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Powerful Symbols and Meanings Of Celtic and Viking Culture

Powerful Symbols and Meanings Of Celtic and Viking Culture

The Celts and the Norse continue to have a powerful influence over us. In part, this is because those cultures played a pivotal role in making the western world what it would become. However, it should also be noted that both the Celts and the Norse have living successors, meaning that there is no shortage of modern people interested in learning more about their ancestors.

For those who are interested in the famous symbols of the Celts and the Norse, be sure to check their meaning.

Dragon

Dragon doesn’t refer to a single kind of creature. Instead, the term encompasses an enormous number of both serpents and other species incorporating serpentine elements from a wide range of times as well as a wide range of cultures.

Powerful Symbols and Meanings Of Celtic and Viking CultureIllumination of a 15th century manuscript of Historia Regum Britanniae showing king of the Britons Vortigern and Ambros watching the fight between two dragons. (Image Source)

Celtic mythology

In Celtic culture the dragon was a gatekeeper to other worlds and guardian to the secrets and treasures of the universe. They were often depicted side by side with the Celtic gods. As creatures that protect the Earth and all living things, Celtic dragons are considered the most powerful of all the Celtic symbols.

They are used as a symbol of power and wisdom among leaders. Dragons are seen on many coat of arms and on the Welsh flag.

Y Ddraig Goch, the red dragon, on the Welsh flag was derived from the Great Red Serpent that had represented the Welsh god Dewi. King Arthur was one of the first leaders to use the red dragon. It was prominently shown on his helmet.

Norse mythology

Meanwhile, another excellent example would be the monstrous Nidhogg, which chews upon the roots of the World Tree Yggdrasil in Norse mythology. Nidhogg is sometimes thought of as connected to death, and has commonly been presented in modern fiction as a servant of Hel (the goddess of the underworld).

Dragons can represent different concepts but they always associated with power and enormous strength, their symbolic meaning includes development, protection and wisdom.

Tree of Life

The Celtic Tree of Life is a well known symbol often seen on tapestries, and on other types of decorations. For the Ancient Celts, the Tree of Life was a symbol of balance and harmony. Trees in general were an integral part of the Celts culture and beliefs, with the Celtic Tree of Life holding great importance. As such, it is no wonder that apple trees became seen as symbols of fertility as well as immortal life, with a particularly example of this association being found in Arthuriana’s Avalon, which is a name that means “Isle of Apples.”

Powerful Symbols and Meanings Of Celtic and Viking CultureA tympanum of the Tree of Life on Dowdeswell church. © Copyright Philip Halling (Image Source)

In Norse mythology it is called Yggdrasil and it is an eternal and sacred Ash tree with branches that stretch out to harbor nine worlds. It is has three roots and each one reaches to a different mysterious world. The first root is connected with Asgard, the ancient kingdom of the powerful Norse gods.

Skull

For Gothic fantasy lovers, it might be interesting to note that the ancient Celtic religions placed a huge importance on human heads, so much so that some archaeologists have speculated about them being symbolic representations of the whole human being. If so, that is an association that still thrives in the present day, not least because we put such a strong emphasis on our minds being ourselves. Besides this, the symbolism of skulls is rich with other potential interpretations, with examples ranging from a reminder of the transience of earthly pleasures and pursuits to their use as a representation of the seeds of new life in Aztec mythology.

Powerful Symbols and Meanings Of Celtic and Viking CultureAncient Celtic religions placed a huge importance on human skull

Wolf

The ancient Celts and Norse saw wolves in a much more negative light than we do. For proof, look no further than the story of Fenrisulfr, who is prophesied to kill Odin before being killed by Odin’s avenging son Vidar come Ragnarok.

Powerful Symbols and Meanings Of Celtic and Viking Culture“Tyr and Fenrir” by John Bauer (1911) (Image Source)

The symbolic value of wolf mixes liberally with hound and dog in Celtic tradition as an emblem of bravery, faithfulness and integrity. Overall the Celtic stories speak of wolf as a guide who walked closely with the god of the forest, Cernunnos.

With that said, one thing has remained constant about them, which is that they are symbols of power and often used as talisman by people who want to borrow something of that power.

Thor’s Hammer

Thor has been a heroic figure for centuries and centuries before the invention of comic books. Besides being a slayer of the monsters that threatened the human order, he was a granter of fertility in more than one sense of the word, which makes it no wonder that he was so popular. As such, it should come as no surprise to learn that adherents of Norse religion used to wear and still wear Thor’s hammer pendants for protection as well as other good things.

Powerful Symbols and Meanings Of Celtic and Viking CultureThor's Fight with the Giants (1872) by Mårten Eskil Winge. (Image Source)

Shamrock

Powerful Symbols and Meanings Of Celtic and Viking CultureShamrock as church gate detail, Belfast. © Copyright Albert Bridge (Image Source)

The shamrock was once a symbol of St. Patrick, who is credited with founding the Christian faith in the nation that now claims him for its patron saint. However, the shamrock underwent a transformation into an Irish national symbol in the 18th century, with the result that it has become more and more popular until it is now synonymous with Irish culture as a whole.

Celtic Knot

Powerful Symbols and Meanings Of Celtic and Viking CultureCeltic knot All Saints Cemetery Newcastle upon Tyne, Tyne and Wear, England, UK (Image Source)

Some examples of Celtic knots are very literal in the sense that they are actual knots created for decorative purposes. Other examples are representations of such knots in some other medium, having long since become an iconic element of Celtic art. Under such circumstances, people who want to invoke something about Celtic culture can do so in an instant by showing something bearing Celtic knots.

Green Man

Powerful Symbols and Meanings Of Celtic and Viking Culture Sandstone carving of Green Man, at Garway Church (Image Source)


The Green Man is a very striking image, thus making it an excellent choice for ornamentation. Meaning-wise, it is seen as a symbol of rebirth, which is very much rooted in its connection with the cycle of seasons. However, there are those who see the Green Man as a representation of various nature deities because of its widespread nature.

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Powerful Symbols and Meanings Of Celtic and Viking Culture
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