Cross designs are incredibly popular tattoo choices. Because of its simplicity, the cross design can be decorated or combined with other designs to create highly meaningful, symbolic tattoos. Crosses have appeared in religions throughout history and have a wealth of symbolism.
The History of the Cross Symbol
The cross is one of the most ancient human symbols, used for depicting a human idea, such as dividing the world into four elements (earth, air, fire and water) or directions (north, south, east and west). A cross is a very simple symbol, made up of two intersecting lines, one horizontal, the other vertical, and has been used as a religious and cultural symbol for centuries.
Cross-shaped incisions have been found in many European caves, dating back to ancient times. These crosses often appear in circles and are referred to as a solar cross. This design developed over time, becoming more ornate and decorative, until the Celtic cross was born. The Celtic cross is also referred to as the wheel cross or ring cross and began to appear in western Europe around 5AD. It is believed that in Celtic culture, the + sign was a symbol of man and masculinity, while the circle was a symbol for woman and life. The joining of these two symbols created a sign that represented fertility, the future and a balance between the male and female elements of the world.
Types of Cross Tattoo Designs
The ancient Egyptian cross, the ankh, is also called the “key of life” because the cross resembles a key. The upper arm (or north point of the cross) is a loop that resembles a human head. The ankh is a symbol of life and humanity, represented by the “head”, “arms” and “legs” that resemble a human body. Ankh crosses were often inscribed into ancient Egyptian tombs as a way to encourage the deities of the afterlife to grant the mummified corpse new life. Because of this, the ankh has come to symbolize the afterlife and rising up again after a destructive event. The ankh is a highly symbolic tattoo design that can be inked as a simple symbol or included in a more detailed design.
The Celtic cross is one of the most popular cross tattoo designs and is often used as a symbol for either paganism or Christianity, an ironic movement in body art design, as both of these religious sects are prone to denying any connection with one another. Celtic cross tattoo designs often include Celtic knots – interweaving patterns that have no beginning and no end. Celtic knots are eternally interlinked, each link relying on another part of the design to stay in place. This is a symbol of the symbiotic nature of life, how women cannot survive without men and vice versa, that in order to take, one must also give.
The Christian cross design may have its roots in pagan symbolism. The Christian cross is similar to both the Egyptian and Celtic crosses, as it’s lower arm (or southern arm) is longer than the others, symbolizing humanity. The act of crucifying someone (suspending them from wooden cross bars) was a punishment used by ancient Romans and Celts alike and continued by Christians. A tattoo of the Christian cross is a celebration of the Christian religion and a sign of Christ’s crucifixion.
A simple cross tattoo design that is gaining in popularity is the Bolgar cross, also known as Woden’s cross, the solar cross or simply a sunwheel. This is the symbol used by cavemen of the neolithic era, and is used in modern times by Native Americans as a simple symbol of the medicine wheel. It is also used by modern pagans to represent neopagan beliefs, in which ancient religions are given new credence in the modern era.
Crucifixes are small items of jewelry shaped to look like the Christian cross. This is carried by many Christians as a symbol of luck, hope, faith and prayer. Roman Catholics sometimes carry rosary beads, a string of beads accompanied by a cross. Rosary beads are sometimes referred to as prayer beads, as they are used while saying prayers and worshiping Mary, the the Mother of Jesus Christ.