ICONIC CELTIC GIFTS

Need some inspiration for a Celtic or Irish gift idea? Then look no further than our collection of products inspired by Irish heritage and Celtic mythology, handcrafted by talented designers from all across the island. Each crafted souvenir is an embodiment of thousands of years of art and storytelling, which Gifts of Ireland is proud to present.

ANCIENT CELTIC ART

Ancient Celtic Art | Gifts of Ireland

Also known as insular art (from the Latin insula meaning 'island'), Celtic designs were eventually adapted by early Christian artists to adorn their works (most famously with the Book of Kells) and to acclimatize Christianity to the local pagan populations.

The most iconic features of Celtic art were the knots, known as icovellavna, which formed stylized patterns for illustration and calligraphy, such as the trinity knot. Spirals and triple-spirals (triskeles) are also a common motif - the latter being related to the importance of the number three in Celtic mythology.

As the ancient Celts migrated from Central Europe to Ireland and Britain, the designs likely have a mainland origin - though Christian missionaries from these islands would later help reintroduce the art back to Europe.

Ancient Celtic Art | Gifts of Ireland

ANCIENT CELTIC ART

Also known as insular art (from the Latin insula meaning 'island'), Celtic designs were eventually adapted by early Christian artists to adorn their works (most famously with the Book of Kells) and to acclimatize Christianity to the local pagan populations.

The most iconic features of Celtic art were the knots, known as icovellavna, which formed stylized patterns for illustration and calligraphy, such as the trinity knot. Spirals and triple-spirals (triskeles) are also a common motif - the latter being related to the importance of the number three in Celtic mythology.

As the ancient Celts migrated from Central Europe to Ireland and Britain, the designs likely have a mainland origin - though Christian missionaries from these islands would later help reintroduce the art back to Europe.

THE CELTIC TRINITY

Celtic Trinity | Gifts of Ireland

The leaf-life trinity knot, or triquetra (from the Latin 'three-cornered), was used by early Christans to represent the Holy Trinity, though the symbol has its roots in earlier pre-Christian religions, possibly existing thousands of years beforehand.

Being such as versatile symbol, the triquetra has countless interpretations - the number three was an important number in Celtic symbolism, so possible meanings also include the unity of the earth/sea/sky, the three stages of life, or various triple-deities.

It came to prominence during the period of 'insular art' in the early middle ages, which combined early Christian and Celtic art. Some of its most famous incarnations are found within the artwork of the Book of Kells. It was popularized again during the Celtic revival of the 19th Century.

Celtic Trinity | Gifts of Ireland

THE CELTIC TRINITY

The leaf-life trinity knot, or triquetra (from the Latin 'three-cornered), was used by early Christans to represent the Holy Trinity, though the symbol has its roots in earlier pre-Christian religions, possibly existing thousands of years beforehand.

Being such as versatile symbol, the triquetra has countless interpretations - the number three was an important number in Celtic symbolism, so possible meanings also include the unity of the earth/sea/sky, the three stages of life, or various triple-deities.

It came to prominence during the period of 'insular art' in the early middle ages, which combined early Christian and Celtic art. Some of its most famous incarnations are found within the artwork of the Book of Kells. It was popularized again during the Celtic revival of the 19th Century.

THE SHAMROCK

Shamrock | Gifts of Ireland

According to legend, St Patrick used the shamrock to teach the Celts about Christianity in the 5th century, with the three leaves representing the Holy Trinity. There were already several triple-deities in Irish mythology, which may have helped locals become accustomed to the concept of the Trinity.

The name derives from seamróg meaning 'young clover'. Since the 18th century it has been used as an official symbol of Irish heritage, becoming incorporated into numerous local flags, coats of arms, and sports emblems.

It is now a yearly St Patrick's Day tradition for the Irish taoiseach (prime minister) to present the President of the United States with a crystal bowl of shamrocks in the White House, as a celebration of Ireland's deep connection to the United States due to the Irish diaspora.

Shamrock | Gifts of Ireland

THE SHAMROCK

According to legend, St Patrick used the shamrock to teach the Celts about Christianity in the 5th century, with the three leaves representing the Holy Trinity. There were already several triple-deities in Irish mythology, which may have helped locals become accustomed to the concept of the Trinity.

The name derives from seamróg meaning 'young clover'. Since the 18th century it has been used as an official symbol of Irish heritage, becoming incorporated into numerous local flags, coats of arms, and sports emblems.

It is now a yearly St Patrick's Day tradition for the Irish taoiseach (prime minister) to present the President of the United States with a crystal bowl of shamrocks in the White House, as a celebration of Ireland's deep connection to the United States due to the Irish diaspora.

THE CELTIC CROSS

Celtic Cross | Gifts of Ireland

The Celtic Cross first appeared in Ireland and Britain during the early middle ages, when missionaries were busy planting the roots of Christianity among Celtic populations. The style represents a unity of Christian and Celtic motifs - after all, early missionaries are largely responsible for recording and thus preserving many Celtic customs and artwork. This hybrid art form is known as insular art (from 'insula', the Latin for 'island').

The cross typically features a nimbus - a ring around the intersection - which also provides support. Its true origin is unknown, though some historians have suggested it may have originally represented the Roman sun god Invictus.

