Egyptian symbol tattoos are perennially popular due to their ornate detail and symbolic meaning. Although hieroglyphs are a widely recognized design, Egyptian picture writing is not your only option. Stylized, symbolic tattoos also incorporate Egyptian gods, goddesses or other spiritually significant images.
Types of Egyptian Symbol Tattoos
Ancient Egyptians developed detailed symbols that held significant meaning to them and followed complex rules for depicting gods and human figures. This accounts for the unmistakable style of Egyptian drawing and painting. Symbols ranged from simple line drawings to colorful and ornate representations of nature and the world, with unique depictions of perspective and graphic designs that adapt easily to skin art.
The ankh is the symbol of eternal life. Strong believers in life beyond death, the Egyptians held that the ankh protected them in the passage to the afterlife. The symbol resembles a symmetrical armed cross with a loop in place of the northern pointing arm.
Place a tiny ankh tattoo on your ankle or wrist. You could also use the piece for a cool shoulder tattoo.
The scarab is a dung beetle representation. For Egyptians, the hardy and playful scarab was the symbol of spontaneity and rebirth. Cool tattoo ideas include using the beetle as a hip tattoo or the back of the neck. Scarabs work nicely on the wrist. A full-color scarab is a bright attention-grabber on the small of the back.
Ba is an Egyptian decorated bird, symbolic of personality and perseverance. As legend goes, Ba would complete tasks during the day before faithfully returning home at night. The Ba was seen as the part of the person's soul that could travel between the living and the dead. The Egyptians believed that a Ba symbol could preserve a person's looks after death. Tattoo ideas for Ba include incorporating the bird into an Egyptian temple scene or using it as the centerpiece of a sleeve.
Eye of Horus
The Eye of Horus represents the all-seeing eye. The piece depicts Horus, the God of the Sky, who sacrificed his eye during battle. The piece is often used in tattoos that represent protection. The unmistakable Eye of Horus stands out in the center of a spiraling vortex on the back or as an all-seeing "third eye" on the back of the neck.
Anubis is the dog-headed god of the dead. A symbol of protection, Anubis watches over those who have passed on to the afterlife. So you'll often find Anubis in front of a set of pyramids (representing the tombs of the dead). Tattoo Anubis between your shoulder blades so the protective god will always have your back.
The Djed is the backbone of human life, literally. It is a symbol of stable power and strength. It often adorns coffins to assist the mummies inside with the power they need to continue in the afterlife. Symbolically, the Djed would make the most sense as a full back tattoo over the spine. If that's not your thing, consider putting it over the rib cage.
This mythical fiery bird was alleged to have risen out of its own ashes to begin life anew. Many tattoo devotees use it as a sign of rebirth, an acknowledgement that they have overcome extreme hardships in life. Give the phoenix room to spread out; place one on the upper arm, or spread across your back.
The Sphinx is a figure with the head of a man set upon the body of a human, and may be the Egyptian version of the Celtic Griffon. Many believe the Sphinx was meant to be a guardian over the king whose body once occupied the nearby pyramid. Depending on how large you want your Sphinx, it could sit on numerous areas on the body. A full-figured Sphinx is a magnificent full back piece; a smaller head and shoulders is appropriate on the upper arm or shoulder.
There is no other symbol that speaks so clearly of Egypt than these amazing stone monuments. Some believe that the shape and orientation of each pyramid gives it power or energy based on purpose, goal-seeking and stability. Try placing a small pyramid at the top of your spine, your upper arm or your lower leg. A larger pyramid could also anchor a back piece.
The Primordial Hill
The primordial hill is the image of two sets of steps that meet at a flat plateau on top. The image symbolizes the unknown, since an Egyptian creation myth tells that the hills rose out of chaos to create dry land. The shape also represents Egypt's greatest architectural marvels, the pyramids. Tattoo ideas for a primordial hill include spreading the piece across both shoulder blades or using it as a band around your arm or ankle. The primordial hill also lends itself well to being a part of a scene, perhaps also including an Uraeus symbol (a snake).
Bastet, the Cat Goddess, holds a particular fascination for cat lovers across the globe. Her image is usually displayed as a black cat in silhouette. Place a black Bastet on your upper arm and let her tail curl around like a cuff.
The Uraeus is a fearsome rearing cobra and a sign of royalty and of the legitimacy of divine authority. It also referred to the protection of the goddess. A spitting and rearing cobra is an impressive piece of ink for an entire calf, an upper arm or a full back.
The cartouche is an oblong enclosure, symbolizing a rope that has no beginning or end. It encircles a name, written in hieroglyphics, and was found in tombs as both art and artifact, sometimes written on clay tablets, sometimes fashioned to be worn as a medallion. Research the hieroglyphics for your own name to create a very personalized cartouche that indicates royalty, protection and eternity. Position it either vertically or horizontally, depending on the location for the tattoo.
Choose Your Symbol Carefully
Egyptian symbols have a long and varied history. Make sure you understand your favorite symbol and all its many layers of meaning in order to portray yourself and your inked message accurately. Check and double-check translations of hieroglyphics to avoid an embarrassing - and permanent - mistake. If you choose a color tattoo, align your design with the real Egyptian colors, some of which have as much significance as the symbols and shapes.