Octopus Tattoos: Inspiration And Meaning

Cartoon Octopus Tattoo @shybirdtattoo

Did you know that the octopus is the world’s most intelligent invertebrate? This sea creature can do things like prison break its way out of tanks to get back into the ocean, it has been known to use rocks as weapons, and can even make tools out of shells. 

There’s no doubt about it – octopuses are seriously impressive animals. However, these feats aren’t the only reason these creatures have garnered attention – so much attention, in fact, that they’ve become popular sources of tattoo inspiration. 

Octopus with Flowers Tattoo @phiawalla

These many-tentacle wonders have deep symbolism attached to their abilities.

The Ability To Disengage A Limb When Needed

An octopus doesn’t have just one brain – each of its eight tentacles is controlled by its very own individual mind. This might be one of the reasons why its limbs can do some extremely extraordinary things. One example being able to lose a limb and keep going.

As Katherine Harmon, author of Octopus!: The Most Mysterious Creature In The Sea explained to the Smithsonian Magazine,

“If an octopus’ arm is cut off without the poor guy being euthanized, it’s no sweat for the cephalopod. While cut-off limbs do not regrow a new octopus, à la starfish, the octopus can regenerate tentacles with a far superior quality than, say, a lizard’s oftentimes gimpy replacement tail.” 

Dark Octopus Tattoo @artesobscurae

As Thoughtful Tattoos points out, this ability can work as a powerful reminder to people,

“The ability to disengage a limb also has a deeper connotation – to remind ourselves that we can detach ourselves from addictions and bad habits.”

An octopus tattoo can represent a determination to grow and expand, and not allow things that no longer serve you to keep you stuck.

Steampunk Octopus Tattoo @amandaboik

A Representation Of Resilience 

There are many predators waiting to make an octopus its dinner – so, this species has evolved to be super resilient. 

“Octopi are fierce animals and can withstand extensive damage but still survive. They symbolize resilience because they reside in a harsh environment that we wouldn’t be able to endure, and their regeneration abilities can overcome injuries even when their defense mechanisms fail them,”

Authority Tattoo
Black and White Octopus Tattoo @tatsbytomas

Not only can octopuses detach a tentacle when a predator gets hold of them and hightail it out of a sketchy situation, when needed, they can also put up a fight. 

An aquarium figured out that putting a shark and octopus together in a tank is not the best idea – and no, it’s not because of the animal you’d think would be the dominant predator. The octopus strangled the shark!

These animals clearly have a fierce side, and so an octopus tattoo can symbolize strength and resilience, especially in the face of danger. 

A Symbol Of Creativity

The octopus is an expressive animal, and one of the ways it expresses itself is by changing color. 

Detailed Octopus Tattoo @nature_obscure

“There are a number of advantages to blending into your surroundings, including escaping from predators. Unlike other species, octopuses don’t have a hard shell or sharp spines to protect themselves, so camouflage is their best bet for avoiding hungry predators. By using their chromatophores and changing the texture of their skin (yes, they can do that too!) octopuses can seamlessly blend into rocks, corals and sponges,”

Ocean Conservancy

Octopuses don’t just use their ability to change shades as a way to trick predators, but also as a way to trick their prey. 

This can even make its way into an octopus’ dream.

A marine biologist recorded footage of an octopus dreaming. It went from white, to violet to a camouflage pattern as if it was catching something, most likely a crab (the crab part is speculation – who knows what this octopus’ favorite food is?). 

This kaleidoscope of colors offers amazing options for a watercolor or super pigmented tattoo and can represent creativity. 

Cultural Symbols

Octopuses have reared their tentacles in many cultures – some in the form of giant horrific monsters that attack sailors (some mythologies suggest the Kraken is either octopus-like or squid-like) and some in the form of creatures of divinity. 

“There are some traditional beliefs that the octopuses control the weather and have the power to heal the sick. Na Kika is the ancient octopus god of the Gilbert Islands and is said to have helped built the Pacific islands. In Hawaiian culture, the god Kanaloa would most commonly take the form of an octopus,”

Arm Octopus Tattoo @ellemakestattoos

Octopus tattoos can also take the form of tribal designs. Tatt Mag points out that tattoos in Polynesian culture are used to spiritually remember,

“what needs to be corrected in one’s character”

It goes on to say,

“The tattoo meanings of a Polynesian octopus tattoo should be deeply personal to how you want to better yourself. One meaning could be overcoming fears that are relentless and hold you back.”

It’s not just what you get tattooed that matters, but where the ink is placed. 

Placement Ideas For An Octopus Tattoo

When you take the tentacles into consideration, an octopus is a large animal. If you’d like your tattoo to be on the larger side, then you might want to pick a place with enough space to fully see the tentacles. 

Ideal places for a large tattoo that won’t result in too much wrap around is the chest, stomach, and back. 

Hip Octopus Tattoo @jayare_tattooer

Also, if you go for a larger surface area, you can get creative and add other elements to your octopus tattoo, such as an anchor, other marine life, or a depiction of the ocean. 

Another place that would work for this design is the upper thigh and hip. Due to the curve of the leg, your tattoo will look a bit wrappy, but, because of the tentacles, it would look like an octopus is wrapping itself around your leg. 

An octopus tattoo doesn’t have to be large to be impressive – this creature can also work as a cute, mini tattoo on your wrist or ankle. 

Flower Octopus Tattoo @blackpearltattoostudio_

If this is going to be your first tattoo, one of the ideal placements is the forearm. This area is rather flat (so simple to work on), a tattoo here is easy to hide, and getting inked here isn’t as painful as some other, bonier, areas. 

A smaller to medium sized octopus tattoo would work well in this area, as, like on the thigh, it will wrap slightly around your arm, but it’ll look like you have an octopus friend hanging onto you. 

Octopuses are interesting animals that are certainly worthy of consideration if you’re thinking about an ocean-themed tattoo, or if you’re looking for a tattoo to represent resilience, growth, or strength.

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