Sun and Moon Tattoo Meanings
There aren’t many symbols that are more pervasive and deeply entrenched in humanity’s collective culture than those of the Sun and Moon. These celestial bodies have captured our fascination since humans first walked on two legs; they have been objects of worship, sources of magic, the inspiration for countless works of poetry and music… the list goes on. So it’s only natural that the sun and moon have become extremely popular subjects for tattoos across the globe.
Sun Tattoo Meanings
Sun tattoo meanings cover many different philosophies and be tied in with nearly any culture or religion. This is with good reason; the Sun is the most vital element in our Solar System, and without it Earth would just be another hunk of dead, icy rock in the vastness of space. The Sun provides our little blue planet with just the right amount of heat and light so that life can flourish. Many religions have either directly worshipped the Sun as a Supreme Being (Ancient Egypt perhaps being the most well-known, with Ra as the Sun God) or have used it as a symbol for their god or gods (ex. God the Father is occasionally compared with the Sun in Christian scripture). There are a lot of different variations for this one image in the tattoo world, and each one brings with it a particular significance. Sun tattoos can mean everything from giving life, salvation, truth, courage, and more; here’s a quick list to go over some of the more popular Sun tattoo designs we see today.
Sun With Face Tattoo Meaning
It is not uncommon to see suns designed with faces in tattoos. A sun with a masculine face can be indicative of strength and power, as well as a warrior spirit. A feminine face is usually more related to the life-giving nature of the sun, and can have connotations of female empowerment, maternity, and fertility.
Sun Rays Tattoo Meaning
Sun rays are often related to the sunrise, which is representative of rebirth and moving forward to a new area in life. There is also a symbol based on the sun’s rays called the Awen in Celtic tradition, and it was considered to be the icon of bards and all creative types. So in that vein, a sun rays tattoo can mean creativity and inspiration in an artistic personality. Sun rays are most often incorporated with other symbols or elements, such as clouds, trees, nature, etc to create a dramatic effect.
Rising Sun Tattoo Meaning
The sunrise has for the most part been universally associated with renewal and rebirth. For many people a rising sun tattoo can symbolize moving on from a particular difficult chapter of life, and having hope for what lies ahead. The rising sun can also have spiritual connotations, such as a renewal of faith, or having found salvation.
Japanese Sun Tattoo Meaning
A variation on the rising sun tattoo is that of the Japanese Sun. The Japanese Sun tattoo is almost always a sunrise, because Japan is often referred to as the “Land of the Rising Sun,” and the red circle in the Japanese national flag is meant to be representative of the sun. The Japanese Sun tattoo is traditionally done in black, red, and white tones with strong, graphical lines. This tattoo is an excellent choice for those who share Japanese ancestry or who have an affinity for the multifaceted Japanese culture.
Three Star and Sun Tattoo Meaning
The Three Star and Sun tattoo is an image taken from the national flag of the Philippines. This tattoo can be done either in black and white or featuring the colors of the flag (yellow, blue, and red), and is an excellent representation of cultural pride.
Celtic Sun Tattoo Meaning
The various Celtic peoples of ancient times were heavily pagan, and many of their practices still have cultural significance today. As such, the Sun held great importance as a supreme force in nature; Celtic Sun tattoos can represent knowledge, truth, strength, and giving life or rebirth.
Mayan Sun Tattoo Meaning
The Mayans practiced the art of tattooing themselves (along several other forms of body modification), and the Mayan Sun was a common symbol both in their body art and in their hieroglyphics. The intent behind this design was to display their power and strength as a warrior nation.
Polynesian Sun Tattoo Meaning
In most Polynesian cultures, the Sun is a symbol of wealth, leadership, and brilliance; the cycle of the sun rising and setting is also heavily associated with the concept of eternity. Tattoos of Maori Suns can be associated with the Maori myth of Maui, who slowed the Sun so that his people would have more time to tend to their duties throughout the day.
Tribal Sun Tattoo Meaning
Many tribal sun tattoos are done in the Polynesian style, though a more simplified version is to have a black circle with wavy, graphical rays that give the illusion of movement. Most tribal sun tattoos are done in solid black ink (though there is nothing wrong with opting for color), and have been popular with both men and women. Generally, tribal sun tattoos are connected with the typical meanings of strength and energy.
Black Sun Tattoo Meaning
Though there are many sun tattoo designs that are done in greyscale or with thick black lines, they are not all to be confused for a Black Sun tattoo. The Black Sun is an occult symbol that is Germanic in origin (also sometimes referred to as a Sun Wheel). It originates from a mosaic that was installed into the floors of the Castle of Welwelsburg in Germany; the site was used by Hitler as both an educational site on pagan/ritualistic practices for SS soldiers, as well as a place of storage for the occult artifacts that Hitler collected.
