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Cross Tattoos: What They Mean

May 27, 2008
Cross tattoos have many different meanings. Although the most obvious is religious symbolism, there are other reasons many decide on this design. Most of us associate cross tattoos with the Christian religion. Although this is often the case, these popular designs can also have other meanings. Here is a rundown of some of the most common reasons why people get cross tattoos.

Christian or Catholic symbolism plays an important role in choosing certain tattoo designs. Although Christian and Catholic symbolism is not the only basis for cross tattoos, it is a very important one. Many Christians and Catholics feel very strongly about their religious convictions and find this is a good way to express faith by placing permanent declaration of it on their body.

Christian and Catholic cross tattoos usually feature the Latin cross, which has three equal spokes pointing up and to each side, and one long spoke pointing down -- like a lower case letter T. Some Catholic tattoos feature a crucifix, which depicts Jesus being crucified on the cross.

The Celtic cross is often a combination of two different symbols: the Latin cross, and a circle. The circle is usually centered over the place where the two lines in the Latin cross intersect.

Celtic inspired tattoos combine religious and mystical symbolism from two very different cultures. The obvious one is the Christian concept of being saved from damnation. However, the circle also represents the ancient concept that is sometimes flippantly referred to as the circle of life -- the notion that life and death is cyclical and eternal.

Other Celtic crosses feature intricate Celtic knots throughout the design. Because these knots are never-ending, they carry the same symbolism as the circle. People who get Celtic cross tattoos may do so because of the Christian symbolism, the pagan symbolism, a combination thereof, or simply to express pride in their Celtic heritage.

The Maltese cross has become a popular symbol of courage and sacrifice in today's culture. For example, firefighters wear the Maltese design as a sign of their dedication to their job. This dates back to the Crusades, when the Knights of St. John, who were from Malta, fought to save their comrades from a new weapon that burned the troops alive.

The Maltese cross is an eight-pointed cross, consisting of four equal-length V-shaped prongs. Each point is said to represent a facet of heroism, such as loyalty, honesty, contempt of death, and religious faith. Therefore, Maltese cross tattoos symbolize courage and the hero's ultimate sacrifice.

The iron cross is a cross symbol that is infamous for its connection with the German military. The symbol, which has four equal prongs that flare out at each end, was first used by the German military in 1870. Although it was only a symbol of the armed forces back then, over time the iron cross was used as a military decoration during times of war. As a result, these designs are now strongly associated with military valor and German history.

As you can see, there are many different kinds of cross tattoos, with different meanings attributed to each. Crosses have been a revered symbol since long before Christianity; therefore the symbolism of these tattoos can range from pagan or Christian, to more general values such as courage.
About the Author
Andy West is a freelance writer for bullseyetattoos.com. Bullseye offers an extensive collection of cross tattoos and thousands of other original tattoo designs.
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