Inside: Celtic Tattoos Definition + Meaning.
If you’ve ever gone through the catalog of tattoo designs, you’ve probably come across a number of Celtic tattoos. However, despite their popularity, the Celtic tattoos’ history and meaning are not as known as the symbols associated with them.
So if you’re planning to get a Celtic tattoo, here are some things you should know about its history and meaning. Also a few favorite examples to explore for your own meaningful tattoo.
Table of Contents
History of Celtic Tattoos
Nowadays, almost anyone who’s passionate about tattoos can get a Celtic symbol inked on their body. However, long ago, these tattoos were the identification of Celtic warriors. These symbols were used as a form of intimidation against the enemies. This was likely inspired by the Picts, who used similar tactics in wars. In fact, “Picts” is a Latin word that means “painted ones.”
Back then, the opportunity to battle amongst the Celts was considered among the highest honors. To further reinforce their stance, the Celtic warriors would participate in battles bare-chested or even sometimes naked. This ensured that their tattoos, which were worn as a badge of honor, were on display.
In addition to this, Celtic warriors used flower pastes to dye their hair a bright color. They would fashion their hair in tall spikes to stand out from the rest. Can you visualize the Celtic punk rock look? Celtic warriors laid the roots for that as well.
How Did the Celtic Warriors Get Tattoos?
Back in 1,000 BCE, the Celts probably didn’t have tattoo parlors. They could drop by to get a tattoo. The tattoo machines you’re familiar with today weren’t invented yet either. Instead, they had to depend on natural ingredients and painful methods (even more painful then it is to get a tattoo today) to get their bodies inked.
They would harvest the leaves of the Woad plant. These leaves would then be dried, boiled, and strained. They would then undergo another round of boiling until the liquid becomes a thick and sticky blue paste. Afterward, needle-like implements would be used to tap this Woad paste underneath the skin.
This would create a permanent indigo stain on the skin by entrapping the paste into the skin.
Photos Of Celtic Tattoos
Meaning of The Celtic Knot-work
Although Celtic tattoos aren’t a way to recognize Celtic warriors anymore, the intricate symbols have stood the tests of time. Besides being stylish and aesthetic designs, they still carry some meaning and symbolism, such as purity and wisdom.
The basic idea of these tattoos comes from the Celtic Knot-work. This is a gender-neutral design system that uses a mixture of intertwining lines and shapes. This was meant to represent the eternal harmony and nature of opposites, such as fire and water and male and female.
It is important to note that it was the norm for men and women to get the same designs in the Celtic era, especially when the tattoos represented religion or zodiac signs.
Tattoos Based on Designs
More often than not, people picked their Celtic tattoo designs based on their birth dates. Much like the zodiac consists of 12 signs, Celts also had their own Celtic astrological system. However, their months were divided by lunar cycles. Each of these signs was represented by a tree and had an animal as its symbol.
It is hard to determine the exact alternative for those dates in our current calendar year, but some experts have developed a rough guideline.
- Jan 22 – Feb 18: Rowan (Green Dragon)
- Feb 19 – Mar 17: Ash (Sea Horse)
- Mar 18 – Apr 14: Alder (Hawk)
- Apr 15 – May 12: Willow (Sea Serpent)
- May 13 – Jun 9: Hawthorn (The Chalice or Fox)
- Jun 10 – Jul 7: Oak (White Horse)
- Jul 8 – Aug 4: Holly (Flaming Spear or Unicorn)
- Aug 5 – Sep 1: Hazel (Rainbow Salmon)
- Sep 2 – Sep 29: Vine (White Swan)
- Sep 30 – Oct 27: Ivy (Butterfly)
- Oct 28 – Nov 24: Reed (White Hound)
- Nov 25 – Dec 23: Elder (Black Horse)
- Dec 24 – Jan 20: Birch (White Stag)
Celtic Tattoo Ideas
If you plan on getting a Celtic tattoo, a design based on your birthday may be the best choice. You could pick the tree that represents your Celtic Astrology sign, or you could opt for the animal that symbolizes. Or, if you’re experimental enough, you could get a combination of the two.
However, you don’t necessarily have to get something based on your birthday. If you find another Celtic symbol fascinating, you can always get it. Just make sure to do some research to be aware of what the symbol or design may represent.
Whether it’s your first tattoo or you already have an entire tattoo sleeve across your arm, a Celtic would undoubtedly make a good addition.
Make sure you find a tattoo artist who is experienced in creating Celtic tattoos, as you don’t want to regret your tattoo later on.
More Tattoo Meanings + Inspiration
- What is a Tramp Stamp Tattoo – In the late 90’s tattoos on the lower backs of women became a highly sought after means of expression with a naughty twist. They were highlighted by certain types of clothing and became quite the rave. By the late 90’s the term “Tramp Stamp” became the descriptor for these erotic tattoos. Read more about Tramp Stamps in our article.
- Tattoo Peeling Tips – Tattoo peeling is one of the least fun parts about getting a new tattoo. Don’t worry though, it is a natural part of the healing process and will not have a negative effect on your tattoo long term. While uncomfortable and at times a bit alarming, peeling is no big deal. Read our expert advice on what to do with tattoo peel.
- Tattoo Blowout – Tattoo blowouts are not super common, but when they do occur it is generally because of the tattoo artist applying too much pressure. The ink is placed below the surface of the skin and in turn is injected into the next layer of fat. This can cause a number of issue both with the tattoo clarify, longevity, and even some health concerns. Read more about how this happens and what to do.