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Tattoo Related Terms

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Tattoo Related Terms C


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A term used to describe highly intricate knotted designs that hail from the european midlands of old. This term was used to label the Scots, the Irish, British, and sometimes the Welsh though there is no actual record of these ppl ever really calling themselves celts. Their history goes back much further than those times. They are from a civilization that developed through many metal ages and evolved from rough, barely skilled carvers and pounders of metal into fine, highly spiritual artisans.

Some common topics are:
Cauldron-Symbolizes creation and sometimes associated with the womb. It is also associated with knowledge, wisdom, spiritual rebirth, a raising of status, and inspiration.

Comb-associated with soul enchantment since it restrains the hair where the soul is thought to reside.

Cross-The Celtic Cross was once thought of as a soul stone for ancestors. I would assume that this evolved after the time of the guiding spirit theology. In time they grew to be land markers, directional guides (similar to the maltese cross) and eventually fell in with Christianity.

Knotwork-knotworkis involved in most of the popular Celtic designs. Intertwining lengths of rope or twine that are meant to give the viewer something to concentrate on for a variety of different purposes. By the time that the knot is clear to the viewer, or symbolically unraveled, the topic of contemplation should become easier to deal with. Knotwork is also said to represent a person's soul, never ending. Many of the later artisans seemed to lose this when they began to fear the Christian god and began to make intentional mistakes as to make themselves imperfect since only God was perfect. Knotwork was also used to form talismans for various purposes such as wealth, protection, good health, etc.

Labyrinths/Key patterns-Like the Labyrinths of old these are a place for contemplation as well. A symbolic search for something. Even in Greek mythology a labyrinth is used similarly.


Spirals-As with the other patterns the spiral was used for deep thinking as well. In this case it also relates to the cosmos and the flow of life. It was not uncommon to find a spiral either painted or crafted on the floor of an old monastery or place of learning.

Tree-The tree was once thought to be the home of ancestors gone by. Battles would ensue if someone would attempt to damage a family tree. They were also considered bringers of life and if the tree bore different fruits it was revered highly. Trees oddly enough were also used to pass messages through carvings in later years. The alphabet used was called Ogham.

Triquetra- This symbol dates back before Christianity entered Ireland but it is often associated with the trinity. The main difference that I have found in my studies was that the triquetra without the circle in it represented air, fire, and water before the church. The later forms with the circle were the trinity. More modern uses associate it with anything three fold i.e. "maiden, mother, crone". There are actual knots and other symbols to represent many of these things but it is just easier for most to change a symbol to their liking rather than stick to it's original meaning. I just love how symbols morph over time, errr, not so much.

Zoomorphic Totems/-Much like many other ancient civilizations the "Celts" associated animals with different traits. In their case though they also believed that they could transform into many of these animals by shape-shifting. Animals were considered teachers and the consumption of them increased the speed of
knowledge gained. The exact meanings of many of these are vague and incomplete, such is life when dealing with ancient civilizations that were essentially forced to combine with others to survive.
Badger-lack of fear, or caring


Boar- masculine power


Deer-totem for otherworldliness and the ability to become invisible.


Dogs of war- A group of dogs intertwined.

Doves-blessed souls.

Falcon-viciousness in hunting.

Geese-guardian or a watchdog of sorts.

Hare (rabbit)-raises the sun at Spring Equinox


Hounds-swift hunters



Pigs-associated with lower,earlier races than the "Celts". Pig herding was considered to be the work of a moron. Pigs were also associated with the underworld and the destruction of crops or land.

Raven-Lost souls.







Christian tattoos relate to the religion of the followers of Christ.

Usual topics of choice are:

Angels-The servants of God. There are many different representations of the angels from frilly little cherubs, angelic choirs of seraphim, fiery arch angels, and yes, death.

Anima Sola-Usually a woman in flames and imprisoned, yet with broken chains. A Catholic symbol of a suffering and the release from it.

Christ-the son of God. Typically pictured on the cross (crucifix) or with a lamb or small children.

Crosses-A symbol usually used to represent faith in God and the Christ. Also said to represent Jesus's reach. To heaven and hell along with everything inbetween.Also used to symbolize the bridge between heaven and earth. (courtesy of Bob McLure)

Mother Mary-Usually a much more catholic design but it depicts Christ's mother holding him standing on a moon held by cherubim along with bordering and varying symbols, also referred to as the Madonna. There are various images of Mary for different regions of the world.

Patron Saints: There are many, many, many patron saints within the Catholic religion. Here's a few of them:


St Christopher: patron saint of safe travel. Usually depicted as a bearded man with a walking stick carrying a child across a river.

St Lucy: patron saint of the blind or those with eye trouble. Represented as a younger woman looking upward while holding a twig of fern in one hand and a plate with two eyes in the other.

St Nicholas: Children (western) and sailors (eastern). Usually depicted as a balding, bearded man with three crosses trimming his robe and holding a bible. A crown may or may not be present.

Therese of Lisieux: Missions and the support of the missionaries. Typically represented holding a crucifix and a bunch of roses as one would hold a baby.

St Valentine: He is the Patron Saint of affianced couples, bee keepers, engaged couples, epilepsy, fainting, greetings, happy marriages, love, lovers, plague, travelers, and young people.


Rosary: An item used during prayer in the Catholic faith. It is a necklace composed of beads with a crucifix in the middle.

Scripture: Passages from the Bible or just the book and number.



Refers to how well a tattoo is done. This entails how crisp the lines are, how solid the color is, and how smooth the shading is. Basically, how readable the tattoo is at a distance.


Color Bomb:------------------------------------------------------

Super high color designs, almost to the point of overkill but stopping at just the right point. (see New school)


Contour: ---------------------------------------------------------

The visual edge of a surface (i.e. a bump or fold of cloth) or the outer edge of a design.


Contour Lines:-------------------------------------------------

Lines that define varying edges within a design or lines that define the outer shape of a design. (courtesy of R. Shane Hall) (see also Sculpted Lines)


Contrast: --------------------------------------------------------

The amount of difference in shading and/or color between two or more points in a design. Contrast is quite often used to give a design
definition by using lighter shades against darker and brighter colors against dimmer. Contrast also helps tattoos to hold up better over time. I low contrast tattoo is more likely to wash out as the years go by.


Cover Up:---------------------------------------------------------

The elimination of one or more tattoos by skillfully placing another tattoo over them. This is far more complicated than it sounds and few people excel in this area. It is not uncommon for many tattooists to refuse to do them since they are quite a bit of work or because they simply don't have the skill set to deal with them.



Tattoos which are freehanded upon the skin with either a skin safe marker or nothing at all before starting the tattoo. This makes for an absolute one off of the design since everything flows between the artist and the client at the time of the tattoos application. Very few people should do couture tattoos and even fewer should do the absolute freehand method. These forms of freehand are for skilled professionals only.