The nautical star tattoo design is easily one of the most popular styles of star tattoos. Long used as an image for protection and guidance through life, nautical star tattoos are today assigned many different meanings by their wearers:
- Military meanings
- Gay and lesbian symbolism
- Punk rock groups
- Personal interpretations
The design itself is a five-pointed star with each point divided into two symmetric sections, of which each of these sections are colored with alternating light and dark colors.
Military and/or Navy Symbolism
Nautical star tattoos are said to be one of the earliest tattoo images in “modern” times. The design, well over a century old was worn by sailors to signify navigation by following the North Star, known as Polaris. Of all of the stars in the night sky used for navigation, it is the North Star that is relied upon most to return sailors home. Because it seems to be relatively stationary over the North Pole with the other stars moving around it, its fixed position in the sky is an essential reference point for navigation. In today’s nautical charts, the direction North (zero degrees) on a compass is marked with a five-pointed star.
While other maritime tattoo symbols, such as the anchor and sparrow, find their inspiration in different ports of call or are used to commemorate the voyage and its perils, the nautical star is a much more hopeful symbol of being able to find one’s way. By extension, it has also been used specifically as a symbol of the return home and sometimes the luck that is needed to reach that destination.
Other branches of the military have since adopted the belief that the nautical star keeps them pointed in the right direction and aids in their safe return home to their family and friends.
Gay and Lesbian Symbolism
In the middle part of the 20th century, particularly in the ’40s and ’50s, when it was still taboo for women to be lesbians, there were symbols that were used to indicate sexual orientation in women. The most popular of these was the nautical star tattoo inked somewhere easily hidden and also easily unhidden. The most common spot for this tattoo was on the wrist that could be easily hidden by a watch, clothing and other accessories. During the day the watch was on but at night when you there was a more likelihood of meeting like-minded people, the watch was removed so others could see it. Instead of taking a guess at a stranger’s orientation and possibly embarrassment, homosexuals would look for symbols like the nautical and know that their secret was safe and was talking to a like-minded individual.
More recently, MANY lesbian women wear a silver ring around their middle to finger to symbolize their sexual disposition.
The punk movement adorns the nautical star tattoo design “because we can.” The movement traces its origins back to Sailor Jerry, who inked thousands of sailors with “cool” designs. Historically, Sailor Jerry was one the most iconic and famous tattoo artists who ever lived. The thing that remains constant here is that this group also believes the nautical star provides guidance in their lives, pointing them on their own exclusive path.
The nautical star tattoo design clearly shows that when the same powerful symbol is used again and again over decades of time it has taken on very different meanings for different groups. So all of those that you see sporting a nautical star tattoo might not all have the same interpretation of its symbolism.
Whatever that interpretation is, the fact is we all have our own ideas about what things symbolize to our own unique lives.
While the nautical star is regarded as a symbol of finding one’s own path in life and finding ones way home safely, it obviously is a much revered and popular tattoo design in today’s society. Now that you have a more broad based knowledge of this symbol, look around you and see if you now notice that more people than you would have realized are inked with nautical star tattoo designs.
Have a great day and shoot for the stars in your own endeavors.
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