Spiritual tattoos can take many forms, as spirituality itself is so unique to each person. A symbol one person may find comfort in, another person may find no meaning in at all. As such, it is important to do your research and find a tattoo that represents your spirituality, and not just get a symbol with deep meaning because it is popular in the present.
Spirituality can entwine with culture, so there is room for cultural appropriation and being insensitive if you don’t do your due diligence by diving into the cultural significance of certain symbols.
For example, one of the most popular spiritual symbols to get tattooed is the Om or Aum symbol of Hindu philosophy. This symbol is popular in the world of yoga and meditation, too, so it has found its way to being inked on wrists, feet, and backs across the Western world.
Om crosses boundaries and is a sacred mantra in Hinduism and Buddhism.
“The word Om is defined by Hindu scripture as being the primordial sound of creation. It is the original vibration of the universe. From this first vibration, all other vibrations are able to manifest,”Hindu American
Many people have a deep connection with this mantra, and therefore want its symbol as an everlasting reminder of their spirituality and their connection with the universe.
However, there is a difference between cultural appreciation and cultural appropriation.
Appreciation is, simply put, when you take the time to expand your mind and learn about a different culture and belief system. Whereas appropriation is taking just one element of a culture or belief system and using it for your own personal interest without understanding it.
“As much as getting the Om symbol tattooed on your body can be a sign of cultural appreciation, honoring and deeply connecting to the Hindi culture and ancient traditions, if poorly understood or conceived, an Om tattoo can take you down the path of disrespectful cultural appropriation,”Byrdie
With the Om symbol, getting it tattooed below the waistline (such as on the ankle or leg) is seen as disrespectful, as these body parts are seen as “impure” in Hinduism, so a sacred symbol placed here is disrespectful and shows that you haven’t taken the time to fully appreciate and learn about the symbol and its cultural significance, points out Stick and Poke Tattoos.
Now, let’s go through more popular ideas for spiritual tattoos and what you should know about them before getting inked.
For more on Om tattoos, click here.
This Buddhist symbol has gained popularity in recent years because of its meaning as well as its aesthetic appeal.
The spiral morphing into twists and turns before ending in a straight line and three dots represents the human experience. As Symbol Sage puts it,
“In Buddhism, the Unalome represents the path we take in life; it’s a representation of our journey. The path can be winding or convoluted, but it eventually ends in a straight path, symbolizing mental freedom and enlightenment.”
This symbol of life and enlightenment is often placed with a lotus at the top with the three dots. This flower is a powerful symbol all on its own, representing coming through the mud to reach the light.
The Unalome symbol is a beautiful, minimalist tattoo with deep meaning, it is little wonder as to why so many people are drawn to it.
Frivolous wearing of this symbol or getting this tattoo on a lower body part, like your foot, can be seen as disrespectful.
Due to its elongated shape, an Unalome tattoo works well on the sternum and behind the neck. What’s important is that the tattoo isn’t placed the wrong way around, as enlightenment is a journey up toward a higher level of consciousness.
Yin Yang Tattoo
In ancient Chinese philosophy, yin yang (or Taijitu) is a representation of how opposing forces may be complementary and connected.
“Yin is a symbol of earth, femaleness, darkness, passivity, and absorption. It is present in even numbers, in valleys and streams, and is represented by the tiger, the colour orange, and a broken line. Yang is conceived of as heaven, maleness, light, activity, and penetration. It is present in odd numbers, in mountains, and is represented by the dragon, the colour azure, and an unbroken line,”Britannica
This concept of balance – not good versus evil – is a cornerstone of Taoism, a philosophy and belief system dating back to ancient China and still popular today.
Many people mistakenly think that the symbol is a depiction of the “good” with a little bit of “evil” in it and the “evil” side with a little bit of “good” or “purity” in it, and this is a representation of the human condition.
This is a simplistic and inaccurate way of seeing this ancient symbol, and is a good example of why it’s so important to explore the culture and way of life that is associated with a particular symbol.
For a yin yang tattoo, you could go the traditional route with black and white, or you could incorporate animals into the design – koi fish being a popular choice.
As stated above, a tiger can represent one side of the duality, while a dragon the other.
Hamsa Hand Tattoo
Also referred to as the Hand of Fatima, the Hamsa Hand symbol depicts an open hand with an eye in the center of the palm. This talisman has its roots in the Middle East, and is meant as a form of protection against evil.
Tatt Mag points out that other meanings of the Hamsa Hand symbol are maternal love, spiritual beliefs, and a commitment to purity, and also that the positioning of the hand makes an impact on the meaning.
“Upright: the hamsa acts primarily as a protection symbol. Facing down: the hamsa is open to receive blessings from the universe.”
This spiritual symbol is found in Buddhism, Islam, Judasim, and Chistianity, so it is a rather universal symbol of humanity’s wish for protection against harmful forces.
