Tattoo Meanings: Up Close and Personal

Published on April 24, 2014 by Naomi V

Tattoo meanings are unique to each and every person who decides to get a tattoo (or two, or three, or fifty!). The meaning of one tattoo could vary greatly from the meaning of another tattoo a person decides to get at a different time in their life. Tattoo meanings express something for the wearer-so many things a tattoo can mean.


Self Expression

Tattoos are, at their very core, an art form. Whether it's getting a rose tattoo to accentuate curves, or a fina art piece that is surreal and strange, and will take up an entire full back, these meanings are expressing something about the wearer. Some want to express their inner strength, others may relate to their zodiac sign or Chinese zodiac symbol. Otherwise want to represent themselves with a dragon or fairy, or other fantasy creature. Some use text to express what they want to say on their skin. The possibilities to express oneself are endless because we are all so infinitely and wonderfully unique!


Healing and Growing

Sometimes we go through rough patches in our lives, We feel like life is testing us. For those who have faith, sometimes that faith is shaken up. This is how we grow and become stronger people. With that strength and out of that pain, or perhaps in the midst of it all, a tattoo could be a good way for a collector to deal with it. It may help them to manifest physically, their inner strength and perserverence. The physical pain may be part of a healing process to get through the mental or emotional pain.


Life and Death

This deals with the tattoos that are memorials or celebrations of births. These are extremely deep and personal reasons to get a tattoo. For those of us who have lost loved ones, it's such a deep and stinging pain that never truly goes away. We mourn, sometimes for long periods of time. Getting a memorial tattoo, for some, is part of this mourning process. In memorializing their loved one permanently on themselves, they can let go of that pain just a little bit. It does not bring the person back, but to go through the emotional and physical pain of creating a positive piece dedicated to them can be quite healing. A birth is an extremely happy event. Birth deals with joy and pain and new beginnings, a new life! A tattoo celebrating this new life can be part of someone's life to truly mark this beginning of a new life for them as well, as a parent or auntie or uncle, or grandparent. What a beautiful even to celebrate! What's better to celebrate life than a tattoo?


Celebrations and Milestones

Here's where we take a page from tribal tattoos. The Maori and other tribal peoples would use their traditions of tattooing to mark milestones and rites of passage. These tattoos were not something you could pay for with money whenever you had the itch for skin decoration. These tattoo meanings go past personal and past self expression and past money and pain. These tattoo meanings meant a history of generations of tradition, family, culture, strength and faith. It's meanings were more based on the bigger picture of life, death, and a people. These tattoo meanings truly read in the tattoos and in the beautiful designs of these cultures. While Western culture has borrowed a lot of these designs and adopted them to fit modern society, it does not take away from the original meanings and will never replace them. Even the methods of traditional tribal tattoo was part of the process. It is much longer and more painful that modern methods, dot by dot, each one painstaking.


It's up to you!

Whatever your meaning is for your tattoo, that's what makes it great, that it's YOURS. It is not anyone else's, it is on YOUR skin, it can't be taken away, and it's a literal part of you, and will go with you to the grave. When you get your next tattoo, make it count. Get a custom design, or hire an artist that you truly admire. Express yourself, your life, your loved ones, your milestones, heal, and CELEBRATE!


Image credit: Todo and Bryan Childs


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