Tattoos have been a part of both spiritual and ritualistic practices for thousands of years. The cultural and social importance of tattoos is pretty undeniable considering some of the oldest evidence of them dates back to 4,000 B.C.E., after the discovery of mummified human remains in Egypt. In Japanese culture, the process of getting a full-body tattoo (also known as “horimono”) can be seen as a test of endurance and a spiritual commitment as these pieces can often take several years. Each culture has their own view of tattooing and the spiritual connection with this act of adding permanent ink to your physical vessel. In our modern-day world (and most Western cultures), people have a range of meaning behind their tattoos, from significant personal symbols to “spur of the moment” fun or cute designs. For some, enduring the physical pain required to get a tattoo can also be seen as a type of spiritual discipline, or in yogic terms, a form of “purification.”
Although there is no “right way” to adorn your body, there’s a spiritual message attached to tattoo placements. The body is a physical manifestation of the spirit, and when we look at the correlation between what our body parts may represent in soul-terms, it can be fascinating to add a more layered meaning to tattoos. Below, see what your current (or future) tattoo’s placement represents.
The head is often associated with intelligence, consciousness and the mind. In spiritual practices such as yoga and meditation, the crown of the head (the highest point of the body) is considered the location of the crown chakra, which is associated with spiritual awakening and enlightenment. If your head or face is tattooed, it can indicate a desire to ascend or rise up in your own life from the ashes of your past.
The eyes are often seen as the “windows to the soul” and are associated with intuition and perception. In both Buddhism and Hinduism, the third eye (or energy center located in between the brows in the center of the forehead) is believed to be a center of spiritual foresight. Getting your eyelids tattooed can represent a desire to see yourself, your life and those around you more clearly, and it can bring you a stronger sense of intuition in your waking life.
The ears are associated with hearing and communication. In some spiritual practices, such as Native American traditions, the ears are believed to be the gateway for spiritual guidance to come through via messages from the spirit world, your spirit guides or your ancestors. If you get your ears tattooed, it is said that you can hear the messages of your spirit guides more clearly and also be more open-minded to the opinions and feelings of others.
The nose is associated with the sense of smell and discernment. When we think about animals who have a heightened sense of smell, they can get around with vision impairment or their eyes closed simply because of their amplified sense of smell and ability to discern their surroundings. In Ayurveda (the science and practice of life), certain scents are used for healing and balancing the body and mind, such as lavender or peppermint oil. If your nose is tattooed, it can be seen as a way to balance your physical, spiritual and emotional body.
Mouth (and inner lip)
The mouth is associated with communication and outward expression. In some spiritual practices, intuitive eating is seen as a way to bring awareness and connection with the present moment. If you’ve had your inner lip tattooed, or plan to get a permanent beauty mark tattoo near your mouth, these ink pieces can amplify a sense of presentness or mindfulness in your daily life.
In many cultures, the back is seen as a symbol of strength and protection. Think of the saying “they stabbed me in the back”—in more barbaric times, the back was a very vulnerable place during battle. In some spiritual practices, such as Native American traditions, tattoos on the back are believed to offer protection from negative spirits and connect those adorning back pieces with their ancestors. As noted above, Japanese culture also looks at back tattoos as a sign of spiritual discipline and endurance, amplifying the energy of strength to those who get their back tattooed.
The chest is often associated with our emotions. In some spiritual practices, tattoos on the chest can symbolize love and openness. The heart is associated with compassion and connection. In many spiritual practices, the heart is seen as a center of spiritual energy and is associated with emotional healing and transformation. If you get your chest (especially over the heart) tattooed, it is said to strengthen your connections to self and others.
The stomach area is associated with nourishment and transformation as it holds our digestive organs. In Ayurveda, the health of our digestive tract is seen as the space responsible for our overall well-being. Getting your stomach or abdomen tattooed can help increase vitality and our ability to assimilate in life. It helps us “soak it all in.”
The arms are associated with strength and action. They also represent manifestation to many, as they are the limbs that hold our hands and help us create the world that we desire to see if we are able-bodied. Tattoos on the arms represent our ability to create and manifest our desires, helping dreams come to life.
The hands are associated with action and creativity. As with the arms, they help us to manifest our dreams. In Reiki, the practice of channeling healing energy into the body to balance our energy centers, hands are used to channel this healing energy. Each finger represents different energy in most spiritual practices, and in astrology it can be said that each finger represents a different planetary energy. We can amplify our abundance, health and overall well-being by tattooing our hands and fingers. Because most workplaces in more traditional times were not in agreement with visible tattoos, the hands and fingers also represent a certain level of rebellion as they are one of the few body parts we cannot hide with work attire.
The legs are often associated with movement, action and forward motion. In spiritual practices such as yoga and qigong, the legs are seen as essential for grounding and stability, as well as for moving energy (or “chi”) throughout the body. They are also representative of strength as the legs are one of the major providers of strength and a solid foundation for the rest of the body. If tattoos are placed here, it may amplify a feeling of solidarity in your life.
Ankles and feet are the first foundational building block of bipedalism. They are our first connection to the Earth and in most spiritual practices they represent the “root” of the body, or the energy center that represents a sense of safety and stability. Getting your feet and ankles tattooed can amplify a sense of groundedness and safety in your daily experience.
Getting a butt cheek tattoo or a groin tattoo can represent playfulness and sensuality. As the butt and genitals represent fertility in most cultures, having buttocks, genital or hip tattoos can increase one’s connection to their own sensual or creative energy, ultimately bringing a sense of fun and playfulness to those who get ink on their nether regions.
Whether you are already inked up or plan to get a tattoo in the near future, refer to this list to help you decide where your tattoo is best placed. After all, increasing your spiritual connection through permanent ink adornments is one of many ways to work the body-spirit connection.