There are countless symbols from cultures all around the world that have made their way into the realm of mystical tattoos, but most people are unaware of their meaning and where they come from. In order to help beef up everyone's knowledge, we put together a list of eight of the most common symbols that appear in body art and deciphered them for you. Here’s the cultural significance of everything from Pagan insignias of protection to Buddhist emblems of enlightenment in a nutshell.
There’s a vast variety of Celtic Knots, but the most famous and common one found in tattoos is hands down the Trinity Knot or Triquetra. Though its exact origins are unknown, this symbol is used in numerous cultures, but it always represents a trio of sorts. In Christianity, it stands for the Holy Trinity, while in Paganism it is symbolic of the threefold nature of the Goddess as maiden, mother, and crone, representing the stages of life.
Runes are a form of Norse insignias that are believed to have mysterious magical powers. In fact, the term rune designates “hidden” or “secret” in Old English, where it originated. Though these symbols were an ancient form of writing, they were often inscribed on what were thought to be arcane objects, like talismans of protection and other enchanted artifacts, so now they have a mystical connotation in the world of body art.
The Vegvísir is an ancient Icelandic stave that is thought by many to have acted as a type of wayfinder for vikings. However, there is no actual factual evidence to support this claim. The symbol actually comes from what is known as the Hul manuscript, the only know collection of Icelandic spells. There is only a single passage describing the ancient emblem, which translates roughly as, “If this sign is carried, one will never lose one’s way in storms or bad weather, even when the way is not known.”
The Om is a symbol seen in several Eastern religions, including Hinduism, Buddhism, and a few others. It is traditional chanted at the beginning and ending of matras. The meaning of the Om differs between different schools of dharma, but it generally is thought to represent the sound of the universe, past and present, and all things to come. In short, it’s the entire cosmos summarized in one sacred syllable.
Unalomes come from Buddhism. They are symbolic of the path to enlightenment. The spiral at each one's base represents the beginning of consciousness, while the twists and turns stands for the different experiences that a person incurs on their way to reaching nirvana. As a tattoo, a unalome should always face upwards, preferably toward one of your chakras.
6. Sri Yantra
The Sri Yantra is a Hindu geometric figure that is both a representation of the cosmos and a mystic device or mechanism used to guide a person to transcendental mindset. It is said that if you meditate upon this pattern it can lead to unlocking abilities like astral projection, allowing people to explore the universe with their spirit. On top of all that, it makes for a incredibly mesmerizing piece of body art, especially when in blackwork.
7. Flower of Life
The Flower of Life is one of the most common sacred geometric figures found in tattoos. It is believed to be an Akashic record — i.e. a visual representation of every occurrence in the universe since the dawn of time. It springs from the Seed of Life, a set of seven circles representing the first stage of our growing consciousnesses, which stretch outward into new domains, becoming a set of overlapping spheres that represent a complete understanding of the cosmos.
8. Metatron’s Cube
Metatron’s Cube is the highest of all symbols in sacred geometry. It is believed to be made by an archangel and is one of the most multivalent constructs ever invented, embodying the five Platonic Solids, the Flower of Life, and a Merkaba, which some mystics believe can be used to expand consciousness. Some mystics think that it can trigger what’s known as a Kundalini experience, i.e. the opening of all the body’s seven chakras.
We hope you enjoyed learning about all of these powerful symbols. Make sure to follow all of the artists featured here on Instagram. Should you want to get one of the mystical insignias seen here on your body, have one of the design it for you.