Our Blog

Hot Off The Press

Religion and tattoos


Religion and tattoos… Now not only is this been a hot topic for about as long as there has been tattooing & religion, but it also tends to turn almost any casual conversation between mates into a heated shouting match aching to a fist fight.

So allow me to set something straight from the start. The purpose of this blog post is not to defend, hate, encourage, demean, destroy, name-say, enforce an opinion or offend any one what so ever. We have merely noticed an very wide and sometimes lopsided understanding of the “who says what” and “what is right” question. My wife and I are proud Christians and we believe what we believe. So, I have thought it well to give you some information on the history of tattoos and various religions. Read it and make up your own mind. Knowledge is power, so I hope this helps. One last thing. Absolutely all religions teach love and respect. So when leaving comments, please know that under no circumstances will any negative remark about any race or religion be tolerated. Ultimately, tattooing is an art. There is no place for bull shit in art… Enjoy!


Historically, a decline in traditional tribal tattooing in Europe occurred with the spread of Christianity. However, some Christian groups, such as the Knights of St. John of Malta, sported tattoos to show their allegiance. A decline often occurred in other cultures following European efforts to convert aboriginal and indigenous people to Western religious and cultural practices that held tattooing to be a “pagan” or “heathen” activity. Within some traditional indigenous cultures, tattooing takes place within the context of a rite of passage between adolescence and adulthood. In the book of Leviticus 19:28, the Bible forbids tattoos.Drawing of Croatwoman with Christian hand tattoosSee also: Christian tattooing in Bosnia and HerzegovinaThere is no consistent Christian view on tattooing. The early Christian Montanist movement practiced tattooing as putting signs or seals of God’s name according to Rev. 7:3; 9:4; 13:16; 14:1; 20:4; 22:4.The majority of Christians do not take issue with the practice, while a minority uphold the Hebrew view against tattoos based on Leviticus. Tattoos of Christian symbols are common. When on pilgrimage, some Christians get a small tattoo dating the year and a small cross. This is usually done on the forearm.There is no prohibition against tattoo within the Catholic Church, provided that the tattoo is not an image that is sacrilegious, blasphemous, or obscene. At the Catholic council of Calcuth in Northumberland in AD 786, Christians who received a tattoo “for the sake of God” (i.e., a religious tattoo in the form of a cross, a monogramme of Christ, or a saint’s name or image) were commended as praiseworthy. Catholic Croats of Bosnia and Herzegovina used tattooing, especially of children, for perceived protection against forced conversion to Islam during Turkish occupation of Bosnia and Herzegovina (1463-1878). This form of tattooing continued long past its original motivation. Tattooing was performed during springtime or during special religious celebrations such as the Feast of St. Joseph, and consisted mostly of Christian crosses on hands, fingers, forearms, and below the neck and on the chest. Coptic Christians who live in Egypt tattoo themselves with the symbols of Coptic crosses on their right wrists.


Woman applying hennain Morocco, 2008. Permanent tattoos are forbidden in Sunni Islam, but are permissible in Shia Islam. According to the book of Sunni traditions, Sahih Bukhari, “The Prophet forbade mutilation (or maiming) of bodies.” Several Sunni Muslim scholars believe tattooing is a sin because it involves changing the creation of God (Surah 4 Verse 117-120).There is, however, difference of scholarly Sunni Muslim opinion as to the reason why tattoos are forbidden.


Tattoos are forbidden in Judaism based on the Torah (Leviticus 19:28): “You shall not make gashes in your flesh for the dead, or incise any marks on yourselves: I am the Lord.” The prohibition is explained by contemporary rabbis as part of a general prohibition on body modification (with the exception of circumcision) that does not serve a medical purpose (such as to correct a deformity). Maimonides, a leading 12th century scholar of Jewish law and thought, explains the prohibition against tattoos as a Jewish response to paganism.In modern times, the association of tattoos with Nazi concentration camps and the Holocaust has added another level of revulsion to the practice of tattooing, even among many otherwise fairly secular Jews. It is a common misconception that anyone bearing a tattoo is not permitted to be buried in a Jewish cemetery.


Neopagans can use the process and the outcome of tattooing as an expression or representation of their beliefs. Many tattooists’ websites offer pagan images as examples of the kinds of artwork which they provide. At least one Wiccan Tradition uses a tattoo as a mark of Initiation, although it is an entitlement, not a requirement.


In Hinduism the marking of the forehead is encouraged as it enhances spiritual well-being and is one of the chakras on the body. Many Hindu women tattoo their faces with dots especially around the chin and eyes to ward off evil and enhance their beauty. The local regional tribes use tattoos to distinguish between certain clans and ethnic groups. One Hindu Goddess Lirbai mata is depicted with tattooed arms and legs. She is venerated by the Marwari and Rabari ethnic groups whose women also tattoo their bodies in this fashion. Many Hindu men and women tattoo OM on their hands or arms. This symbols protects them from evil and bad karma. In Rajastan and Gujarat, it is common to see older women with tattoos on their chests, legs, arms and hands. These tattoos are called “bindi thandole” and have religious and spiritual significance. Many of these women are completely covered in these tattoos and these designs are elaborate and intricate. Mehar ethnic groups also encourage their women to tattoo their legs and arms. Khodiyar Mata is often depicted with tattooed arms and legs. Many Hindu Gods have signs on their hands such as a swastika – these sometimes are also tattoed on hands and arms for good luck[/vc_column_text][/vc_column][/vc_row]