Celtic Tattoos: History and Meaning

celtic tattoo

Celtic Tattoo History

Celtic tattoos were common amongst Celtic warriors, who thought tattoos intimidated enemies during battle.

Battle wasn’t taken lightly by the Celts. They considered combat to be one of the highest honors. Celtic warriors would fight with little to no clothing to further intimidate their enemies. They would dye their hair bright colors and wear it spiked, high on their heads.

How Celtic Tattoos were Made

The dye used for tattooing came from the Woad plant (isatis tinctoria), a plant native to Great Britain, Ireland and Northern Europe. It produces a blue dye and was commonly used in ancient and medieval times to color fabrics.

celtic tattoo woad plant

The Woad plant produces a blue dye used to make Celtic tattoos. Photo by Pethan.

To make Celtic tattoos, the leaves of the Woad plant were harvested and dried. The dried leaves were boiled multiple times until the liquid (or water) became thick and sticky. This thick paste was used with needle-like instruments to put the blue stain underneath the skin, leaving a permanent design on the skin.

About Celtic Tattoos: Gender and Knotwork

Celtic tattoos are not gender specific. It’s common for men and women to wear the same tattoo, particularly if it’s a religious or zodiac tattoo.

Most Celtic tattoos are gender neutral, usually based on Celtic knotwork. The knotwork is a mixture of intertwining shapes and lines. It’s meant to represent the eternalness of nature and the harmony of opposites, such as male and female, fire and water. (More information on how the Celts viewed nature and balance can be found in Celtic Tree of Life Meaning and Symbols.)

The Celts believed that the neverending loops and spirals in knotwork had strong protective powers. Celtic zodiac tattoos are often rendered in Celtic knotwork for this reason.

Celtic Zodiac Tattoos

Celtic zodiac tattoos often combine Celtic knotwork with either the tree or symbol with individual Celtic zodiac signs.

For example, if you’re Celtic zodiac sign is the Rowan , you might select a tattoo that uses Celtic knotwork in the shape of either a rowan leaf (your tree) or a green dragon (your animal symbol).

Celtic Zodiac Tattoo Ideas

Here are ideas for Celtic zodiac tattoos based on your Celtic astrology sign.

Date of Birth Celtic Astrology Sign (tree) Symbol
January 22 – February 18 Rowan Green Dragon
February 19 – March 17 Ash Sea Horse
March 18 – April 14 Alder Hawk
April 15 – May 12 Willow Sea Serpent
May 13 – June 9 Hawthorn The Chalice or Fox
June 10 – July 7 Oak White Horse
July 8 – August 4 Holly Flaming Spear or Unicorn
August 5 – September 1 Hazel Rainbow Salmon
September 2 – September 29 Vine White Swan
September 30 – October 27 Ivy Butterfly
October 28 – November 24 Reed White Hound
November 25 – December 23 Elder Black Horse
December 24 – January 20 Birch White Stag


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