders – ask them for knowledge you seek. 

Often I find that the best (and most personal) indentifiation of symbols are derived from our ancestors in spirit.