What were traditional nautical tattoos and piercings sailors got and why?

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Traditional Tattoos and Piercings I believe that tattoos originated after James Cooke first arrived on Tahiti. Tattooing was very popular in the South Pacific. Fletcher Christian and George Stewart of Mutiny on the Bounty fame both had stars tattooed on the left of their chests. Perhaps these were early Nautical Stars.
FAQ Farmers have offered these:
  • Sailors got their ears pierced because it helps improve eyesight (I think its an acupuncture site).
  • A black pearl earring for survivors of a sinking ship .
  • Golden earrings were used as a means of ensuring they were buried properly should they die at sea or in a foreign port.
  • In modern times a brass earring denoted a survivor of a ship sinking.
  • One left ear piercing for crossing each of the Equator, Artic Circle, and Antarctic Circle.
  • Earrings were thought to keep spirits from entering through the ear, but that's not a purely sailor thing.
  • A sparrow for every 5000 thousand nautical miles traveled,.
  • A sailor would get a swallow tattoo for every 5000 miles he had sailed.
  • A swallow because it will always find its way home.
  • A rooster and pig on the ankles are to prevent a sailor from drowning.
  • The pig and the rooster are tattooed on either the calves or the top of the feet, to prevent a sailor from drowning,. These animals were originally carried on most ships in wooden crates. When a ship goes down these crates would float and then catch currents and wash ashore with the other debris from the ship, making the pigs and roosters often the only souls to survive a shipwreck.
  • A tattoo of a pig on the left knee and a rooster (cock) on the right foot signified "Pig on the knee, safety at sea. A cock on the right, never lose a fight."
  • Tattoos of pigs and chickens were to make sure they always had their ham and eggs so that they never go hungry.
  • A turtle standing on its back legs (shellback) for crossing the equator and being initiated into King Neptune�s Court.
  • A tattoo of King Neptune if you crossed the Equator.
  • Crossed anchors on the web between the thumb and index finger for a bosn�s mate.
  • Royal Navy tattoos of palm trees for the Mediterranean cruises in WWII.
  • Many US sailors have a palm tree or hula girl from Hawaii.
  • The words HOLD and FAST were tattooed on the knuckles to help hold line.
  • Hold Fast across the knuckles to keep them from falling overboard or dropping a line.
  • Anchor tattoo for sailing the Atlantic.
  • Full rigged ship for sailing around Cape Horn.
  • Dragon Tattoo for a sailor who had sailed into port in China
  • A Golden Dragon was for sailors who had crossed the International Date Line.
  • Rope around the wrist for being a dockhand.
  • Two stars to ensure always knowing the way.
  • The anchor usually noted that the sailor was in the merchant marine.
  • Guns or crossed cannon for military naval service.
  • Harpoons for the fishing fleet.
  • Crosses on the soles of one's feet to ward off hungry sharks.
  • A nautical star, or compass rose was to always find your way home.
  • A dagger through a rose signified a willingness to fight and kill even something as fragile as a rose.
  • Many sailors also got pornographic images so that they would always have them with them.


I have a very old book c.1910 where an old sailor be moans the end of the sailors tattoo, yea right. he expounds that. " on the forearm the ports you've visited. on the wrist 'bracelets' on the upper arm the girls name or initials. on the lower leg the initials of all the girls you've 'had'." The "MOM" tattoo became popular during WWII as well as the "death before dishonour" dagger piercing the skin. but that's with the USN in the Royal Navy, and presumably the Commonwealth navies,this is my info; full rigged ship (on the back very large) for rounding the horn (cape horn), The anchor (fouled or not) for service in the Atlantic. All remaining tattoos except since 1970 are in this discussion. Many 'modern' sailors have put tattoos of their specility or of the distinctive badge they had earned. like having crossed hammers with wings for aircraft carrier mechanics, or the divers helmet for a diver,etc. As for crossing the line. None of us Shellbacks want to repete this trial! You get a card. but some of us wisely have the longitude and date as well as ship on our upper leg. So if we ever get mistaken for a pollywog we can "show a leg" (naval term for 'get up out of bed!'.). 119deg 6min 54sec East USS SAMUEL GOMPERS 19 SEP 1991
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What did mermaids in nautical tattoos mean?

As far as I know, mermaids were the embelishments of very "lonely" sailors who mistook sea-cows, (manatees) for something a bit more alluring... I believe it just became the hallmark for many sailors who wished to carry on the salty tradition for lonely sailors everywhere... Lar Waimon Answer I' (MORE)

What is the meaning of a nautical star tattoo?

Answer . \nSee the closely related questions linked to the right.. Answer . I see this is a much debated subject but as not a soul has came to a answer I will for you..... It is easy to see that in different society's it's got a different meaning for punks its anarchy, dreams ect. But for som (MORE)

If you were allergic to the metal when you got your belly button pierced would it be all right for you to get a tattoo or will it get infected?

