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The Celtic shield knot (sometimes called a looped square) is one of the most recognizable of the Celtic knots, and one of the oldest. While in the past it symbolized protection, today it’s a popular pattern used in jewelry, retail items, and artwork with connections to love and unity.
What is the Celtic Shield Knot?
Four versions of the shield knot
There are many variations to the Celtic shield knot, with modern stylized versions also available. However, the defining feature of the shield knot is its four clear corners. This symbol is usually just a looped square, but sometimes it may contain a circle in the center.
Like all Celtic knots, this knot also has no beginning or end and is formed with a single thread weaving and interlacing upon itself. There are no loose ends to the pattern, which gives it a continuous, endless appearance.
History of the Celtic Shield Knot
While it’s difficult to say when exactly the shield knot was first used in Celtic artwork, there is evidence that the shield knot is much older than the Celtic civilization. Variations of the shield knot have been found in older civilizations, dating back thousands of years.
Here are some cultures in which the shield knot has been used.
- Mesopotamia – A variation of the shield knot was used in Mesopotamia as a protective symbol and when calling on the Gods of the four corners of the earth.
- Norse culture – A similar symbol was used by the ancient Norse, with the four corners representing the solar cross (possibly the oldest religious symbol in the world).
- Celts – The shield knot became popular in Celtic culture during the period of Insular art, where interlacing patterns, such as spirals and knots, began to flourish.
- Christianity – The Christians took over the symbol of the shield knot and called it St. Hannes cross or St. John’s Arms.
Meaning of the Celtic Shield Knot
The Celtic shield knot was used as a symbol of protection, to ward off evil spirits and harm. Many soldiers would carry amulets of the charm with them when going to the battlefield. Alternatively, this symbol was placed on the battlefield to protect the soldiers from harm.
However, the shield knot can also be interpreted to represent eternal love, unity, and loyalty between friends, family, and lovers. It is an endless loop, with no end or beginning, representing everlasting love while the knot image represents an unbreakable bond. This connection with love is the more popular association today.
Celtic Shield Knot in Jewelry and Fashion
Another reason for its popularity is that there are many versions of the Celtic shield knot available. It can be stylized and personalized, leaving in the main elements, while adding a touch of uniqueness to the design. It’s often used in rustic or bohemian jewelry styles, but can also be formed into high-quality jewelry depending on the materials and style used. Below is a list of the editor’s top picks featuring the Celtic shield knot.
The Celtic shield knot continues to be popular today, just like most of the other Celtic knots and spirals. While its original symbolism of warding off evil is not as common these days, its symbolism of love and union has made it a universal image.