Symbolism of Mermaid Tattoos

Tales and Legends That Inspire

Swimming through the Seven Seas and charming men with their siren songs, mermaids have long been a subject of myth, legend, and beauty.

There is plenty of symbolism and meaning found within the body of the mermaid and they are much more than just a pretty face. Often representing danger, temptation, sensuality and dual natures, the history and many meanings behind merfolk are clearly as deep as the oceans themselves. If you're considering a mermaid tattoo, take a look at some of the more popular associations and meanings behind these mythical creatures and get swept away in their lure.

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Ode to Sea

Phantom Surfer/Flickr/CC BY 2.0

Since our bodies are made primarily of water, it's no wonder many of us have the desire to jump ship and swim fearlessly through the vast oceans. Mermaids can signify this freedom of life and help us pay tribute to our primordial home. Singing her sweet song, the mermaid beckons us to return to the calm and at times turbulent water, yet seems to promise our protection if we follow. How tempting!

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Mermaids love to bask in the sun, comb their hair and gaze into handheld mirrors admiring their own beauty. Churches have long used the symbolism of the mermaid to depict vanity as one of the seven deadly sins. Painted swimming amongst schools of fish, and depicted in murals throughout churches to encourage Man to refrain from the Devil's ways, mermaids take on an entirely different connotation in Greek Mythology.

Rather than being associated with sin, mermaids are the admired descendants of Aphrodite and Venus, the goddesses of both love and beauty. Why not celebrate and embrace your inner and outer beauty with a mermaid tattoo?

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Of course, the mermaid has sensual power. Bare-breasted curves and long flowing hair are symbols of her feminine beauty. Adding to her loveliness, mermaids aren't shy about baring their bodies. During the Victorian era when women were deemed to be covered up and wear their hair secured into conservative styles, mermaids let their wavy tresses down, tossed the rules aside, and playfully enticed men at sea. At least in legend.

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Is it really fair to call the mermaid dangerous? Ironically it wasn't until the Victorian era that the mermaid was dubbed untrustworthy. Perhaps it was the jealous wife of a sailor who started this tale? What was once just a lovely storybook character soon became the temptress that took down ships and drowned any man who followed her lure. A good wedding or couples tattoo to encourage fidelity? Perhaps.

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Dual Nature

Always giving yet always taking away, that is the dual nature of the mermaid. As an ancient goddess, mermaids provided water for the crops, yet also contributed deadly storms and waves that resulted in mass destruction and loss of life. If you're a giver and a taker, a mermaid tattoo might help capture this essence of your character, and of course, your dangerous allure.

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Mermaids Around the World

If you're seriously considering a mermaid tattoo, you may want to research a fictional depiction of the merfolks that are celebrated around the world. There are many types of mermaids and their history and legends vary. In Russia, water spirits are called the rusalka. In Scandinavia, the Havman behaves in a kind and helpful manner. No matter what country the legends hail, most merman have the traits of fertility goddesses, likely because of their pre-Christian conceptions and from the belief that deities ruled the waters. Got your feet wet? Splash more into the world of mermaid history here.