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Tattoo Related Terms

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Tattoo Related Terms A


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This is an artform where the topics look similar to what they are supposed to but are morphed in some way, either through coloring or some other distortion. It can be extremely creative and allows for the mind to wander greatly. This style can be incredibly geometric or have very little form at all. It is such a blanket term for anything outside of the traditional artforms that abstract is actually quite difficult to define.


Alchemic Symbols:-----------------------------------------

This little collection of shapes and lines represent many different things. They come from a time when alchemy (the study of elements and the perfection of them as well as the self) was in it's infancy and can be used to represent elements, planets, metals, etc. etc. The study of alchemy was both a Middle Eastern and European occurrence. It's symbols were used for making notes in a form of short hand.

Alchemy is a science of material interaction as well as a philosophy of self improvement. Carl Jung associated alchemic symbols within dreams to personality traits. He delved into concepts of the collective unconscious to explain his thinking. This is more or less a pseudo science and very open to debate. There are, however, ancient associations of the planets with personality traits and other things that could be represented by alchemical symbols.



This is actually a huge topic. There are so many cultures that reference angel type beings. Their forms can vary greatly as well. We'll start out with the Christian theology. There are frilly little cherubs, angelic choirs of seraphim, fiery arch angels, and yes, death. (Please also see Religious)



There is something both calming and terrifying about the seas and oceans of our planet. Our lakes and streams are typically places of joy and solace. Serene scenes of fish and other aquatic entities can remind us of that fact. Tattoos of giant squid and ships being destroyed, however, are flashbacks to our own mortality and the respect that we must pay to nature.


Arabic: -----------------------------------------------------------

Designs that derive from the Middle East and are typically Muslim in content. There are many more symbols than the ones below but I do not understand all of them enough yet to be able to describe them properly.

Lettering: Arabic Lettering is quite beautiful and many people get names and other terms in it.

Star and Crescent Moon: Though these are not actually Arabic or Muslim symbols they are the most recognized as being Muslim so we will have to include them anyway. _________________________________________________

Art Related:-------------------------------------------------------

Now many artists can't help but look for recognition and one way that a lot of artists express their love for art is to get their favorite tools tattooed onto them. Paint brushes and splashes of paint, pencils, spray cans, or even tattoo machines are the topics for these tattoos.



A very distinct tattooing style from the orient that would include topics from China, Korea, Japan, Thailand, Vietnam, so on and so forth. There can be variances from country to country but there are also some constants between them. There is almost always some story, legend, or religious icon worked into the design. There is generally some form of element (earth, air, water, fire) used to tie the larger designs together. Asian tattoos are quite often identifiable at a distance by the swirling clouds and/or dark black wind panels. They are traditionally very clean in appearance and have very defining lines in the main topics. Of course nowadays Asian tattoos are being done in many different styles as well as the traditional. In the past, and by a handful of people today, they were done by hand using a long rod with needles affixed to them.

Some symbols of choice are:

Bamboo: One of the Four Gentlemen representing summer. Bamboo symbolizes a gentleman with perfect virtues, these being upright integrity with accommodating flexibility, balance and strength.

Cherry Blossoms: These are one of the few flowers that fall before they wilt. This blossom symbolizes living a full life rather than withering away into nothing. To die in battle or for one's honor is a great statement. Often translated as good luck but I believe this to tie into the full life aspect of the meaning more so than the rest of it.

Chrysanthemum: Symbolizes autumn and henceforth are related to lamentation and grief. The Chrysanthemum is one of the Four Gentleman from Chinese artwork.

Dragons: Great serpentine dragons with the mane of a lion, claws of an eagle, horns of an elk, eyes of a demon, belly of a clam, scales of a koi, soles of a tiger, innards of a tortoise, and obviously the torso of a snake. They hold many powers but are quite often attributed as cloud makers and controllers of water. Their scales are said to carry the essence of the yin and yang. 117 in total 81 yang and 36 yin, though in tattoos you can never see the total number of scales. The Chinese dragon has five toes on each foot, while the Korean has four, and the Japanese has three. These different cultures disagree on where the dragon originated and whether the breed gained or lost toes in whatever direction it migrated.

Hitotsume-Kozou: A one-eyed goblin, literally has a large eye in the center of its face. It looks like the shaved head of a priest. It does not play tricks, but just scares people. 

