The Celtic cross is one of the most iconic symbols from the region’s history. The pagans, druids and Christians have all used it as a powerful token of faith. Faith in what exactly is unfortunately unknown and what is known, is unverified.
The symbol combines the cross of Christianity and the circle. What that circle represents is also widely debated. It’s either the sun, which was worshipped for its life-giving properties by the pagans, or the moon goddess. Most Celtic crosses are heavily decorated with knots and spirals that are typical of ancient Celtic designs. Some also include biblical scenes in the arms of the cross.
The Legend of St Patrick
The most commonly accepted story behind the creation of the Celtic cross is that St Patrick brought the two elements together while converting pagans to Christianity. This was in the seventh century while St Patrick was in Ireland working with the pagans.
The idea behind the combination was that pagans understood the circle to be a symbol of great importance, and by placing the cross there too, the cross would also be seen as equally important. Others have interpreted this action as St Patrick attempting to show the pagans that Jesus Christ is more important than the circle as the cross was placed on top of or in front of the circle.
All of this is based on the historical writings of the Christian monks at the time. The exact history has been lost and only these records remain. It is possible that this story is true, but instead of St Patrick being the one it was in fact St Declan who created this combination.
The Mystery of Life
The ancient Celts relied on oral history and telling the stories of how their people lived through the generations. Unfortunately, this means that their side of this particular story has been lost. However, there is a take on the Celtic cross that shows how the Irish gave their own meaning and symbolism to the Christian cross. This may have come before the time of St Patrick, or even well before the best pokies app but it is still iconic in its way.
According to this story, the four arms of the cross are the four ways to achieve ascension. These are the self, wisdom, nature and god/goddess and by looking at the cross, you are getting to objectively know them all. Where these four arms intersect is the point at which the mystery of life will unfold. The circle around the cross also represents elements related to ascension. It is broken in four: inclusion, totality, unification and wholeness.
In the 1800s, the Celtic region experienced a resurgence in local pride and understanding of their heritage. The Celtic cross was adopted by those with Celtic ancestry as a symbol for this heritage and a proud icon for their identity.
The religious elements of the Celtic cross will always remain. However, in the 21st century, this symbol is now more about the region and the people than a particular religion.