Tattoo Designs and Their Meanings

tattoo1The tattoo is such a unique art form in that it is not so much the expression of its artist as it is the expression of the one who wears it. The tattoo artist merely interprets the message that their human canvas wishes to convey, and the tattoo designs that these people choose always hold some deep personal meaning to them.

The Tribal tattoo is one of, if not the most popular form of tattoo today. This design style incorporates the markings of primitive cultures such as the Native Americans, the Aborigines of Australia, the Maori of New Zealand, and other indigenous tribes from such continents as Asia and Africa. To those who trace their roots in these cultures, such tattoos display their pride in their heritage, while others are fascinated with their inherent spiritual symbolism. But tribal tattoos are not limited to traditional symbols, and can also be applied in creating original modern designs done in the tribal style.

Religious symbolism certainly plays a significant part in tattoo tradition. And just as tribal tattoos derive from the pagan beliefs of old, the Cross tattoo utilizes that familiar and powerful icon of the Christian faith to signify the spirituality of those who bear its mark. It could perhaps be said that getting a cross tattoo is the perfect expression of one’s religious commitment, given the grueling tattooing process and the permanent nature of the tattoo itself. And the Word becomes flesh indeed.

Next to the cross, the Angel is another well-known religious symbol that has since become a favorite subject in tattoo designs. The spiritual allusions are obvious, but such tattoos can have other meanings as well. There are many kinds of angels serving different purposes, and so the reasons for getting an angel tattoo (and by extension, an angel wing tattoo) are just as varied. It could be a sign to celebrate either one’s spiritual or personal freedom. It may come to symbolize an actual angel such as St. Michael or St. Gabriel, or it could just as easily symbolize a special friend one considers their personal guardian angel. It may even serve as a memorial for a loved one who has gone up ahead to Heaven.

One may opt to eschew the symbolism and instead choose to honor their dearly departed by getting a portrait of them on their skin. A Portrait tattoo is of course not only for commemorating the deceased; it is basically a way of paying tribute to those people we love and admire, whether they are alive or not. Be it family, friends, lovers or even some famous celebrity, one may literally have them placed close to their heart or wherever part of their body they wish.

Moving on from people to Animal tattoos, this type has as many design variations and meanings as there are animals in the world, which is practically near-endless. When it gets down to it though, whichever animal one chooses to have a tattoo of basically symbolizes that particular person’s own character traits or aspirations. A fierce animal like a tiger could signify courage, strength or power. A lion or an eagle could easily stand for nobility, a dove for love, peace or freedom.

These are only but a few of the vast array of tattoo designs one can choose from. More than just decoration, tattoos have stories to tell and offer insight into the lives of their bearers.

Henry is a free lancer writer of

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