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Tattoo Symbol Index - A B C D E F G H I J K L M N O P Q R S T U V W X Y Z

Tattoo designs - H >> Harps

Harp tattoosHarp Tattoo Meanings - The Harp has long been a symbol associated with Ireland and all things Irish and is a popular tattoo design, but many people are unfamiliar with the origins of the symbol. The 'Emerald Isle' flies a flag of green, representing the ancient Gaelic tradition. Against this background sits the gold Harp, a symbol with origins going back to Ireland's mythic past. This came to be known as the 'Green Flag'.

Dagda, the supreme god of Irish mythology, carried a Harp along with a cauldron and a club. The Harp, richly ornamented and made of oak, represented music and poetry. When Dagda played it, the seasons were sure to proceed in their correct order. Legend tells us that Dagda's harpist was once abducted by the enemy, and his harp silenced, left to collect dust, hanging on a wall. At the sound of Dagda's calling, the harp leapt back into his hands, and on the way it took out nine of the enemy, killing them on the spot. Clearly, the Irish Harp has many uses.

Harp tattoosIt was the Irish nationalist, Owen Roe O'Neill, who is said to have brought harp and green together on a flag in 1642, although it did not capture the popular imagination until after a few more rebellions against the English. The Harp itself became known as the 'Maid of Erin' after it acquired a pair of wings at the beginning of the nineteenth century. It was incorporated into the British Royal Standard, appearing in the lower left quadrant. Today, the Harp without the wings is the Standard of the President of Ireland.

At the turn of the nineteenth century, the Harp on the green background was flown by the fighters for a united Ireland. The emblem became synonymous with their cause, and later in the century was extensively used by Daniel O'Connell, the leader of the rebel campaigns. The emblem was also displayed during peaceful demonstrations for the repeal of the union with England. Its great popularity was seen by the English as seditious.

Insect tattoo symbols and designsAnother Irish national flag - the green, white, and orange 'Tricolor' -- was flown by republican movements during the 19th century. Historians argue that the Green Flag remained the unofficial flag of the confederate Irish up until 1918. Both the Tricolour and the Green Flag were used by insurgents during the uprisings of 1916. When the republican separatists (Sinn Fein) won the general election in 1918, the Green Flag was designated a secondary role while the Tricolour became the national flag of Ireland.

But the Irish Harp, with its associations with the mythical past, still fills the air today with Dagda's music -- the music of tears, the music of mirth, and the music of sleep and dreams.

Harp Inspiration Gallery - Click here to get inspired!As a tattoo symbol, the Harp conjures up the 'terrible beauty' of Ireland that poet William Butler Yeats so heart-achingly describes in his poem 'Easter, 1916', which he wrote in response to the Easter Rebellion. The harp represents the mysticism, the lyrical majesty and beauty of Irish music and song, poetry and language and yet stands also for steadfast independence, loyalty, pride and the centuries long striving and struggle for an Irish identity and an Irish soul separate from England and Great Britain.

Get inspired by some great images and photos in our Harp Inspiration Gallery

Harp tattoo designs and ideas by some of the world's top tattoo artists and flash illustrators.

See also: Religious Tattoo Index

Tattoo designs - H >> Harps

Tattoo Symbol Index - A B C D E F G H I J K L M N O P Q R S T U V W X Y Z

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