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Celtic Symbols

Celtic and Breton culture



To give you an insight into Celtic culture, here are some of the Celtic symbols we come across most often, including on our site.
We'll look at the meanings of the Triskel, the Triquetra, the Ermine, the Tree of Life, the Interlacing Knot, the Celtic Cross, and finally the Solar Cross. Of course, this is a vast subject, which I shall only touch upon. Written traces and evidence are relatively few and far between, so the symbolism of these signs can be interpreted in many different ways.


The Triskel is an ancient Celtic symbol consisting of three branches extending from a central point. It comes from the Greek word "Triskélès", meaning "3-legged". The symbol is often depicted as three intertwined spirals, giving the appearance of rotary motion.

The Triskel is loaded with profound meanings in different cultures and beliefs. In Celtic culture, it is often associated with trio ideas such as life, death and rebirth; sunrise, zenith and sunset; Water, Earth and Fire/Sky; past, present and future... It symbolizes the idea of movement, cycle and progression, and recalls the complexity and interconnectedness of life.

This symbol is rich in interpretation and can vary according to tradition and context. It is used in art, spirituality and culture to express concepts such as balance, transformation and constant evolution. It evokes a symbol of dynamism and enthusiasm.

Most often, the branches of a triskel turn counter-clockwise, giving it a peaceful meaning. When the branches of a Triskel do not turn in this direction, it is said to be a bellicose sign.


The Triquetra, which comes from the Latin "three corners", is a symbol made up of three pointed, intertwined loops, forming a continuous knot with no beginning or end, triangular in shape. It is sometimes accompanied by an inner or outer circle. Like the Triskel, the Triquetra is a symbol with multiple meanings. Also known as the "knot of the Holy Trinity", it has been used in various religions.

It can represent the Christian trinity (Father, Son and Holy Spirit), as well as concepts that don't work in threes, such as past, present and future, the three stages of life and the three elements. This symbol highlights the idea of unity and harmony in the diversity of life.

The triquetra is also used as a symbol of femininity, reflecting the triple goddess or Mother, Daughter and Old Woman.


We have to go back to the Middle Ages to find the first use of the ermine in Brittany, where ermine sheaths were used to cushion the impact on shields.

Moucheture is the term associated with the symbolic representation of the tip of the animal's tail. The unsightly black part was always spread, or speckled, over the white fur to make clothing.

However, it was Duke Pierre 1st of Brittany who introduced the first ermine spots on coats of arms, adopting them as the Breton emblem.

Anne de Bretagne, inherited from her family, also adopted the ermine emblem. Anne de Bretagne is credited with the motto: "Rather die than be soiled", in reference to the legend of an ermine encountered while hunting, who preferred to die than soil her fur in a muddy pool.

This animal is also the emblem of the Order of the Ermine, an order of chivalry dating back to 1381. Today, the Order of the Ermine plays a cultural role.

In Brittany, the ermine flourishes on many monuments and remains, even today, a symbol very dear to the hearts of the Bretons. Represented on the flag, known as the Gwenn ha du, it embodies and glorifies traditional Brittany. It's a way of protecting and encouraging culture and tradition. It also recalls the emblematic figure of Duchess Anne, much appreciated in her native region.

Today, this symbol of Brittany is often brandished at cultural and sporting events the world over, as a sign of rallying and belonging to the Breton way of life!

In short, the Brittany Ermine is a symbol of purity, innocence and honesty.


Of course, the origins of the Tree of Life predate the Celts, and it can be found in many civilizations (Maya, Egypt, Islam, China...).

Trees were a vital element of Celtic culture and, in their world, the Tree of Life was a representation of how the forces of nature combined to create balance and harmony. The upper and lower worlds were linked by the Tree of Life. According to the Celts, its roots went deep into the underworld, while its branches grew in the upper world. The tree trunk connected these two worlds to the Earth.

More generally, the Tree of Life has always had a strong symbolism of the cycle of life, a link to the divine. It is also reminiscent of the family tree. It is therefore a symbol of divine wisdom and eternity, but also of strength and rebirth.

It can also be seen as a good-luck charm, attracting positive vibes, love, luck and good health. We may also choose to wear it because it represents values that are essential to us (nature, renewal, interconnection, family, wisdom...).


The Entrelac or Celtic Knot appears as an endless knot created from a line that meanders in a closed loop.

It could illustrate : The infinite cycle of life and death, a recurring concept among the Celts.

This continuous thread also evokes the nature of the bonds between members of a Celtic people or clan: bonds of blood, friendship and love. Or it can be seen as the work of an artist who lets his creativity and dexterity express themselves. The pleasure of embellishing life, in a way, adorning places of worship, outfits and everyday objects with a few illuminations.

In short, Celtic interlacing symbolizes the interconnectedness of life in all its elements.


Celtic crosses can be found in every Celtic country. In Brittany and Ireland, many stone crosses were erected as early as the early 7th century. This is thought to be the sun-wheel cross, which has been Christianized by lengthening the lower limb.

The Celtic cross or nimbed cross is a cross with a ring inscribed within it. The branches of the cross always protrude from the ring, and in the most detailed representations, the circle is set back from the cross. 

The significance of the branches could refer to
- the four elements: air, earth, water, fire
- the four cardinal points: north, south, east and west
- The four seasons

As for the circle, it symbolizes the world around us, knowledge, the universe, but also the symbolism of the wheel, which is very present in Celtic tradition.


Consisting of an equilateral cross within a circle, the solar cross is a solar symbol frequently found in symbolism from the Neolithic to the Bronze Age. Its ubiquity and apparent importance in prehistoric religion led to its interpretation as a solar symbol.

Throughout history, the Sun has always been venerated as a being of superior power, capable of providing life, energy and protection to human beings.

The branches of the cross could represent the four seasons of the year, between the astronomical landmarks identified by the ancients, namely the solstices and equinoxes.

Some also see the symbol as representing the four directions: North, West, South and East. According to this theory, the sun wheel is a kind of archaic compass rose.

In addition to the four directions and four seasons mentioned above, there are many other quaternities with which our symbol can be associated. Among the most notable, as with the Celtic cross, are the following:
- The four elements: earth, air, fire and water)
- The four stages of life: childhood, adolescence, adulthood and old age 
- The four kingdoms of life: mineral, animal, vegetable and human.