Although many people enjoy Irish tattoos purely for their aesthetic charms and mythical beauty, most people will have them done as a way to express pride in their cultural heritage. These pieces may include intricate Celtic patterns, individual symbols such as claddagh or four-leaf clover, large scenes or simple flags.
Familiar symbols are some of the most common pieces used for Irish tattoos. These symbols include items like four-leaf clovers, leprechauns and Celtic crosses. Many of these emblems appear by themselves, but it is not unusual to see them as part of a larger scene. For instance, the leprechaun may be shown in a forest setting counting gold from a pot, or the four-leaf clover may appear as part of a good luck badge that also includes items such as horseshoes, ladybugs or rainbows.
Some of the lesser used but equally familiar images include the Irish flag, the Irish harp, and the claddagh. The claddagh is typically used on the fingers but may appear anywhere on the body. It is made up of two hands holding a crowned heart and is often worn as a romantic emblem that represents the bond of two people in love, loyalty and friendship. How this image is worn is also said to be symbolic. If it is worn on the right side and turned down, it signifies that the wearer’s heart is not taken; if it is on the right side facing up, it shows that the wear is committed to someone; and if it is facing up on the left side of the body, it shows that the wearer is forever taken.
Many Irish tattoos are made up of Celtic knotwork and spiral patterns. These designs are not only beautiful, but are also thought to be very meaningful. For instance, the triquetra knot is thought to represent a number of things: the father, son and holy ghost, the three stages of womanhood and the mind, body and spirit. The triskelion knot is thought to express man’s progress through life, while the quaternary knot is representative of all things fourfold such as seasons, directions or elements. These patterns may also be made into spirals that are simple in design, and may be better suited for those looking for something small and discreet.
Irish tattoos that depict plants and mythical characters are not as common but may make for a more unique design. The Celtic tree of life, for instance, may be used to create a stylish piece of body art. This image may be done in a striking black silhouette that shows the thick trunk raising its branches high into the sky, while its roots are firmly splayed below it. Since trees throughout the Irish countryside are often covered in prayers, you may also choose to create a realistic-looking tree that bears ribbons emblazoned with words like, “love,” “health,” or “happiness.” Elaborate scenes that show mythical creatures like fairies, banshees and the dullahan may easily be created. One idea would be to create a beautiful merrow, or mermaid, bobbing in the water in her sealskin cloak or red, feathery cap.