Research Decodes Ancient Celtic Astronomy Symbols and Links them to Jungian Archetypes
My nonprofit educational corporation, The Celtic Collection Program, exhibits the largest privately owned collection of Celtic artifacts in the United States. When we started purchasing the artifacts from private collections and ancient galleries several years ago, I observed a motif of X and interconnected X designs on some of them, including important ones likely used to perform ceremonies. As a historian and a therapist with preferences for Psychoanalytic Theory and Neo-Freudian traditions such as Analytical Psychology, a school of psychology that originated from the ideas of Swiss psychiatrist Carl Jung, interpreting these symbols became a personal and professional challenge.
After fifteen years of identifying hundreds of linear and X patterns on artifacts and studying the symbolism of Stonehenge and Newgrange, I have discovered remarkable data, some of which has led me to consider that there may be a correlation between ancient X symbolism and what Dr. Carl Jung referred to as the “Collective Unconscious”, a subconscious storehouse of buried memories inherited from our ancestral past.
Importance of the Sun in Ancient Celtic Society
According to Dr. Miranda J. Green in her book, Dictionary of Celtic Myth and Legend, the sun was significantly meaningful to the ancient Celts. She states that “One of the most important venerated natural phenomena was the sun, seen as a life giver, promoter of fertility and healing” and that “coins were struck with sun symbols associated with the horse” (Refer to Celtic Collection Program Artifacts #1).
Some of the primary symbols for the Sun in ancient Celtic times were an X or a four-spoked wheel featured on bronze axes, swords, coins, urns, pottery and jewelry since Neolithic Europe. “Hallstatt Iron Age sheet-bronze vessels were decorated with repousse crosses and solar wheels,” states Dr. Green.
The X symbol was no doubt a significant astronomical representation for thousands of years; perhaps one of the most powerful ideograms valued by the Celts, which explains the X motif on our artifacts. The X artifacts range from 62 AD to 400 BC. However, to uncover the mystery of the interconnected design, a close evaluation of the symbols at Stonehenge and Newgrange needed to be conducted.
Celtic Collection Program Artifacts
All photos taken and owned by Lewis Hales of artifacts held in the Celtic Collection Program. Photo 1 is a coin from the Iceni tribe, 62 AD. Photo 2 is a Central European arm bracelet (c.a. 400 BC), in which are two sets of interconnected X’s extending from top to bottom inside of both bars . Photo 3 is a bell (200 BC) from Central Europe (likely used for ceremonial purposes) containing interconnected X’s engraved through its metal and around its body.
Photo taken and owned by Lewis Hales of artifact held in the Celtic Collection Program. This photo is a Central European bracelet (300 BC) with an atypical shape, which features a plain design on one side and a more elaborate version (twisted bronze) on the other one. Two long abstract shapes of a triangle are engraved into each terminal, a deeper cut one the plain side and a less elaborate cut one on the twisted side, forming an encoded cross reference of an X. This is the identical encoded design upon which Stonehenge was built (Refer to the Stonehenge geographical graphics design).
The Stonehenge and Newgrange X Factor
Stonehenge, prehistoric monument in Wiltshire, England. (Flickr/CC BY 2.0)
According to David Souden in his book, Stonehenge Revealed, “The stone phase at Stonehenge extended from 2550 BC to 1600 BC”, and is located in Wiltshire, England. Stonehenge is approximately 2,000 years older than our artifacts and its construction layout and artifacts excavated at or nearby the monument have revealed pertinent information. Stonehenge was built with an encoded X symbol between its Station Stones; the North Barrow Station Stone was intended to cross reference the South Barrow Stone and the North Station Stone was meant to align with the South Station Stone, forming a symbolic X across the monument’s landscape. The X precisely connects at the location of the altar, forming a perfect alignment straight across the ceremonial Avenue (Refer to Stonehenge’s X graphic design).
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Hundreds of artifacts featuring interconnected X artwork and the six images formed by that design (Refer to Findings and Summary) have been recovered from Stonehenge, such as the Chalk tablets (3,000-2,500 BC), an Early Bronze Age gold plaque from Wiltshire, and the Late Bronze Age gold lozenge, about which, Ancient Origins writer April Holloway accurately cited as an artifact believed by some to be an “astronomical instrument”, in her article, The Mysterious Golden Lozenge of Stonehenge.
Stonehenge’s X Graphic Design
This Graphics artwork has been donated to Lewis Hales with written permission of the designer, Les Still, to publish in this article.
