The Celtic Sisters’ Knot is one that I’d been meaning to do for a long time. My most popular pendants seem to be ones that symbolize family in one way or another, such as the Motherhood Knot, Father’s Knot, and Mother and Child Knot. This is my version of this knot.
I was inspired to create this when I read a quote that said “Hope is the anchor of the soul.” I really liked the idea of the anchor as a symbol of hope. It’s not intuitive but it still seems to work. This phrase is inspired from a Bible passage, Hebrews 6, verses 16 to 20. Here is the full passage from the New International Version:
16People swear by someone greater than themselves, and the oath confirms what is said and puts an end to all argument. 17Because God wanted to make the unchanging nature of his purpose very clear to the heirs of what was promised, he confirmed it with an oath. 18God did this so that, by two unchangeable things in which it is impossible for God to lie, we who have fled to take hold of the hope set before us may be greatly encouraged. 19We have this hope as an anchor for the soul, firm and secure. It enters the inner sanctuary behind the curtain, 20where our forerunner, Jesus, has entered on our behalf. He has become a high priest forever, in the order of Melchizedek.
This was inspired from various tattoos I have seen, and also from the Dropkick Murphys album cover Signed and Sealed In Blood. I really liked the image of a bleeding rose and wanted to understand what it meant.
Obviously, the rose is a symbol of love. Some would say that a bleeding rose is supposed to symbolize the idea that love can outlive death. This idea goes way back actually, all the way to Greek mythology. The rose was a symbol associated with Aphrodite, who was often depicted wearing them. Adonis was her lover. There is a legend that a rose bush grew where he died and his blood had spilled, and that before that roses were white and not red.
The Celtic Knot around the border of the shield is also another reference to this idea – two loops are intertwined and don’t have a beginning or an end. Celtic art and Celtic knots often border on goth style in a lot of cases. This one is probably the most goth design I’ve ever done. It took a long time to figure out how to make the rose intricate enough to be somewhat realistic, but also robust enough that it could actually be 3D printed.
UPDATE 8/25/2016: I have corrected an error in this post. I was careless in saying that the Golden Ratio, Phi, came from the Fibonacci Series. The Golden Ratio is the solution to the equation (a+b)/b = a/b = Phi. The Fibonacci series is one series of numbers that converges on Phi. So they are two unrelated concepts that happen to converge on the same number. I regret the error.
I also added a caveat regarding confirmation bias to the section about how Phi is found in art and nature. Some of these claims are in dispute, but I still present them anyway as food for thought. I personally find some of them quite interesting, if nothing else.
Here is the original post from 11/24/2015 with the corrections:
I was recently asked to design a Pentagram pendant from someone who found me through my Shapeways shop. I have of course seen the Pentagram many times. I was aware that the Pentagram was often used as a symbol by the occult and Satanists. So I deliberately avoided doing any designs of it or even related to it before now. It’s really unfortunate that such groups have decided to use it (although they normally use one that is upside down, not right-side up). Regardless, I was very pleased to learn the relationship of the Pentragram to the Golden Ratio, which is seen throughout nature and in many works of art. Let’s take back this amazing symbol and use it for better purposes.
What is the Golden Ratio?
First of all, what is the Golden Ratio? The Golden Ratio is derived from solving the equation (a+b)/a = a/b. If you set the ratio a/b = Phi, the you get the equation 1 + (1/Phi) = Phi. When you solve this, you get Phi = (1 + √5)/2, which is 1.61803… Phi is another irrational number like Pi that goes on forever without a pattern.
The Fibonacci Series in mathematics also converges to Phi. It’s a remarkable coincidence that the two happen to converge on the same number even though they are not directly related. The Fibonacci series starts with either 0, 1 or 1, 1. The next number in the series is the sum of the previous two. So the first numbers in the series are:
You can see 0+1=1 and 1+1=2 and 1+2=3 and 2+3=5 all the way to 89+144=233 and so on.
As you go further and further out, the ratio of one number to the previous number starts to converge on Phi, which is 1.61803…For example, 233/144= 1.618055… It’s already starting to get pretty close. if you went further out in the series, you would get an even closer approximation of Phi.
In geometry a “Golden Rectangle” is one where the length divided by the height has the ratio of Phi.
