Even if you think you know shamrock tattoos, they are worth a second look. The shamrock is, perhaps, the most easily recognizable symbol of Ireland. Sometimes thought of as a ‘lucky clover’, the shamrock symbolizes the luck of the Irish. It calls to mind the grassy slopes of its country of origin, and the soulful yet optimistic nature of the people that live there. Shamrock tattoos are a perfect symbol of that unique and beloved cultural identity.
For most of us living in North America, however, the shamrock image we are most familiar with is likely to be a bit ‘cartoonish’ – a bright, bold, Kelly green clover. Understandably, though these clover tattoo designs might appeal to some people, they aren’t to everyone’s taste. There’s a lot more to shamrock tattoos than this popular image, however; for instance, shamrock tattoo designs are often done in Celtic style, filled in with the classic triple spiral or Celtic knotwork. Alternatively, the shamrock design can form the center of a Celtic cross, or Celtic designs fill it in.
Any way you choose to depict it, though, the shamrock is lucky. Shamrock tattoos, then, have a dual function – they promise the wearer good luck in all of his or her pursuits, while also being a subtle yet easily recognizable nod to one’s Irish heritage. Because they can be quite small, shamrock tattoos are quite versatile and easy to wear. They can go almost anywhere – on an ankle, shoulder, lower back or even on the hand or foot, though the latter can sometimes be problematic tattoo sites because of color migration. Nevertheless, a tiny shamrock on the hand or foot can be very chic.
The shamrock has been a sacred plant in Ireland since time immemorial. In pre-Christian times, the ancient Druids planted and cultivated shamrocks because of the resemblance between the shamrock’s leaves and the Celtic triple spiral image. Later, the shamrock motif was adopted by Christians, as were many other aspects of the indigenous Celtic religions. St. Patrick, the patron saint of Ireland, reportedly used the shamrock to explain the Holy Trinity, in which there are three aspects of one god. Shamrock tattoos represent much more than the stylized, cartoon-ish shamrock we are accustomed to seeing in shop windows come St. Patrick’s day – rather, they are modern presentations of an ancient and powerful symbol. Of course, before deciding on this or any other tattoo image, you should do your research – do a search of shamrock tattoos to see which style resonates with your own tastes, beliefs and background.