The Celtic Cross is a symbol that dates back hundreds of years. You’ve probably seen it countless times without even realizing what it was. Today it can be seen on jewelry, on buildings, in people’s tattoos, in cemeteries and in certain parts of the world, you can even find them scattered in fields and on top of mountains.
But where did is popular symbol originate from and what does it mean?
Here is everything you need to know about the Celtic Cross.
It isn’t known exactly where the Celtic Cross originated, however despite its current symbolism, it might technically not have originated in Ireland. The Celts were a people made up of different tribes that were scattered across Europe, including the areas we now know as Ireland today. In Ireland, Celtic Cross symbols have been found to date as far back as the 8th century.
What this means is that the cross was not originally a Christian symbol either. Some believe it represents the four elements – Earth, Air, Water, Fire. Others think the cross is a compass and others think it may represent the cycle of a day in four stages – morning, midday, evening, and midnight. There are many other theories of its original meaning, but this has of course changed over time.
Like the origins of the Celtic Crosses, how it became associated with Christianity is unclear. The original crosses were carved into stone, but over time they began to be carved into freestanding sculptures. Some theorise that St. Patrick played a hand in the meaning applied to the crosses, however simply taking one look at them and it’s to understand why people have made the connection.
Over time, as symbols often do, the meaning of the crosses has changed. Today, the cross is typically used to represent two things:
Christianity: The Celtic cross has been adopted as a sign of Christ and wider Christianity. Many Christians, especially those of Scottish or Irish heritage, choose to wear it instead of standard cross jewelry. It’s easy to understand why – the designs are simply beautiful.
Celtic Identity: The Celtic Cross has also become a symbol of pride in one’s Celtic heritage. Again, this is why it appears in jewelry, but also in tattoos, clothing, and other accessories. This is also why Celtic Crosses have been used as tombstones all over the world. They appear typically on graves of those with Irish or Scottish heritage and this trend became popular in the 1800s. As people have migrated from Scotland and Ireland around the world, they have brought this symbol with them.
It goes without saying that this is a very brief overview of a very culturally significant symbol. We encourage you to do your own research, and perhaps, you discover what the Celtic Cross means to you!