Irish Tattoo Design and Meaning
It doesn’t matter if you have one drop of Irish blood or not, in March, everyone across the world is Irish. Perhaps to celebrate your “Irishness,” you have decided to get inked with your favorite Irish symbol. Before visiting your favorite tattoo artist, let’s learn a bit about the history behind each symbol.
You can’t learn about Irish symbols until you know a bit about the Celts.
The Celts were a cultural group that lived throughout Europe in the 7th and 8th centuries. Although they were known to live in various areas across mainland Europe, they survived longer in what is modern-day Ireland than any other region. The Romans did not overcome the Celts, nor were the Celts taken over by the Anglo-Saxons. Their Druidic “religion” was suppressed when St. Patrick arrived in 432 A.D. and brought Christianity to the people.
This history is essential to know when picking out an Irish tattoo, as some of the traditional Irish designs have a Celtic history.
The Celtic (Irish) Cross
The Celtic Cross is one of the most popular symbols of Ireland, and a popular choice for a tattoo. Although most would think that the cross is associated with Christianity, some studies guess that this symbol predates the Christian era. Some historians say that the Celtic Cross represents the cardinal directions. Others say that the Celtic cross represents earth, fire, air, and water. Perhaps to you, the symbol represents your Christian beliefs. Regardless of the true origin of the symbol, it is important to know the other possible meanings of the Celtic Cross before you have the emblem added to the artwork on your skin.
The Irish Harp
Do you drink Guinness? Who are we kidding? If you are thinking of getting an Irish tattoo, of course, you drink Guinness. Some view the Irish Harp as a symbol for the national drink, and they wouldn’t be wrong. Guinness used the logo on their first bottle label in 1862.
The Irish Harp is much older than Guinness though and is one of the most widely- recognized symbols for the country. The harp’s history reaches back to the Celtic culture. It was common for Irish kings and chieftains to have their own harpist, who was given high status. It was so strongly associated with the Irish, that the British banned it because it became an emblem of resistance to the Crown.
The Irish symbol with the most world-wide recognition is the shamrock. While some associated the shamrock’s three, heart-shaped leaves as symbols of the Christian trinity (the Father, Son, and Holy Ghost), the symbolism behind the shamrock has Celtic origins.
The Celts believed in the importance of the number three. Many of the riddles and fairy stories are peppered with the significance of a trinity.
Regardless of if the shamrock is worn as a symbol of Christianity or the Celts, it is currently a symbol of Irish pride and the rebellious spirit that is associated with it.
As we have learned from the history of the shamrock, the number three was significant to the Celts and thus also the Irish. So it is not a surprise to see that the three-looped knot is a favorite Irish tattoo. Some say the continuous loop in the symbol represents the eternal spiritual life. Others say the symbol does not have any religious significance. Regardless, the Celtic knot is definitely an Irish symbol and would be an excellent design for an Irish tattoo.
The Claddagh is a symbol of friendship (the hands), love (the heart), and loyalty (the crown).
There is a traditional, Irish tale that tells the history of the Claddagh. Long ago, there was a young man who was captured from the fishing village of Claddagh. He was sold into slavery. During his time as a slave, he stole bits of gold. With the gold, the young man made a ring. After many years as a slave, the man returned to Claddagh, where he found that his true love had waited for him. He gave her the ring as a symbol of his love and devotion. Who inspires you to get a Claddagh tattoo?
The Celtic Motherhood Knot
What is more beautiful than the love between a mother and her child? The Celtic Motherhood Knot represents this love with two hearts that are connected in intricate loops. This tattoo not only represents your love of all things Irish, but also the love you feel for your child.
Celebrate all things Irish by choosing one of these designs for your next tattoo.
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