Tattoo Designs & Symbols

Tattoo Symbol Index - A B C D E F G H I J K L M N O P Q R S T U V W X Y Z

It is not surprising that in traditional tribal tattooing, animal designs and symbols predominate. Animal tattoo designs and symbols have extraordinary power and are meant in some way to transform to an individual so that they take on some aspect of the animal tattooed upon their person.

For indigenous peoples around the world, every aspect of creation can serve as a spirit guide for humans. All creatures great and small, indeed all living forms, from mighty oak trees, to the reeds that bend but do not break in the fiercest winds, possess qualities that teach us about the world we live in. There is no dogma associated with this kind of knowledge, although many of the cultures that believe or believed in spirit guides were also cultures that perceived the earth as divine and their spiritual beliefs were often a form of animism or shamanistic.

Animals are revered as creations of Nature, and so are held as examples of survival, brotherhood, and knowledge of the ways of nature. They are without human treachery or hatred, and haven't the capacity for self-destruction or degradation of the environment. They are part of the natural order of the universe rather than living outside of it or against it.

It is said of the ancient people of the Americas that they knew how to communicate with animals. The power was lost when humans opted out of the natural order and placed themselves above all other species. Nevertheless, it is still believed that communication from animal to human still exists in the form of psychic telepathy and through the spirit. In order for humans to understand communication from an animal spirit guide, it is necessary to prepare oneself through practice, patience and humility.

Often times specific animals or spirit guides would be made apparent through dreams or visions, or through the intervention of an intermediary such as a shaman or a medicine man who had a special gift for understanding the natural world. The vision where an animal spirit guide presented itself to an individual was often part of a ritual or ordeal that might include the use of fasting for many days, dancing until exhaustion, the use of sweat lodges that used extreme heat, or solitary 'vision' quests where individuals went into the wilderness on their own on long journeys of self-discovery. It was also not uncommon for individuals to use plants and other substances, for example the use of peyote or fermented alcoholic beverages, to alter ones state of mind to be more open to a vision. Each of these activities can cause a change in our perception of reality or alter our consciousness, making a vision not only possible, but likely.

Animal totems can be compared to Jung's archetypes, which work through the subconscious mind. They may be messengers, guides or protectors. One doesn't choose an animal guide, nor does one take one on the advice of others. Only through the Creator does a spirit guide visit the individual. When a connection has been made between the spirit guide and an individual, greater understanding of nature comes about. And when that happens, one's mental, spiritual and physical health improves.

In some cultures, an animal spirit may enter at the moment of birth and serve as a guide through that person's lifetime. A spirit guide may appear at critical times such as rites of passage, and when help is needed. It may be in the form of a dream or a revelation. For the shaman, animal spirit guides are a powerful ally in healing rituals and ceremonies.

Nature provides hundreds of creatures, each with lessons to teach. From the lowly ant, hardworking, unselfish and loyal -- to the powerful teaching medicine of the wolf, who reminds us that all things have a place, even in chaos -- the spirit animals of the earth will find us at that moment when we are prepared to receive the lessons that are available to us.

Native American spirit guide animalsEagle tattoo designs- The energy of the eagle includes potency, freedom and illumination. A sacred bird to many Native American cultures. See more: Eagle

Hawk tattoo designs - Ruthless and majestic; with a terrifying scream and powerful talons the hawk was a favorite in Native American tribal designs. The spirit of the hawk is one of truth, awareness, and perceptiveness. See more: Hawk

Owl tattoo designs - With its signature hoot and nocturnal habits, the owl is a favorite of both young and old. The owl is a spirit of vision, wisdom and insight. See more: Owl

Raven tattoo designs - The Raven symbolizes the unknown and Otherworld travel. To the Haida, the Raven was a central figure in their Creation Myth. See more: Haida, Raven

Butterfly tattoo designs - A beautiful way to capture the amazing power of personal change. The butterfly's energy is associated with balance, transformation and grace. See more: Butterfly

Bear tattoo designs - Towering over so many of the creatures who share its territory, the bear is a primal testimony of strength, self-preservation and wisdom. See more: Bears

Wolf tattoo designs - The wolf often appeared in tattoo design because of its magnetic appeal to humanity. The feral version of our more domesticated dog, the wolf represents the skill of teaching, loyalty and cooperation. See more: Wolf

Coyote tattoo designs - Often referred to as the "Trickster", this mischievous creature serves as a playful (in the sense of practical joke playful) guardian spirit. The coyote speaks of reversal of fortune (for better or for worse), cunning and humor (even if it is at your expense).
See more: Coyotes

