Celtic Tattoos Meanings

| December 8, 2012 | 0 Comments

In the last decade, Celtic tattoos have become increasingly popular in the main stream. Thousands of years old, the Celtic culture is particularly known for its impressively detailed work in both metal and jewelry. Because they also crafted high quality weapons, the Romans traditionally saw them as fierce warriors. Today, Ireland is littered with excellent examples of typical artwork including their famous crosses. Modern Celtic people often adopt these symbols into their contemporary style, and North Americans of Celtic heritage often convey this heritage through integrating these symbols into their lives. The Celtics did not record most things in written form and generally passed their history down through oral traditions. Because of this, it is uncertain whether ancient tattooing remained common throughout history. Regardless, the Celtic knot and cross have had a resurgence in the tattooing world of late.

What modern day people imagine when they think of Celtic tattoos mostly come from designs in the Irish Illuminated Manuscripts called The Book of Kells, which is located in the Trinity College Library in Dublin. Although written in the period after the most active ancient Celtic tattooing, these images carry much of the Irish tradition. Ancient tattoos, however, probably derived from stone and metal work designs which existed simultaneously with Celtic tattooing. A Celtic knot tattoo depicts a line without end that loops around itself, generally thought to symbolized the endless and intertwining cycles of life and death. Another type of knot is the Celtic animal or zoomorphic design, with lines terminating in the limbs or tail of an animal form. Despite the fact that a true knot is always a closed form, lines ending with zoomorphic designs or spirals are also stylistically common.

It is very difficult to translate the meaning of the Celtic knot into words because it can signify so many things. The design that continually loops back on itself symbolizes the interconnection between both the spiritual and the physical worlds. Representing the eternity of life, love and faith, it may be these themes that have given the Celtic tattoo is popularity.

Celtic people in both Britain and throughout the world generally see a Celtic tattoo designed on one’s body as a strong way to evoke forgotten heritage and link oneself with one’s own personal history and roots through the traditional designs. Be aware that the authentic Celtic designs can be complex and detailed so that researching for an experienced tattoo artist would be the best way to guarantee a job well done. Authentic work demands an artist with refined skills who is able to create intricate lines and place them correctly in the image.

The triple spiral or triskele is a Celtic and pre-Celtic symbol found on a number of Irish Megalithic and Neolithic sites, most notably inside the Newgrange passage tomb, on the entrance stone, and on some of the curbstones surrounding the mound.

Believed by many to be an ancient symbol of pre-Celtic and Celtic beliefs, the triple spiral appears in various forms in pre-Celtic and Celtic art, with the earliest examples having been carved on pre-Celtic stone monuments, and later examples found in the Celtic Christian illuminated manuscripts of Insular art. The triple spiral was possibly the precursor to the later triskele design found in the manuscripts.



The triquetra: its original meaning was simply “triangle” and it has been used to refer to various three-cornered shapes. Nowadays, it has come to refer exclusively to a certain more complicated shape formed of three vesicae piscis, sometimes with an added circle in or around it. The triquetra is often found in Insular art, most notably metal work and in illuminated manuscripts like the Book of Kells. The fact that the triquetra very rarely stood alone in medieval Celtic has cast a reasonable doubt on its use as a symbol in context where it was used primarily as a space filler or ornament in much more complex compositions. But Celtic art lives on as both a living folk art tradition and through several revivals.


Celtic Cross: a celtic cross is a symbol that combines a cross with a ring surrounding the intersection. The symbol is associated with Celtic Christianity, although it has older, pre-Christian origins. Such crosses form a major part of Celtic art. A standing Celtic cross, made of stone and often richly ornamented, is called a high cross or Irish Cross. Celtic crosses may have had origins in the early Coptic church.
In Ireland, it is a popular myth that the Celtic cross was introduced by Saint Patrick or possibly Saint Declan during his time converting the pagan Irish.


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