Inspired By History, Hieroglyphs and Heroes
“Images are nearer reality than cold definitions.”
(Ancient Egyptian Proverb)
Some way or another, the culture, history, architecture, religion and people
of Egypt have all influenced modern global society at large. As more time passes,
and archaeologists unearth the answers to this timeless land’s ancient
mysteries, we will continue to discover more and more of an Egyptian leaning
in our own everyday lives and cultures.
Egyptian lore and history thrive in our museums, on Discovery channel specials,
in growing number of books, magazines and other publications; so too, has it
invaded the studios of tattoo artists and graphics designers across our country,
and the rest of the globe!
Is it really any wonder?
With traditions and myths starring colorful, captivating gods and goddesses
who are half-human and half-animal, it’s hard not to find yourself absorbed
in the richness and wonder of it all. Add to that the paradoxical nature of
this fertile desert region; with the view of towering pyramids in the distance
and the opulence of the oasis paradise and the world of Egypt can have a nearly
narcotic effect. Hieroglyphics spell out stories of the pharaohs and their trials,
tribulations and endings. They whisper of the Book of the dead and the wisdom
needed to complete your journey from life and into what comes next. Suddenly
you find yourself face to face with a world populated by the Sphinx and the
phoenix; the scarab and the long sinewy cat, under the backdrop of towering,
If you hear the din of haggling market vendors and your nose is assaulted by
the sweat, the camels, and the food- if you can feel the hot sand through the
sandals that cover your feet, and your eyes are watering from the sandy grit…if
you can already picture yourself here, it might just be time to consider getting
an Egyptian tattoo design.
An Amazing Cast of Characters
Gods, goddesses and their human counterparts, the pharaohs, have a long, well
documented history in the artwork of ancient Egypt. Because the Egyptian style
of ink art is so captivating and vivid, and lends itself to being easily adapted
to suit personal tastes, these same figures have a tendency to taking starring
roles in the world of Egyptian tattoo design.
Some of the most common mythological and historical subjects are listed and
- Isis. (Woman with a headdress in the shape of
a temple) A protective goddess, married to Osiris and mother to Horus. She
used her magical potions to help people.
- Osiris. (A mummified man wearing a white, cone-like
headdress that is decorated with feathers) God of the dead and ruler of the
- Horus. (“the One Far Above”, the
Hawk God, shown with a human body and a hawk’s head) His eye is also
a popular image in Egyptian tattoo. Horus is the god of the sky. It is said
that the pharaoh is a “living Horus”.
- Bastet. (A woman with the head of a cat) Daughter
of the sun god Ra, Bastet was a gentle healing and protective goddess whose
symbol was the cat.
- Amun. (A man with a ram head; or a ram-man with
an ostrich plumed headdress.) One of the most powerful of the Egyptian gods.
- Amun Ra. (Amun combined with the sun god) As
this god, Amun Ra was the supremely powerful god of the Egyptian culture.
- Set(h). (Man with a head of a “Seth animal”,
a creature we don’t recognize). Seth represented everything that threatened
harmony in the land of Egypt.
- Cleopatra. (Famous for her affair with Mark Anthony)
- Ramses I and II.
- Tutankhamen. (“King Tut”, the boy
However, these weren’t by only means the only important mythical and
historical influences of their time. There were also the wonderful mythical
(and real) creatures of the Egyptian culture that would shape their art, and
through that, modern tattoo designs based on ancient Egyptian designs.
Such symbols that have inspired modern Egyptian tattoo designs include: hieroglyphics
(the pictographic language of the Egyptians), sphinxes (creatures with a lions
body and a human head, but also include creatures with a ram or hawk head on
a lion’s body), phoenixes (birdlike creatures, sometimes with human qualities
that represented regeneration due to their constant cycle of death and rebirth)
and animals like cats (known in the Egyptian language as “mau”),
camels and scarab beetles.
Other popular images in the world of Egyptian tattoo design are those derived
from the magical amulets of the Egyptian religion. This included ankhs (an ancient
symbol for both physical and eternal life), the eye of Horus, cobras, pillars
and other interesting objects.
The History of Tattoo in Ancient Egypt
One of the most famous surviving artifacts that testify to the practice of
tattooing in ancient Egyptian culture is the mummy of Amunet. This woman was
a priestess of the goddess Hathor (the goddess of joy, motherhood, love, music
and dancing) and was discovered in Thebes. Her remains display several intricate
lines and dots tattooed on her body in a common religious design. In fact, it
would be from Egypt that the art of tattooing would travel across the world
to appear, disappear and reappear throughout recorded history.
Today, tattoos are incredibly popular among the Western cultures, but are frowned
upon largely in Egypt because the practice is avoided by Muslims.
Regardless of where you go looking for them, it won’t be too long before
you find an Egyptian style tattoo design. Whether you find a woman with the
eye of Horus decorating her shoulder or a man with a scarab beetle scuttling
across his back, much like the ancient artifacts that witness to their power
across the ages, modern Egyptian tattoos are just waiting to be unearthed and
Show me more Egyptian Tattoo Designs