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Celtic Tattoo Meaning: A Tapestry of Ancient Symbols and History

Find out what all the symbols in Celtic tattoos mean and how they relate to the culture. 

Immerse yourself in this rich tapestry of ancient Celtic symbols, from the simple knot to the grand cross.

If you have searched through Celtic tattoos, you have probably ended up in a rabbit hole of history, mythology, and symbolism. 

This ancient art form is still popular today. 

It is made up of intricate patterns that show what Celtic culture is all about. 

Celtic tattoos have always been popular, from the fierce Celtic warriors of the past to people looking for meaningful body art today.

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Celtic Symbols and Their Meaning

Examples of Celtic tattoos designs include traditional ones like the Trinity Knot (l) and the Shield Knot (r),nd the more modern Celtic designs such as the Celtic Dragon Knot (c)
Examples of Celtic tattoos designs include traditional ones like the Trinity Knot (l) and the Shield Knot (r) and the more modern Celtic designs such as the Celtic Dragon Knot (c). (Image © Clker-Free-Vector-Images (l), Vintage Illustrations (c) and 35393 (r) via

Celtic symbols, a keystone of Irish tattoo culture and art, are more than just complex designs. 

They are reminders of ancient Celtic life, and each one tells a story about the Celts’ deep respect for nature, their strong faith, and their belief that all life is connected.

Celtic Knots 

Celtic knots are a symbol of the cycle of birth, death, and rebirth. 

They are made up of lines that weave together in an endless loop. 

The knots made with one continuous line are especially meaningful because they represent the belief of the Celtic people in the interconnectedness and continuity of life and spirit.

The Dara Celtic Knot 

The Dara Knot with an old oak tree.
The Dara Knot with an old oak tree. (Photo: jlmcloughlin1 via Shutterstock, Symbol: © 35393 via

A symbol of inner strength, wisdom, and leadership, the Dara Celtic knot is shaped to resemble an oak tree or “Dara” in Irish. 

The ancient Celts respected the oak tree because it was big and lived a long time. 

This made it a powerful symbol of strength.

The Quaternary Celtic Knot Meaning

The fact that the Quaternary Celtic knot has four points shows how important the number four was to the Celts. 

People think that this knot represents the four cardinal directions, the four elements of earth, air, fire, and water, or the four seasons, and that it shows balance and harmony.

The Trinity Knot 

The Trinity Knot, also called the Triquetra, is a simple knot made up of three vesica pisces that are tied together. 

The ancient Celts held the number three in high regard, and it was often a part of their symbols. 

The Trinity Knot could represent a woman’s three stages of life (maiden, mother, and crone), the three parts of nature (land, sea, and sky), or the three parts of the Christian Holy Trinity.

Celtic Shield Knot Tattoo 

The Celtic Shield Knot with a beach sunset in the background.
The Celtic Shield Knot. (Photo: 4kclips via Shutterstock, Symbol: © 35393 via

The Celtic Shield Knot tattoo is a symbol of strength and protection. 

The shield knot symbol was used by the Celts as a protective charm in ancient times, calling on gods to protect their warriors in battle. 

Today, someone might get a Celtic Shield Knot tattoo to show their strength, resilience, or as a symbol of a shield against life’s problems.

Celtic Motherhood Knot Tattoo 

The Celtic Motherhood Knot tattoo shows how much a mother loves her child and how strong that love is. 

This beautiful heart-shaped design, which is often decorated with knots or swirls, shows how much a mother loves, cares for, and sacrifices for her child. 

A person might get a Celtic Motherhood Knot tattoo to honor their mother, celebrate becoming a mother, or pay tribute to the strength and love in this special relationship.

While the other knots mentioned here generally have ancient origins, the Celtic Motherhood Knot is a relatively recent creation based on early Celtic design. 

The Celtic Cross 

An example of a Celtic cross design.
An example of a Celtic cross design. (Image: Morphart via Depositphotos)

One of the most well-known Irish Celtic symbols is the Celtic Cross, which looks like a cross inside a circle. 

Its roots can be traced back to the early Middle Ages, when Irish missionaries used the symbol a lot. Ireland is now famous for its Celtic high crosses.

In Celtic mythology, the sun was a very important celestial body, and the ring that connects the arms of the cross is thought to represent it. 

