Category Archives: Celtic Symbolism

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.

Celtic Symbols for Protection

celtic symbol for protection

I often get questions from folks asking for Celtic symbol meanings as they consider various Celtic designs for tattooing purposes.

One such question came from a gentleman wanting to know if there were any Celtic symbols for protection.  To which I respond:

Dear Inky Celt Man:

As you are wanting a quick list of Celtic symbols for protection – I’ll provide these here:

Legend has it that the soothsayer of a particular Celtic clan would create personal designs for a tribe member.  These designs were specific to that warrior and his family line, and were considered highly protective in battle and throughout life.

You may want to consider taking a spirit journey – a time of introspection and spiritual contemplation to discover your own unique designs that signify protection for you.  These could be your own personal designs of protection that you could bear as tattoos.

I would also encourage you to do your own research on the ancient Celts in order to fully appreciate all the diversity and symbolism their culture provided humanity.  I think you’ll find their ultimate protection came from an unshakable faith/belief system

Better yet, take some time to meditate upon that which you are trying to achieve in obtaining such a protective emblem.  Often when we invoke the energy of our Celtic forebears we find these ancient energies are forthcoming with incredible insight and enlightenment.  Perhaps such insight will provide you with more substance and meaning than just picking a random Celtic symbol that might not be as personal as it could be.

You may also find more information on the Celtic Symbol Meanings page of my website.

Whatever your action, I wish you the very best of luck on your journey.

Regards & blessings to you Celt Man,

A. Venefica