What Does the Celtic Shield Knot Mean?

celtic shield knot
The Celtic Shield Knot is one of the ancient Celtic knots. It's called a loop square and is a symbol of protection. The Shield Knot was used on banners, doors, and shields, and it was carried when going to battlefields. However, in today's world, the Shield Knot is commonly found in Celtic jewelry. The Celtic Shield Knot is drawn as a continuous line with no beginning or end. It's an endless loop and is knitted or stitched using a single thread. 

The Symbolism of the Celtic Shield Knot

The Celtic Shield Knot symbolizes the connection between life and eternity. It also represents allegiance, friendship, love, loyalty, and faith. The complicated design makes the Shield Knot a popular Celtic knot necklace. The Shield Knot is commonly used in Celtic art, quilts, and cutlery.

There are four different versions of the shield knot. The common point is the neat corners. That’s why it is also called a quaternary Celtic knot design. Even when the knot is placed in a circle, it retains the square’s four corners. 

The Shield Knot is a pagan symbol found on amulets. The Celts believed it provided protection from evil spirits and physical harm from enemies during battles. It shields people from all kinds of damage. 

The ancient Celts would place the Shield Knot beside sick people to drive away illness. They would also put the shield knot on those injured on the battlefields to heal them faster. 

celtic shield knot
A depiction of the Celtic Shield Knot

What Is the Celtic Significance of the Knot?

Celtic knots have a spiritual significance. Though knotwork is integral to Ireland, people from other countries use it. The Scots and Nordics also use knots derived from their ancient symbols. 

A knot is a loop made using a single thread. It doesn’t have a starting or an ending point. Instead, it flows continuously in a loop and signifies that life, death, and eternity are interlinked. Everlasting emotions like love, faith, loyalty, and friendship are represented by these knots. 

Even with the arrival of Christianity, the natives continued to use knots as their symbols. The best example is the Celtic cross with roost in the 12th century.

Examples of Celtic Knots

Celtic Trinity Knot (Triquetra): It is similar to the Vikings’ Valknut, and Christians later appropriated it by adding a circle around the three interlaced triangles. 

Celtic Love Knot: It is also known as the Irish love knot and symbolizes neverending love. People commonly use it in Celtic/ Irish weddings, along with the trinity knot. 

Celtic Spiral Knot (Triskelion): The oldest knot dates back to 3200 BCE. This three-spiral knot is also known as Triskele or Threefold Spiral. 

Dara Knot: It symbolizes the extensive root system of the oak tree, called a doire, and is a symbol of longevity and strength. 

Celtic Sailors Knot: The simplest yet strongest knot symbolizes friendship and harmony. It’s also used by sailors as protection when on the seas. 

Celtic Motherhood Knot: This is another version of the Trinity Knot and is a modern design. The number of hearts in the knot represents the number of children a mother has. 

Celtic Tree of Life: Crann Bethadh in Gaelic represents faith, stability, and coherence. The symbol blends knotwork with the shape of a tree that fits inside a circle. 

When Were Celtic Knots First Used?

There isn’t a clear history of Celtic knots. For example, the Shield Knot is older and predates the Celtic civilization. However, the Book of Kells from the 8th century contains evidence of the knots. The Celtic knots were popular and widely used even when Romans ruled the Irish lands. 

Historians say that the knots date back to 500 BCE, though no concrete proof is yet to be. The symbols are seen across Byzantine architecture and in Islamic art from the Middle East. The knots’ first user is still up for debate.

Many variations of the knotwork can be found in ancient civilizations. The Old Norse people and Vikings used similar knots for protection, strength, and courage. The Northumbrians and the Mesopotamians also used variations of the Shield Knot. 

What Is the Pattern of the Celtic Shield Knot?

The Celtic interlace pattern is prominent in all knotworks. It’s sometimes called zoomorphic, which is an animal-shaped pattern. The zoomorphic patterns usually have an animal’s head and tail to denote the starting and ending points of the knot. 

The artwork from Byzantine, Egypt, and Syria has these patterns, which closely resemble the Celtic knots. The interlace knot pattern may belong to the Germanic Anglo-Saxon culture

Is There a Celtic Symbol for Protection?

The Shield Knot is the Celtic symbol for protection. It provides physical and spiritual protection to the wearer. People give artwork, clothes, and jewelry with the shield knot as gifts to their loved ones to keep them safe. 

A Warding Knot keeps negative energy away and creates a positive space around the wearer. The knot does what it is named for. It shields people from the bad and empowers them with good positive energy. 

celtic shield knot
The Warding Knot is commonly used on wedding jewelry.

Is the Celtic Knot Irish or Scottish?

Ireland and Scotland have Celtic roots. People from both regions and all over the world use the knots. The knots are neither Irish nor Scottish. They are Celtic. Despite the differences between Irish and Scottish Celts, they share common roots and use similar symbols for protection, strength, and love, and they have the same pagan rituals. 

Popular Celtic Symbols Used in Jewelry 

Celtic and Druid symbolism have become popular since the revival in the 19th century. Though the symbols are found in artwork, they are now widely used as fashion and wedding jewelry. There are several popular Celtic symbols in rustic and high-end jewelry.

Examples of Celtic Symbols in Jewelry

  • Claddagh Ring 
  • Trinity Knot 
  • Love Knot
  • Shield Knot 
  • Dara Knot 
  • Celtic Tree of Life 
  • Triskelion 
  • Serch Bythol 


Vanessa's liberal arts background has prepared her well for Symbol Scholar. A self-proclaimed theology nerd, Vanessa has interests in world religions, Reformation theology, history, and more. When she's not working, Vanessa enjoys spending time with her family, reading, exercising, and watching professional basketball.

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