Kappa: Kappa are supernatural creatures which live both on land and in water. They are as tall as a four or five year old child. They have a beak-like snout, and fins on their hands and feet. They also have a shell on their back, and a water-filled dish on their head. As long as the dish is full of water, kappa keep their supernatural powers. Kappa are known for dragging people into the water and  pulling out their livers through their anuses. 

Kitsune: The Kitsune is a magical fox. They have shapeshifting abilities after reaching a minimum of fifty years of age. They most commonly become beautiful women, young girls, or elderly men. As a common prerequisite for the transformation, the fox must place reeds, a broad leaf, or a skull over it's head. They are typically tricksters of the greedy, boastful, while some are just flat out cruel. They are kind of diverse in nature since they are also portrayed as scorned lovers in some stories.

Koi: The koi fish greatly represents the human condition. Just as we should attempt to learn and grow so that we may become greater ppl the koi of legend spends it's life attempting to find wisdom and knowledge while swimming upstream. If it actually gains the knowledge (symbolized by a glowing ball of light on the forehead) it must then swim to the dragon gate and jump over it. Once overcoming that hurdle it ascends into the higher form of the dragon. So, as with humans, if we do not overcome the hurdles in our life we will remain bottom feeders rather than climbing to the heavens.

Oni: Oni are demons. They are not necessarily evil, but more so than not they are not the nicest creatures in the room. They can be protectors as well. This is usually determined by the color of the oni as well as the context in which it is portrayed.

Orchid: Represents spring, and therefore healing and rebirth to some degree. This member of the Four Gentlemen symbolizes nobility and honor since they release their beauty regardless of who is nearby. This mirrors someone that creates beauty or keeps their morals regardless of the situation.

Peony: The peony is symbolic of wealth. This wealth is not necessarily a material wealth as much as an overall prosperity for a unified group working toward a common wealth of happiness.

Plum Blossom: Symbolizes winter, the coming of spring, strength and perseverance. This flower blooms mid-winter after all others have died and before any others bloom. It is one of the Four Gentlemen in Chinese art.

Rokurokubi: Female monsters with long, flexible necks. They look just like ordinary humans during the day, but at night, they extend their necks to frighten or spy on people. They sometimes turn their human faces into those of demons.

Tengu: Although they take their name from a dog-like Chinese demon (Tiangou), the tengu were originally thought to take the forms of birds of prey, and they are traditionally depicted with both human and avian characteristics. The earliest tengu were pictured with beaks, but this feature has often been humanized as an unnaturally long nose, which today is practically the tengu's defining characteristic in the popular imagination.

Warriors: There are a plethora of legends about spectacular victories and formidable opponents. These images are usually meant as homage to the story or as a means of sharing the power of the hero represented.

Yin Yang: The yin-yang is a symbol of balance. Dark and light, good and evil, pretty much any opposite forces may be used to form a yin yang but it is traditionally a circle with equal curving teardrops of black and white with circles of the opposite color within those teardrops. These circles may symbolize that there can be good within evil and evil within good but I am not certain of that.

Yuki-Onna: A snow woman, appears in a white kimono on a stormy night. She causes travelers to become lost and freeze to death. Click here to read the story of "Yuki-Onna" by Lafcadio Hearn (Koizumi Yakumo). 

Yurei: Ghosts that are still among the living for a reason. Generally to avenge a wrongdoing of some sort. They are usually more like western ghosts by description, they look fairly human still and are transparent. _____________________________________________


Designs portraying Aztec Gods and society. Some topics are:

CENTEOTL, the corn god.

COATLICUE - She of the Serpent Skirt.

EHECATL, the god of wind.

HUEHUETEOTL, "the old, old deity," was one of the names of the cult of fire, among the oldest in Mesoamerica. The maintenance of fires in the temples was a principal priestly duty, and the renewal of fire was identified with the renewal of time itself.

HUITZILOPOCHTLI, (the war/sun god and special guardian of Tenochtitlan) the deified ancestral warrior-hero, was the Mexica-Aztec patron par excellence. His temple (next to that of Tlaloc) on the Main Pyramid was the focus of fearsome sacrifices of prisoners captured by Aztec warriors. Victims' heads were strung as trophies on a great rack, the Tzompantli, erected in the precinct below.

