The ancient Celts were an extremely spiritual people who found deep symbolism in even the most basic things. Like other spiritually-inclined groups, which is basically everyone at that time, they utilized mandalas to express their beliefs in a physical, artistic format. The Celtic people viewed these mandalas as a creative and tactile way to connect with their origins and ancestry. They used the mandala symbols to visualize their desires, imitate their visions, and ultimately enrich their culture and tradition.
Mandalas offered the ancient Celts a way to focus, engaging their hearts and minds with the goal of becoming more keenly aware and achieving a sense of true enlightenment. In general, the mandalas were tools to open and enrich the mind. It allowed individuals to delve into the depths of their soul and regain a proper, healthy balance between internal thoughts and external behaviors.
In doing so, the Celts believed that they could more accurately communicate with spirits and advance their intuition.
The symbols that the Celts left with us via their artistic mandalas speak to us of their culture, beliefs, and history. Although there are many that can be studied and utilized (as with any culture), there are a select few that stand out most.
Tree of Life
Perhaps one of the most iconic Celtic mandalas is the Tree of Life. Admiration and respect for trees were at the heart of every Celt, and these natural wonders were involved in a great deal of their ancient symbolism and tradition. Oak tree, in particular, was highly valued, as it once covered the Isles in the forest. The Druids held their lessons in the midst of Oak groves because the Celtic words for “wood” and “wisdom” were quite similar – something that they viewed as highly symbolic.
In their eyes, all of the cosmos could be depicted in a single tree, where the roots grow deep, grounding it to nature, and the branches ascend toward the heavens. All good and all life were housed in this tree, as it facilitated the creation of the universe. In this light, the tree was the Mother, all nourish and all giving. The interlacing branches that are often depicted on this mandala signify the Celtic belief in the cyclical nature and continuity of life.
The Celtic knot is another famous symbol of this group’s history and culture. It is prevalent across various art forms because of its universality, with knots ranging from simple to complicated. The basic symbolic meaning associated with this knot is quite simple: interconnectedness. The Celts had a strong belief in the intertwining of life and eternity. By focusing on this mandala, people could follow its flow and make intuitive connections with their own journey through life. Furthermore, this Celtic symbol enforces the Celtic tradition of interconnectedness with one’s ancestors.
Another archetypal mandala found in both ancient and modern Celtic culture is the Triquetra (or “three-cornered”) symbol. As the Celts were highly religious people, they used this symbol to signify the Holy Trinity. However, there are many interpretations for which trifecta or triangle of entities the Celts was honoring, no more or less correct than the others. Examples include spirit, mind, and body; past, present, and future; creation, preservation, and destruction; mother, father, and child; and Father, Son, and Holy Ghost.