Fox tattoo designs - Wily and quick, the fox has been referred to many animal metaphors and similes. Not surprisingly, the message of the fox is one of cleverness, discretion, and cunning.
See more: Foxes

Dog tattoo designs - Long time companion and "man's best friend", the dog has bonded with humans in a way that few other animals have. True to its nature, the spirit of the dog is one of loyalty and friendship. See more: Dogs

Cougar tattoo designs - Also referred to as the mountain lion, these solitary hunters of the forest strike fear into their prey with their far reaching screams. The cougar speaks of leadership, loyalty & courage. See more: Cougar, Jaguar, Panther

Deer tattoo designs - Quiet and peaceful, these beautiful, graceful creatures are a favorite wild life tattoo subject. The spirit of the deer is one of peace, sensitivity and gentleness. See more: Deer

Horse tattoo designs - People across the ages have been captivated by the horse, this free spirit of great power and strength who has chosen to align itself with humanity. The totem of the horse speaks of freedom, strength and movement. For Native Americans the horse was a tremendous status symbol, and spoke of power and social rank. See more: Horses

Turtle tattoo designs - Able to escape the world with the comfort of its shell, there are many people who identify well with this aquatic creature. The spirit of the turtle is one of protection, healing and inner knowledge. See more: Turtles

Frog tattoo designs - Able to cover incredible distances in each leap, frogs are a colorful and playful addition to any tattoo image gallery. The frog has long been respected for its healing powers, as an indication of peaceful change and as a testimony to adaptability. See more: Frogs

Dolphin tattoo designs - A mammal of the sea, the dolphin has long enchanted mankind with its intelligence and social nature. When the dolphin spirit becomes your guardian, it is an omen of harmony, communication and intelligence. See more: Dolphin

Salmon tattoo designs - Always fighting against the current, the salmon has long been a symbol of determination. The same holds true of its animal totem nature, which tells of persistence and single-minded dedication. See more: Haida.

Kokopelli Tattoos - or Kokopilau): The Flute Player of the Hopi Indians. Kokopelli is a figure commonly found in petroglyphs and pottery throughout the southwest. Since the first petroglyhs were carved around 3,000 years ago, he predates even Oraibi, the oldest continuous settlement in North America. He is regarded as a symbol of fertility for all life, be it crops, hopes, dreams, or love. In addition, Kokopelli is also a trickster, a healer and a story teller.

Alligator tattoo designs - Alligators are members of the 'crocodilian' family, one of the few species on earth that don't hesitate to treat humans as food. That puts them at the top of the food chain, challenging human supremacy. See more: Alligators

Badger tattoo designs - The badger is either fierce, strong, and shy - or aggressive and anti-social - depending on your respect or antipathy for this nocturnal creature.

Raccoon tattoo designs - The raccoon is found the length and breadth of North America, from the far north all the way to Mexico. Like another infamous 'trickster', the coyote, the raccoon has adapted well to living amongst humans as the suburbs infringe upon their natural habitat.

Crow tattoo designs - A crow tattoo can mean many things, ranging all the way from the profane to the sublime. It's best to enter the tattoo studio well informed if you are seeking a crow tattoo. See more: Crow

Heron tattoo designs - North American Native tradition holds up the blue heron as a messenger that teaches about self-determination and self-reliance. The skinny legs remind us that athletic legs aren't necessary for stability, but that 'standing on one's own' is key. The Iroquois nation treated the blue heron as a particularly good omen. See more: Herons

Crocodile tattoo designs - Crocodiles are powerful symbols of stealth, patience, and 'hidden danger'. Their protruding, retractable eyes are like binoculars, resting just above the water's surface, while the bulk of the reptile remains invisible under water. See more: Crocodiles

Hummingbird tattoo designs - A minor character in American Indian folktale and mythology. The northern Paiute Indians [U.S. Great Basin area] say that Hummingbird once filled his pants full of seeds and started on a journey to see what was beyond the sun. See more: Hummingbirds

Otter tattoo designs - Native American peoples have long admired the otter as a strong protector of family. The otter is also a powerful symbol of 'woman medicine' and female energy. Sea otters pups will haul themselves out of the water and 'rest' on their mother's stomach while she floats on her back.

Seal tattoo designs - The seal is symbol of courage at sea for the Nootka people of the Pacific Northwest. As a creature that moves in water and on land, the seal is a symbol of elemental balance and harmony.

Whale tattoo designs - Native American cultures have stressed the importance of the relationship with 'the Great Spirit'. All forms of life - from whales to so-called inanimate rocks, plants, planets and the elements - are believed to be permeated with its energy. See more: Whales

See also: Animal Tattoos Index

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Tattoo Symbol Index - A B C D E F G H I J K L M N O P Q R S T U V W X Y Z

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