The Universal Meaning of Celtic Knots
In the spring of 2003, I spent three weeks in the city of Chennai, formerly known as Madras, located in Southern India. Each morning, walking before
the heat of the day, I was amazed to see intricate knot work patterns drawn out free hand with flour in front of the driveways and gates of homes.
These artistic scrolls, I was told by an Indian friend, were offerings to local gods, and were part of a tradition that stretched back into the ancient past. I
have seen knot patterns in my travels throughout many parts of the world. In Islamic countries where iconography is prohibited, the mosques are
heavily decorated with knot-like patterns. Stone-carved knot work motifs can be found on ruins from the Americas to the Hindu iconography of Bali,
Indonesia. In Tibet, the "eternal knot" is a common symbol representing the endless cycles of existence. The knot work most familiar in the West is
from Celtic iconography. Though the Celts, before the Roman Empire, were spread throughout much of Western Europe, we're most familiar with their
designs remaining today in England, Scotland, Ireland and Wales. On the moors, surrounded by winding rock walls and ancient neolithic bridges, this
knot work carved in stone transcends time. We know from the writings of the Romans that the Celts believed strongly in the sacredness of place.
Similar to the beliefs of many in South India today, the land anchored a particular god or goddess that was meant to be honored, though we do not
know whether the knot work designs were made as offerings. The broad spectrum of knot work designs found in many cultures suggests that the
motif is both universal and rooted in ancient mystery. From the most general perspective, knot work iconography can be viewed as a metaphor for our
own unique tapestry of experience. On a macrocosmic level, the knots express metaphorically that life on earth is deeply interconnected, as illustrated
in the Spider Women's web or the Great Hoop of Life in Native American stories. As one N