The seahorse served as a symbol of strength and protection, as well as fertility and creativity, due to its ability to procreate quickly and abundantly.
As guardian to the goddess, Ciaran has a seahorse tattooed on his left hip, while its knotted tail coils around his thigh. Since Ciaran was to "Father" his priesthood, the symbolism seemed approapriate.
The salmon was revered for the knowledge and prophetic wisdom they attained when they ate the hazelnuts from the nine sacred hazel trees that stood at the center of the Otherworld. It was believed they passed on this wisdom and magical knowledge when theywere in turn eaten themselves.
Could this be the basis for todays parents telling their children that fish is brain food?
While some interpretations see it as a sign of trouble and infertility, this interpretation didn't really come into play until after Christianity reached Ireland. The ancient Celts connected the serpent with healing pools and spring. The fact that it shed its
skin as it grew symbolized rebirth, healing and fertility, imbuing it with the same qualities as the serpent egg, a special kind of egg-shaped stone. As it slithered from the earth, it brought with it all the secrets of the world, securing its place as an Earth healer.
For our purposes, this is the interpretation I went with, since Ciarán was seen as a healer and sported a snake tattoo on his right palm, which coiled up his forearm.
Just like the serpeant, the dragon came to be seen as a sign of trouble and infertility. However, before Christianity arrived, the Celts viewed it as a symbol of the untamed forces of nature. Created when the first living cell was born from the earth, and fertilized by the sky with water and wind, it represented earth energies and
the fertility of each season.
The double hybrid
horned dragon was used on torcs and
was seen as a symbol of status and Kingship, welding divine authority.
The hound or dog symbolized courage, loyalty, and honor, the same qualities one would find in a true friend. They were valued as companions in the hunt and were said to be able to travel between worlds.
They were said to represent great strength
in a warrior and ferocity in battle, and
until very recently, their saliva was
believed to hold healing powers.
Ciaran wore the tattoo of a hound across his left shoulder and chest, with it's body continuing down onto his upper arm. In addition to representing his healing abilities, the hound was a sign that he was loyal to the goddess of the turath and served only her.
The wolf was known for its cunning and intelligence, as well as its ability to outthink the hunter. It could imbue the ability to read signs of nature in all things, how to
pass through danger invisibly, and to outsmart those who would do harm. And yet, it also conveyed the ability to wage a fierce fight when needed.
Fearsome and dangerous, the boar was a symbol of ferocity, strength and bravery. Prized for its meat, it was often served as a main course at feasts, for it highlighted
the bravery and skill of the host. In mythological tales, it was often portrayed
as a trickster, full of cunning and mischief, but the boar was also associated with stubbornness, war and chaos.
The bull was the basis of wealth and status in the túath. it was valued for its meat, as well as for its skin which could be tanned for leather and the dairy products made from the milk the cows produced. As such, it was seen as a sign of power, good luck, and prosperity. It played an important part
in sacrificial rituals, especially those prophetic in nature. But the bull held a dual nature, for while it was associated with tremendous energy and power, it was also known for its frightening strength.
Associated with the sun god, the horse played an important part in the everyday life of the Celt. Not only did they assist in transportation and farming, but they were integral for the hunt and in times of war. In fact, they were a symbol of victory in the latter. Representing fertility, stamina, endurance and faithfulness, it was also seen as a sign of sovereignty and political power. In this capacity, it was used for divination in the kingmaking rituals.
The deer represented the horned stag deity of healing and plenty as well as the shape-shifting gods. It was seen as a messenger from the gods, and if you were to follow it, you would certainly run into a supernatural being. It was also an integral part in the life of the early Celts. Before agriculture and animal husbandry was developed, venison was a main source of food for the túath .
The eagle was originally of great importance to the ancient Celts, but as time went on and history and myth recorded, it was somehow lost to the annals of time. To the Celt, however, only the salmon surpassed it as the oldest creature in the world. It was
seen as a symbol of authority, leadership, dexterity, and strength that conveyed intelligence and focus. These qualities
were displayed in its clever and strategic hunting of its prey, and the Celt saw it as a symbol of higher thinking and the fearlessness that confronted the new challenges that loomed ahead.
This sign appears on the latest cover, because it is Aodhán's sign. He takes
his time studying an issue, focusing
on the various outcome, but when
the decision is made he faces whatever
may come courageously.
Like birds in general, the peasant was associated with freedom and liberation of the human soul. Having the ability to the heavens, they could transcend this world, and were seen as messangers from the gods. They were known for their beauty and wisdom, and their feathers worn in a ceremonial cloak, which was worn in rituals that called on the sky god to bring knowledge from the otherworld.
Sacred to the gods of battle, the raven was associated with war and death, able to predict bloodshed and battle. They were valued for their prophetic abilities and used for divination as they were considered to represent the voices of the gods.
The raven was also a symol of the upsets and crisis that filled life and were necessary for anything new to come about. Being close to the gods, they acted as psychopomps, tasked with escorting the souls of the dead to the Otherworld.
Along with egrets and other wading birds, the crane was seen as bad luck, used to guard forbidden sites. To see three of them together, would symbolize death. In addition, they represented the vice of envy.
The swan was sacred to Aengus, the god of love, and portrayed love, music, and song, who helped in the interpretation of dreams, transitions and spiritual evolution. Yet in spite of their beautiful exterior, there was a fierceness and strength below.
Often portrayed as people under enchantment, they were also
associated with the sun god, believed to
be his chariot bearers and identified by
the silver chains they wore around their necks. The swans feathers were often
used in the ritual cloaks of bards.