There is also a “Golden Spiral” or “Fibonacci Spiral”. Take a Golden Rectangle and start dividing it into further Golden Rectangles. If you draw a spiral that follows the borders of these rectangles, then you get an approximation of a Fibonacci Sprial:
How is the Pentagram Related to the Golden Ratio?
The Pentagram contains several dimensions that result in a Golden Ratio. This page has a great explanation of it. Here is another way of looking at it:
In this diagram, the length of each segment is related by the Golden Ratio:
a/b = Phi
b/c = Phi
c/d = Phi
The Golden Ratio Appears Throughout Nature and Art
First I will start this section with a disclaimer. Many of the examples below are disputed. The criticism is confirmation bias: when you start looking for the Golden Ratio, you start finding evidence of it everywhere. In fact, this phenomenon of finding the Golden Ratio everywhere has been hilariously mocked by the parody Twitter account Fibonacci Perfection. At the risk of being mocked, I still personally find some of these examples compelling and interesting enough to include in this blog post.
I read that the Taj Majal used the Golden Ratio in some of its’ proportions. I had to see for myself. I overlaid a picture I found that had a Golden Spiral with a series of Golden Rectangles on top of a picture of the Taj Majal. See for yourself:
To me, it sure appears that the distance between the pillars and outer edge of the dome follow the Golden Ratio. If you look closer there appear to be other distances that follow this ratio.
Another example in architecture is the Parthenon, although that has been disputed.
Some people say that features in the human face follows the Golden Ratio, and so we may find objects or art that display the Golden Ratio to be pleasing. So even if the Greeks didn’t build the Parthenon to follow the Golden Ratio on purpose, maybe they designed it with similar dimensions because they thought it looked most appealing.
In nature, there are many examples. I already mentioned the human face. Other features such as the length of each segment of your fingers, starting at your wrist follow this ratio. This is a neat article with a lot of examples. One that I found kind of mind-blowing was that many species of flowers have a number of petals found in the Fibonacci Series.
3 petals – Lilies
5 petals – Trillium, Buttercups, Roses
8 petals – Delphinium, Bloodroot
13 petals – Marigolds, Black-Eyed Susans
21 petals – Shasta Daisy
34 petals – Field Daisies, Pyrethrum
The theory as to why so many features of plants would follow this ratio is that it has to do with the most efficient use of space. Plants have to efficiently use sunlight, so it would make sense that their leaves and other features would arrange to maximize their use of surface area.
More famously are the examples of the Golden Spiral in nature. The hurricane, spiral galaxy and Nautilus sea shells are all examples of things that are Golden Spirals, or very close.
So, what is the meaning of the Pentagram then?
The Pentagram has a direct relationship with the Golden Ratio, and the Golden Ratio has a relationship with so many things found in nature. So to me, the Pentagram symbolizes this relationship between math and nature. No one knows why this symmetry exists in nature or why so many natural phenomenon would follow the Golden Ratio. The Pentagram also symbolizes this mystery. It’s an acknowledgment that there are forces at work which we don’t fully understand but can appreciate.
It might seem strange for a jewelry designer to be inspired by music. It’s not so much the music as it is the ambition and meaning behind the music that is what I find so interesting about it. Reading this really cool retrospective of the album inspired me to write this blog post.
This album came out I was in college. I was already addicted to the Smashing Pumpkins’ previous album, Siamese Dream. I bought Mellon Collie and the Infinite Sadness the very first day it came out, and I still have it. I remember not liking it the first few times I listened to it. It was quite a departure from Siamese Dream. It took a few listens before some of the songs started to draw me in. There were other songs that literally took dozens of listens before I really started to like them. Over the years, my favorite song on the album has changed several times. Today, it is “By Starlight”. At one time or another, it was “1979” or “Thirty Three” or “Thru The Eyes of Ruby”. This is also the mark of a great album. I take something different from it today than I did at a younger age.
Back when this first came out I didn’t understand my own tastes very well yet. I knew what I liked, but I didn’t really understand why. It took me years to really understand why I liked certain things so much, such as this album, or a book or movie like Cloud Atlas, or intricate Celtic symbols.
