An overview of Celtic symbols and Celtic totems: First off…a bit of background. The word “Celtic” is used for those people who lived in Britain and Western Europe from 500
BC and AD 400. Celts were of the Iron Age and lived in small villages and led by warrior
There are little to no written records remaining from the Celts of Europe, therefore Celtic signs
and Celtic symbols can be hard to determine and trace. Many facts come by way of the
Romans, who conquered the Celtic lands during the rise of the Roman Empire.
Sadly, the lack of organization and unity between the various Celtic tribes proved fatal during
the Roman conquer. Over time, the tribes were expelled from their territories, eventually,
pushing the Celtic tribes back to the western fringes of the continent.
Regardless, thanks to time-honored traditions, and story telling – knowledge of basic Celtic
symbols remains strong within the heritage today. Knowledge of Celtic animal totems (animal
symbols) is alive and well today too (for more animal totems, see Native American symbols).
To honor the bravery of the Celts, and celebrate their rich history, we have Celtic signs and
each sign meanings below listed.
Basic Celtic Symbols and Their Meanings
The following are very basic and commonly seen Celtic symbols and their meanings. I’ve gone into greater detail for each. Simply click the links to gain more information.
- Triple Spiral: Represents the maiden, crone, or mother figure.
- Celtic Cross: Represent the bridge or the passage between heaven and earth. The circle in
- the ringed cross signifies infinity and eternal spiritual love.
- Triskelion: A Greek term meaning “three-legged,” and thus this sign looks very much like three legs running. Appropriate because this symbol stands for competition and man’s progress.
- Double Spiral: A sign of balance and also representative of the equinoxes.
- Single Spiral: Represents ethereal energy, and expansion of consciousness.
- Triquetra: Latin meaning “three-cornered.” It’s also the symbol for the holy trinity.
- Three Rays: The first and third rays in this symbol represent male and female energy. The middle ray represents the balance of both energies.
- Five-fold Celtic Symbols: This pattern also represents balance. The four outer circles symbolize the four elements: earth, fire, water, air. The middle circle unites all the elements with a goal to reach a balance between all four elements or energies.
Celtic Animal Totems
The Celts loved their animals, and felt they held special powers. There is a ton of evidence of Celts honoring animals. It can be seen on ancient Celtic embroidery, etchings, paintings, etc. Here are a few common Celtic totems and their meanings. Click on the links to gain more information about these Celtic animal totems.
- Boars: Symbol of abundance, also represents shape-shifting, and health or healing
- Bulls: Represents strength, a virile man, and dominion
- Butterflies: A symbol to signify transformation and rebirthing
- Cats: In Celtic culture, cats are gate guardians of the Otherworld
- Crow/Raven: Shape-shifting gods & goddesses take the form of crows/ravens.
- Deer/Stag: An incredibly powerful Celtic animal totem, the deer/stag is regarded as a
- guide from the Otherworld, and know to invoke profound changes in one’s life.
- Dogs: Not surprisingly, dogs are viewed as a symbol of loyalty
- Dolphins: Revered by great Celtic travelers as a sign of prosperity
- Dragons: A lucky sign, dragons also stand for power, courage, as well as agricultural
- fecundity (a very good symbol to don during seeding & harvest times).
- Horses: A magic sign, horses symbolize prophecy and safe transport to Otherworld
- Salmon: A sign of wisdom, deep emotion, the unveiling of mysteries.
It’s important to note that even though much of the finer details about Celtic wisdom has been buried or lost at the hands of battle or time – the spirit of the Celtic ways still live. Much of their history was passed orally, and each of their clans had their own stories.
Additionally, every Celtic clan (of which there were many) had its own unique stories, totems and symbols. In their prime of existence, the Celts were wide-spread across the land, and rabid about talking about their sacred Celtic animal totems, and exchanging the deeper meaning of Celtic symbols with each other. In fact, we can see how they have left their mark on the mountains of Tara and the stones of Boyne Valley and beyond. Whether through dance, art, music or poetry, the fiery spirit of the Celts live. We can continue their traditions by understanding more about Celtic symbols and Celtic animal totems. As always, thank you for reading. I hope you enjoyed this brief summary about Celtic facts and bits. Please check out the links below for more information in greater detail about Celtic animal meanings, symbolism and more.
Other Articles of Interest on This Site
More About Celtic Animal Totems
This page on Celtic Animal Symbols is based on the Ogham system of symbolic language. The Druid sacred Ogham is a major inspiration and packed with symbolic meaning. Click here to learn more about Celtic Animal Symbol Meanings.
Celtic Symbols and Signs Introduction Page
For centuries, Celtic symbols and signs held incredible power for the ancient Celts in every way of life. Today, we can learn about this power and utilize it by learning the language of Celtic symbols. Click here to learn more about Celtic Symbols and Their Meanings.