A tattoo is a tattoo is a tattoo, right? Another example would be the swastika. Before Adolf Hitler and his Nazis stole it, the swastika actually meant good things to Native Americans (or Red Indians to people of my generation). In the East, the swastika is actually the symbol of Buddhism, one of the most peaceful religions on this planet.
So, how do you find out if your tattoo has some kind of hidden meaning? First, you need to classify your tattoo design:
- Animal, Bird, Fish, etc
- Chinese/Japanese words
Of course, Chinese and Japanese words are not so easily researched. Unless you know a native Chinese or Japanese speaker, you should give these a miss. For example, there are 2 forms of Chinese words, old Chinese and new Chinese. Old Chinese is still used in Taiwan, and by many overseas Chinese. New Chinese is used in China, and is increasingly superseding old Chinese in Singapore and Hong Kong. Additionally, old Chinese words have slightly different meanings depending on which dialect of Chinese you are speaking. Beyond the basic meanings, the same word in the mainstream Mandarin dialect (used as the standard dialect in China) could have additional meanings in Cantonese (the original main dialect in Hong Kong), or Hokkien, or Hakka (other dialects used by overseas Chinese).
Animal and bird symbols are considered significant by both psychoanalysts and astrologists/fortune-tellers. When I typed “animal symbols in dreams”, I found over 800,000 references. Among the more fascinating things I found out:
- Gold koi fish represents wealth
- White and red koi fish represents love
- Tiger represents power and energy
- Coyote represents ingenuity and resourcefulness as well as playfulness
If your tattoo design is more abstract, you could look up the Anti-Defamation League’s website. They have a pretty comprehensive list of hate symbols used by extremist groups. I found the swastika and double lightning bolt on their website. If you think the viewpoint of the Anti-Defamation League is too Jewish, you can also google for “racist symbols”. But I have to warn you that their website is well-regarded, and appears on the first page of search results.
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