Aztec Tattoos – Meanings and Symbolisms

If you’re looking to get an Aztec tattoo then you’ve got plenty of different designs and meanings to choose from.

Aztec Tattoos - Meanings and Symbolisms
Image: @pry1tattoos

The Aztec culture has been around for centuries and has developed many different meanings. Tattoos are often used as a way of expressing the Aztec culture and letting it live on through body art.

With so many different options and meanings comes a lot of decisions to make on things like design and what you want it to mean to you. That being said, we’ve researched so you don’t have to!

Aztec Tattoos - Meanings and Symbolisms

Who Were the Aztecs?

The Aztecs were Native American people, dominating northern Mexico during the Spanish conquest in the early 16th Century. Before settling in Mexico the Aztecs moved around Central America, setting up different societies and settlements.

The present-day descendants of the Aztecs are referred to as the Nahua, with more than one-and-a-half million living in small communities in large areas of rural Mexico. 

Aztec Tattoos - Meanings and Symbolisms
Image: @fer703

When the Spanish invaded, the Aztecs suffered largely due to a smallpox outbreak, which the Spanish brought with them.

Due to the Spanish invaders’ intentions, a lot of the Aztecs were killed for their lands and their resources. The Aztecs were a warrior culture, becoming the most important and powerful people in Mesoamerica in the 15th Century.

Reasons for Getting an Aztec Tattoo

There are many reasons for those wanting to get an Aztec tattoo. One of these is for cultural connections.

Those with Aztec blood running through their veins may want to get their heritage inked on their body as a way of staying in touch with their ancestry.

To a lot of people, having something like this is a great way of remembering where they came from and their family’s history.

Other people will want to get an Aztec tattoo if they are interested in the culture and want to learn more about the Native American people.

Aztec Tattoos - Meanings and Symbolisms
Image: @houstontattoo.bong

There are many different types of tribal art to get tattooed on your body, with the Aztec symbols representing different things throughout the ancient culture.

For example, the Aztec Eagle is a symbol of strength, reminding someone that they’re stronger than they think, or it can be a representation of power.

On top of this, the Aztec Eagle can represent courage and honor, with many of the Aztec warriors wearing these tattoos to show to their tribe that they belong there and that they’re an important member of their society.

Another Aztec symbol that is frequently seen in the form of a tattoo is the butterfly. The insect is seen as a representation of transformation.

As a caterpillar transforms into a butterfly, so do we. It symbolizes moving into a new phase of your life and changing as a person, for the better. 

Whilst they were about, the Aztecs would often wear tattoos as a sign of passing rituals, honoring Gods of their choice. Their body art was used to differentiate between separate tribes and to display a warrior’s reputation.

Aztec tattoos were mainly in black or grey ink and formed a tribal pattern of some sort.

They were often personified with a skeleton, a warrior’s face, a skull, or a woman. A lot of these were accompanied by a headdress, which was a symbol of great status.

Other times the tattoos featured animals, which often represent deities and gods, such as the Aztec dragon tattoo, which represents Quetzalcoatl. 

When the tattoos feature writing and other glyphs, they are often there to represent sounds, words, and letters. They were used to express messages, whether it was on walls, religious artifacts, or in everyday life.

Aztec Tattoos - Meanings and Symbolisms

Aztec Skull Tattoo

Unlike a lot of their negative connotations in modern civilization, skeletons and skulls have a positive meaning in Aztec culture.

They can mean a lot of things, such as life, fertility, childbirth, and strength. However, they’re also associated with great things and eternity. The skull tattoo can be seen with feathers on its head and often with gold and other resources alongside. 

Quetzalcoatl – the Aztec Dragon Tattoo

A lot of these tattoos are seen as a serpent god, Quetzalcoatl, the Feathered-Serpent deity of ancient Mesoamerican culture.

He is seen as a cultural hero, whom a lot of Nahuan people claim descent. This tattoo can also represent a love of life and great luck throughout someone’s time on this Earth.

The tattoo is often displayed with bright colors and represents many different things to different people.

Quetzalcoatl is the Aztec God of learning, art, dawn, and fertility. This design requires a lot of detail and would probably need to be a large size on your body, due to the intricacy and all of the different aspects included in the piece.

Huītzilōpōchtli – the Aztec Sun God

Huītzilōpōchtli was the Aztec god of the sun and the god of war. Tattoos of this particular deity represent an individual’s belief in the afterlife.

This is because, in the Aztec culture, the rising and the setting of the sun was said to be evidential proof of life after death –  the ability to move on to another world once you’d left this one.

Aztec Tattoos - Meanings and Symbolisms
Image: @mum_ink

The portrayal of Huītzilōpōchtli is usually as a round, circular face often with big eyes and an outstretched tongue. With teeth on display and sun rays around the face, this design requires a lot of detail.

Mictlantecuhtli – the Aztec Death God

On the other hand, some people opt to choose the tattoo design of Mictlantecuhtli. This deity is the Aztec god of death and the god of the dead – also known as the King of Mictlan, the deepest part of the underworld.

Usually portrayed with a skull head, he was a hugely important god in Aztec culture as all souls would eventually come face-to-face with Mictlantecuhtli – representing the certainty of death and passing into the afterlife.

Final Thoughts

The decision to get Aztec-inspired ink is a big one and requires a lot of thought. It helps if you have a knowledge of the culture and of the deities and gods that the Aztecs worshipped.

For example, getting a tattoo of the sun god can mean a completely different thing than getting a tattoo of the god of death.

Most Aztec designs are intricate and colorful and require a lot of time and effort, so make your decision wisely!

Frequently Asked Questions

What do Aztec Tattoos Represent?

We can tell from historical findings that the Aztecs practiced body art because similar designs were often found on objects and monuments from the same era.

They represent the social status of warriors, shamans, and other important entities within society.

Aztec Tattoos - Meanings and Symbolisms

Can anyone get an Aztec tattoo?

Many of those who choose to get an Aztec tattoo, do so for cultural and racial reasons. This is so they can preserve their connection with their past and their ancestors.

It’s for this reason that it’s important to be respectful if getting an Aztec tattoo if you’re not of Aztec descent, making sure that your reasonings and meanings are good.

What do Aztec Symbols Mean?

Aztec symbols were a component of material culture in which Aztec society expressed an ancient understanding of the immortal and immaterial world. These symbols were also used to express perceptions and experiences in Aztec life.