Aztec Tattoo Art
Aztec tattoo art has a rich history behind those intricate and detailed patterns that are common to the art. The Aztec's held art in high regard and used many mediums to display their creativity, tattoo art being high among them.This tattoo style was created during the reign of the Aztec civilization, which ruled parts of Central America and Mexico in the 14th century. Neighboring Mesoamerican civilizations also had somewhat similar art styles, however the Aztec styles were quite distinct with their bold geometric designs.
Aztec Tattoo Designs
The Aztec civilization used tattoos for many functions. They were used to display bravery, to mark criminals and also as displays of reverence for things they believed were sacred.
Aztecs were a very spiritual civilization and performed many different rituals to their deities. Tattoos were a significant part of these rituals. Aztec tattoo art was also used as a way to differentiate between individual tribes within the nation.
In the Aztec culture the part of the body tattooed held significance as well. The face of a criminal was marked to identify them as such. The shoulder was a common location for an intricate sun design to honor their sun god.
The wrist, chest and stomach were often tattooed to honor a particular deity in their culture. These deities were common subjects of the Aztec art in all of its forms and they all had images to represent them. Even Aztec children were tattooed to honor and please the deities.
Aztec Tribal Tattoo Drawings
Here are several of the most common deities honored in Aztec tattoo art.
Huitzilopchtili – This is the sun god, also a god of war and the patron of the city of Tenochtitlan. The sun was called the “guardian of the heavens” making it of immense importance to the Aztec culture. This was also the most commonly tattooed in many different designs from simple suns to finely detailed patterns. An interesting myth involving Huitzilopchtili describes him killing his sister and then throwing her head into the sky, whereby the moon was created.
Quetzalcoatl – This deity, also called the “Feathered Serpent”, is related to the gods of the wind, Venus, and was also the patron god of the priesthood. The image of this is a serpent with a vaguely human form with feathers on its head and tail. Aztec tattoo art was used to honor this deity and to display knowledge and other characteristics of the individual wearing the tattoo.
Tezcatlipoca – Depicted as a jaguar in his animal form, this deity is also tattooed as a man with a yellow and black stripe on his face and occasionally his foot is replaced with a mirror to depict his relation to obsidian. Tezcatlipoca was the “warrior lord” and to wear this tattoo one had to prove themselves worthy in battle and bravery. He was also known as the rival of Quetzacoatl
Aztec Eagle Tattoo
Animals were a regular subject for Aztec tattoo art. They were tattooed for the purpose of displaying certain characteristics and attributes of the person wearing them. Most all of the animals in the region the Aztecs inhabited were believed to have attributes and qualities beneficial to the Aztec people. Here are some of the most commonly used creatures in Aztec art:
Eagle – The eagle, in most all civilizations, has great spiritual attributes. The Aztec people believed they could draw strength, courage and power from eagle tattoos. These could be just eagle head designs or detailed scenes depicting the eagle hunting or in flight.
Crocodile – The crocodile was commonly tattooed to identify a person with a fearsome nature and a strong warrior. These designs were generally monster-like to create fear in opponents and enemies.
Jaguar or Ocelot – This big cat was a regularly featured animal in all native American civilizations. For the Aztecs it represented the night sky, and was also one of the day gods shown on their calendar. Some consider this animal the most important animal in Mesoamerican cultures.
Aztec tattoo art was and still is a widely used art form. With some research and a creative mind a person could design their own original Aztec tattoo. There are currently tattoo artists who specialize in just this art form and have created masterpieces on human skin!
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