With their ominous pincers, strange bodies, and venom-tipped tails, scorpions make even spiders look benign. They are hands down, the most menacing arachnids in the world, and because of their fuck-with-me-and-pay-for-it appearance and symbolism in various cultures, they’ve inspired works of art for ages, including countless tattoos of scorpions.
Arachnologists have tracked down the origins of scorpions to over 430 million years ago, during the Surilian period. There are nearly 2000 types of these eight-legged predators, and they can be found on every continent, minus Antarctica. Contrary to popular opinion, scorpions are rarely lethal to human beings; there only 25 species with venom powerful enough to kill a person. Though most of their stings don’t post a threat to our lives, just like getting a tattoo, they hurt like hell.
In terms of symbolism, they are most frequently associated with constellation Scorpio, which is the eighth astrological sign in the Zodiac and takes its name after a giant scorpion sent to kill Orion. Among other traits, most astrologers believe scorpios (individuals born between October 23 and November 21) to be masters of their own destiny, so it makes since that so many of them get scorpion tattoos.
Aside from their place in the night sky, scorpions are envoys of evil in numerous cultural traditions. They are common fixtures in myths from Egypt, for instance, where some of the most dangerous species reside, including fat-tails, which can cause paralysis and respiratory failure, hence their nickname “man-killers.” Not all Egyptian stories about scorpions portray them as wicked though. In one legend, they protect Isis while she is in hiding from Set. This coincides with one of their more popular meanings in body art: protection.
Though scorpion tattoos convey all sorts of meaning, at the end of the day, they represent whatever their collectors want. They can be talismans that ward away danger or emblems of choosing one’s own path in life, but one things certain, they always look killer.
To see more fierce tattoos, make sure to swing by these tattooists’ Instagrams. If you’re out to get a scorpion on your body, have one of them design it.