Geometric shape tattoos are rapidly gaining in popularity, and it’s not difficult to see why. The combined use of symmetry and symbolism in these designs allows for stylish, contained designs with scope for expressing a range of values and ideas.
If you’re looking around for inspiration for your potential geometric tattoo, you’re likely to come across the term ‘sacred geometry’.
This is a concept that extends beyond the realm of tattooing and refers to ascribing symbolic meanings to geometric shapes and proportions.
The ‘sacred’ part of sacred geometry might make you think of religion and spirituality – indeed, it comes from the belief that a divine power is the geometer of the world we live in. Sacred geometry tattoos are often used symbolically to reflect certain values and principles.
History of Geometric Shape Tattoos
Geometry itself is a core part of mathematics, dating back to the 6th century BC. It was the core scientific principle behind much of ancient architecture, including Egyptian pyramids – and ancient Egyptians were among the first people to opt for geometric tattoos.
Geometric tattoos are therefore nothing new – they can be traced as far as over 2000 years ago. The oldest documented instances of geometric tattoos concern the original inhabitants of the Micronesia island complex. There, tattoos were worn as a mark of successfully reaching adulthood and proving oneself within the tribe – importantly though, only married men were allowed to be tattooed.
Since geometric tattoos tend to involve a great deal of detail and can be ruined by the slightest deviation from the pattern, it’s important to choose the right design and the right tattoo artist for the job. The structure of geometric tattoo designs depends heavily on straight lines and strategically placed dots – and as with any tattoo, the thinner the lines and the more intricate the design, the more vital it is to get it right.
There are plenty of great ideas for tattoos based in geometry out there – from bold designs with vibrant colors and strong outlines to all-black lines and dots. Whatever style you go for, your chosen tattoo artist should be able to advise you on scaling and placement of your preferred design. Luckily, the use of technology in design preparation and the tattooing process makes it much easier for the artist to make your tattoo spot-on – digitally created designs and printed stencils make the job much more straight-forward.
Geometric Tattoo Meaning
As mentioned above, geometric tattoo designs often rely heavily on symbolism. Having such a long and rich history, geometry has acquired its very own set of specific symbols and significances. Even if you haven’t got a meaning in mind that you want your tattoo to convey, it’s a good idea to get yourself acquainted with well-known symbolic meanings before getting inked – your tattoo may not represent something to you, but it will to others!
Different shapes in geometry are associated with different elements of nature and human society. Even basic shapes like circles and squares have their own significance – circles tend to represent relationships and community, while squares are associated with stability. Among more complex shapes, a dodecahedron (a 3D shape with 12 plane faces) can be used to show the contrast between complexity and unity, as can the icosahedron (20 plane faces).
The elements are also represented by specific shapes – earth is symbolized by the cube, fire by the tetrahedron, air by the octahedron, water by the icosahedron, and spirit by the dodecahedron.
Remember that you don’t need to opt for just one specific shape – all of these can be combined in different ways to represent different values and juxtapositions, creating multiple layers to your tattoo’s individual meaning. What’s amazing about this is that when you think about it, just about any sentiment or value can be expressed through nothing but lines!
When considering the topic of geometric tattoo meaning, it’s important to note that the placement can be just as meaningful as the design itself. There is a belief, particularly related to sacred geometry tattoos – those of spiritual importance – that having the tattoo done on a particular part of the body holds its own significance, and has a positive impact on health and spiritual wellbeing.
Naturally, it’ll ultimately be up to you to decide what values – if any – you want your geometric tattoo to represent and how best to express those in visual terms. However, there are a few commonly used designs which can be a good starting point for your ideas – especially because they can easily be adapted to suit your individual needs.
- Mandala geometric art – mandalas have become a highly popular element in contemporary tattoo art, at least partly due to their aesthetic value – when done well, mandala tattoos look impressive. But besides being visually pleasing, mandalas also hold high symbolic significance – they are a key religious symbol in Hinduism, representing the universe as a whole.
- Ouroboros geometric art – another common element in geometric tattoos, the Ouroboros has its roots in Greek mythology. Through depicting a dragon or serpent devouring its own tail, the Ouroboros symbolizes self-reflexivity and the circle of life and death. Double ouroboros – a symbol featuring two serpents joining each other’s opposite ends – can also be observed in ancient Greek culture, and it stands for volatility as well as opposite yet complimentary energies – a notion you may recognize as similar to that of yin and yang.
- Owl geometric art – geometric animal tattoos are among the most common combinations of geometry and more traditional designs in tattooing. While a quick online search will reveal that just about any creature can be successfully worked into geometric animal tattoos, the owl trumps them all. Owls are well-known symbols of wisdom and intelligence, while also being associated in many cultures with secretiveness and the night. Owls are often incorporated into geometric tattoos as they help add a further layer of meaning to an already complex design.
As with any tattoo, there is no single best placement for a geometric design. It all depends on your own preferences and on the size and shape of the tattoo. Common areas for geometric tattoos include:
- Shoulder/arm – the advantage of this placement is that you can choose to expose your tattoo or to cover it up when needed, for example with longer sleeves. Works great for smaller designs.
- Back – an excellent place for large designs and/or those with lots of detail. For wide designs, your back may be the only place where it can be placed without a loss in quality. Of course, you can choose to only use the top of your back or to have the design over a larger area. Keep in mind that opportunities for displaying your tattoo may be limited though!
- Chest – great for both larger designs and smaller tattoos. When deciding on where to place your tattoo on your chest area, consider whether you want it to be visible most of the time (top/middle of the chest) or hidden (lower down or to the side).
- Legs – a common placement on the legs for a geometric tattoo is the back of the calf or the side of the thigh. Again, some areas on the legs may be easier to cover up or display as needed – make sure to take this into account.
When considering the placement of your tattoo, think about the level of detail you want to include in the design. A more intricate pattern may prompt your chosen tattoo artist to scale the design up – make it larger so that all of the details can be visible.
The appeal of geometric shape tattoos is multi-layered – they not only look great, but they can also be customized to reflect specific ideas and values. Spiritual and symbolic meaning can be injected into awesome-looking designs, and there’s a huge range of options to choose from – from small to large, from monochrome to bursting with color. Take a look at the gallery for some inspiration and good luck with coming up with your own twist on a geometric tattoo!