Some of the most ancient tattoo designs appear to have been intended to protect the well-being of their bearer.
Sometimes this takes the form of a geometric design, sometimes a design representing a protective symbol,
sometimes a design representing a protective animal.
When you think about it, a protective tattoo makes sense–an amulet could get lost, but a tattooed design was with you for life. That kind of protective marking is widespread even today.
Ã–tzi the Iceman, the 5,000-year-old mummy found in the Alps, was tattooed with lines and dots over areas of his body that turned out to be arthritic. Many of the tattoos found on ancient people are straight lines, which might be due to the tools used to make them, or the lines might have had mystical significance of their own. We’ll never know.
In ancient Egypt, as far as we know, women were tattooed with dots and lines that seem to indicate a connection with the goddess Hathor, or perhaps a wish for fertility. Not many tattooed mummies have been found, so there really is not enough information available to make an educated guess about what the designs signified.
The ancient Celts were described as “painted” by the Romans, and this could have included tattoos as well as paint. Celtic art is full of mythical creatures that appear to represent protective elements. Whether the Celts tattooed these symbols on their bodies as well as carved them into rocks is unknown, but given the strong association of those designs with the protection of the spirit world, it seems likely.
In recent years, archaeologists have turned up tattooed mummies in central Asia. It is very likely that these people were Celts, or Scythians, or closely related people, so there seems to be a good basis for believing that the Celts were tattooed as well. The designs these people chose were quite elaborate.
Today, of course, people choose protective designs that come from their religious beliefs and their personal history. I talked about spiritual designs before, and the profound significance they can have. One of my tattoos is a Chinese dragon and another is an Eye of Horus. The dragon had special meaning to my grandmother, and the Eye of Horus has special meaning to me. So, I hope, I am doubly protected. 🙂
Have you chosen a design for protection or for spiritual reasons or for personal protection? What did you choose, and why?