Untangling Quaternary Celtic Knot Meaning
Basics on the Quaternary Celtic Knot Meaning
Recently, I got an email requesting a specific Celtic knot meaning. She wanted a Celtic themed wedding based on a Celtic knot design she found on a vintage handkerchief which belonged to her great grandmother.
After sending me an image of her knot, I was able to determine it was a quaternary Celtic knot. The images shown on this page are artistic examples of a quaternary, or four-cornered Celtic knot design.
Clarification: Quaternary simply means “four” – in this case – four-cornered. So, when you see a Celtic knot that has a primary motif of four, then you’re dealing with quaternary Celtic knot meanings, which are described below.
The following is my response the quaternary Celtic knot meaning, based on my research and help from a few Irish buddies (thanks Jim and Paul).
To preface, it’s difficult to gather accurate information on Celtic knots or Celtic symbols and their meanings due to sketchy remnants of written.
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, or represent the infinite. Those with open paths are said to signify a journey (both physical and otherwise).
Furthermore, knot work was performed as a means of displaying heritage. Just as plaids are an identification of clans in the Highlands, so too do certain knots identify certain Celtic families.
Now you can begin to see the difficulty in tracking down the true meaning of your specific knot. For every family there could be a unique knot to identify that bloodline…potentially leading to countless different heritage emblems.
Furthermore, tracking down the meaning of one Celtic knot design also depends on the artist. The ancient Celts were incredibly prolific artists…here again, there could be as many interpretations as there were Celtic artisans.
I can tell you that your Celtic knot is a quaternary design – meaning it has four distinct sections within the design.
Quaternary Celtic knot meanings are upon the era, region, and artist of the design’s inception (yes, more variables).
Here are a few meaning possibilites of your Quaternary knot design…
Meanings for Four-Cornered (Quaternary) Celtic Knots
♦ Indication of the four directions: North, South, East, West.
♦ Indication of the four seasons.
♦ Indication of the four great treasures of the Tuatha
♦ A more modern indication of the four Latin Gospels in the Book of Kells
♦ Indication of the four elements: Earth, Fire, Water, Air
♦ Indication of the four Celtic fire festivals: Samhain, Beltane, Imbolc, Lughnasadh.
♦ An emblem of Brigid, also known as the Queen of the Four Fires a she demonstrates her four-branched wisdom of hand, hearth, head and heart.
There are also insubstantial rumors that this design is a four-leaf clover design – a symbol of good luck.
There are also legends that the four-cornered Celtic knot design was created as a symbol protection. In Druidic philosophies, there were four major energies, or Gods, if you will governing a specific quandrant of the world…this four-cornered emblem was used to invoke these powers for protection (in the home, corporeal protection during battle, etc.).
I always encourage people to meditate upon the symbols (in your case, your knot) they are wanting clarification about. Sit quietly in the presence of your Celtic Elders – ask them for the knowledge you seek. Often the best (and most personal) identification of symbols is derived from our ancestors in spirit.
I hope this article on quaternary Celtic knot meanings has helped you on your Path. Check out the links at the end of this page for more Celtic knot meanings and symbolic insights from the Celtic culture.
Other Articles of Interest on This Site
More Celtic Knots and Celtic Symbol Meanings
If this article got your interest, check out this page. It offers dozens of links about different Celtic knot meanings and various Celtic symbols. Also includes information about the Ogham, Celtic zodiac, and more. Get more symbolic Celtic meanings here.
Celtic Cross Meanings
The Celtic cross is very similar in meaning to the quaternary knot. The cross is a meeting of divine, universal energies. It represents the harmony and stability of powerful, sacred energies both seen and unseen in our universe. Get more on Celtic cross meaning here.