Tattoos represent more than art to the Celts. Warriors wore them in battle as a psychological form of armor and intimidation. Some Celts even covered their whole bodies in tattoos! They developed their own method for tattooing, which remains one of the most ancient tattooing methods in history. They used the Woad plant to create bright blue dyes, and imbued their warriors with symbols of good luck, strength, peace, and more. In today’s Celtic Tattoos gallery, we’re going to talk all about the meaning of Celtic symbols and how to recognize the origins of the tattoos you see.
Celtic Tattoos and Meanings
Celtic symbols and meanings vary depending on the culture we’re looking at. You see, the term ‘Celtic’ remains very broad, and can apply to many different living cultures in northern Europe, the British Isles, and Ireland. There are a few symbols that do tend to overarch. First, anything in a group of three represents the maiden, the mother, and the crone. This is usually seen in the triple spiral, but sometimes seen in the form of three different moon phases. The tattoos also double as Celtic mother-daughter symbols.
Interlacing tribal patterns are commonly called knots, and while many cultures design with knots in mind, their origin is likely among the Celts. The Celtic trinity knot—or Triquetra—is a Christian version of Celtic knots and originated in Germany. Celtic knots and their meaning became more elaborate over time!
Irish Celtic Tattoos
The fierce determination of Gaelic Ireland singlehandedly kept the Romans from conquering most of the British Isles. Even today, whether Ireland belongs to the British Isles at all is a matter of debate. This area held on to their Celtic roots for a longer amount of time than mainland Europe and the rest of the British Isles because of their unwavering will. With all that said, in about 600 AD, the golden age of Celtic art ended and Insular art began taking over Europe.
The Irish Celtic art that remains is very recognizable, and uses images and animals interspersed among knotwork to get images across. The Irish symbol of love is two hands holding a crowned heart, connected by a braided knot. The Irish Celtic symbol for family is a three-pointed knot with a circle running through it. Of course, even the shamrock has its own knot, and it looks like a bunch of hearts sewn together with an open ending. All of these famous Irish symbols withstood the test of war and time.
Ultimately, the culture of the Celts lives on to this day. A few people still practice traditional Celtic tattooing, and I would implore you to seek them out if you live in Europe and would like an authentic Celtic tattoo. Whether you want a Celtic cross, knot, shamrock, Triquetra, or phrase inked onto your skin, the advice and input of someone well-verse in Celtic tattoo history is invaluable. Keeping this beautiful art form alive in the most sacred way we have possible—tattooing—will ensure that Celtic history remains immortal.