On the other hand, it is often seen as a symbol of eternal spiritual life, the never-ending love of God, or a halo of holiness.

The Claddagh Ring 

Claddagh Ring design with hands holding a crowned heart.
Claddagh Ring design with hands holding a crowned heart. (Photo: GAMARUBA via Shutterstock, Symbol: miceking via Depositphotos)

The Claddagh ring is a traditional Irish ring that shows love, loyalty, and friendship in a beautiful way. 

The design features two hands holding a heart with a crown on it. 

The heart is a symbol of love, the hands are a symbol of friendship, and the crown is a symbol of loyalty. 

The Claddagh design is frequently used as a friendship, engagement, or wedding ring, making it a valued symbol of relationships.

The Celtic Tree of Life 

The interlinking roots and branches of the Celtic Tree of Life symbol.
The interlinking roots and branches of the Celtic Tree of Life symbol. (Photo: via Shutterstock, Symbol: artdock cvia Shutterstock)

The Celtic Tree of Life or “Crann Bethadh in Irish Gaelic is a powerful symbol of unity, balance, and continuity. 

It is said to show how the Celts thought all life was connected, with the roots going down into the underworld, the trunk staying on earth, and the branches reaching up to the heavens. 

This strong Celtic Tree of Life symbol shows how much the Celts cared about nature and how well they understood the cycle of life.

The Triskelion or Triskele

The Triskelion design.
The Triskelion design. (Photo: Jan Stria via Shutterstock, Symbol: © Albinopanther via

The Triskelion or Triskele is made up of three spiraling arms or legs. It is a symbol for how life, movement, and change all happen in cycles. 

It shows how the past, present, and future all work together. 

It also shows the three-fold themes that are common in Celtic culture, such as the three realms of earth, sky, and sea. 

It is also a symbol of personal growth, human growth, and spiritual growth.

The Celtic Spiral 

The Celtic Spiral is made up of one or more spirals that move around a common center. It is also called the “Spiral of Life“.

In Celtic art, a single spiral can represent the growth and development of consciousness, while a double spiral can show how yin and yang, day and night, and life and death are in balance. 

The triple aspect of Celtic beliefs is shown by the Triskele, which has three spirals.

The Serch Bythol 

Example of a Serch Bythol Celtic knot. (Photo: VVlasovs via Shutterstock, Symbol: © Clker-Free-Vector-Images via

The Serch Bythol, which is made up of two triskeles, is a symbol of love that lasts forever.

This Celtic love knot, which is often used in weddings, is a symbol of two souls dancing together in a never-ending dance of love, passion, and unity.

The Five Fold Symbol 

The Five Fold Symbol is made up of four circles that come together in the middle to form a fifth circle. 

Each circle represents one of the four elements: earth, air, fire, and water. 

The fifth circle is thought to show how all of these elements work together and are in balance. 

This symbol represents the idea that nature is in balance, which was a central part of Celtic culture and spirituality. 

One thing to note is that this symbol is associated with other cultures as well and not just exclusively with the Celts.


Awen is often mistaken for a Celtic symbol. It is used in modern Druidism. 

It is made up of three pillars that are often surrounded by three dots or rays. In a spiritual sense, Awen stands for inspiration or divine illumination. 

It is a symbol of the balance between male and female energy and the free flow of creativity and wisdom.

There is some reason to believe that the Awen symbol was created by Edward Williams (also known as Iolo Morganwg), who was a known forger.

Celtic Tattoo Meaning

A Celtic Love Knot design.
A Celtic Love Knot design. (Photo: zkbld via Shutterstock, Symbol © javiruizmart via

Celtic tattoos are more than just a form of body art. 

They are a way to keep the rich folklore and mythology of the Celtic culture alive through a visual story. 

From the mysterious knotwork designs to the animal symbols, each Celtic tattoo tells a different story and has a unique energy that connects to ancient wisdom and timeless stories.

Celtic Knot Tattoo Meaning

Celtic knot tattoos are very popular among people all over the world. 

These tattoos are a symbol of the never-ending cycle of life and death, which has no clear beginning or end. 

They are made up of intricate, interwoven patterns. 

They show how everything in the universe is connected, which is a sign of the strength of the human spirit and the complexity of life.

