A new mother asked me if there was an ancient Celtic symbol for purity (shown left). She wanted to make a decorative mobile above her baby's crib that was both powerful, effective and symbolic of the concept of pure-ness.
Specifically, she wanted a symbol for purity with which she could make the mobile...sort of like a blessing and offering gesture. My response to her request is below.
Dear Moon Mother:
The Celtic culture and their application of symbolism tends to not be so specific as to define only one concept. Rather, they had a more broad, or conceptual approach to symbols...one symbol embrace a whole myriad of meanings.
For example, the circle is a Celtic insignia that indicates the wholeness of spirit - a soul that is intact, and therefore it is a symbol of pureness in integrity. This would be a primitive Celtic motif for purity.
A more evolved Celtic symbol for purity can be found in the Ogham - which is an ancient Celtic form of communication.
The Ogham, or realm of trees, was consulted for wisdom - each tree holds certain personalities that lend knowledge to the seeker.
That said, the Ogham symbol for purity is the "Ailm" or fir (symbol shown @ upper left of this article).
The Ailm symbol is a representation of
This is largely due to the fact that the fir stays green all year round.
Traditionally, (and most specifically in your case) branches of the fir (represented by the Ogham Ailm symbol) were placed beneath the bed of newborn babies in order to assure his/her purity of spirit throughout his/her life.
There are more diverse symbolic concepts that the ancient Celts embody in their daily life to convey "purity."
These are just a few ideas. I would encourage you to take the time to meditate, research, contemplate, and tap into the energies of our Celtic forebears for your own personal Celtic symbols of purity.
Important Addendum! Please read!
This particular symbol has been around for a very long time. Since the Bronze Age. As the case with many symbols, their meaning morphs over the centuries. Different cultures adopt symbols and apply their own meaning to them. This can present a great variety of meanings.
I'll give you an example. I got an email from someone arguing the validity of this icon as a Celtic symbol for purity. She claimed this same symbol is a common brand for modern female sex slaves, as in, consensual master/slave ownership and possession relationships. She gave me the link to TSR (The Slave Registry, if you can believe that), in which this symbol is shown to represent a female submissive (mistress, sex-captive).
This illustrates the point I've been making for years: Symbols are subjective. They change in meaning according to what culture, what era, and by whom they are held.
So, in order to defend or deny this symbol as an icon for female bondage, we have to ask the question: Who initiated it as such? When was it initiated with this meaning? What's the era and culture surrounding this facet of meaning?
Well, The Slave Registry claims to have been in business since the year 2000. I've asked how they logically derived this symbol to mean female bondage, and have been given no answer. As far as the culture is concerned...um, well, a culture of sexual dominants and submissives? I don't even know how to interpret or research this culture, and frankly, I would rather not even go there.
Here's my point: This symbol is ancient, with its first debut in human culture over 4,000 years ago to denote a sun cross - an ancient reference to the sacredness of solar energy and the procession of seasons (the 4 branches representing the 2 solstices and 2 equinoxes - marks on the ancient wheel of time of mammoth import). The symbol has also been seen on pre-Columbian rock carvings.
The person who emailed me also accused me of fabricating this symbol, making it up. Wrong. This symbol has been alive and kicking in the real world for a very long time. Although, I did draw associations between the Celtic idea of the circle and the equal-armed cross (commonly known as the Ailm sign in the Ogham) to substantiate themes of purity.
However, I made it very clear that these connections are conjecture. Other than the Ogham, the Celts left us no written language to explain their symbolic meanings. Hypothesizing and intuiting is everyone's responsibility when mining symbol meanings - especially when understanding a meaning that belongs to an ancient group of people whose ways are shrouded in mystery due to insubstantial documentation of their history left in their wake.
I find it interesting the woman who emailed me this information about this symbol being a representation of female sex slavery only included an image of the symbol - she neglected to include a history or the process of how the TSR (The Slavery Register) came to dub this symbol as the meaning they ascribe to it. How did TSR derive this symbol to mean what it does in their slave culture? As mentioned, I've submitted an inquiry, but have received no response.
This is what I know - this symbol has many meanings to many cultures over a broad span of generations. To wit:
It should also be noted that this symbol is:
I included these last three observations as an illustration of how ludicrous it is to claim position of ONE meaning to ONE symbol.
Symbol interpretation can be a very dangerous game if we don't know all the facts. That's why I am forever stating these two tenets: 1) Do your own research. 2) Symbols are subjective; their meanings morph according to the interpreter, the culture, era, etc.
So, the take-away point is this. Before you attach a solitary (inflexible) meaning to a symbol (and before accusing someone of being wrong of their own interpretation of a symbol) - do some independent research.
In a nutshell...Sapere Aude - "Dare to Discern" for yourself.Library Sources:
If you enjoyed this article on the Celtic symbol for purity, be sure to check out the links at the end of this page for more Celtic symbol meanings.
An Important Note About Signs, Symbols and Their Meanings
Signs and symbols cultivate their meanings according to culture, context, passage of time in society as well as mass societal opinion. What's cool and highly important is that signs and symbols earn their most powerful meanings from our own personal perspectives.
This website strives to provide you with the best, time-honored information when defining signs and symbols. However, in the final analysis, "Beauty (and symbolism) is in the eye of the beholder."
Having said that, it's in our best interest to invest the time to do personal research on symbolic events happing to us. This website is just one perspective in an ocean of variety and diversity in the realm of symbolism. So dive it! There is a whole universe of deeper meanings to explore! You can start your research by clicking on the links at the end or to the side of this page. Odds are good I've got a follow-up article about this symbolic topic. ;)
As always, thanks for your willingness to learn more about the language of symbolism. It's a language that is universal and everywhere. It's super-groovy to travel with you on your symbolic path, and maybe offer a little translation along the way. Thanks for reading and exploring!