As one of the most dominant cultures during their time, the Aztec civilization may have been decimated by the Spanish conquistadors, but their traditions, language, and way of life persist today. This is particularly true when it comes to Aztec symbols and tattoos.
This warrior civilization is alive and well today because they left much of their culture behind. From symbols to Aztec art and artifacts, anyone looking to learn about this ancient civilization can study their history through these mementos.
Aztec tattoos and symbols, in particular, are very popular today. Some of the most sought-after tattoo ideas have their roots in Aztec culture.
What Aztec Symbols and Tattoos Mean
To the Aztecs, each tattoo and each symbol had a meaning that was sacred to the individual wearing it as well as the community.
As you can imagine, the meanings varied from individual to individual, but for the most part, this is what they stood for:
- Tribe: In most cases, the markings on an individual’s body showcased their particular tribe.
- Warrior caste: The Aztecs were a warring society, focusing mostly on conquering surrounding civilizations. As such, they had castes of elite warriors divided by their prowess and specialty. The jaguar Warriors, for example, were considered the most elite caste, with the jaguar as their chosen symbol. These warriors would wear tattoos of these great cats to indicate that they belonged to the elite military caste, honor the jaguar, and ask the spirits for courage, strength, and fortitude when in battle.
- Accomplishments: In some cases, tattoos were adorned to showcase an individual’s accomplishments and what they bring to society.
- Honor the gods: The Aztecs, like many ancient cultures, had many gods and deities. Many individuals had tattoos honoring a specific deity to whom they either owed allegiance or from whom they wanted favors.
- Intimidation: For most warriors, the fiercer the Aztec warrior tattoos, the more intimidating they were to their enemies.
Whatever the reason, Aztec tribal tattoos were not only quite vibrant but also striking, making the wearer stand out from the crowd. Perhaps that’s one of the main reasons why these types of tattoos are so popular in tattoo parlors across the globe.
Pro Tips on Getting an Aztec Tattoo
Aztec tattoo designs can be either intricately complicated or simplistic, depending on what you choose. How complicated the Aztec tribal design you choose will also often determine where on your body it can be placed. With that in mind, here are some pro tips on where to get Aztec tribal tattoos.
1. Aztec Symbols and Tattoos on the Arm
When it comes to body art, such as Aztec tattoos, the arm is often an excellent location for these designs. There are several good reasons for this:
- The arm is large enough to ink intricate Aztec pieces
- There are several viable spots on the arm that you can use
- Tattooing the arm isn’t as painful as some other body parts
If you want a complicated Aztec symbol or a large tattoo design inked on your body, either one of your arms could be an excellent candidate for the job.
You have several locations you can choose from, starting with the forearm, the upper arm, or even the upper arm for people who want to have a small Aztec design that they can easily conceal when necessary. That’s the beauty of Aztec arm tattoos—you can easily show them off or cover them up when necessary.
Getting one on your forearm could be a great idea for people who want to see their Aztec tattoos every day to remind themselves of the associated symbolism. Here, the tattoo is highly visible and can be as intricate as you need it to be.
2. Aztec Symbols and Tattoos on the Chest
The chest is a particularly painful body part to tattoo; as such, any tattoos inked on your chest should ideally mean the most to you. In ancient times, chest tattoos were used to make powerful statements for that very reason. It meant that the warrior was devoted, and no physical pain was too much for them to show that devotion.
Another factor to consider when getting a chest tattoo is that this kind of tattoo is almost always going to be either fully or partially covered up by your clothes unless you intend to go bare-chested most of the time. As such, this area is often reserved for Aztec tribal tattoos with more personal meaning to the wearer.
These are tattoos that mean something to you and that you aren’t as interested in showing to the world as you are in having as part of your body art.
Aztec chest tattoos can highlight the muscle definition on your chest, as you can get something big and extremely detailed. You could also use these tattoos to channel the warrior in you, just like Aztec warriors of the past.
3. Aztec Symbols and Tattoos on the Shoulder
Aztec symbols and tattoos that go on your shoulder often signify strength. The shoulder is a big muscle often on display whenever you are doing something that requires brute strength. Ironically enough, Aztec symbols and tattoos on this part of the body can easily be covered up when you need them to be discreet.
That, coupled with the fact that the shoulder has ample space for reasonably large Aztec tattoo ideas, makes this location one of the most ideal and prominent body parts for this art.
Furthermore, Aztec tattoos inked on your shoulders don’t stand the risk of wrinkling or stretching, at least not to the degree of most other body parts. That being said, Aztec shoulder tattoos are often associated with men because they portray strength. However, they can work well on women, too, if they want to channel the strength, resilience, and gait of an Aztec woman.
