Some designs are, and always will be, top requests in the tattoo world.
Celtic tattoos are a popular choice for people with Celtic backgrounds.
Sometimes they are chosen by someone who, passing through Celtic Nations, falls in love with the scenery.
Celtic imagery has a distinct look and feel to it.
Something is spellbinding about the intricate knots and animistic imagery.
But what does it really mean to be Celtic?
Who are the Celtic people and what do these familiar images represent?
Who Are The Celtic People?
At one point, Celtic people were the majority in Europe.
Today their traditions survive in 6 major nations: Scotland, Ireland, Brittany, Wales, the Isle of Man and Cornwall.
6 corresponding Celtic languages fall under two categories: Goidelic and Gaelic.
Within the two branches, the languages are similar but have their own distinct qualities.
Though there isn’t much record of ancient Celtic people from the Celts, they were observed and written about by the Greeks and Romans.
This is partially because of the Druid faith, an ancient belief system.
The Druids are thought to have originated in Celtic culture.
In this religion, it was considered blasphemous to record sacred information.
Because many of the Celtic symbols we are familiar with today are from the Druid faith, we can never be 100% sure what they mean.
That said, the Celtic people have persevered for hundreds of years.
Between Celtic oral history and the records kept by Greeks and Romans, we can make some very educated guesses.
Did Celtic Warriors Have Tattoos?
It is theorized that Celtic Warriors battled bare-chested or even naked.
They would wear tattoos as an intimidation tactic against their enemies.
The tattoos were made with blue ink derived from the woad plant.
These designs were likely similar to the Celtic symbols we know today.
Celtic Tattoo Symbols
Celtic Knots Tattoos
Of all the Celtic tattoos, knots are the most popular.
When people think of tribal tattoos, they may think of Celtic Knots.
Celtic knots tattoos can symbolize an eternal bond between two people or humans and nature.
They can also be a symbol of eternal life.
There are variations on Celtic knot designs, but they generally fall into a few categories.
Trinity Knot Tattoos
Another symbol that has changed its tune over time, it stood for the trinity of “maiden, mother and crone.”
In pagan belief systems these are the three sacred stages of a woman’s life.
Under the patriarchal model of Catholicism, it has come to stand for the father, son, and holy spirit.
Celtic Love Knots Tattoos
Love knots are a fairly modern design.
Derived from more ancient Celtic knots, they often serve as wedding tattoos or symbols of devotion between life partners.
These images can be customized to suit each couple.
Celtic Spiral Knots Tattoos
Spirals have been a symbol in Celtic culture since the earliest recorded carvings.
They represent a person’s journey through life and into the spirit world.
As in many belief systems, 3 is a sacred Celtic number.
The triple spiral, also known as the triskele, is thought to represent earth, water and sky.
Some say it stands for the human world, the spirit world, and the celestial world.
It could also be a symbol of beginning/middle/end, past/present/future, or father/mother/child.
Celtic Cross Tattoos
This image was originally drawn by Celtics with more mystical, pagan beliefs.
The circle behind the cross represents the sun god, but has since been adapted by Catholics as a symbol of god’s love.
Celtic Animism Tattoos
The original Celtic Druids were animistic.
This means they held the belief that everything has a soul.
This includes plants, animals, rocks and other inanimate objects.
Plants and animals are popular symbols in Celtic tattoos.
They each have their own significance.
Celtic Bear Tattoos
Bear tattoos can symbolize bravery in battle, but they also have strong feminine connotations.
The Celtic goddess Artio is regularly depicted as a bear.
She symbolizes strength and protection because of the way a mother bear guards her young.
Bears also symbolize new life.
Mother bears are the first animals spotted after hibernation.
Celtic Salmon Tattoos
Because of their intelligence and built-in tracking systems, Salmon are sacred animals in the Celtic tradition.
To eat Salmon is said to give you wisdom.
A Celtic salmon tattoo would suit someone who is pursuing academic or intellectual glory.
Celtic Owl Tattoos
Because they are nocturnal, owls are seen as a symbol of mystery and mysticism.
A Celtic owl tattoo would be appropriate for someone who embraces the more pagan traditions of the culture.
Celtic Tree of Life Tattoos
The tree of life exists in a few faith traditions.
While the branches reach for the sky, the roots dig into the ground.
This is a humble way to walk through life: staying grounded but striving for greatness.
It is a suitable tattoo for anyone who wants to live in balance, or who values the mind/body connection.
Celtic Harp Tattoos
Brigid Cross Tattoos
Celtic Tattoo Designs
There are so many beautiful knots and ancient stories from the Celtic tradition.
If you have a Celtic background, they are such a meaningful way to celebrate your culture.
Still not sure? Don’t tie yourself in knots.
Check out our Celtic tattoo gallery for some ancient inspiration!
Celtic Tattoo Ideas
Small Celtic Tattoos
Simple Celtic Tattoos
Celtic Tattoo Sleeves
Celtic Tattoos on Shoulder
Celtic Tattoos on Chest
Read more about tribal tattoos:
- Viking Tattoos
- Kokopelli Tattoos
- Zia Tattoos
- Choctaw Tattoos
- Quetzalcoatl Tattoos
- Love Spoon Tattoos
- Dayak Tattoos
- Haida Tattoos
- Tribal Tattoos