Om Tattoo Guide

Temporary henna tattoo design of an Om symbol.

You've probably seen the graceful symbol that looks vaguely like a calligraphic "30" and is known as om. Hindu in origin, it represents a sacred chant and mantra in many religions and is often spoken prior to prayer and affirmations. Drawn as a Sanskrit symbol, it can be a wonderful, inspiring addition to your body art.

What Does Om Mean?

Om (also spelled as "aum") doesn't have a definitive, literal, easily explainable meaning; it's more of a feeling—a way of experiencing, expressing, and describing the oneness of spirit in the universe.

According to ancient traditions, om is the most elemental of all utterances—the very first sound ever to occur in the universe. Because of the complexity of both its origin and meaning, it's easier to think of om as a chant that can help you reconnect with your own spirit and the forces within the universe, and the symbol as the physical representation of that. Its deeply spiritual, highly subjective meaning has made om a popular print on clothing, yoga mats, coffee mugs, and other small treasures—and a frequent choice as tattoo art.

Why Get an Om Tattoo?

For those who value the om symbol for more than just its graceful curves, it can carry significant, beautiful meaning as a tattoo. You do not have to be of a particular religion or faith to wear it. Anyone who appreciates this sacred chant, the value of spirituality, and the notion of oneness with the universe would likely enjoy this as body art.

It also makes for an interesting conversation-starter with others who are curious about its meaning.

Placement of an Om Tattoo

Deciding on tattoo placement is a fundamental step in getting body art, regardless of the design. If you choose to get an om tattoo, you'll likely want to place the symbol where you can see it easily, especially if you would like to meditate or otherwise devote time daily to its affirmation.

The inner wrist, forearm, foot, and thigh make splendid choices; this is especially true if you take part in movement classes such as yoga or pilates, where you and others can catch a glimpse of the peaceful symbol. Other locations, such as the nape of the neck and on the shoulder blade, can serve as pleasant, interesting spiritual nudges to others and can give you the satisfaction inherent in that. Because om is usually chanted three times, a triple om tattoo is a popular choice among those most familiar with its meaning.

Avoid Tattoo Trends

Tattooing, by nature, invites trends. From owls and feathers to mustaches and Russian nesting dolls, there will always be some new design that captures the attention of the masses. This is especially true for positive symbols that both encourage and inspire. After all, who doesn't need a daily dose of inspiration? As an ancient symbol of peace, harmony, and existence, however, om is a classic, enduring tattoo choice, rather than an artsy trend. It represents a timeless, eternal idea of unity that transcends the whims of pop culture.

Sanskrit tattoos, in general, are interesting and meaningful—one of the many reasons people opt for them. Their nature demands that you understand their meanings and be authentic to yourself in choosing them.

In this way, your tattoo can move and inspire you, as all good art does. Consider, too, that you'll likely be explaining the meaning of om for the rest of your life to others who see your tattoo. If you're OK with that, then an om tattoo might be a great choice for you.

Temporary Om Tattoos

If you've decided you love the significance and artfulness of this ancient Sanskrit symbol but aren't ready to commit to the permanence of a conventional tattoo, you can wear the om in other ways, as well. Many people consider temporary or henna tattoo options for their om symbols. This can be an inspiring idea for ceremonies such as weddings and rites of passage; gatherings such as spiritual conventions and conferences; and practices such as yoga and meditation. Any situation in which you would like to express the universal sound without making a permanent mark on your physical body is ideal for a temporary om tattoo.