Just what sort of stories lie behind an octopus tattoo? Their meanings turn out wildly different depending on where you are, who you are, and what your religion is! If you are interested in octopus meanings and want to look at an awesome octopus design gallery, then you’ve come to the right place!
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Octopus Tattoo Facts
Although it is common to refer to a group of octopus as ‘octopi,’ the actual plural is octopuses, or the Greek version, octopodes. The name itself means eight legs. They are certainly the smartest invertebrates, using their tentacles to interact with the world around them and manipulate tools. While the octopus does poorly outside of water, it is smart enough to know how far it can ‘walk’ on the ground before reaching water—just like we know how long to hold our breath underwater while swimming! They can even solve puzzles, sneak around, and hold grudges.
More Amazing Facts
Their most famous ability is its camouflage technique. They can change the color of their skin to match with their surroundings, making them invisible to predators. Other octopuses use their color-changing ability to imitate other animals that their predators wouldn’t want to mess with. They can become white and blue striped and make slithering motions with their legs to imitate a pack of sea snakes, stretch out their legs and swim with their mouth forward to imitate a venomous lion fish, or sweep around on the ocean floor in the shape of a shark.
When their color-changing abilities don’t cut it, they can squeeze into hiding spaces with entrances two inches around. They can pick up debris like coconut shells or jars and use them as a shield. Really, we are still learning a lot about these creatures. So, what does a tattoo of these mysterious creatures mean?
Octopus Tattoo Symbolism
What does an octopus symbolize? Octopuses are known for their intelligence, and this carries over into their symbolism. They represent strategy, knowledge, creativity, complexity, and reason. Their eight arms represent multiple strengths, and are what inspired its association with flexibility, motion, adaptability, and focus. As a sea creature, the Octopus is also associated with emotions that change with the tide.
With its color-changing abilities and inky escape mechanism, the octopus is a king of illusion! Those who align themselves with an octopus are masters of manipulation, and they can control how others think of themselves. With intelligence like that, you have to be careful to not abuse it and be as honest as possible in your dealings! Octopus symbolism goes much deeper than that, of course. Let’s see some other interpretations of this curious animal!
Octopus Tattoo Spiritual Meaning
As a totem animal, a few attributes of its symbolism change. It represents purity, emotion, psychic ability, and creative prowess. It guides the psychic powers of those it touches and allows better communication with others. Their flexibility allows them to fit in anywhere, so those with an octopus totem should have no problems exploring the world! They also guide you through a constantly-changing world and allow you to adapt to new problems.
Although they are sea-dwelling creatures, they spend most of their time exploring the sea floor and coral. An octopus totem can prevent you from becoming an airhead and will bring you down to earth. But this also represents that you must be aware of the world around you and what it means to take a leap of faith in life. Just as an octopus can lose a tentacle and regrow it, you will have no problem recovering from emotional losses as long as you make wise choices. Forgiving, letting go, understanding, and allowing time to heal are all attributes of the octopus.
Japanese Octopus Tattoo Meaning
Octopuses are famous for having a special place in the heart of Japanese erotica. It all started when Princess Tamatori and her husband search the sea for a stolen pearl. Tamatori dives down to the Dragon Palace at the bottom of the sea and retrieves the pearl. She runs away from all kinds of sea creatures—especially octopuses—and eventually cuts open her chest to place the pearl in so that she can swim faster and escape. She dies from her wound just as she reaches the shore.
Long after this myth was told, some people had some…different interpretations for the story. The Dream of the Fisherman’s Wife takes that to its conclusion, and from there, the octopus and its tentacles got a special reputation. Aside from that, octopuses are a common appetizer or snack food in Japan. They are good with soy sauce and fill up the stomach moderately well.
Last Word on Japanese Octopi
Japanese octopus designs are less about symbolism and more about physical features. Despite what the internet has to say, the tattoo doesn’t have to be erotic. Octopuses are just well-suited to being a colorful tattoo! Their eight legs are lined with hundreds of suckers and the strange appearance of their head makes them especially good-looking in sujibori tattoos. If you would like to learn more about Japanese tattoos, check out our detailed article on the matter!
Biblical Meaning of the Octopus
Before reading this section, please note that I do not condone a belief in spiritual warfare, as it is against the nature of this particular religion and is detrimental to anyone involved in it. In the Christian belief of spiritual warfare, the sea was returned to demons after Adam and Eve commit the original sin. The water spirits have all kinds of forms and listen to the demands of their princes.
