The Charmed Ones, trilogies, three-piece suits—clearly the number three is significant. And maybe that's why the Trinity knot, also known as a triquetra, is so resonant as a symbol to so many people.
Though the origin story of the Celtic knot is somewhat up for debate, the knot pattern dates back to the late Roman Empire and eventually became prominent in Celtic art and Christian imagery. Today, the Trinity knot holds different meanings for different people, including as a symbol of ancient Irish culture and pride for Welsh, Irish, and Scottish people.
Sacred knots are seen in artwork, jewelry, and even tattoos. So we rounded up a few of the more unique takes on the classic design.
Meet the Expert
- Pat Fish is the owner of Lucky Fish Tattoo in Santa Barbara, California.
- Nini is the resident artist at Fleur Noire Tattoo, which offers locations in New York and California.
Get some inspo for your next ink with these stunning Celtic knot tattoo ideas.
"I have specialized in Celtic knot tattoos for four decades, and have devoted my tattoo career to bringing the art of the ancient illuminated manuscripts to life on the skin," says Fish, of this armband tattoo.
"The most important aspect of the Celtic knots is that they are composed of lines that meander and form shapes and animals but always return to the source. In that sense they represent continuity, eternity, and the cycles of life," says Fish, referring to this heart design.
Gold and Black
To Celts, the three points represent the natural elements of earth, air, and water. On a spiritual level, it has also been thought to symbolize life, death, and rebirth. Christians associate the symbol with the Holy Trinity: the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit (or Holy Ghost). Basically, the various meanings boil down to one common thing: the points represent three separate entities that are interconnected. A classic Trinity knot adorned with gold makes for an especially striking design.
Pared-Down Knot With Circle
Sometimes, the traditional triquetra symbol is accompanied by a circle, which, in many belief systems, is a symbol of eternity. Therefore, gifts featuring this image are sometimes given to signify eternal love or longevity. A Trinity knot on the solar plexus is minimal and sexy; this styling is flawless.
Bold and Black
A black Trinity knot is simple, yet makes a statement. Even subtle designs can make a statement, says Nini. "I did one that was extremely special. The client's boyfriend had recently passed away, and she wanted to get a tattoo of a Celtic knot to symbolize their love for each other. "
White tattoo ink has been gaining popularity, and this tattoo shows how gorgeous it can be.
This spin on the classic design sees bold, black ink snake around the arm, combining the Celtic knot with a Polynesian design.
Geometric and Floral
Celtic knots are often incorporated into more elaborate designs, as seen here with the geometric and floral elements surrounding the classic knot, which has been created using shading and negative space.
Here's a colorful take on the Trinity knot tattoo that makes the age-old symbol pop.
A teeny tiny classic Trinity knot near the wrist is a subtle design that still makes a big impact.
The triquetra—a triple-knot design—is incredibly popular in the tattoo community, and is comprised of three interlaced arcs.
Fine Line Celtic Knot
The use of brown ink takes this fine-lined knot tattoo into unique territory, making it more subtle than most.
Knot With Leaves
This design combines a love for fauna with the traditional knot. The leaves appear to be sprouting from within the design.
Matching Mother and Daughter Knots
This sweet design is a simple mirror image for a mother and daughter pair.
This Irish roots of the Celtic knot are amplified with this take, which sees a knot entwined with a shamrock.
A bold black knot combines with colorful florals for a unique take on the classic symbol.
Here, the knot features in the frame of the tattoo, highlighting a colorful portrait of a woman in the center.
Curved and Twisted
This knot curves in on itself, twisting with another knot to form a unique and bold design.
Vibrant and Multi-Colored
This variation combines multiple designs—and dozens of colors. It's an interesting look, particularly since Celtic knots are so often designed in black.
This ink combines the watercolor technique with a beautiful peacock, which hides the knot within the design.
This made-to-fade design is meant to be only temporary, but its subtle, clean lines would be an excellent choice for those looking for a minimal take on the knot. "The Celtic knot is also known to symbolize strength and inner wisdom for those who adorn it," says Nini. So even a minimal design can make a major statement.
This romantic variation marries a Celtic knot with a rose, which is displayed within the knot itself. It's a great example of how the Celtic knot can be used as the focus of the tattoo, or as a way to frame another design.
Sometimes, the design is all about the hue. Here, a shocking neon green ink serves as an outline for the classic design.
Knot With Anchor
Those with a love for all things nautical will appreciate this design, in which a knot is shaped in a heart and wrapped around an anchor.
Heart With Flowers
This knot—designed to honor a mother—comprises a knot in the shape of a heart (with another heart within), along with colorful but subtle florals.
Using a Celtic knot to anchor a tattoo (for instance, here, it serves as the root of a flower), offers a unique way to incorporate the design into other pieces of artwork
Woven Knot With Lilies
The knot here is super-subtle (you'll notice it within the stem of the flower under the lilies). The idea is to cobine two designs, and incorporate the knot in a unique way.
Animalia is a design that can be easily incorporated with Celtic knots. Fish often gets requests for designs that utilize both animals and the Celtic knot, offering a recent design as one example: "This is a leg piece incorporating a traditional Celtic triquetra knot with a heart and two sentinel Irish Wolfhound dogs flanking it," Fish says.
Snakes have plenty of symbolism, from biblical references onward. Pairing a snake with a knot makes a big statement—but one that's not over-the-top, as seen here.
Flower and Bee
Flowers convey new life and spring awakenings. This one is anchored (or rooted, as the case may be) by a Celtic knot.
Knot on a Chain
This knot appears as if it's being worn. It's designed so that it looks like it's dangling from a chain and resting on the back of the wearer's shoulder.
Those who forgo a traditional wedding ring in favor of a permanent inking will appreciate the symbolism of the Celtic knot. It's that symbolism, says Nini, that's helped the knots "maintain their popularity for a long time."
This custom unbroken knot features a two-tone design, but Nini envisions a similar design with even more color. "I think it would be super cool to create a colorful dimension," she says. "Each individual piece of the knot would be a separate color, but I would blend them in such a way where they look completely cohesive. From a distance, it would look amazing and a single unit of color, but when you get up close you get to see the magic within."
Outlined With Flowers
The subtle nature of this tattoo—which has no color and is only outlined, rather than filled in—is contrasted nicely by the flowers.
This flips the traditional symbol on its head, offering an injection of rainbow hues (and a symbol with multiple meanings) to the classic design.
Trinity With Symbols
Symbols on top of symbols help complete this design, which combines a trinity knot with other symbolic elements, such as moons, stars, and an eye.
This bold tattoo combines two knots—one in vibrant blue, and one merely outlined in royal blue. The result is a high-contrast design with lots of personality.
One easy way to hide a Celtic knot is to mask it within a larger design. Case in point: This bold blue dragonfly.
This innovative design symbolizes a family, and hides a Celtic knot with an animal's paw. Each "claw" on the design is meant for a different family member and therefore uses a different color.
The band might be classic but the color—bold, blue, and almost glittery—is very current.
This owl tattoo features two Celtic knots in one design.
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