A rainbow is a natural phenomenon that occurs when light is reflected off droplets of water. The effect is an arc, or bow, of color that reaches across the sky. The beautiful bow of color has fascinated people for centuries, and appears in ancient stories and myths as a magical force. Rainbow tattoos can mean different things, but the sense of magic and joy created by the sight of a rainbow is what give rainbow tattoos their appeal.
Rainbow Tattoos Ink the Sky into Skin
Rainbows are generally found in a rain-filled sky, although smaller rainbows can be created by sprays of water closer to earth, such as the mist of waterfalls or in the spray of a garden sprinkler. Rainbows need air, water, and light to exist, elements that have their own symbolism and deeper meaning in tattoo art. Air is associated with freedom, truth and spirituality, water represents movement and change while light is a symbol of heaven, spirituality and clarity of thought.
The colors of a rainbow tattoo are generally referred to as ROY G BIV, red, orange, yellow, green, blue, indigo and violet. In nature, the red band of color is found on the outer side of the rainbow (also referred to as the “top” of the rainbow), but in rainbow tattoos, the order can be reversed if the client prefers it that way. Reversing a symbol can sometimes reverse the meaning, but it’s up to the tattoo owner to decide if reversing the symbol changes the original meaning of the design for them.
The Meaning of Rainbow Tattoos
Rainbows have existed in myths and legends for thousands of years. In Norse mythology, a rainbow is a bridge to Asgard, home of the Gods. The rainbow bridge was believed to only be used by Gods and those who had been killed in battle. The war-like Norse men believed that warriors would ascend to heaven on this bridge of color and light, accompanied by winged horses and beautiful goddesses and therefore dying in battle was an honorable end for any man. Surprisingly, this imagery has survived into modern time in the form of children’s cartoons such as My Little Pony, in which winged horses flit about in a rainbow-filled sky.
The rainbow symbol has become the symbol of gay and lesbian rights. A rainbow flag is often flown outside establishments that cater to homosexual people, and some gay and lesbian people wear a rainbow color badge as a symbol of their sexual preference. A rainbow tattoo can be used as a permanent “flag” for lesbians and gays, symbolizing not just their sexual preference but their choice of lifestyle too.
In Ireland, a folklore creature called a Leprechaun was said to hide a pot of gold at the end of the rainbow. It was rumored that if you could find the end of the rainbow you could keep the pot of gold. It’s impossible to reach the end of the rainbow, however, because as you move towards the bands of color, they appear to move away. This is where the phrase, “chasing rainbows” comes from, symbolizing an impossible ambition.
In Classical paintings, rainbows were a symbol of the Christian God, heaven and holiness. The depiction of a rainbow in a painting could mean a connection between the subject of the painting and God or that God is watching over the people portrayed in the painting. Because of this meaning of rainbows in paintings, the colorful phenomenon has become a symbol of peace and harmony.
Rainbow tattoos symbolize a fun loving person who isn’t necessarily gay. Rainbows in tattoo designs can symbolize a love of life and color and it can represent peace, friendship and joy. When added to other symbolic designs in a tattoo, rainbows can represent a whole range of things – it’s up to the person wearing the tattoo to decide what the design means to them.