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Celtic Sailor’s Knot – What Does it Symbolize?

Tying knots is part-and-parcel to being a sailor and living a life on uncharted waters. Although an old practice, we don’t really know where knot tying started, or which seafaring people developed it. The Celtic knot is believed to have been created by sailors during their voyages to remember loved ones.

About the Ancient Celts

The Celts were not only a pastoral, agricultural people capable of great battle, but they also took to the sea. It wasn’t uncommon for these sailors to stay at sea for months on end; either getting cargo from other areas of Europe or fishing for their communities.

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Another prolific practice among the ancient Celts was the weaving of knots. People to this day identify their Welsh, Irish, or Scottish heritage by the appearance of these special intertwined lines. Although the history is debatable, some of the more popular designs have built on their meanings for over the last 150 years.

Design of the Sailor’s Knot

What does the sailors knot look like

As the name signifies, the invention of this knot is attributed to sailors, and it’s believed to be thousands of years old. This is an elegant and simple knot consisting of two entwined ropes. It has four points with two looping lines. These form the overall shape of the symbol. It’s indicative of a sailor’s deep adoration for the loved ones they left behind when heading out to sea.

They fashioned the knots out of extra rope from the ship which gave them an opportunity to work with their artistic capabilities while at sea. Doing this probably also helped to pass the time when waters were calm.

Sailors knot bracelet
Sailor’s knot bracelet. See it here.

Even though it’s very simple to tie, the functionality and practicality of the sailor’s knot makes it one of the strongest knots that bind better when strained. It fortifies with time and pressure. They would then give these knots to their sweethearts upon returning home. Women often wore these as bracelets, belts, or hair decorations.

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What the Sailor’s Knot Symbolizes

The strength and fortification provided by these knots are a beautiful allegory for the binding of true and enduring love, withstanding even the worst storms and rough waters that life throws at us.

The Celtic sailor’s knot represents the sea in summertime and was a keepsake of harmony, lasting love, friendship, and affection. Since it also was a protective amulet, sailors believed it would keep them safe while at sea. It is a powerful lucky charm, believed to bless the wearer with good fortune.

Even though modern sailors don’t use it in the same way, this knot is a common design found in tattoos, decorative motifs, and jewelry. You can see it on rings, necklaces, anklets, earrings, brooches, and bracelets.

In Brief

The Celtic sailor’s knot is an ancient symbol of everlasting love. Its inherent design lends itself to strength and durability, the perfect allegory for a love that’s tried and true. Although not as popular as other Celtic knots, it’s a beautiful interlocking design perfect in jewelry and fashion.

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Dani Rhys
Dani Rhys

Dani Rhys has worked as a writer and editor for over 15 years. She holds a Masters degree in Linguistics and Education, and has also studied Political Science, Ancient History and Literature. She has a wide range of interests ranging from ancient cultures and mythology to Harry Potter and gardening. She works as the chief editor of Symbol Sage but also takes the time to write on topics that interest her.