Historically, Ireland is a combination of ancient Celtic and Gaelic traditions along with Catholicism. Oppression, victory and a fighting spirit along with medieval castles and elements of the spectacular landscape all serve as themes or backgrounds for Irish tattoos.
The Kelly green, white and orange-striped flag of the country is commonly used to depict Irish ancestry. As a symbol, the flag represents unity. The colors represent the Irish Gaels, William of Orange and peace. Irish flags are often combined with a three or four-leafed shamrock, that stands for luck and prosperity.
Shamrocks are also associated with St. Patrick, the Holy Trinity and Catholicism. The patron saint was responsible for spreading Christianity among the pagan people. Some tattoos revolve around the symmetrical Cross of Saint Patrick. Complex Celtic crosses feature intricately woven patterns that are created in black work or multiple color images. Irish crosses might also incorporate a series of Celtic knots, dragons or serpents and weaponry.
When desiring to commemorate a loved one, the Claddagh tattoo remains one of the most popular. The image consists of two hands holding a heart topped with a royal crown. Many variations of the design are possible as well as the techniques used to create the image. Leprechauns have long been associated with Irish folklore and are depicted as being everything from whimsical to evil. Dramatic displays might involve black work or full-colored caricatures or life-like portraits.