The most famous surviving versions of these crosses are found in the monumental stone 'high crosses' erected from the 9th-12th centuries, which also depicted stylized Biblical scenes. Though insular art would later be overtaken by Romanesque art, it earned a comeback with the 'Celtic Revival' of the 19th Century, during a time when Ireland was rediscovering its heritage.

Celtic Cross | Gifts of Ireland

THE CELTIC CROSS

The Celtic Cross first appeared in Ireland and Britain during the early middle ages, when missionaries were busy planting the roots of Christianity among Celtic populations. The style represents a unity of Christian and Celtic motifs - after all, early missionaries are largely responsible for recording and thus preserving many Celtic customs and artwork. This hybrid art form is known as insular art (from 'insula', the Latin for 'island').

The cross typically features a nimbus - a ring around the intersection - which also provides support. Its true origin is unknown, though some historians have suggested it may have originally represented the Roman sun god Invictus.

The most famous surviving versions of these crosses are found in the monumental stone 'high crosses' erected from the 9th-12th centuries, which also depicted stylized Biblical scenes. Though insular art would later be overtaken by Romanesque art, it earned a comeback with the 'Celtic Revival' of the 19th Century, during a time when Ireland was rediscovering its heritage.

OGHAM WRITING

Ogham Writing | Gifts of Ireland

Ogham (pronounced 'ohm') was the earliest form of writing in Ireland, existing from the 4th-9th centuries AD. Typically etched into stone or wood, it consists of a series of strokes along a line, where the strokes' quantity, length, and direction determine the letter. Most of the letters correspond to the Roman alphabet, with a few local additions, so in fact it's a translatable cypher rather than a language, read from the bottom-left upwards.

Some historians believe it may have been used as a secret alphabet that Roman Britain wouldn't be able to understand, while others suggest it may have been developed by early Christian communities as a form of shorthand.

Most surviving examples are found on stone monuments in southern Ireland, though there are also some inscriptions in the west of Britain too, particularly in Wales.

Ogham Writing | Gifts of Ireland

OGHAM WRITING

Ogham (pronounced 'ohm') was the earliest form of writing in Ireland, existing from the 4th-9th centuries AD. Typically etched into stone or wood, it consists of a series of strokes along a line, where the strokes' quantity, length, and direction determine the letter. Most of the letters correspond to the Roman alphabet, with a few local additions, so in fact it's a translatable cypher rather than a language, read from the bottom-left upwards.

Some historians believe it may have been used as a secret alphabet that Roman Britain wouldn't be able to understand, while others suggest it may have been developed by early Christian communities as a form of shorthand.

Most surviving examples are found on stone monuments in southern Ireland, though there are also some inscriptions in the west of Britain too, particularly in Wales.

THE CELTIC TREE OF LIFE

Celtic Tree of Life | Gifts of Ireland

Known as 'crann bethadh' to the ancient Celts, the Tree of Life (and its many variations across ancient cultures) represented rebirth and resilience, as well as balance and harmony, as symbolized by its branches rising towards the heavens and its roots descending into the earth.

Whenever land was cleared to make way for a new farm or settlement, one large tree would be left alone in the middle as a sacred focal point (thus, cutting down an enemy's tree would be a huge blow to them). While trees provided resources and shelter, they were also a doorway to the spirit world.

Celtic Tree of Life | Gifts of Ireland

THE CELTIC TREE OF LIFE

Known as 'crann bethadh' to the ancient Celts, the Tree of Life (and its many variations across ancient cultures) represented rebirth and resilience, as well as balance and harmony, as symbolized by its branches rising towards the heavens and its roots descending into the earth.

Whenever land was cleared to make way for a new farm or settlement, one large tree would be left alone in the middle as a sacred focal point (thus, cutting down an enemy's tree would be a huge blow to them). While trees provided resources and shelter, they were also a doorway to the spirit world.

THE BOOK OF KELLS

Book of Kells | Gifts of Ireland

Also known as the Book of Colum Cille (one of Ireland's patron saints), the Book of Kells is one of Ireland's greatest and oldest tourist attractions. Created around 800 AD, it contains an illuminated manuscript of the Gospels. It remains one of the greatest examples of insular art (from 'insula', the Latin for 'island'), which combines Christian and Celtic design.

The calligraphy and stylized illustrations feature Biblical figures as well as mythical beasts from local folklore. It was a masterful undertaking at the time, containing 340 pages of quality calf vellum, while the inks were imported from far-off lands. However it was never fully finished - it may have been put into hiding instead due to the threat of Viking raids.

Its name comes from the Abbey of Kells in County Meath, though it was originally produced on the island of Iona off the coast of Scotland. Today it resides at Trinity College, Dublin.

Book of Kells | Gifts of Ireland

THE BOOK OF KELLS

Also known as the Book of Colum Cille (one of Ireland's patron saints), the Book of Kells is one of Ireland's greatest and oldest tourist attractions. Created around 800 AD, it contains an illuminated manuscript of the Gospels. It remains one of the greatest examples of insular art (from 'insula', the Latin for 'island'), which combines Christian and Celtic design.

The calligraphy and stylized illustrations feature Biblical figures as well as mythical beasts from local folklore. It was a masterful undertaking at the time, containing 340 pages of quality calf vellum, while the inks were imported from far-off lands. However it was never fully finished - it may have been put into hiding instead due to the threat of Viking raids.

Its name comes from the Abbey of Kells in County Meath, though it was originally produced on the island of Iona off the coast of Scotland. Today it resides at Trinity College, Dublin.