Tattoos are as popular today as they were in ancient times, but for different reasons. We wear them as decoration the ancients wore tattoos as permanent war paint. Their tattoos were designed with one thing in mind and that was to instil as much fear in their enemies as they possibly could. Wars were fought hand to hand and in battle warriors bared their chests in order to make sure that their tattoos were highly visible to the enemy. Tattoos indicated toughness and fearlessness when faced with danger. Tattoos were also designed as a method of identification, much like soldiers today wear ‘dog tags’.
Popular tattoo choices
Celts once covered a large area of Europe and had their own languages and culture, not to mention religion. The symbols they used in those days are incorporated into the highly popular Celtic tattoos used today.
The Celts worshipped gods and goddesses, animals and the land, and as they were exposed more and more to Christianity, their symbols and shapes started to change into crosses and stars. One of the reasons for this adaptation was to avoid conflict with Christian beliefs. But, these adapted elements are what remains and what is most seen in traditional tattoos.
Celtic Knot Patterns
Although many traditional Celtic designs are copied in tattoos, perhaps one of the most recognizable and coveted tattoo is the knot. Knots resemble interwoven vines and are arranged to form a particular shape, for example a heart, but their shape can be almost anything a person can think of, from circles to the more complex star shape.
A Celtic knot also carries with it the symbolism recognizable by anyone who has even a slight knowledge of Celtic art which is that it represents continuous life as well as the season’s cycles and the complexity of nature.
Animals were very important to the Celts, animals such as butterflies, dogs and geese. Butterflies were especially held in very high esteem by the Celts because of their beauty. Dogs symbolize loyalty and good luck while eagles are linked with death, so are ravens and other birds. Horses were sacred to the Celts and a tattoo depicting a horse is linked to mystery and magic. Power can be symbolized by a Celtic art tattoo of a bear while the dragon is associated with both power and magic. Sometimes an animal will be the main focus in a tattoo while others may form on a part of the background.
The number three, 3, has always featured highly in Celtic designs and is typically found somewhere in the design, at times even hidden deeply within it. It can be small or large.
The Celtic cross is without doubt perhaps the most recognisable of all Celtic designs and is a very popular tattoo subject. They are highly religious in their nature and quite often Celts will wear the design as a proclamation of their ethnic roots.
The Celtic tree of life is quite self-explanatory, it follows the same style as the knot and the cross but it is composed of interweaving lines which form branches around a tree trunk. It represents the beginning and end of life and also the eternal nature of the world we live in.
A Claddagh, though maybe not as well known is popular and is perhaps more recognizable to those of Celtic and Irish heritage. Consisting of two hands clasping a heart covered by a crown. When represented graphically in the form of a tattoo, it stands for everlasting love and loyalty.
The beauty of body art
Celtic designs are beautiful when incorporated into a tattoo and there are a host of different choices suited to both male and female. Almost every tattoo studio will offer a wide variety of Celtic tattoo designs.
Celtic art in the form of tattoos is very often seen as bands around the arms or on the wrist. More recently Celtic designs are being tattooed on the lower back. Celtic art is usually always done with black ink and the lines can be a combination of thick and very thick. Celtic tattoo designs have their origin dating back several thousand years and their aesthetic value has grown ever more popular since then as they are beautiful abstract works of art.
About the Author:
Tim Lazaro is a Celtic Symbol enthusiast. Visit All About Celtic Symbols for more expert advice on Celtic tattoo designs, understanding Celtic symbols, tree astrology, and other topics you can use right now if you wish to gain a better appreciation of symbols in Celtic society.