Getting a piercing is completely different from getting a tattoo. Also there are way to many variables for why people get infections after piercing. For some they have problems because they were not pierced properly, or it was not a sterile inviroment. They may not have been given the proper informa (MORE)

What are traditional nautical tattoos?

The swallow for loyalty (swallows have a single mate for life), to guide a sailor home (finding birds at sea mean you're near land/swallows always find their way home) and also to signify sailing 5,000 nautical miles (one swallow for every 5,000 miles). A rooster and pig on the ankles, knees, cal (MORE)

What does a sailor tattooed on forearm mean?

Answer . It doesnt necessarily mean anything. Its just a tattoo. In the end, its meaning is whatever the wearer wants it to be...so ask them and they just might have a cool story to go with it or something.

What does a nautical star tattoo look like?

Answer . Ok It's like a regular star but it's points (limb) are split in half and they are usually a different color. (ex. one side's black and the other side is white. Or try google.com or yahoo.com. Answer . \nGo here: http://www.malutattoo.comtraditional-arms.jpg and you will see a photo o (MORE)

What do stars mean in nautical tattoos?

\n. \n Answer \n. \n. \nI'm not sure myself what the neutical star means up until not to long ago, but I do have one on my forearm and I'm definetly not a lesbian. I got the tattoo just because it was something I loved to draw constantly and decided to make it permanent on my body.\n. \n. (MORE)

Why did sailors get tattoos?

Sailors in general follow old sea dog traditions of having their bodies tattooed for remembering loved ones, places they have visited and as religious icons. Although tattooing is an ancient art, Captain Cook and his crew are credited with introducing the art to the civilized world after seeing the (MORE)

What is the symbolism of a nautical star tattoo?

The nautical star symbolizes "finding one's way". It shall help you find your own path in life. ------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------ The symbolism of the nautical star does not mean to find your own path in life. I can see h (MORE)

Why would a sailor get an olive oil tattoo and where?

Sailors and Olive Oil . No precise idea ;- ) Perhaps because of the cartoon character 'Popeye the Sailor Man', who consumes copious amounts of spinach to help strengthen him, enabling him to protect his love interest 'Olive Oyl' against 'Bruno' the bad Captain. (Hence spinach with a serving sugge (MORE)

Nautical star tattoos?

Originally worn by sailors, and were then absconded by the "punk" and emo scene that the kids are so into this day in age. They have no meaning whatsoever anymore, and most true sailors don't get them anymore due to this sad trend.

Tattoos sailors got and why?

Answer . The answer is "pretty much whatever they wanted". The only tattoo I have heard of that was common to many old-time sailors was to have the letters H O L D F A S T tattooed on the backs of their hands -- one letter on each knuckle.

Does Paul Pierce have a tattoo on his arm?

Yes he does have a tattoo on the inside of his left forearm. It's usually covered by an arm sleeve, but it is a basketball with a dagger through it and it says "My gift, My curse."

Is there lesbian symbolism in nautical star tattoos?

As a professional tattoo artist, I am very happy to tell you that many and most tattoos are simply whimsical and fun or aesthetically pleasing. They don't all mean things. Also, different designs mean different things to different people. There isn't an end all . Try asking the person it's on what i (MORE)

Sailor jerry tattoos?

Sailor Jerry tattoos are very popular. They are recognized by theirbold lines and attention to detail. The man behind the name SailorJerry is Norman Collins who lives in and tattoos in Honolulu,Hawaii.

Why is the Nautical Star tattoo so popular?

WELL WITH SAIOLORS, SUCH AS MYSELF( I AM A MERCHANT MARINER), ITS A SUPERSTITIOUS THING. IT MEANS TO US THAT WE WILL NEVER GET LOST AT SEA AND THAT WE WILL FIND OUR WAY HOME, THE REASON IS BECAUSE IT TAKES TWO STARS TO GET A CELLESTIAL BEARING. NOW THE NAUTICAL STAR BECAME MANY THINGS, LIKE PUNK ROC (MORE)

What does a pierced heart tattoo symbolize?

The breast of a red robin is used as a substitute for the heart in a classic 'pierced heart' tattoo. Most often, the pierced heart has been shot by none other than Cupid himself, inciting his victim to romance. Used in that way, it becomes a symbol of being in love.

What ear does a sailor pierce?

In olde days gone by legend says, "with a ring of gold ye pierce the left ear of a sea fairing man who is baptised and to be recognised by Neptune and kept safe in his grasp". "Respect the Sea, for she provides for thee, and can take ye who don't pay her respect ".

What is the history of tattoos and piercing?

