Egyptian tattoos, like many other tattoo designs from mythology or ancient cultures, are growing in popularity. They are tasteful, socially acceptable, and a great way of exploring and utilizing art imagery from all over the world. Egyptian tattoos are beautiful and striking images from the ancient past.
Most of us have a fairly evolved concept of what Egyptian art looks like and how it may be adapted to a modern tattoo design. On the other hand, most of us have no more than a generalized idea of what ancient Egyptian tattooing looked like.
It appears that tattooing was not particularly widespread among the Egyptians, with one notable exception - some Egyptian women, from priestesses to princesses to dancers, were tattooed with a pattern of parallel lines and shapes.
We know this because some of these women were mummified, which preserved the skin and the tattoos. These original Egyptian tattoos had a significance which, unfortunately, has been lost. Anthropologists are grateful for this and other evidence that the elaborate Egyptian burial rituals have given us.
Modern Egyptian tattoos consist of images that are taken from ancient Egyptian art, preserved as components of the pyramids and other structures.
Ankh tattoos for example, consist of an ancient symbol that's imbued with magical protection. The ankh is a cross symbol that predates the Christian cross by several thousand years.
The Ankh cross looks like the Latin cross with a rounded component at the top of the cross. It is the hieroglyphic symbol for 'life'.
The ankh is a very versatile tattoo image, it can be small and discrete or larger and quite dramatic. Like other 'symbol' tattoos, ankh tattoos look good on an ankle, upper arm or shoulder.
Ankh tattoos are a common sight in gangs, where they symbolize eternal life.
Eye of Horus Tattoos
Eye of Horus Tattoo
Besides Ankh tattoos, the Eye of Horus tattoo (aka Egyptian Eye tattoo or Eye of Ra tattoo) must be the most popular Egyptian art tattoo. The Eye of Horus (aka Wedjat) is a protection symbol (from the god Horus). The symbol was used on ships, amulets, bracelets, etc.
Horus was the god of the sky and looked like a falcon. The eye is the right eye of the falcon. The markings under the eye represent a teardrop.
Eye of Ra tattoos look the same as Eye of Horus designs because the gods Ra and Horus became one. Ra was the sun god, that's why Eye of Horus tattoos often include a sun in its design.
Eye of Horus tattoos are a common form of gang tattoos, for protection from other gangs and back stabbers.
Something you also see fairly often is the eye pyramid tattoo, a design in which the Eye of Horus is incorporated in a pyramid.
Egyptian Hieroglyphics Tattoo
Hieroglyphs were used for writing in ancient Egypt. There are several ways the hieroglyphs can be interpreted:
- Phonetic: there is a hieroglyphic alphabet that consists of 24 symbols that represent a consonant.
- Logographic: a hieroglyph can be interpreted as a logogram, a single symbol that represents a whole word.
: this hieroglyphic means "house"
: this one means "flamingo"
There are several online hieroglyphic translators that let you write a word or your name in hieroglyphs.
In ancient Egyptian mythology, Anubis is the god of the dead. He has the body of a man and the head of a jackal. In one hand he wears an ankh cross, in the other a stick.
Anubis tattoos symbolize protection from death.
The Egyptian phoenix is called Bennu, a mythological bird that is the soul of Ra, the sun god. Bennu created itself out of the ashes of a holy tree that stood near the temple of Ra. It looks like a heron bird. Phoenix tattoos symbolize rebirth.
More about Phoenix Tattoos
Other Egyptian Tattoo Designs
Here's some more ancient Egyptian art that is used as tattoo designs:
- Djed tattoos: a djed is an ancient Egyptian symbol that looks like a tower. Djed tattoos symbolize stability.
- Mummy tattoos
- Scarab tattoos: the scarab,dung beetle and the embodiment of the god called Khepri, was worshipped in ancient Egypt. It was believed a scarab rolled the sun through the sky, just like a dung ball.
- Egyptian cat tattoos: Bastet, the Egyptian cat goddess of the moon.
- Egyptian snake tattoos
- Pharaoh and King Tut tattoos
- Scorpion Tattoos: the scorpion is the embodiment of the goddess of healing stings and bites, called Serket.
More about Scorpion Tattoos
Animal images were very important in Egyptian mythology and Egyptian tattoos reflect this. Many of the animals in Egyptian imagery have magical powers, some are gods and goddesses.
If you are looking for a tattoo artist that is good in Egyptian tattoo designs, check out William Webb.
Celebrities with an Egyptian Tattoo
- Amy Winehouse: has an ankh tattoo combined with an eagle and American flag on her back.
- Rasheed Wallace: NBA star, has an Egyptian art tattoo on his right arm, picturing Akhenaten, Nefertiti and their children. Next to the pic below is the original Egyptian art portraying the royal family. The sun has rays that end in hands, representing the Egyptian god Aten, king of the gods during the reign of Akhenaten.
- Ville Valo: musician with an Egyptian flame on his leg.
- Tupac Shakur: had a tattoo of queen Nefertiti's head accompagnied with the text "2 die 4"
- Anastacia: has an ankh tattoo combined with a sun on her lower back.
- Rihanna: has an Isis tattoo under her breasts. The tattoo is dedicated to her deceased grandmother. She describes Isis as "the complete woman" and "a model for future generations".