Celtic Knots

I found an interesting pattern for weaving a Celtic knot design, so I am giving it a try.  (Thank you Robyn Spady. http://www.weavezine.com/content/kiss-me-i%E2%80%99m-irish)

celtic braid

Of course it won’t be authentic as far as Celtic weaving design goes.  As I have written about already, Celtic weaving originated in pre-Roman Europe and consisted largely of checked patterns and twills.  The secret to weaving this kind of supplementary-weft structure (like brocades and damask) was unknown outside of Asia and the Byzantine Empire until the draw loom was finally introduced to Italian textile artists in the 12th century.  Still it is a nice experiment!

The evolution of Celtic Art

I have been doing a bit of reading about Celtic art, and knot work in particular.  There is a wealth of opinion out there in books, articles and websites, with almost no common ground between the two dominant camps:  academics, archaeologists and art historians are in one corner and the romantic enthusiasts of all-things-Celtic in the other.

The conclusion of those who have studied the artifacts in depth is that Celtic sculpture and metalwork displayed knot work purely as decoration.  The same is true of the extraordinary patterns seen in many Hiberno-Saxon illustrated manuscripts.  The most famous of these is certainly the Book of Kells, an illuminated copy the Gospels which was created by monks around 800 AD.  The pages are filled with complex knot work, scrolls, braids and other patterns which are mathematically precise and beautifully drawn, with bright colours and elaborate calligraphy.

Book of Kells detail celtic trinity symbolceltic hearts

http://library.nd.edu/medieval/facsimiles/facsintro/irishmss/details/d6.html  https://www.pinterest.com/purplefaerey/celtic-knotwork/

The romantic enthusiasts have suggested that the never-ending pattern of knots might suggest eternity.  Or maybe that the endless crossovers suggest the inter-connectedness of the physical and spiritual worlds.  The early Christian church seems to have adapted the ancient triangular knot as a symbol of the Holy Trinity.  And as recently as the past couple of decades, jewelers have begun weaving heart shapes into the knot work.

At this point I began to realize that Celtic culture could not be confined to the history books – it did not come to an end in Britain with the Norman Conquest.  A Celtic revival began among artists and writers in the 19th century and it continues to this day.  Traditional designs, legends and religious themes are honoured even as they are adapted and embellished.  And artists and others are free to ascribe symbolic meaning to Celtic knots, even though there is no historical evidence of the Celts themselves making the same symbolic associations.  There is a timeless beauty in these patterns, and I expect this alone would account for their enduring popularity.

About Sally McLean

I am a weaver with a passion for European archaeology. And writing these blogs ensures that I am always learning more - in both areas!
This entry was posted in Ancient Designs, Celtic Weaving and tagged , , . Bookmark the permalink.

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