If you're looking for a tattoo that covers a lot of symbolic territory, then the squid or octopus may well be the motif you're looking for. Naturally intelligent, creative and flexible, the octopus also acquires its mystique from the watery environment in which it lives. Add to that the octopus' chameleon-like ability to change its color, or disappear in a cloud of black ink when frightened or attacked and you have an enigmatic phantom of magic, wonder and transformation. The mysteries of the untamed sea contribute to the sense of wonder and mystery that surrounds this eight-tentacled creature.
As a denizen of the deep, it takes on much of the symbolism of water itself - the psyche, emotion, fluidity, and intuition. To that, add strategy, secrecy, and the power of reason, all attributes that were in action when the giant squid first rose from the deeps to hit the Cinemascope screen in the film "20,000 Leagues Under the Sea" (1954).
As a design, the octopus is a tattoo artist's and tattoo enthusiast's dream. The creature's very features giving it immense flexibility in the way it can be utilized as a design. Tentacles can be wrapped around arms and legs, draped over shoulders and wrapped around waists and backs. And because of their chameleon-like ability to change color to match their surroundings, octopi come in a veritable rainbow of colors. They are ideal designs to incorporate into large maritime scenes and they can symbolize a wide range of characteristics and virtues. A tattoo design doesn't get much more "flexible" than that.