What is celtic war paintThe Celts are quite known to be indulgent in terms of warring and fighting, hence the prominence of Celtic war paint. With their fighting prowess, the Celts emerged as victors many times over the opponents.

One of their tactics in winning many battles is the use of war paints. A lot of reasons were cited by historians for the use of war paints.

War paints are widely used, especially among the natives of Europe, among whom were the Celts. In this article, let us know more about this significant group of people and their use of war paints.

What Is Celtic War Paint?

War paint refers to the traditional painting of the face, torso, and body of warriors in preparation for battles. This practice was observed among many groups of tribal people in America, Asia, and even Europe.

Throughout history, many explanations were given for the use of these bodily marks. War paints were used to make the warriors appear fiercer, more savage, and stronger. This could cause them to appear more intimidating and terrifying to their enemies.

War paints may have also been used to psych up the warriors, making them believe that they indeed possessed qualities like fierceness, strength, intimidation, and bravery. One look at their brothers in arms would surely boost the warriors’ confidence and make them believe they will emerge victorious in a war. These are essential in any battle, along with physical and mental fortitude. Possessing these qualities may guarantee a sure win in any battle.

The Celts are not as widely known for their military tactics and strategies as their more well-known invaders. However, they displayed initiatives peculiar to their group.

– The Use of Celtic War Paint

As one of the tribal groups in Europe, the use of war paints by the Celts was also observed by invaders. No less than the great Roman leader, Julius Caesar himself, often described the appearance of the Celts in a battle, especially as the Romans fought many of them in a war.

Accordingly, when in war, the Celts wore blue-dyed paint on their faces and bodies. These “war paints” were used to form different shapes and figures but the most prominent are those of animals. Notably, these bodily decorations were displayed by the Celts from Britannia or modern-day Great Britain. This is in contrast to the Continental Celts or Gauls, who didn’t display this kind of art in their bodies.

Moreover, other records would say that the figures and shapes seen on the naked body of a Celtic warrior were permanent bodily markings. These markings were placed on the body because of their religious traditions and rituals. This belief is contrary to the popular notion that these figures were only painted when preparing for battles.

In addition, it is notable that blue-colored tattoos were observed in the bodies of the fierce-looking Celtic warriors which is why did the celts paint themselves blue.

The Celtic Skin Decoration War Paints

Celtic skin decoration war paintAs mentioned earlier, historical notes pointed out that Julius Caesar described in his book, Commentarii de Bello Gallico, that Celtic war paint was not worn by all groups of Celts people.

Distinctly, indigenous people engaged in Celtic wars that are from the isles of Great Britain or the Britons were who the Romans observed to have their skins decorated.

Others called these skin-decorating Celts Picts, as the name itself meant painted or tattooed. Meanwhile, indigenous people from mainland Gaul, or the Continental Celts, were no longer practicing this tradition by the time Julius Caesar and his soldiers came in 55 and 54 BC.

Perhaps in ancient times, all Celts people used to paint their bodies. However, there was no substantial evidence to support this claim given the lack of written text mentioned previously.

The Celts in the Eyes of Romans

The Celts were often described by the Romans as barbarians. This description could be attributed to a lot of factors. It could be because of their way of fighting, which lacks the finesse possessed by the modern Roman and Greek armies. In a Celtic war, fighters don’t have organized and studied military formations; they attack in a disarrayed formation with the main goal of just beating their enemies to death.

Another aspect of the Celtic war that made the Romans think that the Celts are barbarians is the fact that they go to war naked, which is indeed an act of the uncivilized. The only thing that is covering them is the painted body arts in the form of war paint or tattoos.

The Celts and their Blueish War Paint

The bodily markings and tattoos could make the warriors look more ravaging and more ferocious to the terror of foreign invaders.

The marks found on the bodies of naked Celt warriors are colored blue according to the observation of Julius Caesar. However, there were other claims that it was of the color green, light blue, or even turquoise.

Notably, these colors all belong to the blue color family. This coloring was from the pigment of a then widely available plant called woad.

