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The Irish Moon Knot

The tying of complicated knots to bind a wish or a curse was an ancient tradition in Ireland. “Manannan” (who was the Lord of the Waters) and his followers were said to tie reeds into eldritch shapes and throw them into the bog as offerings. Different knots have different meanings as we can see with our own Brigid’s Cross where we weave rushes to make a cross. For us our Celtic Knotwork is a focal point for a lot of our Connemara Marble Jewelry.

Belief in the tying of these knots lasted a long time in Ireland and it would have been a grave mistake to break the bonds of the knots in a less than fitting manner. Not all knots were tied for dark reasons though, often ones deepest wishes and spiritual hopes were bound within the knot.  Knots were crafted for very practical reasons also and these kind of knots were known as “bhurach” or cow-ties. Called because they were bound to prevent the cows from kicking or wandering while they were being milked.  

Wily witches were known to make a “bhurach” from a cow’s tail and use it to magically steal the farmers milk and good luck! They boiled the hair and twisted it into a rope with a gap at each end through which they would push a small stick or bone called a “buairicín”.

The moon knot could also be worn as a belt to change shape or that of others. Some of the bog bodies which have been recovered from their aeons-old resting places have such cords tied around their necks. Was this to keep them safe with a wish for peace or maybe a dastardly curse? We will never know.

Here at Connemara Marble our Celtic knotwork is at the heart of much of our jewellery design. Spirals, step patterns, and key patterns are dominant motifs in Celtic art before the Christian influence on the Celts, which began around 450. These designs found their way into early Christian manuscripts and artwork with the addition of depictions from life, such as animals, plants and even humans.

In the beginning, the patterns were intricate interwoven cords and as time went on the designs became more complex and ornamental. A fragment of a Gospel Book, now in the Durham Cathedral library and created  in the 7th century, contains the earliest example of true knotted designs in the Celtic manner.

Other fine examples can be seen on our Celtic crosses, grave slabs and the famous Book of Kells.

According to legend there are other meanings for Celtic knotwork.  One tells of the tangle of knots that symbolise life’s journey and the curved road we must take. The three cornered Trinity knot can symbolise the blessed trinity : The Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit. Another legend tells that its symbolises family – the farther, the mother , the child.

But for me my favourite meaning to be found in Celtic Knotwork is eternal love as the knots have no beginning and no end. If you would like to see more of our Celtic Knot Jewelry please visit our website at





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