The Witch’s Knot, also known as the Magic Knot, Witch’s Charm, or Witches’ Ladder, is the most popular and well-known symbols of modern witchcraft and female magic, particularly in the Wicca and Celtic traditions.
The design of the Witch’s knot appears to be fairly simple; however, it combines a few, much older symbols into its shape, which gives the Witch’s Knot both its distinctive appearance and symbolic complexity.
In medieval times, the Witch’s Knot was often used in protective spells and charms to bind and ward off negative energies or malevolent entities. The knot’s interweaving pattern represented the entanglement of harmful influences, preventing them from causing harm. Some sources also suggest that the Witch’s Knot was used as a means of “tying” a spell or intention, similar to the concept of a “knot spell” in folk magic.
Symbolism of the Witch’s Knot
The easiest way to understand the Witch’s Knot is to break it down into its subcomponents:
The Outer Circle: Usually, circles represent unity, wholeness, and eternity. However, circles can also represent borders since they protect what is inside from what is outside.
In pagan traditions, particularly Wicca, circles and crescents are used to represent the Triple Goddess and the Horned God, the two supreme pagan deities.
Thus, the circle within the Witch’s Knot represents unity, eternity, protection, and the divine presence of the ruling deities.
The Four Corners: The four-cornered knot is a common symbol in Celtic mythology and comes in many variations, each with its own slightly different meaning.
In the case of the Witch’s Knot, the four corners represent the four-way structure of the world:
- The cardinal points: north, south, east, west.
- The four seasons: spring, summer, autumn, winter.
- The four elements: earth, fire, water, air.
Depending on what type of paganism one practices, the four corners can have some more specific meanings:
- The four Celtic fire festivals: Samhain, Beltane, Imbolc, Lughnasadh.
- The four leaf clover (which would also make the Witch’s Knot a luck symbol).
- The apostles: Matthew, Luke, John and Paul.
Another important aspect is that the Witch’s Knot symbol is laid out as a cross instead of an X. Thus, the bottom knot represents the Underworld, the top knot Heaven and the middle knots represent the mortal realm.
Thus, the Four Cornered Knot represents channeling the power of each of these elements during magic and witchcraft.
Interwoven Lines: The interwoven lines and patterns of a Witch Knot have no visible signs of separation, nor do they have a beginning or end. This symbolizes that every aspect of life is interconnected, as is the cycle of life, death, and rebirth.
Another meaning of the interwoven lines is that achieving mastery in magic requires mastery of all magical elements and balancing them all in harmony, since none can exist without another.
Vesica Piscis: The four knots that compose the Witch’s Knot have a very particular shape called Vesica Piscis, which literally means “fish bladder” in Latin.
This pattern is an ancient one and has a variety of meanings, generally revolving around reproduction, renewal, and interaction between the divine and the mortal realms.
For the ancient Greeks and Romans, the Vesica Piscis was a symbol of procreation and renewal since it resembled a female vulva. As such, the vesica piscis was associated with Aphrodite (or Venus for the Romans).
The most common way to create a vesica piscis pattern was to overlap two circles over one another and produce a Venn diagram.
In this case, one circle represents the divine world and the other the earthly world. The interaction between these two circles, the divine world and the earthly world, produces a place where the divine and the earthly interact with one another.
One such example can be found in Christianity, where Jesus Christ was often associated with the Vesica Piscis, either as the fish-like ichthys symbol or as the mandrola.
Thus, Jesus Christ represented the interaction between the divine and the earthly worlds since Jesus was the Son of God, but also Son of Mary.
These meanings have carried over to the modern Witch’s Knot. Thus, the four vesica piscis knots represent the witch’s femininity and fertility, and that her magical powers come from the interaction of the mortal and divine realms.
Hollow Inner Space: The final element of the Witch’s Knot symbol is the “empty” space formed in the middle of the four-cornered knot.
This hollow space functions as a container for negative or positive energies.
When used as a protection symbol, the many lines and patterns of the Witch’s Knot capture and direct negative energies into this container. In this way, the person is not affected by these negative energies since they are tucked away inside the knot.
When used as a magical device, the inner space functions as a focal point, where the magical practitioner “places” or focuses their intent and magical energy.
Once a spell is cast, the Witch’s Knot harnesses the energies within and then spreads its effects to all four corners of the world.
Using the Witch’s Knot
Witch’s Knots usually come in amulet form, mostly as necklaces but sometimes as earrings. However, this is mostly a style choice since the Witch’s Knot has the same magical properties when used as a drawing, carving, or painting.
When used as a drawing, it’s best to draw the Witch’s Knot with a single stroke without taking the pen off the paper. Drawing the knot in a single movement is said to enhance its magical powers.
Why is the Witch’s Knot called a knot?
The name Witch’s Knot comes from a longer tradition of pagan witchcraft that involved the use of strings, knots, and sometimes feathers to create objects called witch ladders.
The act of tying knots was said to “bind” energies, intentions, or spells. The belief was that certain patterns of strings and knots channeled magical energies in a particular way, allowing the magical practitioner to cast specific spells or charms.
Thus, each knot represented a specific intention, and the process of tying and meditating on the knots had the power to focus one’s intent and energy.
The number of knots, the color of the cord, and the type of knots used all added layers of significance to the spell.
The nine-knot spell is perhaps the most popular knot spell and also one of the easiest to perform.
Casting the nine-knot spell simply requires the magical practitioner to concentrate their intent and tie nine knots on a single string while reciting the verses below at each respective knot:
By knot of one, the spell's begun. By knot of two, my magick is true. By knot of five, I flourish and thrive. The magick of knot six, all my troubles soon will fix. The seventh knot tied safe and sound will bring good company around. Eighth knot on the string, great wisdom will bring. By knot of nine, success is mine.
- Mythology of All Races by Louis Herbert Gray and John Arnott MacCulloch
- The History Of Witchcraft And Demonology by Montague Summers
- Man, Myth & Magic The Illustrated Encyclopedia Of Mythology by Richard Cavendish
- Demons and elementals by John Gatehouse
- The Lesser Key of Solom
- The Key of Solomon
- The Kybalion by Three Initiates
- The Secret Teachings of All Ages by Manly P. Hall
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