We examine the social significance of
tattooing in religions around the world.
Check out meanings of Religious
Tattoos & Symbols of Faith & Spirituality
THE RELIGIOUS TATTOOS WEBSITE:
This site is devoted to
Judeo-Christian body art. Lots of great info here!
JEWS WITH TATTOOS
By Ron Dicker, The Forward
[Oct 11th, 2009]
Craig Dershowitz started with a Kabbalah Ladder on his back, then followed with the word ZION on his right forearm. His entire torso remains a mural in progress.
Marisa Kakoulas considers herself a Grecian urn, ready to be decorated. The suit she wears as an attorney conceals her black-ink tapestry, making her feel like a superhero, she said.
They are Jews with tattoos, a trend that began on the fringe and is moving toward the mainstream. Ink-wearing Jews are not as omnipresent as in some other groups, given the proliferation of tattoos in sports and the entertainment industry, but their numbers are increasing, according to tattoo wearers, artists and the rabbis who bear witness to the branding of their flock... more
THE WORD MADE FLESH
Multnomah Bible College reverses its ban on tattoos. Christians rejoice.
BY PAIGE RICHMOND | prichmond at wweek dot com
[July 11th, 2007]
Matt Farlow's body belongs to God. The Multnomah Biblical Seminary grad student claims that all of his tattoos "glorify Christ," except for his first piece of ink: a small, now-faded lightning bolt. Since Farlow, now 33 and married with two kids, became "full-on Jesus-centered" in his 20s, he's marked his body with only religious imagery. And now that Multnomah Bible College (and its grad school, the Seminary) finally allows students to show off their body art, Farlow can display a full-sleeve tattoo of vibrant symbols depicting the Holy Trinity and the Greek name of God.
SOME BELIEVERS GET LOTS OF INK
By Jennifer Hollett
Once associated with truckers, convicts and sailors, tattoos are now finding favour with hip young Christians
Crosses, praying hands, and scripture. While icons of faith, these images are also popular and trendy tattoos. Mary J Blige's tattoo cross was visible at The Grammys, and Justin Timberlake has both a cross and a guardian angel inked on his skin. With the new generation of young Christians decked out in jeans and Chuck Taylors, tattoos compliment the look with a permanent commitment to Christ.
Tattoos used to be associated with truckers, sailors, and convicts. Over the last decade, things have changed with alternative culture moving into the mainstream, introducing body art to anyone and everyone. This includes Christians. Jay Bakker is probably the best-known alt pastor thanks to his parents Jim and Tammy Faye, and the One Punk Under God documentary series on the Sundance Channel. His personal style includes bad boy tattoo sleeves, piercings, and black t-shirts.
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SHOW OF FAITH
BY JOE RODRIGUEZ
Knight Ridder Newspapers
Martha Arana wears her faith on her skin -- in permanent black, red
and green ink.
Arana, a 24-year-old Wichita State University social work
student, recently had a cross wrapped with a vine and two roses
tattooed on her right ankle. It was her first tattoo.
Her 21-year-old sister, Maria Arana, got the same tattoo at the
Elektrik Chair, a tattoo parlor in Wichita, Kan.
"Whenever we've gone through stuff, the only thing that gets us
through is our faith," said Martha Arana, a Catholic. "So we both
decided to get something that symbolizes our faith."
The two are among countless people of faith nationwide who have
tattoos that reflect their spirituality and religious beliefs.
But is a tattoo an appropriate way to display faith?
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CHRISTIANS, TATTOOS AND LEVITICUS 19:28
What Does the Bible Really Say?
Many Christians will often quote scripture, and it is usually
Leviticus 19:28, which is in the Old Testament of the Bible, when
stating that Christians should never receive a tattoo as it is
specifically prohibited. A closer examination of the passages in
question is in order because of discrepancies in historical
accuracy, translation and interpretation.
One popular edition of the King James Bible reads: "Do not cut
your bodies for the dead or put tattoo marks on yourselves. I am the
Lord." - Leviticus 19:28
A historically and linguistically correct translation of
Leviticus 19:28 could of course never have mentioned the word
"tattoo". Tattoo is a specifically Polynesian word that entered the
English language after the voyages of Captain James Cook to Tahiti
in the eighteenth century - which is when tattooing became popular
again in the West. Interestingly, tattoo and taboo are the only two
Polynesian words to enter into English language usage.
