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Tattoo designs - C >> Celtic Crosses

Celtic Cross Tattoo Design Meanings - If you are Irish, Scottish, or Welsh, the Celtic Cross may be more symbolic of your ethnic heritage than of faith. And that goes for other Celts as well, in Brittany, Cornwall, Galicia and the Isle of Mann.

Celtic cross tattoosBut if you are Scandinavian you may also be drawn to the Celtic Cross, as Norse art and Celtic art heavily influenced each other and it is still unclear as to the exact origin of the forms. Clearly there were exchanges between cultures through both trade and conquest. The complexity of Celtic design is thought to mimic or echo the complexity of nature, the use of Celtic knots in spirals and mazes, the intricate interweaving showing no beginning and no end, reflective of the cycles of the seasons and of life.

That's just as well, since arguments over its ancient religious meaning go around 'eternally', just as the circle within the cross suggests. Circles and crosses -- all cultures have them in their systems of symbols, so when cultures collide, as they inevitably do, it's no surprise that meanings are often ambiguous.

Celtic cross tattoosThe cross as a Christian symbol was just emerging in the 4th century, and coincided with the time when the Gospel was being introduced to a sun and moon worshipping culture in what is now the Britain Isles. The legend of St. Patrick suggests how the two came together in his attempt to bring the Druids to Christ. Shown a sacred standing stone marked with a circle, Patrick blessed it by making the mark of a Latin cross through the circle. Was that the first Celtic Cross? The Druids probably continued to recognize their phallic symbols, even after the Christians re-sculpted those large stones as crosses. And more than a millennium later, 'born again pagans' are seeing the circle as the sun, appropriating the Christian symbol back to its supposed primal meaning.

Celtic cross tattoosThe Celtic Cross is well represented in the Book of Kells and other manuscript illustrations - many of them religious texts - and carved stone crosses with the familiar intertwined lines and zoomorphic figures of Celtic art may still be found all over the British Isles, in Scotland in particular.

As symbolic expressions, the circle and the cross could not be more different. One is mystical while the other is almost geographical. The circle is a symbol of eternity and the endlessness of God's love, while the cross relates to the four directions, or four corners of the Earth (or perhaps the four elements: Air, Earth, Fire, Water), while the axes coming together imply the joining of forces such as Heaven and Earth. That coordinate, enclosed within the circle, suggests a realm where time & space cease to exist, a precondition for communication between this world and beyond.

Celtic Cross Inspiration Gallery - Click here to get inspired!Despite its long history, the cross has been well adopted by Christianity, but that does not mean its ancient meanings have altogether vanished. Just as the swastika became a symbol for hate, overriding its former associations, the original meanings of the cross and circle are waiting to be rediscovered. As a tattoo design it may have different meanings for different peoples, but at its symbolic roots it is a design that powerfully evokes the spiritual nature of the universe.

Get inspired by some really great images and photos in our Celtic Cross Inspiration Gallery

See also: Southern Cross, Maltese Cross, Iron Cross, Cross Moline, Papal Cross Tattoos, Religious Tattoo Index, Scottish Clan Tattoo Index

Choose your tattoo from these great Celtic Cross Tattoos and Designs

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Tattoo designs - C >> Celtic Crosses

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