Origins, Popularity and Designs
What is the current fascination with Celtic tattoos? What do they mean and why are so many from ‘non Celt descent’ wearing them?
Tattoos are no different than any other fashion trend. Their style and content moves in cycles and I’m living proof of that. I have quite a collection of Japanese style tattoos from the 1980’s and over the last few years this style has made a return to the popular ranks.
In today's multicultural world there is no need to be of Irish, Scottish or Welsh descent to appreciate Celtic art. Some people may choose a Celtic style tattoo to convey their heritage, however, with such an alluring and varied wealth of material to pick and choose from, it's very likely that Celtic designs will stay fashionable in the tattoo world for a long time to come.
From what I’ve seen, it seems that the most popular Celtic tattoos are variations on different types of Celtic Crosses, Celtic knots and the Celtic Shamrock.
As to their origin, some of the Celtic designs we are familiar with today, can be traced back as far as 500 AD.
While there have been many varied explanations as to each design’s meaning, one thing is certain ... they consist of a beauty and elegance that knows no equal.
The finest example of early Celtic art and also considered an Irish national treasure, is the Book of Kells that is permanently displayed in Dublin at the Trinity College Library.
The embellishment and illustrations contained within the Book of Kells outdo many of the other Insular Gospel books of that era in its lavishness and intricacy. Whilst combining Christian iconography with ornate swirling motifs, this type of beautification was typical of Insular art. There was also the addition of humans, mythical beasts and animals together with Celtic knots and interlacing patterns in vivacious colours to liven up the manuscript’s pages.
From these humble medieval beginnings, our inspiration can be drawn to find a design that is quite unique and can be worn with pride.
Over time, the Celts developed an artistic style all their own. What seems to be the most unique characteristic about Celtic artwork is their fixation on symbols that have an association with infinity, or the ever-repeating cycles of life. This fascination is clearly evident in Celtic knots, which superbly demonstrate the associated and never-ending movement of all things.
Today, there are scores of people wearing Celtic tattoos based on knot work and other designs that had their beginnings during the medieval era. In short, when choosing any design for a tattoo, please remember that a great design will never go ‘out of style’ and you can wear it with pride for many years to come.