4. Aztec Symbols and Tattoos on the Hand
Everybody getting tattooed has their own style and personality. Some people want the whole world to see their ink because it paints a picture of who they believe they are or want to be seen as. Others would rather have their tattoos hidden because they’re more for their personal use than for the world to see.
If you choose to have an Aztec-style tattoo on your hands, there’s a good chance that you don’t mind the whole world seeing it. Aztec hand tattoos are extremely visible and almost impossible to cover up unless you intend to wear gloves often.
These kinds of tattoos are bold, rebellious, and proud. They make a statement as soon as you walk into a room or shake someone’s hand. They will most likely ask what it means to you, making these kinds of tattoos excellent conversation starters.
Aztec symbols and tattoos inked on the hand need to mean a lot to you. This is because this part of the body is extremely painful to tattoo. The thin skin, lack of muscle mass, and proximity to the bones make the process excruciating.
Additionally, the hands have a high concentration of nerves, increasing pain sensitivity. Furthermore, hand tattoos tend to fade rather quickly, which means that you will need them retouched frequently, and each time will be just as painful as the last.
It should be mentioned that since there’s still some stigma about people who wear tattoos, choosing the hand as the right place for your Aztec art could negatively impact your ability to secure employment. This is particularly true if you have a skull or a feathered serpent tattooed there.
Even though it’s all part of ancient Aztec mythology, some employers will immediately form a bias against you without necessarily understanding what the tattoos mean to you.
That being said, if you have an Aztec design that means a lot to you, tattooing it on your hand would be a great idea as it increases your chances of looking at it daily.
5. Aztec Symbols and Tattoos on the Neck
Aztec neck tattoos are not only painful but are more often associated with aspects of rebellion. These tattoos are for people who have completely accepted their identity and aren’t bothered by what mainstream society thinks of their choices.
In the past, as it is today, Aztec tattoos and symbols on the neck can show that the wearer has a tough, edgy, and bold personality. These tattoos make a huge statement about who you are and are extremely difficult to hide once you get them. They show the world that you are not averse to taking risks and don’t conform.
When thinking of getting an Aztec symbol tattoo on your neck, you can choose to go for something small and significant, like the Aztec sun or an Aztec pattern that appeals to you. You could also go for a massive tattoo that covers the entire neck, depending on how much of a tough individual you want the world to perceive you as.
Either way, the tattoo process is going to be excruciatingly painful. It should, therefore, be worth it.
6. Aztec Symbols and Tattoos on the Back
No body part presents such an extensive canvas for your tattoo artist as your back. Not only is it big enough for almost any kind of design, but it’s also quite muscular (for men), which means that you can have a tattoo that accentuates your muscle tone as much as possible.
Back tattoos also come with many other advantages, the most significant being that you can easily cover up the tattoo when needed. If you have a boss that frowns upon body art, getting a back tattoo might be your best option.
Furthermore, the back is full of muscle, thick skin, and fat, so your tattoo experience won’t be so painful. The only problem with back tattoos is that you won’t be able to look at them and marvel at them every day unless you take a picture or aren’t concerned about twisting your neck trying to look at your back in the mirror.
Of course, you can tattoo many other body parts with Aztec art, including calves, forearms, and inner thighs—you name it. The idea is to find a spot on your body that portrays the ink in the best possible light.
Factors to Consider When Getting Aztec Symbols and Tattoos
Before you tattoo your body with Aztec symbols and art, there are certain factors you need to consider.
- Tattoo meaning: In ancient Aztec society, tattoos had meaning. The Jaguar Warriors, for example, tattooed their bodies with images of the jaguar in reverence for its strength, cunning, and determination. Tattoos were often meant to honor Aztec gods or send a message to the enemy.
- Tattoo location: Where do you want the tattoo on your body?
- Tattoo size: The tattoo’s size will often determine where it is on your body.
- Tattoo design: This is a critical factor. If you want an authentic Aztec design, you might have to consult history books, an Aztec hieroglyphics guide, or an expert in the Aztec Empire or the Aztec people. Too many tattoo artists add too much of their own flair to designs, diluting the actual meaning and authenticity.
It’s important to remember that Aztec symbols and tattoos were frequently associated with important aspects of Aztec religion and culture. While most people have found ways to mix and match these designs, being ignorant of that fact might not reflect well on you if you show your tattoo to someone conversant with the Aztec culture and history.