Another, presumably older translation of Leviticus 19:28 reads,
""Do not cut your bodies for the dead nor put marks upon you. For I
am the Lord." - Leviticus 19:28
It is widely believed among Biblical scholars that Leviticus
19:28 refers to an ancient practice in the Middle East of people
cutting themselves and rubbing in ash when in a period of mourning
after an individual had died. It was a sign of respect for the dead
and a symbol of respect and reverence and a sense of profound loss
for the newly departed; and it is surmised that the ash that was
rubbed into the self-inflicted wounds came from the actual funeral
pyres that were used to cremate the bodies. In essence, people were
literally carrying with them a reminder of the recently deceased in
the form of tattoos created by ash being rubbed into shallow wounds
cut or slashed into the body, usually the forearms. This rite would
have been part of a culturally accepted process of grieving.
The sanctions prescribed in Leviticus against mourning the dead
mark a significant change in peoples belief system about an
afterlife. Once it is established within the Christian church that
life does not end with death; but is the beginning of a new and
perhaps better afterlife; literally in God's Heaven, then there is
no purpose in mourning the death of an individual who is a
"believer". In the Christian belief system, that individual is not
dead, but in Heaven and it is presumed that all believers in
Christianity will ultimately be united. The death or passing of an
individual from the mortal or worldly plane becomes not a source of
mourning but rather a source of rejoicing for believers in the
For those individuals who claim to follow Scripture to the
letter, it is interesting to note that other passages in Leviticus
proscribe individuals from cutting their hair or trimming their
beards, wearing clothes that are made of a mix of textiles and
growing certain crops beside each other; ie, the "mingling" of seed.
It is safe to assume that the practice of shaving would have been a
heinous violation of Leviticus.
At the same time it must be said that Leviticus contains the
seeds of laws and statutes, that if followed, are the basis of a
fair and just community. Here is one translation of Leviticus that
is worth reading in its entirety.
Religious Tattoo design ideas at Tattoo Johnny
POPULAR TATTOO DESIGNS AMONG CHRISTIANS
Despite the opposition that young tattooed Christians faced from
parents and ministers, it seems that their diligence has paid off.
No longer are tattoos so widely viewed as evil, pagan proofs. As a
matter of fact, Christians today have several logical justifications
for their tattoos.
Christians claim a freedom from the words of Leviticus based
on the freedom from the Law that came through Christ's atonement
of our sins. This is a fact mentioned by the apostle Paul
numerous times throughout the New Testament.
In a humorous line found on the website of the Christian
Tattoo Association said: "You shall not…tattoo any marks on
you…" obviously means don't do it yourself, see a professional.
Another popular argument for Christian tattoo refers to the
mention that our bodies are the temples of God. If this is so, then
Christian tattoos are serving in place of stained glass windows and
Finally, supporters for Christian tattoo refer often to the Book
of Revelation to several references that could translate to Jesus
wearing marks like a tattoo, and us receiving the marks of our new
names, and the seal of God.
If you're looking for inspiration for a Christian inspired
tattoo design, here is a list of symbols that have played a big part
in the Christian faith.
The Cross: Available in several different designs and variation,
crosses have become a favorite among Christians with tattoo. In
addition, many of the separate denominations of Protestant
Christians have their own church emblem or seal which contains a
The Peacock: The peacock was used as an early symbol of the
resurrection by Christians in history. Each time the peacock sheds
his feathers, the new feathers far surpass the old ones in their
The Lily: This flower design often appears in connection with
the Easter season and has come to symbolize immortality and eternal
The Phoenix: This mythical bird, whose life cycle was a constant
series of fiery death and rebirth from the ashes, was also a popular
Christian sign for the resurrection.
Wheat Heads (generally three of them): This design represented the
Bread of Life.
The Pelican: This water bird became a symbol of atonement to early
Christians because it was believed that pelicans would draw blood
from their own breast in order to feed their young.
The Palm Leaf: While alluding to Jesus' greeting and worship upon
his arrival into Jerusalem for his final Passover, the Palm Leaf is
also a symbol of heavenly reward.
The Shepherd: Often drawn with the Shepherd carrying a lamb over his
shoulders, this image served as a reminder of Jesus' loving care as
our heavenly shepherd.
The Triquetra: Easier to understand when illustrated, this
geometrical design is composed of one continuous line that creates 3
equal arcs (each arc generally triangular in design) with was used
to explain eternity in a continuous form, and the indivisibility of
Nimbuses: Also known as halos, nimbuses are often used in
conjunction with pictures of Jesus, Mary, the apostles, saints and
I.N.R.I.: This Latin inscription appeared on the head of the cross
and says "Jesus Nazarenus Rex Iudaeorum, or "Jesus of Nazareth, King
of the Jews".