Yeah well that's a large cup of coffee and some time on the Internet Let's be honest there isn't the space here to give you the history of both tattoos and piercings. So start with a Bing or Google search and start reading, many websites have links to excellent material on tattoos and piercings. Ela (MORE)

Is tattooing and piercing science related?

Yes it is actually. You need to understand anatomy and the methods the body uses to heal various piercings and tattoos. An understanding of the medical effects of implantation and dermal modification that occurs with tattooing and piercing aids in the application of the arts.

What is the significance of the traditional nautical tattoo of a octapus?

The octapus is traditionally a sign of strength and power; pirates and sailors wrestling them and being taken over by them. An octapus is also a master of disguise as it can disappear by releasing its own ink. It is one of the most popular old school tattoo designs, that is making a comeback now.

Can tattoos or piercings get an infection?

Yes both can get infected. I got my ears pierced almost seven years ago, they piercer didn't sanitize the gun right and now I can't wear earrings at all. My ears get infected every time.. Supervisor note: When I was in high school a local girl made the paper because of her tongue piercing. She had (MORE)

How much does it cost to get a nautical star tattoo?

it depends on the size.. one of my friends just got one done and his was about 3in by 3in tops.. ran him about $80.00. but it depends on the place you go and the artist. there are no exact prices for any tattoo because they are so customizable.

What are the infection risk of piercings and tattoos?

Well the same risks that exist with cutting your hand apply to both body piercing and tattooing. Infections being a serious issue and tetanus being another concern. If you got the work done in a licensed and inspected shop then your risks are limited to just aftercare and looking after your piece or (MORE)

What tattoo did Justin Pierce have?

On one of the legs (might be the left leg) I think he had a Welsh red dragon that is on the flag of wales. On his arm I am not sure, it's a black tattoo but I am not sure what it's of or what it says.

The hazards of Body piercing and tattoos?

Infection. Unsterile tattooing equipment and needles can transmit infectious diseases,such as hepatitis. The risk of infection is the reason the American Association of Blood Banks requires a one-year wait between getting a tattoo and donating blood. It is extremely important to make sure that all (MORE)

What laws are set for tattoos and piercings?

Body Piercing Guidelines or "I want a piercing, now what" . All Body Piercing studios are regulated and work under regional and local health and city licensing regulations. What you may want may not be legal in your area so call and check with your local studios. . Age limits can vary from city (MORE)

Something specific sailors get tattooed on their arm?

A sparrow for every 5,000 nautical miles traveled. . A swallow, because a swallows always finds its way home. . A rooster and a pig on the ankles, calves, or the tops of feet to prevent drowning. . These animals were originally carried on most ships in wooden crates. When a ship goes down these (MORE)

Why did sailors get spider web tattoos on their elbows?

the design of the web used to be considered the only design to fit the ellbow, as other designs will distort when the arm is bent. If you see old photographs of inked up sailors almost all had a spider web on the elbow, so did the early tattooers: Bob Shaw, Lyle Tuttle and possibly also Sailor Jerry (MORE)

What are Bill Kaulitz's tattoos and piercings?

Bill Kaulitz currently has 4 tattoos and 8 piercings (that we know of). Tattoos . The TH symbol on the back of his neck . A star on his lower-right abdomen. . "Freiheit-89 (Freedom 89)" on his left forearm. . "Wir hören nie auf zu schreien - Wir kehren zum Ursprung zurück" ("We never (MORE)

If you have keloids but you got piercings and none formed can you get a tattoo?

Keloids often form due to the blunt force used by ear piercing guns. Tattoo guns would be unlikely to cause keloids because they just use a needle to distribute the ink in the skin. So, to answer your question, I've never heard of a tattoo gun causing keloids. If you're still unsure, ask your local (MORE)

How are Henna tattoos different from traditional tattoos?

Henna is painted on and is temporary, but a traditional tattoo is permanent. Henna "tattoos" are applied topically, using a stylus or other implement to apply a paste, which is left to set (dry) and then washed (or peeled) off leaving a red-ish brown design. Henna tattoos are a temporary personal (MORE)

Why do soldiers wear the nautical star tattoo?

It was never soldiers who wore these, but rather sailors. Nautical stars are just that, nautical stars placed on maps that are markers or guides that allow you to navigate by using the celestial body coupled with a compass as opposed to using electronic guides. For the most part, they were meant to (MORE)

What role do tattoos and piercings have at work?

They shouldn't have any role when it comes to a job. Some employers don't care what you do with your body as long as you can be professional on the job. But some people can be intimidated by tattoos or judgemental of some one that has tattoos.

Is it a sin to get tattoos or piercings?

Tattoos are forbidden in Judaism (Leviticus ch.19). Answer: Opinions on this will vary. I don't personally think it is a sin,but piercings seem inconvenient, and I see no reason to put up withthem. As to tattoos (the same applies to piercings), be sure to getthem from a reputable place; remember (MORE)