Over the years tattoos have become little more than decaling the human skin. Most people get a tattoo and spent there whole life never knowing the true meaning. Others are confused on the meanings of tattoos and get something that might have a completely different definition. Tattooing has been a part of every culture known to date, and each culture has its own meanings for different images. Here is a list of tattoo images that have meanings you may be surprised of. There are so many images to choose from, I am forced to pick but a few of thousands. When you offer a tattoo to a client, or choosing one for yourself, you should always research the true meaning.
Apple- An apple seems like a tattoo a teacher would get, but it really is a symbol recognizing the easily tempted nature of man. It is a symbol that is brought to us by the story of Adam and Eve in the Christian Bible. The story is the down fall of man was brought on by the eating of the forbidden fruit.
Arm Band- Arm band tattoo just seem like a nice decoration for any one, but they are a symbol of slavery and imprisonment. The tribal arm bands you see today are reminiscent of the identification markings between African tribes, while barbed wire is a symbol of spending time in prison or being a slave.
Birds- Birds are colorful animals that fly everywhere they go, most would ay they are a symbol of freedom. They are in fact a symbol sailor used to signify coming home due to the migratory patterns of most birds. The best depiction of this is the swallow or sparrow. Often you will see sparrow and swallows tattooed holding or with stars. This is a symbol of finding your way in the dark, since most sailors spent months at sea and the night was the most dangerous time to sail due to not being able to see any obstructions in the water.
The Cat- A tattoo of a cat can be for a female that loves her pet, and a symbol of attention. For the Egyptians the cat was a symbol of death. Though to be a sacred animal, the cat was believed to be able to cross from the land of the living to the land of the dead. Many past cultures see the cat as a messenger from the dead to the living.
Daggers- A dagger can symbolize many things such as revenge or getting stabbed in the back, but the true meaning of a dagger is from the Japanese culture. When a Samurai warrior failed his king on a task too small to commit Hari-Kari (honorable suicide) they would be required to remove the tip of a finger to show sympathy for the failure, thus making a dagger a sign of loyalty.
Dragon- The American dragon is a symbol of strength, but the Japanese dragon is a symbol of wisdom and intelligence, often depicted with a tiger along side it to symbolize wisdom and beauty.
Eye- The tattooed image of an eye would seem to be a symbol of awareness, though it can be, it was first tattooed on prisoners by other prisoners on there backs against their will. The meaning of which is to show that the tattooed prisoner was an informant and also symbolized they have been sexually assaulted by another prisoner.
Fairy-The fairy is a mystical creature most use as a symbol of their childhood. The oldest meaning behind a fairy tattoo is that fairies would often grant wishes to the ones that could catch them making all the captors dreams come true while causing more problems then they helped. The Irish later referred to them as leprechauns.
Fans- Most think that a tattoo of an oriental fan is a sign of beauty due to the geisha that never leaves hers behind, but in fact it is a tool to ward off evil spirits.
Fish- Fish tattoos are often viewed as a sign of fertility, this is not entirely wrong. The Celtic Salmon of wisdom might say other wise though. In the Japanese culture, the Koi fish is a symbol of strength and beauty. The Koi was a plain fish till the Japanese bread them to be bright colors, and the legend of the Koi is that every Japanese dragon started as a Koi fish that had to jump over a rainbow to change into a dragon.
Flags- Flags today are a symbol of patriotism, getting an American flag tattoo supports your country. In the past, other cultures would get a flag tattooed of a rival country to show disrespect and that the country the flag belonged to was an enemy.
Fleur de Lis- The Fleur de Lis might be the same symbol we use for the boy scouts, but it really is a sign of the French Monarchy, and so represents liberty.
Ganesh- Ganesh is the Hindu god that has a head of the elephant. The meaning of her as a tattoo is that of Protection and righteousness.
Gecko Lizard- The gecko lizard is a sign of regrowth and survival instinct do to its ability to loose its tail and later re-grow it in order to distract an enemy to save its own life.
Grapes- Grapes are a symbol of the Greek goddess of wine named Dionysus. When you see someone sporting a grape vine up there leg thinking it means growth, they are really telling you they are a drunk.
Griffin- A griffin is a mythological animal passed on from the Middle Eastern religion called Zoroastrianism, but was later used by the Christian church as a symbol of the two sides of Christ.
The Eye of Horus- Horus was an Egyptian god whose symbol is the left eye. Horus is the god of war and protection. Any one thought to have the symbol tattoo was believed to be protected by Horus himself during combat.
The Eye of Rah- Rah is the Egyptian god of the sun symbolized by the right eye or opposite the eye of Horus. The symbol of Rah means you warship life or creation of life.
Kokopelli- The Kokopelli is thought by most cultures to be a messenger of music do to it's depiction of an Indian man playing a flute. What they don't tell you is the most of the actual depictions of the Kokopelli is adorned with very large male genitailia. It's actually an Indian sign of fertility.
Lotus Flower- The lotus flower is often mistaken for a sign of beauty. The lotus flower is a very pretty flower that grows in mercky and muddy water; it is a sign of spiritual purity through advertisement.
Nautical Star- The "Nautical Star" that you see on every teenager is one of the oldest tattooed symbols. It symbolizes the North Star and means that the one adorning such a tattoo is looking for there way.
Spider Web- Some say the spider web on the elbow is a symbol of taking a life. The true meaning of the spider web tattoo is more for the bikers, it's a symbol of crashing a motor cycle in hopes that the spider webs will catch them the next time to keep the rider out of harm, figuratively that is.
