Zodiac tattoos symbols are extremely popular, both for aficionados and true believers in astrological influence on our lives and for the individual who just likes the zodiac sign associated with their birthday.
The zodiac refers to a belt or strip of constellations that are centered on the e
lliptic path of the earth around the sun (though early believers, of course, thought it was the path of the sun around the earth!). This belt is divided equally into 12 sections, and there is a primary and viewable constellation pattern of stars in each of those sections. Each constellation has an image and a story behind it. Zodiac tattoo designs are artistic renderings of those twelve images.
A Brief History of the Zodiac
There is some disagreement on what the word “zodiac” actually means, but the common viewpoint is that it comes from the Greek word “zoe” (meaning “life”) and the word “diakos” (meaning “wheel”). A similar Greek word, “zoon,” means “animals” or – more correctly – “life beings.” Put together, we see the word zodiac refers to a circle of living beings, both animal and human. Other terms associated with the zodiac are generally Greek in origin, but also include Hellenistic, Arabian, Babylonian, Egyptian, and Indian (Sanskrit) langua ge and words.
Our current zodiac symbols have their roots in the ancient Middle East. Written records go back to more than 2000 B.C., but there is evidence that humans have looked to the stars earlier than that.
For example, the Great Pyramid in Egypt was built to line up with the North Star. Knowing the path of the star, astronomers can fix the date of the pyramid’s construction to approximately 4700 B.C.
The study of the stars most likely began in ancient Mesopotamia (now Iraq). The Babylonians developed an early form of writing, known as cuneiform, and began to record their stargazing predictions. At that time, astrological readings were conducted only to benefit the king.
The Egyptians broadened the application, focused mainly around Ra, their sun god. It was Claudius Ptolemy, a Greek scholar and astronomer living in Egypt, who blended the Mesopotamian and Greek views to develop astrology as we now know it. Surprisingly, very little has changed in the images or interpretations since those early days.
Interesting Zodiac Facts
People today like to look at their horoscope in the newspaper, to see what suggestions their astrological sign might have for them. The word “horoscope” also comes from the ancient Greek, and roughly means “look at the hour,” i.e. compare the hour you were born to the placement of the stars in the sky.
When you look at a horoscope, you see that it begins with advice for Aries birthdays (March 21-April 19). Ptolemy fixed his astrological year at the vernal equinox, or the start of spring. Since the zodiac was about life, it made sense to link it to the time of the year when new things started to grow. Our current use of January as the start of the year is a modern day practice by comparison, having been around since only 46 B.C.
When Ptolemy first created his astrological calendar, the constellations selected were correctly aligned overhead. Since constellation paths change over time, the actual stars in the sky no longer match up with the dates associated with them. The rotation moves backward (called equinoctial precession). Now, when we celebrate birthday parties for those born under Aries, the Pisces constellation (soon to move backward to Aquariu
s) is actually overhead! The stars should properly realign themselves in just under 26,000 years!
Zodiac Tattoo Designs
As you think about your zodiac tattoos designs, there are some points you can consider. First, do you want a zodiac tattoo of the image associated with the constellation (e.g. Aries is a ram), or simply the letter-form glyph (sometimes called a sigul) associated with the constellation (e.g. Aries looks like a “V” with curled down tips, resembling a ram’s horns).
Each zodiac is associated with one of the four elements: earth, air, fire, or water. Each element is linked to certain personality characteristics.
Earth: uses physical body to make things happen; works hard to achieve goals
Air: all-pervasive and everywhere; tries to create unification
Fire: has independent element of self; expresses self without fear
Water: fluid and self-reflective; sensitive and emotional
One way to custom design your zodiac sign tattoo would be to include artwork representing the corresponding element within your zodiac tattoo designs. For example, Leo the lion is a fire element. How about a lion’s mane made of flames?
As you will see on the pages that follow, each zodiac symbol is also associated with a part of the body, a color, a metal, a flower, and a gem. Different sources sometimes list different characteristics or colors; we’ve included the most popular choices. (Note: some zodiac signs have both an ancient and modern-day gem association. Modern gems will be set apart in parentheses.) Each one even has a food assigned to it, which sign
-bearers are recommend to eat for optimum health! While it is not necessary to include these characteristics in your zodiac tattoos, it may help you custom design one that is truly unique. For example, Aquarius is associated with the ankles and shins, the color blue-violet, and the tulip. You could design artwork of a flowing water pitcher, decorated with blue-violet tulips, and have it tattooed on your lower leg.
The Twelve Zodiac Tattoos Pages are:
- Aries the ram, March 21-April 19
- Taurus the bull, April 20-May 20
- Gemini the twins, May 21-June 20
- Cancer the crab, June 21-July 22
- Leo the lion, July 23-August 23
- Virgo the virgin, August 24-September 23
- Libra the scales, September 24-October 22
- Scorpio the scorpion, October 23-November 21
- Sagittarius the archer, November 21-December 21
- Capricorn the (sea)goat, December 22-January 19
- Aquarius the water bearer, January 20-February 18
- Pisces the fish, February 19-March 20
Though there are also Chinese and (Eastern) Indian zodiac calendars, most of the Western world uses the twelve zodiac symbols presented here. True advocates get heavily involved with complex formulas for mapping out birth charts analyzing ascendant and descendent properties, qualities, triplicities, and quadruplicities. It is not the intent of Tattoo Meanings to instruct people in the construction of these charts. We just want to share the highlights.