Mayan Tattoos Symbols- The Top 5 Things You Need to Know

Mayan tattoos symbols are popular across the globe. Tattooing was a culture practiced by communities all over Mesoamerica before the Spanish invasion. However, the ancient Maya were more into the idea of tattoos than the rest of the Mesoamerican people.

The Mayans are the most talked-about ancient civilization in native America. The most visible evidence of the Maya tattooing tradition can be found in the writings of Spanish chroniclers in the 16th century.

Big Mayan Tattoos

Mayan Body Art

According to historical writings, the Mayans were a very civilized ancient civilization. Tattoos were one of the many body modifications they believed brought them closer to the gods.

The Mayans also filed their teeth, pierced their bodies, and deformed a baby’s skull to have an elongated shape in some special situations. Although all these were part of the Mayan culture, tattooing remained the most popular since it was complex, and there was a high risk of getting sick afterward.

Maya men used to tattoo their bodies and faces after getting married. On the other hand, women had more delicate tattoos on their upper body parts, excluding their breasts. Unlike the boys, ladies were permitted to get tattoos early.

In Mayan culture, your tattoo design was a sign of prestige. The Mayan civilization also used tattoos as a form of punishment. There are a few things to know about Mayan tattoos.

Mayan Tattoos Are Painful and Time-Consuming

The Mayan people considered those with tattoo designs to be bold and brave. This is because the process of getting these tattoos was painful. Mayan people were encouraged to get tattoos, but many did not.

Getting a Mayan tattoo was time-consuming. It involved the tattoo artist working carefully, step by step, to develop a tattoo design. People used to get sick during the process from skin infections and needed time to recover. It involved the tattoo artist covering the body part where the tattoo was to be drawn with color.

Afterward, the tattoo artist pierced the pictures into the skin. It ensured that the blood and color left outlines on the body. The process was done in intervals because of the pain. Despite all this, the Mayan people loved body modifications, and the pain was considered part of the process in honor of the gods.

The Mayan Tattoo Symbols had Deeper Meaning

The Mayan people were deeply religious; their tattoo art had a deeper meaning. To begin with, tattoos identify their social status, specific skills, and spiritual might. The Mayan civilization also viewed tattoos as a sacrifice to their gods.

The tattoo art was also used as a symbol to represent their totem animals or gods, who would permeate their lives with some power.

The Mayans Honored Their Gods Through Tattoos

The Spaniards were initially scared of the tattooed Mayans when they first saw them. A Spaniard was stranded among the Mayans after a shipwreck and decided to stay with the Mayans after having his face tattooed and his ears pierced.

The Mayan gods were an essential part of the Mayan culture. They honored their gods through symbols, sometimes depicted as tattoo art and carved on stones. These carvings were instrumental in allowing archeologists and researchers to comprehend the Mayan culture. Mayan writing consists of symbols known as glyphs.

Glyphs of animals were considered influential in the Mayan civilization, particularly the jaguar and the eagle. The Mayans believed that having god tattoos on their bodies helped them absorb the qualities of those deities, ensure their spiritual development, and achieve inner peace.

Different gods were associated with various traits and elements. Some Mayan symbols were considered very important, and they include:


It was a feathered serpent god known to the rest of Mesoamerican societies, like the Olmecs and the Aztecs, under varying names. Kukulkan is mentioned as the creator of the cosmos in the Papul Vun and the Kiche Maya sacred books.

The Kukulkan is also known as the Vision Serpent. The feathers represent the god soaring in the heavens, while as a serpent, the god can also travel on earth. Kukulkan cult temples can be found in Mayapan, Uxmal, and Chicken Itza during the Post-Classical period.

The serpent cult stresses the importance of peaceful trade and good communication between cultures. The symbol also represents renewal and rebirth because a snake shades its skin.


The jaguar was a powerful Mayan symbol that embodied strength, valor, and ferocity. Big cats have perfect vision at night, which means the symbol also represents perception and foresight. The jaguar ruled the day and night celestial forces in the Mayan underworld. This means the symbol represents confidence, control, and leadership.

During the war, the warriors in Mayan society wore jaguar skins to signify distinction and bravery. In a religious context, the jaguar was second to the Kukulkan in terms of importance, according to the Mayan people.

Did you know the Jaguar was a very important symbol in Ancient Mexican culture too?

Hunab Ku

Hunab Ku refers to the only deity according to the Yucatec Mayan language. The term first appeared in texts written after the Spanish invasion in the 16th century, such as Chilam Balam. The deity is associated with Itzama (the Mayan creator god).

The Mayan scholars support the idea that the Spanish conquerors championed the idea of a sovereign deity ruling over the other gods to convert the polytheistic Mayans to Christianity.

The myth of this god was popularized by one of Hunbatz’s men, who viewed it as a formidable Mayan symbol, linked it with the Milky Way, and zeroed the number. He referred to it as the only source of measurement and movement.

The Mayan scholars believe there was no Hunab Ku representation in the pre-colonial era, but the modern Mayans have adopted that symbol to represent a universal consciousness. Which makes it a popular Mayan tattoo design.

Mayan Tattoos

Mayan Tattoos Were a Status Symbol

Having a tattoo meant you were brave because you had to be exposed to a lot of pain and danger associated with those body markings.

You gained respect by having body tattoos. Different tattoo designs signified different social statuses; some were for elders, and others were for young warriors. Other tattoos were used to illustrate the transition from one stage of life to the next.

Mayan Tattoos Were Used as a Form of Punishment

The Mayan tattoo art was used as a status symbol and punishment. When someone from a particular class was found guilty of stealing, their cheeks were tattooed with designs that illustrated their misdeeds.

The tattoos were meant to ensure that everyone in the community knew who the thieves were. The Mayans also tattooed their enemies after capture instead of killing them. They tattooed their enemies to warn them not to attack again and show their might.

Mayan Tattoo Meaning

Most people get art tattoos from the Mayan culture without knowing their significance. These tattoo designs have a symbolic meaning. Therefore, you must research the best tattoo design to make your image more attractive.

Mayan tattoos vary, but there are common meanings related to these tattoos. A good example is devotion, which has a common meaning because Mayans normally have it to show their loyalty to their deities and the Mayan culture.

The Mayans also use tattoos to illustrate the unity of all living creatures because they respect all the world’s living organisms, which means having one of their tattoos will also mean the same. Body art has been used for centuries and has always had a spiritual and religious significance in Native America.

In Mayan civilization, the male and female offspring used to be marked with images of Mayan gods and warriors as a symbol of protection. These symbols can help you come up with good tattoo ideas.

The myths and misconceptions concerning tattoos have been debunked in most parts of the United States. Tattoos are perceived differently across the world. Some tattoos symbolize purity, while in other societies, they may have different meanings.

Leave a Comment