Those are some of the image meanings I thought you would be surprised about. There are just so many images to name, I can't even think of a fourth of them. Here are some more standard tattoo meanings for images we see every day. Hopefully you will get a few ideas of be able to use this to better assist your clients on finding the tattoo for them.
Anchor- Safety, hope and salvation, planting ones own roots such as having a family.
Angel - Protection, guardians, keepers of dreams Bat - Longevity, happiness, mystery Bear- Good nature, good luck, also ignorance Bull - Fertility, power and strength
Butterfly - Spiritual immortality, temporary element of life Centaur - Knowledge and nature, spirit of womanhood Chain - If broken it means freedom. If intact-slavery
Clown - Laughter, tears, uncertainties
Clover - Good luck or a sign of Irish nationality; Feminine power
Cross - Sacrifice, love and salvation, Christian Symbol for faith
Crow - Revival, Gods messenger, Return From the dead
Devil - Mischievousness, urgent desire for sex
Dog - Man's best friend, loyalty, trustworthiness
Dove - Universal symbol of peace
Dragonfly - Affinity with the Spiritual Life. Illusion
Feather - Creativity, rebirth and spiritual elevation
Frog - Positive symbol of pregnancy, Also a symbol of change in ones own life Hawk - Self-discipline
Heart - Love, provided it is neither bloody nor torn into pieces Horse - Friend to man, kingship Leaf - Joy, rebirth
Lion - Might, awareness, immortality, bravery
Mermaid - Temptation, seduction, materialism
Monkey - Wisdom, knowledge, or evil powers Moon - Varied rhythms of life
Phoenix - Rebirth, Rising from ones own ashes
Reaper - Death or one has faced death
Rose - Fertility, pagan sign for womanhood
Scarab - Strength and rebirth
Skull - Courage, Death, Poison
Snake - Temptation, Adaptive ness, knowledge, and wisdom Spider - Creativity
Sun - Sacredness of life. Warmth, nurturing Sword - Represents justice, honor, energy Tiger - Fierceness, strength and power Turtle - Fertility, long life Unicorn - Chastity and purity; unattainable Wolf - On the hunt, One's own wild side
YinYang - Harmony and totality versus Evil and chaos, also is a symbol of balance
The problem is that thanks to television and most tattoo magazines everyone thinks that being a tattoo artist is like being a rock star without the guitars. Sorry to tell you the truth, but here it is. There will always be the biker tattoo shops that give ink for blow jobs. It's sad but true. These guys are a joke to the industry. These are the guys that everyone is laughing at and making fun of, often to there face. These are the same people that tattoo for drugs, or are only concerned with there bank account. Yes you can make a lot of money tattooing. If you cut corners on supplies and equipment, and you rob every client that walks in your door. If you do that then your clients will only walk in and back out once in their life. There are too many real artist out there these days that will take your clients and treat them right.
What does it take to be a real tattoo artist? It takes dedication. This means no drugs or alcohol. This means bed by ten every night. Bars, clubs, and strip joints all off limits. You have to be able to push yourself to a higher level. As you progress, everyone will praise your work and tell you how great you are. You have to be able to say, "I'm not where I want to be yet." You can't give up. You aren't allowed to say, "I know well enough." There is no good enough. This is hard work. You will ruin relationships. Marriages will come and go. You have a slim and none chance of finding a significant other that will understand what you do. Most will just get jealous and fight with you, or just leave. You will see the worst of people and you have to look for the best. You will want to quit. After all the stress, and frustration, you still have to say no to drugs and alcohol. You have to dedicate your mind, your heart, soul, and your body to the one thing you want most. Professional athletes don't have shit on us.
Sounds shitty, why would anyone ever want this job? Tattooing is the greatest job on earth. You get to do things that most people would die just watching. You get to leave your mark on life. Tattooing is true life after death. Every person you tattoo on will remember who you are if you treat them right. They will tell your story to there grandchildren after you are long gone. Your artwork will live, walk, and talk to hundreds of people long after your death. This isn't a painting. It's not paper. You're marking someone's skin in a way that they will carry a piece of you with them for the rest of their life, and they thank you for it. You get to build something and watch it grow larger than life. Unlike a building, it can never be torn down, unlike music, it can never be forgotten. You will truly help people. These days in a world with so much pain and so many problems, we all need help coping. Tattooing is addictive more so than any drug. The reason is that it makes it all better. When you're getting tattooed the world fades away. Your major problems seem dull in comparison. The ones that get work on a regular basis are what we call collectors.
To a collector you are their family. You get to know them so well that you will become friends with many of your clients. Several of my clients have asked to attend my upcoming wedding, and I will be honored if they attend. You will truly make an impact on the lives of everyone you touch. Through conversation and hard work, tattooing to a collector is better than any therapy they could ever have. Done the right way, and for the right reasons, you will be a part of something that is so much bigger than you. Tattoo conventions are gatherings where hundreds of people flock to show off their work and to get new work. When you walk through the door, it feels like a paradise. Herds of people that think and feel just the way you do and all of them welcoming you like a long lost relative. So what does the hard work do, you get to be something that only five or ten percent of the world will ever be, whole. You find your place in life and truly belong somewhere. Once achieved, you can never have that taken away from you.
The ones that just tattoo for money, fame, or just to be the cool kid will never know the true meaning of the term "Tattoo Artist". This to me translates to respect, loyalty, and appreciated by many. All the while getting to do exactly what you really want to do with your life. You won't get rich, but if done right you will be able to support your family and not have to do anything else but tattoo for the rest of your life if you so choose. Here are the rules and code of a true tattoo artist. Following these rules is the difference between a Scratcher and an artist.
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