Woad is the main ingredient of Celtic paint. Belonging to the mustard family, this flowering plant has leaves that produce the blue pigment used to dye materials like clothes, hair, and others.

Many historians believed that Celts used woad as an ingredient for war paint not only because it gives a beautiful shade of blue color; but additionally because it has healing properties. Woad was applied to the body to heal the war-inflicted wounds of warriors.

Meanwhile, others also cited that woad has a hallucinogenic effect. Smearing it on the body would give the warriors a state of euphoria. Thus, they feel motivated to indulge in killing sprees, as characterized by the barbaric fights among these tribes and wars with their enemies.

Today, woad is commonly known as the dyer’s plant. Furthermore, there is now a shade of blue called celt blue.

– Background of The Celts

The Celts or the Celtic people were not so fond of written tasks and mostly passed on their traditions, knowledge, and way of life through oral lore. Thus, scholars were forced to come up with their own interpretations of the different scraps of historical evidence found about this highly interesting group of people from Europe.

In consonance with the belief that history belongs to the victors, most scholars relied on existing texts from the surviving works of the Greek and Roman historians.

The Celts, who were also known by other names like Keltoi by the Greeks, Celtae in Latin, Galatians, Welsh, Picts, and Gauls, refer to an indigenous yet non-homogenous group of people living in Europe. These people were loosely related to each other, with the Celtic language being their most common denominator. Many of the Celts are still living in modern Ireland as we know it today. However, it was believed that they may have started living near the Danube River in Central Europe as early as 12000 BCE.

  • Literature on Celts

As the Celts have left no textual documentation, most historical records relied on the anecdotes and writings made by the Greeks and Romans who had somehow met this largely disorganized group of people in their series of invasions. The foreign invaders noted that the group of Celts, tribe by tribe, lived independently. They have their own leaders, living in their own territories with their own ways of life.

These independent tribes often expanded their territory by means of conquests. In fact, it is a popular belief that when one mentions the Celts, the impression is that they are plunderers and savages.

They are the group of people who unabashedly kill and annihilate their enemies, which is an easy task considering that they have utterly sophisticated weapons made from metals and other materials. The fighting chariots used in every Celtic war were usually copied by emerging conquerors, specifically the Greeks and Romans.

What Were the Celts Known For?

Despite their unpopular and unfriendly reputation, the Celts people are quite admired for their skills in war, more significant than their manipulation of metals. As warriors, they were able to intricately design weapons and other tools made from metal, which was considered to be highly advanced during this period.

Body shields as high as the warrior and those that protect the intimate parts of the body were attributed to these war-loving people. Also, the Celts were credited with the introduction of the use of chain mail as a primary shield worn by soldiers in battles. Another aspect that the Celts could be proud of is their genius in handling a chariot during battles. Whether in a flat or steep location, Celts showed that they could handle these important warfare implements.

However, the most intriguing characteristic of these Celts people was their inability to unite as one distinct group. History scholars agreed on the idea that because of the failure of the Celtic tribes to unite among themselves despite the effort of a few Celt tribe leaders, this failure to find a common ground among themselves led to the downfall of the many mighty tribes of Celtic fighters and warriors.

The Celts themselves have been warring with each other that eventually, enemies found this as their weak spot. This vulnerability served as the gateway for their conquerors to succeed.


Celtic war paintThe Celts may have been known for their barbarous and uncivilized way of life based on the description of foreign victors. Yet, their fierceness and determination in any battle they found themselves in led to the Celts’ way of life becoming widely known all over the world, from then up to the present time.

  • The Celts have a strong devotion to war; war is their way of expanding their territories.
  • In going to war, some tribes of the Celts people used colored war paints.
  • The war paints are colored blue, from the pigments of the woad plant.
  • Isatis tinctoria or woad plant is the main source of the Celts’ blue war paint.
  • Their divisiveness led to the disappearance of the many tribes that comprised the Celt’s people.

The Celts may not have unified as one tribal nation to the dismay of others, yet they were able to prove that a certain way of life could be improved or enhanced as individual groups strived to be the best among the many. Their influence on the history that shaped Europe could never be discounted.