While not all tattoos have to have meaning, many get inked with meanings behind them. Most of those meanings are represented through symbols of good luck. However, some of these symbols aren’t actually lucky at all.
Some tattoo symbols are bad omens for those of certain faiths, cultures, or because of the arrangement of the tattoo itself.
Some tattoos have more universally bad energy because of the content itself. In a Bustle article, tattoo expert Lisa Barretta, author of Conscious Ink: The Hidden Meaning of Tattoos, says that "There is hidden magic in some symbols. It’s possible to have a bad emotional reaction to a tattoo if you are not familiar with the meaning of certain esoteric images. Granted, in most cases you determine what a symbol personally means to you, but there are ancient magic symbols that don’t have flexibility to be other than what they are."
Tattooing has always been considered sacred and mystical, and their power is still strong. For the superstitious or spiritual, tattoo artists warn against these certain symbols and imagery:
1. Upside Down Horseshoe
While the horseshoe is known for being a symbol of luck, there is an important distinction to make when placing your ink. Hanging a horseshoe with the ends pointing down is believed that the luck will “fall out,” thus defeating the purpose of your horseshoe.
2. Your Significant Other's Name
Ahh, the “kiss of death tattoo.” Getting your significant other's name tattooed, no matter how well your relationship is going, is considered to be the worst idea by most artists. Look to Pete Davidson and Ariana Grande for one of the most recent, and viral, celebrity-couple example. If your relationship is already failing, getting a tattoo of the other person's name won't save it.
If you want to get a tattoo honoring your relationship, there are plenty of creative alternatives, like the date of your anniversary.
3. An Upside Down Cross
While in general getting a tattoo facing you is a pet peeve of many artists, the upside down cross has a completely different meaning than when it is upright.
The symbolism of the cross holds important meaning for many people. However, similar to the horseshoe, its placement and arrangement matters if your intention isn’t for honoring the Devil.
4. Asian Characters
While the most unlucky part of getting Asian characters is that they don’t usually mean what they think you do, there are also unlucky symbols within Asian culture that many clients don’t realize. For example, placing chopsticks straight up in a bowl of rice in Chinese and Japanese cultures is evocative of food offerings left for the dead.
Other unlucky symbolisms include:
The number 4 (tetraphobia) in Chinese culture
The numbers 4 and 9 in Japanese culture
Also in Japanese culture, maternity wards numbered 43, literally means "still birth"
5. Filling In Dragon Eyes
As eyes are the windows to the soul, in Chinese culture, it is unlucky to fill in the eyes of a dragon tattoo, until the tattoo is completed. Artist advise tattooing the eyes last, as it is thought that “the dragon will feel the pain of getting tattooed once its eyes are completed and its soul intact.”
6. The Number of the Beast- 666
Also known as hexakosioihexekontahexaphobia, many witchy ones are getting 666 tattoos. This well-known symbol of bad luck is sometimes rejected by some artists, as they don’t want to mess with the negative energy that can come with delivering the ominous symbol.
“Some people who have tattooed that number, even as a joke, found that in a weird, spooky way, somehow attracted negative situations into their lives," Barretta said.
7. The Valknut
As geometric tattoos are remaining to be popular, and the triangle being a shape on the front lines of that, it is important to not interlock them in a way that evokes the valknut symbol.
The valknut consists of three interlocked triangles and is known as the death knot. Barretta warns that this is another symbol “that should not be taken lightly” as it is one of Odin's symbols associated with the dead and the battle-slain.
8. Occultism Symbols
Many symbols that seem to be design-forward actually have deeper esoteric meanings. Sigils, inscribed symbols from the Lesser Key of Solomon, are especially important to know what you’re getting into, as they are a seal created for specific magical intent.
9. Macabre Tattoos
Mythological meanings can potentially attract negative energies, and macabre imagery, such as bloody knives or dark-natured images are, by some, believed to attract “bad tattoo juju.”
10. A Black Cat
The black cat, one of the most infamous symbols of bad luck, were once praised before the Middle Ages, where people confused pagan practices with devil worship. The fanatics of this time viewed black cats as messengers of the Devil and this is when all the superstition around black cats began. Some superstitious artists may be hesitant to brand you with a black cat. Especially under a ladder, licking spilled salt.
Even if you don't believe in these meanings, it is worth understanding the roots of the symbol and image you are getting tattooed on you. Or, take the risk *cue ominous music.*