The Dara Celtic Knot Tattoo Meaning

The Dara Celtic knot tattoo shows the strength and resilience of the oak tree, which in Celtic mythology is a respected being. 

This tattoo could be a way for a person to show their inner strength, wisdom, or desire to lead, just like the mighty oak.

Quaternary Celtic Knot Tattoo Meaning

With its balanced four-point design, the Quaternary Celtic knot tattoo shows harmony and balance between the elements, the four cardinal directions, or the four seasons. 

It is a great choice for people who want stability or to feel more connected to nature.

Trinity Knot Tattoo Meaning

Trinity Knot symbol with night beach scene in the background.
The simple, yet meaningful Trinity Knot symbol. (Photo: Patryk Kosmider via Shutterstock, Symbol: © Clker-Free-Vector-Images via

The Trinity knot tattoo shows how important the number three is in Celtic religion and culture.

Whether it stands for a woman’s life cycle, the elements of nature, or the Christian Holy Trinity, the Trinity knot tattoo is a reminder of the sacred harmony that can be found in three-way relationships.

The Celtic Cross Tattoo Meaning

The Celtic Cross tattoo is a sign of faith, unity, and eternal life. 

It is a symbol that has a long history in both Celtic and Christian culture. 

The Celtic Cross tattoo is a powerful way to show what you believe and who you are. 

It can be a symbol of your faith, a reminder of your Celtic roots, or a sign of spiritual unity.

The Celtic Spiral Tattoo Meaning

The Celtic Spiral tattoo is a powerful symbol of how life goes in cycles and represents growth, change, and spiritual growth. 

With each turn, a Celtic Spiral knot shows how life is always changing, which makes it a great symbol for personal growth and the journey of finding out who you are.

The Celtic Band Tattoo Meaning

A sample Celtic band design with a Galway landscape scene in the background.
A sample Celtic band design. (Photo: Hugh O’Connor via Shutterstock, Symbol © javi.ruiz via

The Celtic band tattoo is a popular choice for arm or leg bands. 

It often has Celtic knots, animals, or other Celtic symbols

You can tell your own story with these tattoos by putting together different Celtic symbols to make a personal tapestry of meaning on your skin.

The Celtic Animal Tattoos Meaning

Celtic animal tattoos are a deep way to connect with nature and the primal forces that live in it. 

The Celts respected the wisdom of nature and believed that all living things have a spiritual connection, which is represented by each animal’s symbol, which represents a particular trait or quality.

Celtic Raven Tattoo Meaning

Interlinking knot work design on a Celtic raven.
Interlinking knot work design on a Celtic raven. (Image: via Depositphotos)

The Celtic Raven tattoo is a sign of change and foretelling. 

In Celtic mythology, ravens are often seen as messengers from the other world who can tell the future or give wise advice. 

A person with a Celtic Raven tattoo might be going through a time of personal change, looking for more knowledge, or respecting their intuition.

Celtic Wolf Tattoo Meaning

Celtic Wolf design idea.
Celtic Wolf design idea. (Image: revelstockart via Depositphotos)

The Celtic Wolf tattoo is a symbol of strength, loyalty, and family. 

In Celtic culture, the wolf was seen as a strong creature that looked out for its pack, was very social, and was very loyal to its pack. 

Those who get a Celtic Wolf tattoo often want to show how loyal, strong, and committed they are to their family or community.

Celtic Crow Tattoo Meaning

The Celtic Crow tattoo is a symbol of magic, secrets, and the mysteries of the otherworld. 

Crows were highly regarded in Celtic culture because of how smart they were, and they were often linked to the goddess Morrigan. 

A Celtic Crow tattoo can show that you like magic, are interested in the mysterious, or respect this bird’s intelligence and ability to change.

Celtic Owl Tattoo Meaning

An example of a Celtic Owl design.
An example of a Celtic Owl design. (Image: Bourbon-88 via Depositphotos)

The Celtic Owl tattoo is a symbol of wisdom, knowledge, and change. 

In Celtic mythology, owls were thought to protect sacred knowledge, and the fact that they could see in the dark made them symbols of insight and intuition. 

People who are looking for wisdom or going through a big change in their lives might choose the Celtic Owl tattoo.

Celtic Butterfly Tattoo Meaning

The Celtic butterfly tattoo is a symbol of change, rebirth, and the beauty of life that is only there for a short time. 