Newgrange is a Stone Age monument in the Boyne Valley, County Meath, Ireland. It was constructed over 5,000 years ago during the Neolithic period and is about 800 to 900 years older than Stonehenge. This site contains exemplary examples of interconnected X artwork. The top photo shows them in a straight line over the roof box that allows sunlight to enter the chamber at dawn on the winter solstice and they are prominently featured on kerbstones 52 and 67 (Refer to Newgrange Images).
Newgrange, Stone Age Passage Tomb in County Meath, Ireland is older than Stonehenge or the Egyptian Pyramids. (Public Domain)
Photo 1 Roof box was loaned to Lewis Hales by the photographer, © Dave Walsh for this article. Photo 2 is a painting of Kerbstone 52 donated to Lewis Hales with written permission to feature in this article by the artist Kathryn Gerhardt. Photo 3 is an image of Kerbstone 67 donated to Lewis Hales by written permission from the National Monuments Service Photographic Unit, located in Dublin, Ireland.
Symbols, Concepts and Motifs
Celtic artifacts frequently contain symbolism that places them into one or more categories, including the number three, fertility, feminine principle, reincarnation and astronomy. Every major belief or spiritual value, often synonymous, had a primary symbol, possibly several, and an enhanced version of that symbol to express veneration of it on the highest level. For example, the number three is often represented by nine symbols; usually an artifact’s enhanced ideogram indicates it was a particularly valued personal or ceremonial item, such as swords, bells and elaborate or gold adornments.
In ancient Celtic astronomy, the primary symbol was an X or sun wheel and its venerated rendition was an interconnected X design, which also represented the sun’s ongoing journey, considered sacred.
Celtic spiral on kerbstone. Newgrange, Near Kells - Co. Meath, Ireland. (Flickr/CC BY 2.0)
One of the most important discoveries of this research was identifying the six major astronomy symbols produced by the interconnected design (Refer to interpretation key chart). All six symbols, either collectively or separately, have been featured on Celtic artifacts for millennia and it is notable that many an artifact recovered from or near Stonehenge is particularly decorated with, or are in the form of, these shapes.
The X symbolism likely goes back much further in the ancestry of European Stone Age culture than Newgrange. According to Sherri Ellington, a historian specializing in Celtic mythology for 20 years, “The discovery of the six interconnected X symbols reveal an enhanced encoded set of astronomical shapes and representations that have been found on Celtic artifacts for millennia. Given that early Celtic and proto-Celtic society was widespread in Europe, the six interconnected X patterns and the primary X sun symbol likely go back much further than Newgrange, which is more than 5,000 years old and quite complex. These six shapes are still with us today and can be seen in our most prominent structures and institutions.”
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Our society still prominently incorporates the six symbols into all aspects of modern daily living, which frequently surfaces in our fashion, architecture, artwork, religious expression, and even in some of our political symbolism thousands of years after the original meaning has been forgotten.
We are a culture that believes that the “X” marks the spot, sends kisses with X symbols, and when we look close enough to notice, there are unlimited examples of the six designs everywhere.
Jung’s Paradigm of Archetypes
Dr. Carl Jung’s archetypal concept may provide an explanation why the X is still popular today. Archetypes are universal recurrent symbols, concepts or motifs found in literature, art, mythology, art and religion. They are basically genetically inherited bits of information that have been passed down for many generations. As a therapist, Carl Jung’s paradigm of archetypes best explains why the six symbols were and still remain significant features throughout society. However, as an educator, I encourage my students to research all available options, material and theories to find an answer that is best for them.
Dr. Melissa Carver specializes in Metaphysics, and has written several articles about archetypal male and female role models and the importance of how superheroes shape the lives of children. She stated of the interconnected X discovery that “Ancient Celtic society for thousands of years used symbols that included the X pattern representing archetypes that stay with us today surfacing in the form of our architecture, religion, and political trademarks, although society is basically uninformed of their meaning or presence.”
I wish to thank the special contributors to this research, whose photos, artwork, consultations and services made this extensive work possible: graphics specialist, Kirsten Babb; graphics designer Les Still, historian and lecturer Sherri Ellington, Tony Roche, artist Kathryn Gerhardt, photographer Dave Walsh and clinician Dr. Melissa Carver.
By Lewis Hales
(Dr. M. Carver, personal communication, February 25, 2016)
(Sherri Ellington, personal communication, February, 27, 2016)
Green, Miranda J. 1992. Dictionary of Celtic Myth and Legend. Thames and Hudson: London.
Souden, David. 1997. Stonehenge Revealed. Facts on File, Inc.: Great Britain
Holloway, April. (2013, October 19). The Mysterious Golden Lozenge of Stonehenge. Ancient Origins. Retrieved February 5, 2016 [Online]. Here