The Irish Celts looked to the beasts of the earth, sky, and sea to find teachers, friends, and healers. Along with this fascination and almost worship of animal symbols, the Irish Celts revered Nature itself, be it in the form of plants, animals, or elements. They believed the animals were there to teach us how to live in harmony with Nature itself. Through animal symbols, the Irish Celts sought to commune with both the seen and the Unseen. Celtic animal designs took a myriad of forms and meaning.
The graceful curves of the crane. The stalwart might of the bull. The slow, coiled menace of the snake. The early Celts believed the animals arose from the fantastic Otherworld whence come the elves and fairies. With their feats of flying, swimming, phenomenal speed, keen sight and smell, and great strength, these messengers of the gods seemed beyond the power of man. We can see this tie to Nature not only in early Celtic crafts, but also in later Irish art. In the greatest example of medieval illuminated manuscripts, the Book of Kells, the four Evangelists were frequently depicted as Celtic animal symbols: Matthew the man, Mark the lion, Luke the calf, and John as the eagle.
The Celts were closely tied to nature. They followed the seasons, based their zodiac on the Lunar cycle, and placed special importance on trees and animals. The Celts observed the animals and human behaviour, noticing a correlation between the Celtic animal meanings and the Celtic zodiac signs. Each Celtic zodiac sign was assigned a corresponding Celtic animal sign.