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What Is the Meaning Behind Star Tattoos?

By Mary Smith. Updated: July 12, 2017
What Is the Meaning Behind Star Tattoos?
Image: tatuajesdeestrellas.com

Stars have provided mystery and have been allocated meaning since the dawn of humanity. This meaning depends on the culture of a society as much as it might the taste of an individual. Getting a star tattoo is one way to tap into this history of wonder and imagination. It is also a common tattoo for people who do not think about particular meaning and simply enjoy the design. Knowing what is the meaning behind star tattoos will help you know what your star tattoo might mean. It will also help those looking for a new star tattoo design to choose something which might mean something special. Keep reading oneHOWTO to see what these different star tattoo designs might mean.

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If we can imagine the beginnings of humanity, before civilization as we know it, the stars must have provided endless fascination. They appear in the symbolism of many cultures, drawn crudely on walls or even worshipped as gods in themselves. They were such a powerful draw for some cultures that the major Abrahamic religions directly outlawed their worship as it took away from monotheistic belief.

This does not mean stars still did not appear in religious texts. They are often seen as a guiding force or a messenger from some other being. There is also a practical reason for this. In the northern hemisphere, the north star is used as a means to locate yourself when lost as you can use it to gauge the direction in which you should continue.

What Is the Meaning Behind Star Tattoos? - Step 1
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Another aspect of religious affirmation to be found in stars is their representation of a fight against darkness. They are little points of light in a black canvas of night sky. As nocturnal light, they are the sign of hope against the evil nature of the world. They are seen as the embodiment of truth and spirituality.

They also symbolize the divine relationship between man and God. The shape and design of these star tattoos might have different meanings, especially in a spiritual context. Some people may even have a particular star tattoo and not realize its religious significance.

Not all people who get star tattoos are necessarily glad of it. Kimberley Vlaminck, an 18 year old Belgian girl who got 56 star tattoos on her face, falsely claimed that the artist did it to her while she was asleep. The reason for her false claim was her father's reaction to the quite stark star tattoo design was less than complimentary and she looked to pass the blame. We use this as a cautionary tale. Sometimes the meaning behind star tattoos is personal and profound. Sometimes people get them because they don't think things through and star tattoos are an easy and popular design.

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Like many religious symbols, stars have been re-purposed over the years. Five pointed stars gained particular notoriety during the 1970s when they were use by heavy metal and hard rock bands as symbols to go with their counter culture and rebellious image. Five pointed stars are also known as pentagrams and they can be seen adorned on cut off denim jackets, stitched on patches and guitar bodies throughout rock history.

Christian censorship was on the rise as a reaction against these bands which were perceived as flirting with very real demonic forces and leading youth astray. In actuality, although many of the star symbols had origins in paganism, so did much religious iconography. Pentagrams were incorporated into early Christian symbolism as their five points represented the five wounds of Christ incurred during the crucifixion. They also held strong symbolism for the Celts where stars were linked to benign magic and story telling. There was often no consideration of a demonic element.

The pentagram also represents something more practical. As a five-sided symbol, the star represents the four elements of nature (water, fire, air and earth) with the fifth representing the spirit. Altogether, they signify the balance between the spirit and nature.

However, even with this meaning behind star symbols, the same star in a different position changes how it was seen by some cultures. If the five-pointed star points down, then it was seen by some belief systems as representing evil and darkness. It was because a star like this turned upside down meant that order had been flipped into chaos. This is partly why rock bands have pentagram tattoos or symbols associated with their bands. It is a cheap and easy way to appear badass. Anyone interested in popular rock history will be aware that this isn't always the case.

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A pentagram tattoo can also serve as a reminder of the search for balance and harmony. That is why some cultures use the pentagram to enclose the ying and yang symbol, thereby strengthening the harmony between these elements and ourselves.

It is always important to remember that it is not just the star tattoo itself which can represent something. The pictures, symbols or iconography around or beside them can impact on it. As we just stated, the ying yang symbol can provide its own meaning. A flaming star turned upside down represents black magick. This is partly because the shape of an upside down five pointed star can be made into the shape of a goat's head, with the pointy chin below and two horns above.

