The Mayans were an ancient race of Mesoamericans. People of the Mayan civilization lived on the southern tip of North America in Honduras, Guatemala and El Salvador. The Mayan race started around 2600BC, so of course the names of countries that we are familiar with now didn’t exist then. The Mayans were an incredibly artistic people, and their art works have become popular choices for tattoo designs.
The Meaning of Maya Tattoos
Mayan art reached its peak between 200 and 900 AD. The Mayan art that we admire today is largely made up of ancient hieroglyphics, painted wall murals and carved sculptures because the more delicate arts of weaving and feather work have disintegrated. The hieroglyphics and wall paintings were often found inside buildings, whereas the sculptures were found adorning the exterior architecture of buildings. The sculptures have a distinct Maya style that has become popular in Mayan tattoo designs.
Watch Ferank Manseed Hand Poke a Hunab Ku Tattoo - video on Ratta Tattoo (opens in a new tab)
The Mayas had a written language and numerical system. Maya glyphs (pictoral words) were placed beside each other to create a sentence. The Maya glyphs are still being translated, and it is believed that some of the meanings that we currently apply to certain glyphs may be wrong. Mayan glyph tattoos generally refer to things such as the four elements of earth, air, fire and water or spirits, gods and animals. The written language of the Mayans changed from one area to another, so although two symbols may look slightly different in different parts of the Mayan empire, the meaning remains the same.
Mayan designs often included animals such as eagles, jaguars and snakes. Each of these animals is a totem animal, meaning that it has spiritual meaning to human beings. Eagles are a symbol of power, foresight, flight and ferocity. Jaguars are a symbol of strength, stealth, agility and great hunting skills. Snakes and serpents were associated with the sky and spirituality and were often depicted with wings in Mayan art. The distinctly Mayan art style looks great in tattoo designs either as a simple, outlined glyph or a color tattoo with shading.
The Mayans were a deeply spiritual race. They created hundreds of symbols to express spiritual ideas and beliefs, such as the balance of life and the magic of the gods. Today we speak of day and night simply as times of the day in which our world is either light or dark. During Mayan times, the word “night” also meant darkness, danger and blindness. “Sun” also meant awareness, warmth and a life giving force. So while one word has a small meaning for us modern human beings, in ancient Maya, each word held a wealth of importance and meaning.
Mayan Calender Tattoos Predict the End of the World
The peoples of mesoamerica created several different calendars, each of which measured time in a slightly different way. One of the most popular Mayan calenders used in tattoo designs is the tzolkin calender, which is based on a 260 day count. The tzolkin was combined with a 365 day solar year to form the calender round. Some tribes in the Guatemalan highlands still use this calender today.
Choosing or Creating a Maya Tattoo Design
Mayan tattoos are perfect for people who have ancestors in the Mayan region and for people who respect and admire the ancient Mayans. Speak to your tattoo artist about which Mayan symbol works best for you and be willing to compromise on the design. Some of the Mayan symbols contain detail that won’t work in small tattoos as the ink will spread under the skin, blurring the tattoo over time. You may need to be willing to allow the tattoo artist to tweak the design. Click this link to learn how to “write” in the Mayan language. You can then use this phrase or word as your Mayan tattoo design.