Nowadays Egyptian style in tattooing attracts more and more attention of people all over the world. As a matter of fact, Egyptian art and culture – due to their secrets and mysteries – have enjoyed the attention of Europeans for thousands of years. Egypt has always inspired Europe being the source of ideas for science and art, including tattooing.
Egypt itself had practiced the tattoo art since 2000 B.C., or even earlier. At first, only women were tattooed, but later men also joined the tradition. Egyptians mainly used dots and straight lines to indicate the flow of human energy. Egyptian symbols in tattoos were mostly magical amulets, sacred objects countering evil, disaster, and disease. There were also phrases with ancient Egyptian hieroglyphics, each of which had a series of abstract meanings.
Among the various Egyptian symbols, everyone can find what’s best for him or her. Egyptian themed tattoos are striking in their simplicity and brilliance, they fascinate with their variety of meanings and undiscovered secrets. Nowadays, tribal tattoos continue to be popular designs both for men and for women.
Egyptian Tattoo Designs
Among the most common subjects of Egyptian tattoos are the following:
- Various images of the Sun. The solar disk symbolizes the supreme god Ra. For millennia, it has been the main feature of many cultures, including the Egyptian one;
- Cats and other sacred animals. Everybody knows about one of Egypt’s main attractions, the Sphinx monument guarding entrance to the tomb of the Egyptian King (pharaoh);
- Images of Egyptian gods and pharaohs. Such tattoos are designed in the traditional Egyptian style, in profile;
- Laconic symbols such as Ankh or an eye in the pyramid.
Egyptian Pyramid Tattoos
The word goes back to the ancient Egyptian language. It denoted the symbol of the Divine Flame, the life of all creatures on the Earth. A huge number of mysteries are related to pyramids. The wise men of the past considered the shape of pyramids to be perfect and the pyramid itself to be the perfect symbol of hierarchy. The base – the square – represents the earth, and the four sides represent the elements of the matter which nature is created of. The faces of the pyramid are directed to the four cardinal points that mean the contrast of light and darkness (the east and the west) and of heat and cold (the south and the north). The pyramid was a symbol of power and hierarchy.
It was assumed that the strength of this symbol imbues vitality and prompts spiritual improvement. Thus a pyramid tattoo was considered one of the most powerful amulets for the people aspiring development.
Today people are opting for these tattoos both because of their aesthetic component and for their mystical meaning. Very often a pyramid tattoo is worn on the shoulder and chest. It is often depicted with the Sun or as floating in the clouds. Sometimes an eye can be placed in its middle (meaning we see everything, we know everything, and we can do everything).
Cat tattoos have numerous meanings. Among cats’ qualities there are foxery, independence, and curiosity. However, these are but casual ones; in fact, there are much more.
Egyptian cat is depicted as a black silhouette, its body is disproportionately stretched, and it has a curled tail. The design can be placed anywhere, it can be both large and small. Regarding the gender, this is a unisex tattoo. However, it is usually considered as a design for a woman. Among the cats, men prefer the Cheshire cat tattoo more. Anyway, cat is one of the richest tattoo symbols.
The image of Ankh itself is not too popular in tattoo art. However, it is widely used as a part of a pattern or a complex design. Over the years, this ancient Egypt symbol – sometimes called the Egyptian cross – has acquired new senses and deepened the old ones.
Ankh is the key, the key of the life force. Many gods and rulers of Egypt were depicted with Ankh to show their might, their power over life and its secrets, including the immortality. Many people choose to tattoo Ankh as an amulet to fill them with vitality and protect against mortal danger. Also, Ankh is known as the symbol of unity of the masculine and the feminine.
Ankh can be called an ideal motif for tattoos, as it combines the charm of antiquity, the mystery of the divine symbol, and religious beliefs, as well as compositional aesthetics. It goes well with different styles of tattoos, but most often it is combined with other Egyptian symbols and included in Celtic motifs. Ankh is also often combined with the Christian cross, as it was the symbol of the eternal life for the first Christians in ancient Egypt.
The Eye of Horus
The Eye of Ra, also known as the Eye of Horus, is one of the most common symbols for Egypt themed tattoos. According to the legends, the right eye of the sky god Horus was a symbol of the Sun and the left symbolized the Moon. The latter, the moon eye was damaged in a fight with the god of death and chaos Seth and healed by the god of wisdom Thoth. Later, this symbol was repeatedly used in various ancient Egyptian myths. The image of the Eye of Horus has become an amulet and a talisman; it was associated with a variety of things.
