Visualizing birth and Celtic birth and mothering knots

Celtic knot, ceramic, artist unknown
Gift from a dear friend, William F. Sibley in 2009

About a month before my son Kieran was born in 2009, I received this ceramic object from a dear friend, Bill Sibley. I had known Bill my entire life and he sadly passed away shortly after Kieran’s birth. This object has always held numerous meanings for me, and I just wish I had had the chance to talk with Bill about it and learn more about where it came from and why he sent it to me. Convinced that he sent it to me to help me during my labor and birth, I began researching the design and found material on Celtic knots and their symbolism in relation to birth and mothering.

While the true origin of Celtic knots is unknown, the “triquetra,” or three-cornered knot of the Celtic tradition has its origins in both pre-Christian Celtic tradition as well as in early Christian symbolism of the trinity. 

Triquetra (simple triangular knot) 

When researching the triquetra, I came across a range of websites (example) that associate the symbol with mothers and mothering, as well as with the family–mother, father, and child. The knot represented in the object I received from Bill Sibley does not appear to be a triquetra. However, with its three interlacing knots, it is similar to the triquetra or to the Celtic love knot, a knot that does symbolize the interconnectivity of lovers or of family members. The knot that I have is also encompassed within the shape of a vertical eye, which in the case of birth could represent  the woman’s birth passage itself.

Similar to a labyrinth, a Celtic knot also represents symbols of cycles and the patterning of life (see a Visualizing Birth post on labyrinths of birth here). In the case of labor and giving birth, the pattern of the knot reminds the pregnant woman that the child and new life are woven within her body and that she will take a journey during labor to reach the child. When she returns, she will still be with forever with the child.  

I believe that Bill Sibley gave this object to me during my third trimester as a way of protecting and empowering me during the birth of my firstborn. Celtic knots are often viewed as talismans used for protection, as well as symbols of the infinite. When I look at the object now, I feel infinitely connected to Bill, in both life and death.