Some tattoo 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 aren’t many records of ancient Celtic people from the Celts, they were observed and written about by the Greeks and Romans.
This is partial 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 in the altogether.
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 tattoo 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
Many choose to get a Celtic cross tattoo as a way of showing their Irish heritage or faith..
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 adopted 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.
Celtic bear tattoos 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.
The Celtic tree tattoo is suitable for anyone who wants to live in balance, or who values the mind/body connection.
Celtic Harp Tattoos
The Celtic harp is the national emblem of Ireland for a reason— it is a musical instrument that honors Celtic traditions.
It is a very popular tattoo in that it represents peoples’ heritage with a bit of luck of the Irish.
In other words, a Celtic harp tattoo is primarily a symbol of Celtic tradition and Irish pride.
This type of Celtic tattoo is not only popular on the skin.
The Claddagh symbol is known to be made into rings, necklaces, and nick-nacks galore.
That’s probably because it’s the ultimate symbol of Celtic love and loyalty, with two hands holding a heart together.
The Claddagh tattoo is often received in honor of someone else who they love or cherish.
Brigid Cross Tattoos
Not only does this tattoo symbolize Ireland in general, but the design of woven rushes can also be transformed into many different types of Celtic knots, changing its meaning.
This meaning itself is mainly concerned with keeping away evil, so a Brigid Cross tattoo has the potential to lead you on the right track.
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
There isn’t just one way to wear a Celtic tattoo— their size and placement take some time to commit to.
While you are deciding, here are some detailed options of how exactly to place the tattoo design you have picked out.
Small Celtic Tattoos
If you don’t want to make a big statement, but still want to show off your Celtic pride, a small Celtic tattoo may be for you.
This especially works for Celtic knot tattoos, which can be a small addition to your style and identity.
Just because your tattoo is small, though, doesn’t mean it can’t be complicated enough to have the full tattoo design you’re dreaming of (it’s all in the details!).
Simple Celtic Tattoos
Now, these simpler tattoo pieces are almost always of Celtic knots because they can be made with simple black line work.
Simple Celtic tattoos have a very modern look and add a lot of style to the body while still having a significant meaning.
Celtic Tattoo Sleeves
If you’re really into the Celtic culture, Irish pride, and loyalty, then for you a Celtic tattoo sleeve makes sense.
Not to mention, it can look quite cool and specifically for men can show that you are a strong person who perseveres through anything.
For women it can be just the same, however, for her, there’s an added meaning of love of life and family.
Where do you get a Celtic tattoo?
There are so many options, because, a Celtic tattoo is highly versatile in both design and style.
Let’s take a look at some of the most popular body placements for Celtic tattoos.
Celtic Tattoos on Shoulder
A Celtic shoulder tattoo is bold and powerful, showing the meaning of the chosen tattoo for all to see.
You should choose to put your Celtic tattoo on your shoulder if you are highly proud of what it stands for.
Celtic Tattoos on Chest
A man with a Celtic tattoo on his chest represents the warriors of their ancestors.
This tattoo placement is shown here as a masculine tattoo with a meaning that you are proud of your heritage and are a strong person.