Much of what we know about the meaning of the Celtic cross has been lost over the years.
The ancients Druids had an oral tradition, where they passed all of their wisdom and knowledge down orally…even their symbolic meaning of the Celtic cross.
What knowledge we have today comes from the writings of ancient Romans, but this can't be fully relied on because it can be biased.
Christian monks did write down some Celtic beliefs and mythology, but even this isn't fully accurate. There are elements of religious bias and assumptions about Celtic beliefs, faith, and life.
So we do have to carefully study Celtic literature to decipher the meaning of the Celtic cross and its symbolism.
About Celtic Cross Symbolism
The symbolic image of the Celtic cross consists of a cross with a circle or ring at the intersection.
Over time, the Celtic cross has evolved to include different art motifs and Celtic symbols on it as decoration. They have become quite popular and have spread from being used to decorate gravestones to a symbol that has spread beyond Ireland.
Celtic Cross Symbolic Meanings
Here are a few Celtic cross meanings to give you some quick keywords about this Celtic symbol.
What Does the Ring Mean?
Some legends state that St. Patrick brought the Celtic cross to Ireland. To bring Christianity to the ancient Celts and Druids, it is said that he combined the symbol of the cross with the sun (the ring or circle in the Celtic cross) to bridge the pagan beliefs about the sun with Christian beliefs.
However, no one really knows where the circle comes from. A circle was a pagan symbol for the moon, while a cross inside a circle was a pagan symbol for the sun. So it is possible that the Celtic cross was originally a pagan symbol that was later adopted by the Romans to convert the Celts to Christianity.
It was a normal practice for Christianity to adopt pagan symbols to help convert people, so while this is likely what happened with the Celtic cross, we can't know for certain as there we don't have written records showing this happened in this instance.
Based on my research, my opinion is that the circle on the Celtic cross is symbolic of the Celts belief in the cycle of life. There is a pattern to everything – from beginning to end, we always come back to where we started and begin again.
The seasons had great meaning for the Celts and played a role in Celtic Astrology. We pass through Spring, Summer, Fall, Winter, and return again to Spring. I believe this also plays into the symbolic meaning of the Celtic cross.
There is a balance to life, a pattern and a circle. It provides a wholeness that connects everything. This is the Celtic cross meaning.
What Does the Cross Mean?
We know that the Cross is a symbol that predates Christianity. The four arms of the cross have a different meaning in different cultures. The meanings of the cross include the four elements (earth, air, water, and fire), the four directions (north, south, east, and west), and the four parts of man (body, soul, mind, and heart).
It is also thought that the horizontal portion of the cross represents this world, while the vertical portion represents heaven. Where the two parts join represents the unification of heaven and earth.
Putting it all Together
More research needs to be done to fully know the symbolic meaning of the Celtic cross. Given the oral tradition of the ancient Celts and the lack of unbiased sources, we may never fully know Celtic cross meaning.
Was it created as a religious symbol?
Was it used to convert the Celts to Christianity?
Was it a spiritual symbol representing the cycle of life or the four elements?
These questions and many more remain.
I encourage you to do your own research on the symbolism and meaning of the Celtic cross.
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