The Celtic Warrior
For almost 500 years Celtic warriors were considered the most fearsome fighter in Britain. They dominated Britain having taken the land from Stone Age inhabitants in many battles. Archaeological artifacts today tell us much about these brave warriors mostly from the weapons found. The Romans who are known as master record keepers faced the Celts in many battles and wrote about it.
These ancient people lived for war. Both men and women were equal to the challenges of war and depicted a race that was both strong physically and brave in spirit and heart. They considered war the ultimate honor and did not go into battle without first adorning their bodies. The Latin word for Picts is "painted ones". They adopted war tactics by painting their entire bodies and hair in blue Woad.
Many of their tattoos depicted symbolic images such as animals or things found in nature and to which they attributed meaning. These paintings were meant to instill fear in their enemies. Perhaps more important is that these paintings were used to encapsulate the essence of their symbolic meaning in the warrior.
More aptly described as tribal tattoos the most prolific paintings used by warriors were those that symbolized bravery, courage and strength.
Animals Used as Celtic Symbol for Strength
Celtic warriors used animal symbols as a way of attaining the qualities of that particular animal in battle. Through symbols painted on their body the ancients called upon the strength and the spirit these animals possessed. These included those animals that were part of the lives whether real or mythological.
The Celtic bulls for one were animals much revered for their strong will and uncompromising traits as well as their incredible and untiring physical strength. Bears were associated with power while the lion stood for strength and nobility in war. The boar was depicted in tribal art too for its strength and ferocity.
Although these animals were real and formed part of daily life for the Celts, mythological animals such as the Celtic griffin was often depicted too. Griffins were depicted as part lion and part eagle were adorned too. In their positive attributes they represented strength and nobility much as the lion did. The dragon signified an impossible opponent that could not be overcome.
The symbolic meaning for a lion deals mainly with strength yet its other attributes include power, courage, ferocity and dominion.
Celtic warriors took their war symbols from things around them. A symbol commonly found adorning warriors was the Celtic arrow tattoo. The arrow symbolized brotherhood in war but also signified individual strength and strength amongst brothers. In battle warriors from differing backgrounds bonded together as brothers. The arrow was symbol that each possessed the same spirit of courage and strength within them.
Although not symbolic of the warrior's physical strength a tattoo depicting the sun pierced by an arrow signified the power of the sun to preserve life while the arrow depicted the inner strength each needed to be a successful warrior in battle.
The ancient Ogham symbols were drawn upon for their strength. The Celts intertwined nature into a form of writing system depicted by symbols we recognize today as Runes. The Ogham consisted of twenty runic symbols each representing a sacred tree. Each tree in turn represented an attribute or essence. It is these meanings that Celtic warrior depicted in their tribal art.
The Ogham letter D or Duir represented the Alder tree which in turn symbolized strength and endurance. The letter F or Fern represented the mighty Oak tree which stood for stability and strength. The ancient druids believed the Oak was a vessel containing cosmic energy that a warrior could tap into and fully release on the battle field.
Shields were often depicted in tribal symbols as they symbolized strength and bravery. The Ardagh Chalice features shields and they are found through the centuries decorating Celtic artworks and monuments perhaps as a means to attest to the spirit of their brave ancestors.
With the advent of the Insular Art period from about the 16th century Celtic symbolism has forever been captured in beautiful metalwork. The reminders of Celtic warrior tribal art with its symbols of strength, courage and bravery are today depicted in many art forms ranging from body tattoos to intricate jewelry.