There are many routes you could go with a Hamsa Hand tattoo. This symbol can work well as a minimalist or geometric design, with or without the eye. Or, you could add an extra element into the tattoo design, such as a lotus.
Evil Eye Tattoo
You’ve most likely seen this eye adorning necklaces and bracelets in jewellery stores – the blue, white, and black symbol certainly makes for an interesting ornament. This has permeated the world of tattoos, with the evil eye being inked on wrists and ankles as a simple tattoo design. But, where does this eye come from, and what does it mean?
The evil eye has roots in ancient Greece, and it represents a look or a stare that is intended to cause injury to the person at whom it is directed.
An evil eye talisman, such as a piece of jewellery, is meant to protect the wearer from such ill looks.
“Tattoos of the evil eye can be seen as the classical blue eye giving a disgruntled look, or you can even keep the tattoo in plain black ink. Either way, the evil eye design is a simple, yet very thought provoking tattoo that almost seems to look right through you,”Tattoo SEO
A tattoo of an evil eye can be a body art choice for the person who wishes to always ward off negativity in their life.
For more on eye tattoos, click here.
Viking Rune Symbols
Runes are from a system of writing dating back to the first and second centuries.
Sons of Vikings explained that the vikings didn’t just see these runes as a way of communicating – these symbols had a far deeper, more supernatural meaning.
“In Norse lore, the god, Odin, impaled his heart with his own spear and hung on the world tree, Yggdrasil, for nine days and nights all to perceive the meaning of the runes. The runes were symbols that sprang from the Well of Urd – the source of fate – and the Norns used these runes to carry that fate up the trunk and branches of Yggdrasil to the nine worlds amidst its boughs.”
Odin is said to have done this because he knew the sacrifice was worth the power and wisdom he would gain from understanding the ruins.
These symbols were used on gravestones and even in spells. Runes were carved on objects and cast to see into the future.
Rune symbol tattoos are a popular choice for a pagan tattoo, and are often seen on the hands and fingers.
“Most of these dynamic likenesses are granted exceptionally positive meanings, and they can be applied as a holy spell to ensure blessings. However, a few of them can be considered curses,”Next Luxury
So it’s important to figure out exactly what a rune means before getting inked.
Other popular viking tattoos include Odin’s Knot (or The Valknut) which is thought to be a representation of the transition between life and death, and the Viking compass, a symbol of guidance and protection.
The triquetra is triangular in shape consisting of three points and made up of interlocking arcs.
This symbol is an ancient one, dating back to the age of the Celtics, and represents the maidan, the mother, and the crone – the different stages of a woman’s life.
“Over the centuries it has become the symbol for the Holy Trinity among Christians in Ireland. The symbol is often used to represent the three fundamental elements – air, water, and earth or the infinite cycle of life. It is also known as a rune of protection,”Ancient Symbols
While this symbol has adapted to modern times, it is still a popular emblem among pagans and is a popular choice for Wiccan-themed tattoos because of its association with the triple goddess, or mother, maiden, and crone.
This symbol is a simple one, so is a great choice for a minimal tattoo with unembellished lines.
Another tattoo option to represent the triple goddess is a moon tattoo – the mother, maiden, and crone can be symbolized as the waxing, full, and waning moons.
Another symbol that is popular is pagan and Wiccan communities is the pentagram.
It is one of the oldest known symbols in humankind, dating back to 6,000 BC. However, it is unclear how this symbol was used in ancient cultures.
Today, it is used in Wiccan spiritualism to represent the five elements: Air, fire, water, earth, and spirit.
However, the heavy handed use of this symbol in horror movies and other modern entertainment would have many thinking that the pentagram is evil and associated with Satanism.
These two belief systems are not the same, Wicca and paganism dating back to a pre-Christian era and paying reverence to the natural world.
But, as Byrdie points out, Satanism has its own version of this symbol, and it is extremely important to know the difference between the two so that you don’t end up with a tattoo that’s the antithesis of your beliefs.
“Wiccans always depict pentagrams point-up rather than point-down. This is because the latter is the Sigil of Baphomet in Satanism. Therefore, if you opt for a Wiccan pentagram tattoo, it’s absolutely crucial to ensure your pentagram is situated properly.”
A Wiccan pentagram tattoo can be done with simple lines by itself, or a circle can be placed around the five points to represent the everlasting cycle of life and nature.
To make this Wiccan tattoo more aligned with the worship of nature, floral motifs and depictions of plants can be incorporated into the design – this can also be a good opportunity to add colors if you don’t want a traditional black and grey design.
For more on pagan and Wiccan tattoos, click here.
These symbols can act as powerful reminders of faith and spirituality, but emblems of deep meaning should not be tattooed lightly. Research the meaning of your chosen tattoo as well as the culture or philosophy it comes from – you might be surprised about what you find, and it could cause you to go a different, more suitable route for your own spiritual views.