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The idea of religious tattoos may seem counterintuitive, for several reasons – not only is tattooing prohibited by some religions, such as Orthodox Judaism, but until recently, tattoos were associated with a vaguely disreputable counterculture that seems at odds with religion. Nowadays, because tattooing has gone mainstream, religious tattoos are not just for gang members – not by a long shot. Christian tattoos are the most popular form of religious tattoos, especially in North and South America. You shall not make any cuttings in your flesh for the dead, nor print any marks upon you: I am the Lord. The most popular Christian symbols are crosses, praying hands, Jesus Christ, angels and doves. The cross is a very universal symbol used in many cultures and religions, including the Celtic cross, the Egyptian ankh cross, and many others.
Sometimes lettering is added to the image – such as the chapter and verse number of a certain Psalm or Bible verse.
Although praying hands are not strictly a Christian symbol, it is almost solemnly used by adherers of the Christian faith. Besides the obvious religious meaning, Virgin Mary tattoos are also a symbol of strength and virtue. The Virgin Mary tattoo is also popular in the Latin world and used to be popular among seafarers, for whom they symbolized the longing for their wives on their long trips abroad.Mary is not only a Christian symbol, she is also honored in Islam. Of course, not all religious tattoos are Christian at all, though symbols from the other major religions are rarer.
Orthodox Judaism forbids tattooing, though this is not an edict that everyone follows – occasionally, you might see a Star of David or a menorah tattoo, but they are the exception rather than the rule. Another factor is that tattooing is considered disrespectful to those who were tattooed by the Nazis in the Holocaust.
The Indian religions have their own traditional body art, but tattooing is fairly uncommon.
Hinduism is the biggest religion of India and the 3rd largest religion in the world, after Christianity and Islam. Hinduism is a monotheistic religion, meaning that a Hindu believes in one God, called Brahman. The Hindu deities are very extravagant and colorful, what makes them ideal for a tattoo design. Om is written in the Devanagari script, the script that is used to write Sanskrit and Hindi. Sak Yant (aka yantra tattoos) is the art of sacred tattooing as done by Buddhist monks in Thailand and Cambodia. Buddha tattoos have a certain popularity in the West though and most of them depict Buddha sitting in a meditative position. Allen Iverson: NBA player with a praying hands tattoo on his chest accompanied by his mother's and grandmother's names. Cross Tattoos: Celebrities with a cross tattoo include Justin Timberlake, Robbie Williams, Lenny Kravitz and Britney Spears.


Hebrew Tattoos: Celebrities with a Hebrew tattoo include David and Victoria Beckham, Madonna and Christina Aguilera.
Cross tattoo designs are representations of a symbol that is far more ancient and varied than you might think. In some pre-Christian cultures, the vertical bar was seen as the male phallus, the horizontal bar as the vagina.
The Celtic cross (aka Irish cross) is a particularly beautiful representation of this universal symbol and Celtic cross tattoos are a popular type of Celtic tattoo.
The Celtic cross looks like a basic cross with a circle (symbol for the sun) around the intersection and is adorned with Celtic knot work art .
The Christian faith uses the cross as a symbol for the fact that Jesus Christ was crucified by the Romans, a common Roman way of executing slaves and non-Romans. One of the first things that come to mind when thinking about Christian cross tattoos is: Is it OK for a Christian to get a tattoo? A cross hanging at the end of a rosary, combined with praying hands is a popular Christian tattoo design as well.
Others show the crown of thorns either hung over one arm or the cross or suspended in the middle of it. Holy cross tattoos are very apt at expressing the Christian faith, and have come to be associated with Christianity throughout the world.
The Stars and Stripes: the American flag as a background for a cross is a popular patriotic tattoo design. Robbie Williams: has a Celtic cross on his right hip and another cross tattoo on his right arm with the name Jack Farrell (his grandfather) underneath. Dave Gahan: the singer of the band Depeche Mode, has got a Celtic cross on his left upper arm and another cross on his under arm. Holly Marie Combs: has a cross on her back and an iron cross surrounded by tribal patterns on her wrist. Besides identification, decoration and social ranking, early tattoos definitely had a spiritual purpose.
Mexican and other Latin gangs have been using Christian symbols in their tattoo art for generations, believing in the protection that these images can give.
Other symbols worth mentioning are the virgin Mary, rosary beads, a crown of thorns and the crucifixion.
The early Christians used it as a secret symbol to find out if a person was a Christian or not. The crusaders had a small cross tattoo on their hand or arm to ensure they got a Christian burial when they died in some foreign country. In some tattoo designs Jesus is pictured on the cross, making the whole design considerably more complex.
Orthodox Jews consider altering one's body ungodly – God made your body and is therefore perfect.
It is written in the Devanagari script, a very elegant script that lends itself very well to tattoo designs.


Although it is a cultural and liturgical language, like Latin, it is still one of the official languages of India. One of the key points of buddhism is personal spiritual growth, no wonder it is gaining more and more adherents in the West. Sak Yant tattoo designs came from India together with Buddhism and were tailored by the Khmer. They all follow the teachings of Gautama Buddha who lived around the 6th century BCE in the north of India and Nepal. It is the symbol of Islam and in a more political meaning also the symbol of the Middle East.
The Hamsa, aka Hand of Fatima or Eye of Fatima (Fatima is the daughter of Muhammad), is a symbol that protects against the evil eye. A great example is the neo-pagan movement that has been gaining momentum in North America and Europe during the past couple of decades. Religious tattoos are, in short, far more common and versatile than you might think, and for many people they are a powerful, personal way of expressing their faith.
It's also very popular as a tattoo design in all kinds of languages like Farsi, Arabic, Hebrew, Sanskrit, Chinese and Japanese. The effect of these tribal cross tattoos is stunning, either in plain black, blue or a bold Celtic green.
The vertical line represents the divine, the horizontal line represents the world, the intersection is the union of both. And it doesn't stop there – people use religious tattoos to express a great variety of religious views. Other Jesus tattoos are a close up of his face with or without a crown of thorns or a halo.
Other detailing might include a wood grain pattern on the cross, or the crown of thorns in the middle of the cross of hanging off one of the arms. A tattoo of Buddha might be a bit contradictious because Buddha discouraged the use of images.
Besides verses from the Koran, a lot of people want their lover's name, their own name or favorite quote translated into Arabic script. Wiccans and other neo-pagans are great fans of tattoos, and many religious symbols can be found among their favored tattoo images.
Some people get a cross to express their religious feelings, while other people may just like the design or give a personal symbolic meaning to their tattoo. Women also have them, but the design is usually smaller and more feminine (on the foot, ankle, hand, lower back).



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