The change of a caterpillar into a beautiful butterfly is a powerful symbol of change and growth. 

When someone gets a Celtic butterfly tattoo, they may be honoring a big change in their lives or the beauty of life that is fleeting.

Celtic Dragon Tattoo Meaning

Power, safety, and knowledge are symbolized by the Celtic dragon tattoo. In Celtic mythology, dragons were seen as powerful guardians and symbols of power. 

Someone might get a Celtic Dragon tattoo if they like the dragon’s strength, want to be protected by it, or want to show how powerful they are.

Celtic Tattoo FAQs

What is the meaning behind Celtic tattoos?

Depending on the design, a Celtic tattoo can have many different meanings. 

Some common themes are eternal love, protection, faith, family history, and how everything in life is connected.

What is the significance of Celtic knot tattoos?

Depending on the Celtic knot design, Celtic knot tattoos show the interconnectedness of life, eternity, and different ideas like love, protection, or maternal bonds.

Can non-Irish individuals get Celtic tattoos?

Yes, tattoos in the Celtic style are open to anyone who likes their beauty, symbolism, and history. 

They are a great way to show respect for one’s roots or show a connection to Celtic culture.

What do Celtic animal tattoos symbolize?

Black crow in flight design.
Black crow in flight design. (Image: khius via Depositphotos)

Depending on the animal chosen (such as a raven, wolf, crow, owl, or dragon), Celtic animal tattoos represent a variety of qualities, including wisdom, strength, and change.

What does the Celtic symbol symbolize?

Celtic symbols are full of meaning, and they often show things like eternity, how everything is connected, and how life goes in cycles. 

Additionally, they frequently serve as a symbol for natural elements, strength, wisdom, and divine inspiration. Symbol by symbol, the meaning can be different. 

For example, the Celtic knot is a symbol of the endless cycle of life and death, the Celtic Cross is a symbol of faith and unity, and the Dara Celtic knot is a symbol of strength and leadership.

Why do people get Celtic tattoos?

There are many different reasons why people get Celtic tattoos. 

Some people are drawn to these designs because they have a lot of symbols and spiritual and mythological themes. 

Some people may be of Celtic descent and want to honor their culture. 

Some people like the way Celtic designs look, especially the knotwork patterns that are so complicated. 

For others, a Celtic tattoo might represent something about themselves, like strength, change, or a strong connection with nature.

Are Celtic tattoos religious?

Even though many Celtic symbols have religious or spiritual meanings, they are not all religious. 

For example, the Celtic Cross is an important religious symbol in Celtic Christianity, but many other Celtic symbols, like the Celtic knot or the Celtic spiral, have more universal spiritual meanings, like eternity and the way life goes in cycles. 

Also, it is important to know that the meanings of Celtic symbols can vary, and people can see them in different ways depending on their own beliefs and points of view.

What is the most popular Celtic tattoo?

A Celtic inspired Shamrock tattoo design.
A Celtic inspired Shamrock tattoo design. (Photo: KAMChokE via Shutterstock, Symbol: svetap via Depsitphotos)

Most of the time, Celtic tattoos with knots, like the Trinity Knot and the Dara Knot, are the most popular. 

The Celtic Cross is another design that is often chosen because it has a lot of religious and historical meaning. 

Celtic animal tattoos, like the raven or the wolf, and the Celtic spiral are also very popular. 

Each of these tattoos has its own meaning and is a very powerful symbol. 

Popularity can depend on things like personal taste, cultural trends, and how different people see the symbols.

Celtic Tattoo Meanings for You

Celtic tattoos tell stories about ancient Celtic culture, spirituality, and the natural world through their rich symbolism and intricate Celtic Tattoo designs. 

Celtic tattoos offer a timeless tapestry of meaning that goes beyond time and culture. 

You can use them to connect to your Irish heritage, show your personal values, or just admire the art of these symbols.

Tip: You can mix and match these tattoo ideas with symbols that you like too. 

A Celtic Moon Tattoo or a Celtic Dragonfly Tattoo which is made up of Celtic knots might be exactly what you fancy. 

Just keep in mind that when you choose a Celtic tattoo design, you should take the time to learn about the history and meanings of the Celtic symbols. 

This will help you make sure that your tattoo honors the legacy of the ancient Celts.