Arguably, most early Celtic symbols could also be referred to as “Druid symbols“ In this section, however, we will describe those most commonly associated with the various branches of modern Druidry. These can be divided into two main areas: ancient Celtic symbols associated with Druids, and recently created emblems of modern Druid organizations. Some of the more well known symbols associated with Druidry include:
The Wreath and Staves, or Druidic sigil:
The so-called Druid sigil is the identifying symbol of one of the earliest Druid reconstruction organizations, Reformed Druids of North America. It is strictly a modern symbol, having no root in historic Druidry. It originated in the sixties, but the inspiration behind the design is unknown- the most likely origin is from heraldic designs, which often featured wreaths of oak leaves. The Awen, or ‘rays,’ is a glyph with three vertical lines or rays of light converging at the top:
The Awen is a not genuine symbol of ancient Druidry, but associated with several modern groups. The word Awen in the Gaelic language means means “inspiration,” or “essence,” and refers to to poetic inspiration (traditional) or spiritual illumination (modern). The three parts of the Awen symbol represent the harmony of opposites- the left and right rays symbolizing female and male energy; the center bar their harmonious balance (somewhat akin to the Taoist yin-yang symbol). The symbol is referred to as the “Bardic symbol” in Charlotte Guest’s translation of the Mabinogion, a collection of traditional Welsh Arthurian tales, where it is said to represent the entirety of the Celtic Ogham alphabet as discovered by the Welsh hero Menw.
In reality, the emblem was probably conceived by the eighteenth century poet Iolo Morganwg, and reproduced in his book of purported Druidic philosophy, which was later discovered to be spurious. An actual, recognizable symbol in ancient Druidry was the Sun wheel, or Wheel of Taranis, a Celtic sun/thunder God.
The sun wheel has six or eight spokes, patterned after the wheel of a wagon:
The wheel is identical to other solar wheels and represents the solar calendar, with points marking the position of the sun at the equinoxes and Solstices. The solar cross and Celtic cross motifs are derived from this symbol. The most recognizable symbol of modern Druidry is the Tree of Life, with branches and roots entwined. It is a motif common in Celtic art from pagan times, and adopted as well for Christian use, often identical with the biblical tree of life:
The world tree, like its Norse counterpart, represents man- the branches symbolize the cosmos, the roots the underworld, the tree their union in mankind. The Tree of Life is depicted in various ways, but most often as symmetrical vines emanating from a pot, or as a tall pillar of entwined branches. You can read more about the Celtic Tree, or about the Universal Tree of Life.