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Five-Fold Symbol – Origins, Meaning and Symbolism

The five-fold symbol is an integral part of Celtic mythology and spiritual beliefs. It’s also known as the Borromean Cross (not to be confused with the Borromean Rings). Variants of the five-fold symbol can be found in many ancient cultures across the globe, such as the quincunx and the pentacle.

In this article, we will be exploring the unique characteristics of the five-fold symbol, and the various symbolic meanings associated with it.

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Characteristics of the Celtic Five-Fold Symbol

Five fold symbol

The Celtic five-fold symbol has a total of five rings, with four surrounding a central ring. The four rings are bound together by a fifth ring, which is at the very heart of the symbol.  The central ring connects and integrates the four rings, without which, they would scatter and fall apart.

In appearance, the symbol looks very simple and is easy to replicate. There’s nothing to elaborate or fancy about it, but it’s this very simplicity and focus on the number five that gives the symbol its complex meaning.

The five-fold symbol is also called a Circular Knot.

Symbolic Meanings of The Five-Fold Symbol

The Celtic five-fold symbol has various symbolic meanings. It’s a symbol of Celtic heritage and has associations with various Celtic beliefs, most often associated with the number five.

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  1. Symbol of the five elements: The Celtic five-fold symbol represents the five elements, water, fire, air, earth, and the spirit. These five elements are fundamental to Celtic beliefs and are thought to be the very foundations for life itself.
  2. Symbol of seasons: The four rings within the five-fold symbol represent the seasons; spring, summer, autumn, and winter. The Celts believed in cyclic time, and seasons were an important marker to understand and calculate the time of the year. The central loop serves as a mechanism to track and regulate the duration of each season.  
  3. Symbol of enlightenment: According to Druid beliefs, meditating upon the five-fold symbol leads to greater awareness and understanding. In this meditative process, the five aspects of nature merge with human consciousness.
  4. Symbol of protection: The five-fold symbol is used as a symbol of protection in Celtic cultures. In many ancient beliefs and traditions, the number five is a holy number, and symbols such as the pentagram reflect this.
  5. Symbol of directions: The four rings of the five-fold symbol represent the four cardinal directions; East, North, West, and South. The topmost loop is associated with East and indicates the rising sun. The rising sun is an important part of Celtic beliefs and marks the beginning of a new day, and fresh start.
  6. Symbol of spirituality: Each of the circles in the five-fold symbol are associated with the Tuatha De Danann, or the children of the Irish goddess Danu. While Danu occupies the central circle, the four rings represent her offspring’s, Nuada, Lugh, Dagda, and Fal. Each of these magical goddesses provide gifts to the Celts, such as the sword, spear, cauldron, stone, and cord.
symbolism five fold explained

The five-fold symbol is a popular design in Celtic jewelry, representing Celtic heritage, culture and symbolism.

In Brief

The interconnecting circles of the Celtic Five-fold symbol have several profound meanings and associations. It remains a prominent symbol of the Celts.

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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.