Nautical Star Tattoos – The Original Meaning

Nautical star tattoos have caused much controversy and heated discussion regarding the true meaning of the design. Over the years, many groups have attempted to tag the design with their own unique interpretation. In addition to the nautical connection, this popular tattoo design has been connected to the military, punk rockers, the lesbian community and the anti-racism movement in recent years.

But what are the origins of the nautical star tattoo? Where did it come from and what did it originally represent?

Almost everybody, without exception, accepts that sailors were the first group of people to wear nautical star tattoos.

In previous centuries, working at sea was a very dangerous and unpredicatable way of life. Sailors had very little to guide them at night, apart from the stars. And the one that they relied upon most was Polaris, or the North Star. As this star is positioned close to the north pole, it appears to be stationary at all times, unlike other stars which appear to move as time passes. This provided early sailors with a fixed reference point. And once they know where the North Star was, they could position their ships accordingly and be reasonably confident that they were going in the right direction.

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Over time the North Star became a symbol for finding your way home safely and symbolically finding your way in life. But beyond that, as many sailors were deeply superstitious with a rich history of lore about life and death at sea, they were always looking for lucky charms. So many sailors began to place nautical star tattoos on their forearms or hands as a symbol of good luck and a desire to get home safely.

Skip forward through the centuries and the meaning of the nautical star tattoo has become broader. Not only is it a symbol of the sea, but also a sign of security and guidance for all sailors and travelers. It has also become a sign of following your dreams and achieving success in your life.

However, these is some disagreement concerning the design of the nautical star. Most people accept that the basic design of the nautical star is a five pointed star. But a minority of people claim that the nautical star represents the traditional design of a ship’s compass. This consists of the four cardinal directions, North, South, East, West, and possibly the intermediate directions of North East, South East, South West and North West. So their idea of the nautical star is a four pointed design or even an eight pointed star.

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Personally, I think that the five pointed star best represents the design of the nautical star tattoo, especially when you consider that on many nautical maps, north is shown by a compass style five pointed star.

But whatever style of design is selected, one thing is clear; the nautical star has had a long connection with naval tradition and was originally a symbol of finding your way home safely. And while other groups may attempt to link themselves to the use of the nautical star tattoo, the sailors of bygone centuries will always retain the distinction of representing the original interpretation of this iconic tattoo design.

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by Gustavo Gomez