The Symbolism and Meaning Behind a Cross Tattoo

The cross is an extremely popular tattoo design in this day and age, and it has been used and acquired for many decades. 

The Symbolism and Meaning Behind a Cross Tattoo
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Due to it being a symbol that has undoubtedly stood the test of time, it has been a popular design chosen by several men and women alike over the years. The emblem has a broad spectrum of connotations held to it that are not entirely symbolic of religion. 

When incorporated as a tattoo design, the cross can represent dedication, self sacrifice, liberation from oppression, familial love, as well as a variety of several other topics and values held by an individual.

The manner of which the tattoo is inked, on the other hand,  also contributes to the meaning conveyed by the design: you can personalise your own design so that it is completely personal to you, adding different features to the tattoo that have their own personal meanings, depending on your chosen tattoo artist’s abilities.

The Symbolism and Meaning Behind a Cross Tattoo
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You may decide to get a cross tattoo for religious reasons, or perhaps you have another separate, more personal connection to the symbol.

Either way, if you are reading this article, the likelihood is that you would like to delve deeper into the overall meaning of the cross, wanting to learn more about what it really represents, and what it means to have one.

If you already have a cross tattooed onto your body, you may be interested in what others think when they view it.

Well, you are in luck. Today, we are going to be looking at the symbolism and the meaning behind a cross tattoo. 

So, let’s get into it.

The Symbolism and Meaning Behind a Cross Tattoo

The Symbolism of a Cross

As we said previously, there are so many different forms of symbolism that may be connotated to the cross. These are mostly religious, but there is so much more that can be connected to the symbol itself.

Crosses may be viewed in both visions and dreams, symbolising the death of a former life and the emergence of the new.

The Crucifixion of Jesus Christ

Many people will immediately make the connection between the symbol of the cross and the crucifixion of Jesus Christ.

Jesus died on a wooden cross in the year A.D. 33, according to the New Testament. This happened when several Jewish leaders persuaded Pontius Pilate, the ruler of Judea, to crucify Him.

Before the crucifixion, Roman guards had intensively wounded him before anointing him with a crown of thorns (which later became another extensive religious symbol in Christianity). 

Jesus was made to carry the very cross on which He was to perish to the location of where he was to die. He was then nailed to that cross by his hands and feet, and eventually died after enduring many hours of torture and extreme pain.

The Symbolism and Meaning Behind a Cross Tattoo
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He died on the Friday, but was discovered to have come back to life on the Sunday, leading everyone to believe that he truly was the son of God.

According to Christian belief, he died so that individuals who believe in Jesus Christ can be considered holy and spend forever with God.

Following Jesus’ resurrection, the cross that he died on became a symbol of His demise and rebirth. This symbol is held dearly by those who practice the Christian faith.

Water, Fire, Air, and Earth: The Four Elements of the Earth

Crosses are also frequently used to represent the earth and the external world, especially in Western civilization, due to the connotation to the four basic elements of the earth.

Water, fire, air, and earth, as we know them by name, are simply the exterior exhibited aspects of the world’s elements.

The following list named just a handful of their known manifestations, believed by Western society:

The Symbolism and Meaning Behind a Cross Tattoo
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  • Water is known to serve gravitational purposes, nourishing life forces. The positive qualities connected to this element are mildness, devotion, compassion, and placidity, whereas the negative qualities are rigidity, unstableness, and laziness.
  • Fire possesses both physically electric and artistic capabilities. The positive qualities connected to this element are courage, enthusiasm, vigorousness, and power, whereas the negative qualities are violence, jealousy, and anger.
  • Air is a separable element that allows the two primary elements, fire and water, to coexist. The positive qualities connected are kind heartedness, joy, optimism, and clarity. The negative qualities are cunningness, inconsistency, and dishonesty.
  • Earth connects the three previous elements, fire, water, and air, in diverse quantities, allowing the production of substances with various qualities. The positive qualities connected are punctuality, reliability, caution, and ambition. The negative qualities are laziness, timidity, and indifference

Each of the four arms and points of the cross represent each of the four elements. It is believed that the feminine is represented by earth and water, whereas the masculine is represented by fire and air. 

If a person has gotten a cross tattoo for non religious reasons, this may be a connotation that they have related their ink to.

The Symbolism and Meaning Behind a Cross Tattoo
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The Different Types of Cross Designs

The cross, like the circle, is one of the most basic marks humans can create. These symbols have strong and meaningful meanings, whether they were etched onto ancient cave walls back in the days of cavemen, or tattooed onto our bodies in the modern day.

Cross tattoo designs occur in a multitude of different styles, including Celtic, Catholic, Irish, and tribal. The most popular tattoo design is the wooden cross.

Some people may decide to add additional designs around the cross, such as flowers, doves, rosary beads, or a beaming ray of light. Others prefer the simplistic design of a lone cross.

Additionally, some may prefer to have a small, subtle tattoo placed on their wrist, ankle, or behind their ear, whereas others will want to display a larger image across their upper or forearm, either alone or adding to a sleeve.

There is no right or wrong placement of a cross tattoo, as long as the image is reasonably respectable: if not completely modest, some may find offence with the design, especially if it is placed on a highly visible part of the body. 

At the end of the day, it all depends on the style of the individual, and what they prefer to have on their bodies. 

The Masculine and Feminine Placements of a Cross

One of the explanations that the cross is ideal for both men and women, as we discussed before in this article while addressing the elements, is that it contains qualities of both genders.

The Symbolism and Meaning Behind a Cross Tattoo
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The feminine aspect of the cross is represented by the horizontal line, having a connection to the earth itself, while the masculine is represented by the vertical line of the cross, which is connected with the positive and creative. 

While men are generally more likely to have a larger image of the cross, perhaps somewhere on their arm or their leg, it is common for both sexes to display this symbol as a tattoo on their bodies.

Final Thoughts

This is a symbol that has a long history, dating back many, many centuries.

It is one of the most essential markings of all time, having its links to Christianity, plus having several other connotations, including its connection to the four natural elements of the Earth.

There are a variety of different reasons why you might want to get your own cross themed tattoo, whether you consider yourself to be religious or not. 

The cross is a symbol that truly transcends time and space, having existed in our collective subconscious for just about as long as anyone can remember.

It will have a different personal meaning to each person, giving every individual who has their own cross tattoo a different story to tell.

Frequently Asked Questions

Are Cross Tattoos Going Out Of Style?

The Symbolism and Meaning Behind a Cross Tattoo
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The profound meaning linked with a cross tattoo assures that it will most likely never truly go out of style.

Many people may wish to associate with the symbol of the cross since it holds such a personal, religious significance to them. 

What Are The Different Types Of Christian Tattoo Designs?

There are many types of popular Christian designs used for tattoos. The most popular designs of all time are the cross itself, rosary beads as a tattooed bracelet, and the crown of thorns. 

Among Christians, cross tattoos are extremely popular.

The symbol of the cross itself is famously known to represent the death of Jesus Christ, as he sacrificed his own life for our sins, and many followers of Christianity are proud to display the symbol on their own bodies through the form of a tattoo.

The cross has been a Christian icon for countless generations. 

What Is The Connotation Of The Cross?

It is highly possible that the most prominent connotation of the cross is as a Christian or Catholic emblem. The cross is highly valued in Christianity as the main basis of the religion is Jesus’ crucifixion, followed by his eventual resurrection from the dead.

Peter Beaker