Deciphering the Sacred is our series where we explore the symbolism of different figures from the field of sacred geometry. This time we’re untangling the meaning of endless knots. Make sure to check out our previous installments, like this in-depth analysis of Metatron’s Cube, an enlightening exploration of The Flower of Life, or an adventure through the loops of Unalomes.
Nothing encapsulates the complicated yet harmonious nature of the universe quite as succinctly as endless knots. These age-old examples of sacred geometry are one of the Eight Auspicious Signs, symbols used in Tibetan Buddhism to educate followers in the ways of enlightenment. Ultimately, they are expressive of notions like interpenetration, in which all natural phenomenon are seen as cosmically connected, united in an endless and self-contained series of events that constitutes reality as we know it.
First and foremost, endless knots are thought to be representative of the continuum of mind, i.e. the stream of moments that make up how we perceive the outward world. They are also considered as visual metaphors for Saṃsāra, a sanskrit term which designates the endless cycle of death and rebirth. In their most general sense, they can be read as the marriage of wisdom and compassion, gesturing toward the enlightenment of Buddha himself. In short, endless knots are immensely meaningful emblems with all sorts of spiritual connotations attached to them.
With the rise of ornamental blackwork, one of the most common places one sees these knots is on people’s bodies. Tattooists have started stylistically enhancing them to make them stand out. Some artists, as seen in the pieces by Jondix and Nathan Mould, embed endless knots into other sacred figures and symbols, while others, like Watsun Atkinsun and Philip Milic, expound on the design by making it more curvaceous or adding more overlapping loops.
Regardless of the different ways tattooists customize endless knots, they are all evocative of a truer reality that resides beneath the beautiful illusion that we call life.
To see more intricate sacred geometry and other ornamental blackwork, make your way to these artists’ Instagrams. Should you desire an endless knot of your own to show that you’ve achieved a balance between wisdom and compassion, have one of them inscribe they symbol on your skin.