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The Mystique of the Celtic Tattoo

I love tattoos and have been writing about the topic for several years.

Celtic tattoos can convey a number of different meanings depending on the intention of the wearer or the artist.

Celtic tattoos can convey a number of different meanings depending on the intention of the wearer or the artist.

Beauty and Meaning of Celtic Tattoos

Celtic tattoos are one of the more beautiful tattoo designs. They have deep meaning to many of those that decide to put one on their body.

There is one challenge with Celtic tattoos: They're so intricate and meaningful, that they can get lost if you put them in the midst of or alongside other tattoos, and they can lose their look and significance.

So in most cases, you want them for a single tattoo on the body, or at least in its own place away from others. Sometimes combining Celtic and tribal tattoos can work, but even though they look good aesthetically, the symbolism isn't quite the same.

Now if you're just into the looks of the tattoo alone, sometimes that'll work, but even so, some of the most intricate tattoo body art is connected to Celtic tattoos, and so it's very easy even in that sense to lose some of the effect of what it is.

Meaning of Celtic Tattoos

Celtic tattoos can border on Celtic mythology and meaning, to the very symbolic Celtic cross, which means different things to different people.

Some of the great Celtic-type tattoos are also connected to Norse mythology, but they somehow work in the Celtic tattoo design.

Celtic Tree of Life Tattoo Is My Favorite

One of my favorite Celtic tattoos is the mystical tree of life, which in most cases is done in a way that you always recognize it, even if the designs change from tattoo to tattoo.

It has some of the deepest meaning, and usually, people who wear it do so with a definite purpose—and not simply because they like the look alone—although they do look fantastic, regardless of the meaning attached to it.

Celtic Tree of Life

Celtic Tree of Life

Celtic Tattoo Inspiration

While the Celtic tattoo appeals to those of the Celtic heritage (which includes not only the Irish but also the Welsh and Scots, as well), it also attracts those who just love the design and who in many cases assign their own meaning to the symbols, as others do with different tattoo themes.

Quite a number of Celtic tattoo designs receive their inspiration from an old manuscript named The Book of Kells, which is part of a larger body of work called the Irish Illuminated Manuscripts.

Several Celtic Tattoo Styles

There are a number of unique features of the Celtic tattoo, with the primary one being the Celtic knot.

Celtic knot tattoos are designed in such a way that there is no beginning or end to them— which is a symbol of ongoing birth and death and rebirth.

Many of the Celtic tattoo photos included here have them as part of their artwork.

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Celtic Knot Design

Celtic Knot Design

Exceptions to Unending Knot

Another tattoo design can intersect the knotwork design—a zoomorphic design, where the knotwork will finish with a piece that includes an animal head, foot, or tail, which doesn't reconnect to the original band, breaking the cycle.

A pure zoomorphic Celtic tattoo design will have a look that closely resembles knotwork, but as mentioned, it will only use the limbs of an animal, or its head, in place of the knotwork.

Celtic Wolf Arm Tattoo

Celtic Wolf Arm Tattoo

The maze is another popular Celtic design, that adds parallel lines that form a maze.

Finally, there is the spiral design, which includes lines that swirl around and spiral in a way that rarely varies, and usually flows together nicely.

Celtic Full Sleeve Tattoo

Celtic Full Sleeve Tattoo

Most Celtic Tattoo Images

There can be no doubt that the Celtic cross is inked on more bodies than any other Celtic tattoo. Again, it has different meanings to different people, and those that wear them attach, in many cases, their own private meaning to the symbol.

Many people keep the traditional meaning of the Cross of Christ, and that remains an inspiration to many, even though meanings have changed among some people in general.

Unique Celtic Tattoo Designs

Some of my favorite Celtic tattoos are those that show past heroes of lore and legend, which in many cases seem to be one-of-a-kind tattoos that are not commonly found.

I've included a number of these in the tattoo photos above, as they're just too good to pass up, and in many cases were difficult to find.

Looking at them, you can see what they're so desirable as body art and symbolic meaning to many people.

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Mulysa Mayhem on March 14, 2012:

Ha ha...this is funny....I'm the artist who did the 3rd tattoo from the bottom about 6 years ago! Ha ha ha!

kenneth baird on October 12, 2010:

usefull site but some of the images are a bit too iron maiden heavy metal for my personal taste and bypass the beauty intricansy and meaning of a pagan culture rooted in the natural world

Forearm Tattoos on January 15, 2010:

Interesting site and cool images, thanks. Don't forget the Cornish Celts in the UK (I am one!).

Lady Rogue from Cleveland Heights, Ohio on June 20, 2009:

Mine is actually a combination of Celtic and Native American. The artist and I designed it together. Combines sword/cross with a Celtic band and where the band & sword meet, it looks like the face of a wolf. Great pictures! Thanks!

backword_65 on June 18, 2009:

I will definitely consider a celtic tattoo for my next one. I've been looking for something interesting. Thanks for the helpful info.

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