Cross Tattoos

Cross Tattoos

Cross Tattoos

Cross tattoos represent a symbol of religiosity, purification, love and forgiveness. Of all religious tattoos, the cross is the most popular. It is considered one of the most important Christian symbols which can be seen everywhere – on the roofs and tops of the churches and cathedrals, on the altars, furniture and the priests’ clothes. Majority of the Christian church foundations are in the shape of a cross. The walls of all Christian schools, hospitals, and other objects are decorated with crosses. So are the bodies of many people, religious or not. The main reason for that is the diversity of meanings the cross tattoos offer.

Although cross is believed to be a Christian sign since it is widely seen in all the churches – Catholic, Protestant, Orthodox, and so on – its origin isn’t Christian. Nowadays very common cross tattoos are representations of a symbol which was considered as sacral centuries before the appearance of Christianity.  According to An Expository Dictionary of New Testament Words the sign of the cross originated in Babylon and it was a symbol of Tammuz – god of food and vegetation. Its shape, the shape of mystical letter Tau, stood for the first letter of the god’s name and it was well-known in Babylon and all the surrounding countries, including Egypt. Later, in order to maximize its own influence, the church allowed people to keep their pagan customs and symbols. From that time on, the letter Tau or T was accepted as a symbol of Christianity.

Still, the cross with four equal arms was known and used even in Neolithic age. Ötzi the Iceman, a mummified man who lived about 3,300 BC in the Alps, had one or more cross tattoos on his body.

Many people like Egyptian cross tattoos, or Ankh. In any book about Egyptian monuments and ancient temples you will see a Tau cross, either in the hands of the god Amun-Ra or above the praying pharaoh’s head.  But, here the cross is usually presented in combination with a circle or with a loop instead of the upper arm. However, that mystical cross wasn’t typical for ancient Egypt only – it was worshiped also among Chaldean, Phoenicians, Mexicans and every other ancient civilization in both southern and northern hemisphere.

Another ancient culture, the Celts, used a symbol of a cross surrounded by a circle, but it didn’t have religious purpose. Celtic cross which is usually found in parts of England, Ireland, Wales, and Scotland, represented four elements – earth, air, fire, and water, or four seasons. It was also a symbol of a man – his mind, body, heart, and soul, as well as the four directions – north, south, west, and east. This cross indicates harmony and balance, since the circle in the Celtic cross stands for the female, while the arms corresponded to the male energy. Some also believe that it was old pagan symbol of the sun.  Be as it may, this type of cross is very popular even today, and is a common choice by both men and women who want to accentuate their spirituality through cross tattoos, but it’s interesting that a circle in Celtic cross tattoos can be omitted if a person wearing it wants to emphasize the beauty of interweaving curvy lines.

As the symbol of cross had spread through different nations its use became more diversified. Chinese people were familiar with the sign of the cross from the earliest times. It was drawn on the walls of pagodas, and on the lamps used for illuminating their holiest temples.  In Chinese ideography it was a sign that meant perfection and number 10 – the greatest number of all. So it’s not unusual to see cross tattoos which are combination of a cross with arms of equal length and Chinese, usually philosophical inscriptions.

Cross has been a holy symbol in India for centuries. Two unfinished stone crosses were found in central India – one 3, and the other 2.5 meters tall. It is believed that they date back to pre-Christian times. The sign of a cross was also used to mark the amphorae containing the holy water from the river Ganges, and it was a symbol of Jain saints. The main meaning the cross had for the people of India was that of life and regeneration, the same one that those who survive a personal tragedy have in mind when getting their cross tattoos in the other parts of the world.

In some African Muslim tribes, women wear cross tattoos between their eyes. Some other African tribes used to decorate the walls of their sacred places as well as their shields with crosses.

When Spaniards landed in Mexico for the first time, they were surprised to see huge crosses, symbols of their own religion, on the top of the temples in Anahuac. Spaniards didn’t recognize that the cross had been an object of worship among pagan tribes since the dawn of time.  The cross that was found in Central America, Mexico, and Peru is believed to be a sort of wind rose and a symbol of shamanism. It is interesting that warriors in Patagonia wore cross tattoos on their foreheads as a symbol of protection.

Cross Tattoos Meaning

In the ancient Europe, before the civilization known today, cross had a protective purpose and it was used as a thumb stone. Later, about 46 BC, Romans used coins with an image of Jupiter holding a long scepter with a cross in its end. Vestal Virgins from the ancient Rome put cross pendants on their necklaces. And, of course, Romans used crosses for the execution of thieves, criminals, and outlaws. And Jesus Christ. With Jesus dying on the cross the whole story was given another dimension. For majority of people the cross became strongly related to salvation and redemption paid by Christ on the cross. And for this reason, the cross tattoos are at the top of the tattoo popularity lists. But, you should keep in mind that dying on the cross was long, painful, and hard, in a word – horrible. So, for the people of that time as well as for the first Christians, the cross was a symbol of condemnation and death and nobody dared to wear a cross even as a decoration, not to mention the cross tattoos. That fashion started somewhat later.

However, not all the cross tattoos are religious or related to spiritual world. The cross  graph is a sign of unison and the state of being positive, like the plus sign in mathematics. Among gypsies, this sign on someone’s house means that people living in it don’t give money.

Cross Tattoos Ideas

Cross tattoos can be inspired by any aforementioned belief, part of the world, or era. Religious people choose cross tattoos to show their devotion to god and they often combine it with an image of an angel or a rosary. Others prefer their cross tattoos placed inside an outline heart with a sentimental inscription. These are usually done in loving memory of someone they lost.  One geek girl got a mathematical formula for the heart curve tattooed on her back as a symbol of love for her sick mother. The plus sign, as a variation of a cross, is incorporated into her tattoo.

In any case, if you like cross tattoos, being a religious person or a geek, a member of the Odinist fellowship or just in love with the symmetry of this symbol, you will certainly be able to find a style that suits you especially if you keep in mind that cross tattoos can be interpreted in as many ways as there are people in the world. Look below for some more cross tattoos ideas.

You may also want to read:

Cross Tattoos for Men
Cross tattoos for Women.