The Ship: Showing an image of a ship sailing through rough and
stormy sees, this tattoo design speaks of the churches ability to
sail unscathed through all perils and still remain alive and well.
The Lamp: Often depicted as the typical oil lamp you associate with
genies, the lamp signifies the Word of God.
Fish: Everyone has seen the Christian fish, on cars, arms, legs,
back, mailboxes, business signs - it shows up every where. Early
Christians used it to identify one another by one person drawing an
arched line in the sand with a stick or toe. If the other person was
a believer, they would complete the design. The fish was used for
this reason because in Greek, the first letter in their translation
of "Jesus Christ, God's Son, Savior" spells out the Greek word for
The Candlestick: An image that proclaims to the world that you
follow Jesus, "the Light of the World".
The Dove: Associated with God's spirit resting on Jesus during his
baptism, the dove is now generally associated with the Holy Spirit
of the Trinity.
3 Intertwining Circles: If you're looking for a Christian symbol to
incorporate into a tribal or Celtic tattoo design, this just might
do this trick. These three equal sized interwoven circles symbolize
equality, unity and the co-eternal nature of the 3 persons of the
THE EIGHT AUSPICIOUS SYMBOLS OF BUDDHISM
A Conch Shell - It is an emblem of power, authority and
sovereignty whose blast is believed to banish evil spirits, avert
natural disasters, and scare away poisonous creatures. The sound of
a conch is said to represent the deep, resonant voice of Buddha the
conch is used in Tibetan Buddhism to call together religious
assemblies. During the actual practice of rituals, it is used both
as a musical instrument and as a container for holy water.
A Lotus - The Lotus is one of Buddhism's best recognized motifs
since every important deity is associated in some manner with the
lotus, either being seated upon it or holding one in their hands.
The roots of a lotus are in the mud, the stem grows up through the
water, and the heavily scented flower lies above the water, basking
in the sunlight. This pattern of growth signifies the progress of
the soul from the primeval mud of materialism, through the waters of
experience, and into the bright sunshine of enlightenment.
Significantly, the color of the lotus too has an important bearing
on the symbolism associated with it:
White Lotus - This represents the state of spiritual perfection and
Red Lotus - This signifies the original nature and purity of the
heart. It is the lotus of love, compassion, passion and all other
qualities of the heart.
Blue Lotus- This is a symbol of the victory of the spirit over the
senses, and signifies the wisdom of knowledge.
Pink Lotus - This is the supreme lotus, generally reserved for the
highest deity. It is associated with the Great Buddha himself.
A Wheel - The wheel consists of three parts: the hub, the rim,
and spokes (usually eight in number). Its basic form is that of a
circle - which is recognized across all cultural traditions as a
shape that is complete and perfect in itself. These qualities
reflect the teachings of the Buddha.
A Parasol (Umbrella) - Above the mountain is the dome of the
sky. This is symbolized by the umbrella, whose important function is
to cast a shadow, the shadow of protection.
A traditional Tibetan Parasol is fringed around the edges. The dome
symbolizes wisdom, and the hanging skirt, compassion. Thus the
composite form of the parasol signifies the union of these dual
An Endless Knot - The endless knot is a closed, graphic ornament
composed of right-angled, intertwined lines. It is theorized that it
may have evolved from an ancient naga symbol with two stylized
snakes. Since the knot has no beginning or end it also symbolizes
the infinite wisdom of the Buddha.
A Pair of Golden Fishes - In Buddhism, the golden fishes
symbolize happiness, as they have complete freedom in water. They
represent fertility and abundance as they multiply very rapidly.
Fish often swim in pairs, and in China they represented conjugal
unity and fidelity, where a pair of fishes would often be given as a
7). A Banner Proclaiming Victory - The victory banner was adopted by
early Buddhism as an emblem of the Buddha's enlightenment, heralding
the triumph of knowledge over ignorance. It is said to have been
placed on a mountain top by Buddha himself, symbolizing his victory
over the entire universe.
8). A Treasure Vase - The vase is a short, round vessel with a
short, slim neck. On top, covering the opening, there is a large
jewel lid indicating that it is a treasure vase.
The symbolic meaning of the Treasure Vase is usually associated with
the ideas of storage and the satisfaction of material desires. In
the mythologies of many different cultures there are recurring
stories that contain the idea of an inexhaustible vessel.