RELIGION

These 10 Tattoos Have Deep Spiritual And Religious Meaning

Because tattoos go much deeper than the surface.

Humans have been inking their skin with tattoos for thousands of years. The ancient practice has been used to show status or tribal affinity, to decorate the body and sometimes as a form of punishment. Researchers have identified 61 tattoos on Ötzi the Iceman, a 5,300-year-old mummy, that were likely used as therapy. One of the oldest reasons for tattooing is, often times, connected to spirituality. 

Tattoos were used as amulets that safeguarded people against the unknown. In ancient Egypt, the household god Bes was believed to be a protector of women in labor. According to Smithsonian.com, women of the time would tattoo a figure of a deity at the top of their thighs to protect themselves during childbirth.

Today, tattoos are still ways for people to express their religious beliefs or spirituality. 

Jacob D. Myers, a theologian and Ph.D. candidate at Emory University, suggested that tattoos are more than just an physical alteration of the body -- they are in fact, "road signs" that mark a person's spiritual journey.

"Tattoos retain their significance as visible reminders of an important, spiritual experience in our lives -- like footprints unaffected by the tides of time," Myers wrote in a blog for The Huffington Post. "Tattoos are fixed in living memory and thus they can serve as monuments, allowing one to retrace one's spiritual and existential pilgrimage."

HuffPost Religion put together a list of 10 examples of tiny tattoos with spiritual significance. It's important to note that different religious denominations can have widely different degrees of acceptance towards tattoos. Some may find it deeply offensive, or ban the practice altogether which is why it's important not to be disrespectful or to appropriate another person's faith as a fashion statement. Tattoos are permanent, and they can be used to tell a story that is uniquely yours.

With that in mind, happy inking! 

  • 1 Lotus
    Pinterest
    Above, an example of what this tattoo looks like. Here's what it traditionally means: 

    The lotus is a powerful symbol in Asian religions. This tropical plant rises above its muddy, watery surroundings and blooms into a delicate, fragrant flower. Because of its purity, many Hindu gods have been depicted in art sitting on a lotus, or holding the flower in their hands. In Buddhism, an open lotus flower represents enlightenment.
  • 2 Semicolon
    Instagram / @projsemicolon
    Semicolons are typically used to represent a pause in a sentence, which is an indication that there is more to come. 

    For supporters of Project Semicolon, a faith-based organization dedicated to helping those struggling with depression and thoughts of suicide, a semicolon tattoo represents a commitment to life. Campaign founder Amy Bleuel first got the tattoo in honor of her dad, who lost his life to suicide when she was 18 years old. 

    "My story isn’t over yet, neither is yours," writes Bleuel.
  • 3 Triquetra
    Pinterest
    Above, an example of what this tattoo looks like. Here's what it traditionally means: 

    The triquetra, also known as the Trinity Knot, is a Celtic and Nordic symbol with pagan roots. Some pagans believe the three interlocking parts of the triquetra symbolize the connectedness of the earth, sea and sky. Christians came to use this symbol to illustrate the Trinity, the idea that God the Father, Son and Holy Spirit are all one being. The triquetra also represents eternity.
  • 4 Cross
    Pinterest
    Above, an example of what this tattoo looks like. Here's what it traditionally means: 

    Christians believe that Jesus, the son of God, was born into this world as a baby, lived a holy life of service, and died on a cross to save the world from its sin. As a result, the cross is a reminder of God's eternal love, redemptive power and saving grace.
  • 5 Dove
    Pinterest
    Above, an example of what this tattoo looks like. Here's what it traditionally means: 

    The dove is a symbol that is meaningful within many religious traditions. In the Biblical story of the flood, it was a dove that returned to the ark with an olive leaf in its beak, giving Noah the signal that the waters were beginning to recede. In Christianity, a dove is said to represent the Holy Spirit. In Greek mythology the dove was a symbol of Aphrodite, the goddess of love.
  • 6 Om
    Pinterest
    Above, an example of what this tattoo looks like. Here's what it traditionally means: 

    Om is a many-layered word. For Hindus, it is a sacred syllable that captures the essence of the entire universe. It is actually composed of three different sounds (a-u-m) that can represent several important triads: the earth, the atmosphere and heaven, for example, or the waking, dreaming and dreamless states of consciousness. 

    The Mandukya Upanishad, a Hindu sacred text, describes Om: "The past, the present, and the future, all that was, all that is, all that will be is om. Likewise, all else that may exist beyond the bounds of time, that too is om." 

    Some Hindus tattoo om on their bodies to invite good karma into their lives, or protect themselves from evil forces.
  • 7 Water
    Pinterest
    Above, an example of what this tattoo looks like. Here's what it traditionally means: 

    Water is a essential, life giving force in nearly all of the world's religious traditions.

    Sikhs drink a sweet mixture of water and sugar, called amrit, during an initiation ceremony where they make a commitment to the principles of their faith. Hindus, Muslims, Jews, Christians and followers of Shintoism use water to symbolically purify themselves.

    In other religious rituals, water can be a sign of creation, destruction and immortality.
  • 8 G > ^ v

    A photo posted by @nickjonas on

    Instagram / @nickjonas
    Above, an example of what this tattoo looks like. Here's what it traditionally means: 

    This interesting collection of characters means, "God is greater than the highs and lows." The tattoo reinforces the idea that there is a greater power out there that will carry you through times of suffering and times of joy.
  • 9 Tree
    Pinterest
    Above, an example of what this tattoo looks like. Here's what it traditionally means: 

    Trees are sacred reminders of the interconnectedness of all life. It is a sign of strength and resilience in the face of a storm, but they offer shelter and nourishment to those who seek their shade.

    In some religions, the tree of life was a symbol of eternal life. Buddhists believe Siddhartha Gautama, the founder of their faith, received enlightenment after meditating underneath a bodhi tree.
  • 10 Anchor
    Pinterest
    Above, an example of what this tattoo looks like. Here's what it traditionally means: 

    The early Christians viewed the anchor as a symbol of hope, salvation and eternal life. Researchers have found drawings of anchors that reportedly date back to the second and third century etched into the epitaphs inside the Roman catacombs, where many early Christian martyrs were buried.

 

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