The Eye of Horus was considered to be an amulet designed to protect and help its owner. It can be perceived as a symbol of the morning light, immutability of the universal laws, and resurrection. Also, this symbol was called the Eye of Ra, as it was considered to be a personification of the goddess of wisdom, Ra’s daughter Maat.
Unlike many other nations whose main symbol was an eagle, Egyptians had chosen a falcon – in the Egyptian mythology, Horus is depicted as a falcon-headed god. Therefore, this symbol is sometimes called the left falcon eye of Horus.
The Egyptian eye tattoo ideas are still used as amulets tattooed for the purpose of self-defense. Alone, its most common place is hand; however, complex designs with lots of elements could be found almost everywhere: covering the whole back, as a forearm, an arm or a leg sleeve.
One of the most common gods portrayed in the ancient Egyptian tattoos is Anubis. The popularity of this image is probably based on its aura of mystery. Anubis is considered to be the most mysterious god of the Egyptian mythology. Most researchers believe that he is the main protector of the dead, he dominates the world beyond the grave. Due to that, a negative opinion about the character might be formed.
However, this is not the case. Anubis was the god who acted as an intermediary for the dead that needed to get into the other world. He was also the keeper of poisons and drugs. In the modern interpretation, Anubis is understood as the one who opens the way.
There are various ways of depicting this god. You can draw him in a traditional way, as a jackal-headed man or dog; or he can be depicted with a mummy, a weight scale, a Sekhem-scepter, or an Ankh. A tattoo with Anubis will look good anywhere on the body if its scale is appropriate.
The writing system used by the ancient Egyptians was based on images of ordinary objects, such as a bird, a scarab, a bull, the Sun. Later, they were transformed into signs, vaguely reminiscent of the original objects. Egyptian hieroglyphs are considered one of the oldest writing systems.
Tattoos with Egyptian hieroglyphics are usually chosen by people usually prone to mystique and eccentricity.
These designs are probably one of the most exotic and eye-catching kind of text tattoos. However, quite a few people deliberately prepare a meaningful phrase, often just some random characters are used. After all, Egyptian characters are difficult to read with no special skill.
Such tattoos have always been popular as an amulet or a talisman, as all the ancient Egyptian symbols are associated with secrets and mysteries. And of course no one can argue that these tattoos are sure to attract the attention of others.
Usually, these symbols are used in small Egyptian tattoo designs. However, words or phrases can be added to some complex ones to make them even more mysterious and cool.
This insect has always been popular in the tattoo art. It is probably the most widely used symbol among the ones relating to ancient Egypt mythology. Perhaps only Ankh and the Eye of Horus can match strength with it, although often they are depicted together. It is with the scarab that ancient Egypt is most often associated being this symbol’s birthplace. Its meaning in contemporary world is not quite different from the one it had back then, from the concept ancient Egyptians had for this insect’s image.
The scarab symbolizes the power of the Sun, rebirth, and immortality, as well as resurrection and pursuit of the ultimate goal. The sacred scarab beetle (commonly called dung beetle) drew the attention of the Egyptians by rolling up balls to lay its eggs there, storing them in the ground for 28 days, and then putting them into the water for young beetles to be born. The Egyptians associated this cycle with the solar cycle, and the ball was associated with the Sun.
A scarab tattoo was considered primarily as a talisman for easier achievement of one’s perfect supreme goal (like the beetle creates a perfect sphere). It was also the symbol to give the power of the Sun (then the scarab was depicted with a ball).
Among other popular Egyptian themed tattoos there are the following:
- Legendary Egyptian queen Nefertiti famous for her wisdom and beauty;
- Bennu, the deity related to the Sun and rebirth, said to be an inspiration for the Greek phoenix idea. It is most usually depicted as a grey heron;
- Snakes: goddess Wadjet, protector of kings and women in childbirth, is usually depicted as a snake-headed woman or the Egyptian cobra, and the giant serpent god Apep, or Apophis, the lord of chaos, opponent to Ra and Maat.
A man wearing a tattoo in the Egyptian style is not necessarily an ancient Egypt culture fan. On the contrary, people may have various motives for tattooing these designs. Many of them just like simplicity and perfection of the images. Some are fascinated by their mysteries; some are delighted with the depth and diversity of the symbols’ meanings.