Ometeotl: Also OMETECUHLTI and his wife OMECIHUATL created all life in the world. This includes the other Aztec Gods. He/She is usually depicted at the center of the Aztec calendar.

Quetzalcoatl: Feathered serpent God of the Aztecs and Mayans. Associated with wind and the Morning Star. "Quetzal (feather) serpent," had dozens of associations. It was the name of a deity, a royal title, the name of a legendary priest-ruler, a title of high priestly office. But its most fundamental significance as a natural force is symbolized by the sculpture of a coiled plumed serpent rising from a base whose underside is carved with the symbols of the earth deity and Tlaloc. The image of the serpent rising from the earth and bearing water on its tail is explained in the Nahuatl language by a description of Quetzalcoatl in terms of the rise of a powerful thunderstorm sweeping down, with wind raising dust before bringing rain.

MICTLANTECUHTLE, god of the dead.

OMETECUHTLI and his wife OMECIHUATL created all life in the world.

TEZCATLIPOCA, (god of Night and Sorcery) "Smoking Mirror" (obsidian), characterized as the most powerful, supreme deity, was associated with the notion of destiny. His cult was particularly identified with royalty, for Tezcatlipoca was the object of the lengthy and reverent prayers in rites of kingship.

TLALOC, the rain deity, belonged to another most memorable and universal cult of ancient Mexico. The name may be Aztec, but the idea of a storm god especially identified with mountaintop shrines and life-giving rain was certainly as old as Teotihuacan. The primary temple of this major deity was located atop Mt. Tlaloc, where human victims were sacrificed to fertilize water-rocks within the sacred enclosure. In Tenochtitlan another Tlaloc temple shared the platform atop the dual Main Pyramid, a symbolic mountain.

TONATIUH, the sun, was perceived as a primary source of life whose special devotees were the warriors. The warriors were charged with the mission to provide the sun with sacrificial victims. A special altar to the sun was used for sacrifices in coronation rites, a fact that signifies the importance of the deity. The east-west path of the sun determined the principal ritual axis in the design of Aztec cities.

TONANTZIN, "honored grandmother," was among the many names of the female earth-deity.

TEZCATLIPOCA, an all-powerful god; Tonatiuh, the sun god.

XILONEN, "young maize ear," and Chicomecoatl, "seven serpent," were principal deities of maize representing the chief staple of Mesoamerican peoples.

XIPE TOTEC, the god of springtime and regrowth.

XIUHTECUHTLE the fire god.


The belief that we are controlled by the universe and if we pay attention to it we may find our destiny or avoid unnecessary problems. There are signs in western astrology which represent different birth months and then there are cusps which fall between signs as well. In eastern astrology there are different animals associated with different birth years though if someone is born in the beginning of the western year it is wise to check when the first full moon of the year is because that is when the year truly changes in eastern traditions. This Chinese Zodiac Calculator can be helpful. Both of these areas of astrology go further into depth to include metals, planets, elements, etc. and the symbolisms to each. This will be a work in progress for some time.

The eastern animals are:













The western signs are:

Aries-- (March 21 - April 20) -- The Ram is associated with fire and the planet Mars.

Aquarius-- (January 21 - February 19) -- The Water Bearer is associated with air and the planet Uranus. (no fart jokes?)

Cancer-- (June 21 - July 21) -- The Crab is associated with water and the Moon.

Capricorn-- (December 22 - January 20) -- The Sea Goat is associated with earth and the planet Saturn.

Gemini-- (May 21 - June 20) -- The Twins are associated with air and the planet Mercury.

Leo-- (July 22 - August 21) -- The Lion is associated with fire and the Sun.

Libra-- (September 22 - October 21) -- The Scales are associated with air and the planet Venus.

Pisces-- (February 20 - March 20) -- The Fish are associated with water and the planet Neptune.

Sagittarius-- (November 22 - December 21) -- The Archer is associated with fire and the planet Jupiter.

Scorpio-- (October 22 - November 21) -- The Scorpion is associated with water and the planet (well, it's not a planet anymore)Pluto.

Taurus-- (April 21 - May 20) -- The Bull is associated with earth and the planet Venus.

Virgo-- (August 22 - September 21) -- The Virgin is associated with earth and the planet Mercury. ______________________________________________