However, in spite of Welwelsburg’s history with the Nazis, the Black Sun does not necessarily have neo-nazi implications; rather it is more broadly associated with Germanic Neopaganism, and is also taken as a symbol of Germanic ancestry. The Black Sun is most commonly a black sun with thick black rays zigzagging geometrically out from the center.
Sun Tattoos from Pop Culture
The Sun is as popular an icon in the media as it is culturally and religiously. One of the more popular tattoos throughout the past 20 years or so has been the tribal sun design used by the band Godsmack. The Godsmack sun tattoo is representative of the Sun’s energy and meant to bring to mind all of the elaborate history of sun symbolism. More recently, sun tattoos have popped up in association with series like Game of Thrones (one of the main characters, Daenerys, refers to her first lover as her “Sun and Stars”). The sun is also a popular symbol for the video game world; the Dark Souls series in particular is known for its use of sun symbolism (“Praise the sun!”).
Moon Tattoo Meanings
The Moon has been given nearly as much as attention as its solar counterpart throughout human history. So what does the Moon symbolize?
While the Sun has historically been taken to represent masculine energy and strength, the Moon is more often connected to feminine energy… you can often hear people say that women are “ruled by the Moon” or the tides. The Moon also has heavy significance in myth and legend; it is often associated with transformation (such as in the Tale of the Werewolf).
Moon Phases Tattoo Meaning
A tattoo of the different phases of the Moon is often symbolic of the cyclical nature of things, a concept that is more common in Eastern cultures than those in the West (western societies tend to have more linear mindsets). A Moon Phases tattoo can be related to feminine energy and empowerment, as it connects directly with the female hormonal cycle.
Full Moon Tattoo Meaning
The full moon is heavily associated with superstition throughout all world cultures. Many societies have considered the full moon as the time in the month where the boundaries between reality and the spiritual world are at their thinnest; as a result, the full moon can be connected with transformation, magic, and even insanity. A full moon tattoo is also very commonly seen in Gothic culture and as a symbol of the Wiccan faith.
Meaning of Sun and Moon Together
In that tattoo world, you can see the Sun and Moon paired together as a single design just as frequently as you see them done separately. The strongest meaning for a Sun and Moon tattoo is the concept of balance between the opposing forces of nature; together, the Sun and Moon symbolize the combination of masculine and feminine energy in the world, as well as rebirth and death (or simply passing on to the next life, in some cultures). It is not unusual to see people use a Sun and Moon image as a friendship or a couple’s tattoo.
This Sun and Moon tattoo design is most frequently done as a Half Sun/Half Moon tattoo. Oftentimes, you will see Yin Yang Sun and Moon tattoos, which add a further element of balance to the piece’s meaning. Occasionally you will see a Sun, Moon, and Stars tattoo; the stars add a fun, whimsical element that can easily help to build a bigger piece.
Mexican Sun and Moon Tattoo Meaning
The Mexican Sun and Moon design (where a crescent moon curves around the face of the sun) is a common choice for those who are looking to combine masculine and feminine elements with cultural pride. This is a very widespread image that can be instantly associated with Mexican culture, as the art style is very unique. The Mexican Sun and Moon tattoo can also refer to the cycle of life, with the sun being birth/life, and the moon being death.
Sun and Moon Kissing Tattoo Meaning
Tattoos featuring the Sun and Moon kissing are generally more strictly limited to the balance of feminine and masculine energy, and can also be a couple’s tattoo… especially for those with very different personalities. This design is sometimes referred to as “the Lovers.”
Tribal Sun and Moon Tattoo Meaning
Tribal Sun and Moon tattoos vary pretty widely in their style. They can feature a smaller sun resting within the crescent of a larger moon, or the Half Sun/ Half Moon, Yin Yang style design. Like all tribal tattoos, these images tend to be heavily graphic and are most often done in solid black ink. Similar to yin and yang symbolism, the tribal sun and moon tattoo together shows combining forces of light and dark, masculine and feminine, or good and evil.
“Live by the Sun, Love by the Moon” Tattoo
This quote is frequently used in pagan religions, and adds an additional spiritual element to Sun and Moon tattoos. However, the quote is not strictly pagan, and can be used by anyone who wishes to embrace the energetic nature of the sun as well as the romantic nature of the moon.
No matter what your personal history, creed, or philosophies are, chances are that there is a Sun, Moon, or combination Sun-and-Moon tattoo out there that fits your own unique style.
Here’s a quick summary of the different meanings of these beautiful and versatile tattoo designs:
- The Sun
- Rebirth/ Renewal
- Masculine or Feminine energy, depending upon the culture
- Japanese culture
- Filipino culture
- The Occult (the Black Sun)
- The Moon
- Feminine empowerment/ energy
- Cyclical natures
- Gothic culture
- Sun and Moon
- Balance of the forces of nature
- Masculine and Feminine Energy together
- The cycle of life and death
- Best Friends/ Couple’s Tattoo