You Can Get “Lost Inside” Of It
I read an article about M83, talking about their album “Hurry Up, We’re Dreaming” (which is also one of my favorite albums). M83 songwriter Anthony Gonzalez said when they were making it, they wanted to make something big and ambitious, and cited Mellon Collie as an example of the kind of album they were aiming for. It’s funny because the two albums are so starkly different musically, but yet do have a lot of things in common artistically. He said of Mellon Collie that he “got lost inside of it every time”.
This idea of getting “lost inside” something was the best description I’ve heard yet for why I like albums and art like this. What does it mean to be able to get “lost inside” art? To me it means that when you focus on it, you forget where you are for a bit. It temporarily takes you to another place. While you are there, there are a number of different ideas to explore. Also, if you listen to it more than once, you might get a different meaning out of it the next time, or notice something you overlooked, or see something in a different light. So while on the surface you are experiencing it by hearing the music or reading the words, there is plenty going on that you might be trying to figure out consciously or subconsciously.
Mellon Collie does this in a number of ways. There is the artwork. You could write a long article just about the album art (and someone has). Most young people like me from suburbia had never seen anything like the artwork before. The artwork also tells you that the music is detailed and there is a lot going on with it. It’s asking you to look for details in the music just like a complicated collage is asking you to look at details.
Another thing you can get “lost inside” is the lyrics. This was the first album that the Smashing Pumpkins included lyrics with it. The book with the lyrics also had art on it as well. Since there were so many songs, you could spend some time trying to glean meaning or making connections between songs.
Finally, there was the music itself. The first song is piano only. The last song ends with the same single piano, but the melody has changed slightly. What to make of this? Then there is a a daytime/nightime theme going on. The first disk is called “Dawn to Dusk” and the second one is called “Twilight to Starlight”. The songs kind of fit under these two broad ideas. It’s another hint at a bigger picture that this album somehow fits into, but what is it? How you get lost is in trying to figure all of these things out.
How Does Art Do Pull Someone “Inside”?
So above I mentioned several reasons as to why I believe this album draws people in to where they can get lost inside of it. I’ve had this same feeling about a number of other things, whether it be an album, a book, or a movie. In general, all of these things that I love have a few things in common:
They are all very complex. I already mentioned the things I think make Mellon Collie so complex. Another thing that kind of helps is the overall length. They have to be large in scale, whatever they are. My favorite book and movie is Cloud Atlas for both. The book is 509 pages and the story structure is incredibly complicated. It makes you think. The movie is possibly even more complicated, the way it switches from one story to another, and there is meaning behind why they jump when they do. The book does less jumping around.
They give you a number of different ideas to explore. Mellon Collie has several big, overarching themes it could be about. Is it about one of them or all of them? One of them is definitely youth and growing up. Another is life and death. Another is simple and pure nostalgia. Another is lamenting growing up. You get the idea. These are all big, big ideas, and the album could be about one of them or all of them. Cloud Atlas is similar in this respect. Is it book about materialism (all the stories are materially connected even though they happen decades or centuries apart). Is it about reincarnation? Is it about spiritualism? Is it about good and evil? Heaven and Hell? I wrote about that possibility in this blog post.
They leave certain things to your imagination. All of these leave tantalizing clues that certain things are interconnected or related, but none of them don’t ever come out and say it. That would kill it. All the different possible meanings I list out in the paragraph above were actually all invented by me. There are clues within these things that led me to these ideas, but I had to connect some dots to come up with them.
What Does This Have To Do With Celtic Symbols?
I wrote this blog post to kind of show where my inspiration comes from, and what I aim for with some of my designs. I basically design symbols. I have a long page where I try to explain the meaning of different Celtic symbols. Even there though, I am just explaining the meaning that others have assigned to these symbols over time. The original Celtic knot symbols that I designed myself do have their own meanings to me but I try not to explain them too much. Ultimately, the question is: what do they mean to you?
In any case, if you look at some of these Celtic symbols, you can appreciate them on a basic level. You may just find the shape attractive. However, there is more going on, like in the art I talk about above. The basic shape is one thing. The shape could be made up of multiple loops that are interwoven. The number and shape of the individual loops can also mean something. How they are woven together also can mean something. I’d also encourage you to look at the negative space in some of these symbols (the area between the lines). In some of them, that has meaning. I can also give another clue to the meaning in how I present the piece in pictures on my site.
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