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The pentagram should not be confused with the regular five pointed star. The difference between the two is essentially the lack of lines in the body of the star tattoo. The five pointed star does not necessarily have as ancient a history as the pentagram (although this is hard to tell), but it is does not lessen the importance it has on certain societies today.

One such society has a pretty obvious symbolism when you think about it - the United States of America. Like many countries, the star is present on their flag, each five sided star representing one of the 50 states. However, the star symbol is present not just on flags and tattoos in America, but is seen everywhere from Naval epaulettes to sides of barns.

The relation of star tattoos to the military is long and strong. Many naval members have had star tattoos across the centuries. One reason for this is perhaps the discovery of certain cultures (in Polynesia for example) which has tattooing as an ancient tradition. The history of tattooing in the USA is inextricably linked to the navy, but incorporates a lot more besides. This is partly due to the guidance of the North Star, something many shipmates have had to rely on in the past when equipment has no longer worked.

One of the most influential American tattooists of the 20th century was Norman "Sailor Jerry" Collins. His style of work incorporated many star tattoos, particularly the nautical star. The nautical star was one which was filled in to make look similar to a compass. The points of the stars are filled in with two colors almost giving it a 3 dimensional appearance. This is an example where the star tattoo itself comes to represent tattoo culture. The meaning originates in the navy and other seafaring communities, but many who get it now get it because it is a great star tattoo design.

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Another common presence of the five sided star is in show business (apparently there's no business like it). If you walk along Hollywood Boulevard in Los Angeles, California, you will see the names of famous celebrities from film, music and television adorning the paving stones. Such an honour has been the aspiration for wannabe celebrities since the 20th century and onward. This is why some may get a star tattoo because it symbolizes glitz and glamour.

However, there is another side to this as well. While star tattoos might symbolize search of fame, many people who get it show the other side of this coin. Star tattoos have also been seen on many people who just don't have it. They have often been seen as tacky and their proliferation on Hollywood losers who don't have any actual talent or even style have given them a poor reputation in some circles.

Like many tattoos, however, getting a star tattoo is more about how it fits into an overall style than necessarily the image itself. It is also found in other sub cultures, like the nautical star being very popular in punk communities.

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The six-pointed star, known as a hexagram or the Star of David, is a symbol with very important religious significance. Used popularly in Judaism, this star symbolises the interaction between God and man and the divine link that joins them. It also has a very dark history in relation to European Jews. Hitler's Nazi party used a yellow Star of David to identify Jews in order than they may be persecuted. This was a practice even before the Nazi regime as it was used by some Christian and Islamic traditions since at least the 9th century AD to identify Jews or followers of a different faith.

It is said that David used this symbol on his shield when he fought Goliath and this is the reason why it is commonly referred to as the Star of David. It has a greatly significant meaning for many in the Jewish religion. It was adopted by the State of Israel in 1948 as the symbol of their flag. Because of this, it is difficult to sometimes distinguish between the religious Jewish symbolism and its national Israeli symbolism.

The Star of David tattoo has become popular among Jewish sports personalities with athletes like Gabe Kepler and Amar'e Stoudamire getting inked with a six pointed star tattoo.

The six pointed star isn't unique to Judaism, however, as it is also found in cosmological diagrams in Hinduism and Buddhism. It has also been used as a symbol is Western occultism which sometimes has followers with a proclivity towards getting tattooed.

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There are also seven, eight and nine pointed stars which have their own meanings in tattoo symbolism:

  • The seven-pointed star, or heptagram, is not as common as the pentagram or the Star of David. However, it is is full of symbolism, particularly in relation to the seven Chakras. Seven is historically considered to be a Kabbalistic number, so a tattoo of a seven-pointed star symbolises integration and the mystical powers that we possess. It was also used in Christianity to represent the 7 days of creation.
  • The eight-pointed star is also used in tattoos. This symbol held great importance in Ancient Egypt, representing eight of their Gods during the sixth dynasty of the Pharaohs. At present it symbolises fulfilment and regeneration, making it a strong image to choose for a tattoo.
What Is the Meaning Behind Star Tattoos? - Step 8

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nomo bo
It means the tattoo bearer is trash. The more stars, the trashier the bearer. Simple.

What Is the Meaning Behind Star Tattoos?
Image: tatuajesdeestrellas.com
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What Is the Meaning Behind Star Tattoos?

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