The whole thing is called the Water Spirit Kingdom—or sometimes just the Marine Kingdom. So, what are marine spirits? What are demonic water spirits? For each sea creature, there is an equivalent demon that bears the traits of its namesake. The most common ones that are ‘confronted’ are the Alligator spirit, the spirit of the Shark, the Crocodile spirit, and so on down the line until we reach the demonic octopus spirit.
The Octopus Spirit
An octopus spirit in the Bible is a demon which latches onto the mind and prevents information or enlightenment from getting to its host. It clouds their mind and makes it very difficult to turn them from their wicked ways as its tentacle suckers stick to their soul. For those afflicted, there is a prayer against the leviathan spirit that works well. It consists of various lines from Psalms, Job, Isaiah, Lamentations, and Jeremiah.
Of course, not every Christian believes in this! In fact, I would hazard a guess and say that 90% of Christians have no idea what spiritual warfare is. We are not about to dive into philosophy or theology here, but instead looking at the biblical meaning that an eight-legged tattoo has. All tattoos are personal, but someone who knows of this tale may have received their tattoo to show their triumph over a dark time in their life. The octopus design means that they have repented and escaped from their path of darkness. They have no fear in showing what they have vanquished on their skin.
The kraken is a giant, mythical version of the octopus. Its name stems from the same word as our ‘crooked’ does—meaning that this creature is evil, crooked, and twisted. Tales of the kraken originated in Norse waters, where Vikings once navigated the treacherous waters. Even up until present day, there are reported sightings of an octopus or squid of great size all around the world. So, what does the kraken symbolize? Unlike its smaller brethren, this octopus represents a malicious force of destruction. This evil creature is known for destroying vessels of all shapes and sizes where the ocean is deepest, so its status as a monster is no wonder.
Great Octopus Tattoo Ideas
With its beautiful colors and amazing abilities, it is a true shame that some people associate it with negativity. In reality, it is an amazing animal well worthy of being a tattoo subject! Here are some awesome ideas to get you inspired.
Octopus and Anchor Tattoo Meaning
An octopus represents knowledge. An anchor represents a solid foundation. The combination of the two represents a down-to-earth philosophy on life. An octopus and anchor tattoo shows that its bearer thinks twice about their actions and is a reliable source of wisdom.
Octopus Back Tattoo
Despite being oddly shaped, an octopus can fit in any location on your body. Its flexible tentacles allow it to become a cute wrist tattoo or a wicked octopus sleeve tattoo. The best place for a tattoo, though, is the back. You can mix it with all kinds of different themes or designs, and it will still look great. You could also go for a traditional Japanese tattoo and include a few waves on your back. The most dramatic design I found—which you can see above this in the article—is the image of a kraken destroying a ship. Pretty epic!
Its interesting profile and anatomy means it is also well-suited to realistic tattoo, 3D tattoo, and Neotraditional tattoo styles. Your back is the biggest canvas your skin has to offer, so using it for a colorful tattoo shows off a wonderful range of colors for viewers and lets you appear more wise than those around you.
Octopus Tattoo Ideas for Men & Women
As with all tattoos, there are some designs that appear traditionally ‘feminine’ and others that appear ‘masculine.’ At an individual level, you needn’t worry about whether your tattoo is suitable for a man or woman, but if you want to go for a certain aesthetic, I am here to help you. The swirling tentacles of the octopus mean that curved lines are inevitable in the tattoo design, and if you combine this with the octopus’s home in the sea, almost all octopus designs are inherently feminine.
Don’t worry, there are still tons of ways to make an octopus appear more masculine. For one, realistic tattoos are considered masculine, and any kind of tribal design or designs with a surplus of straight lines will lose some femininity. Making the tattoo black and white makes it more dramatic—perfect for someone who needs a masculine tattoo.
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Tribal Octopus Tattoo
Polynesian tattoos take inspiration from religion and cultural traditions. Kanaloa is symbolized by an octopus and he is everything that Kane isn’t. He rules the underworld and harnesses magic. He guides the seas into calm times or chaotic times. Lastly, he was among the first group of rebellious spirits and banished to hell for his betrayal. This might sound familiar to you—it greatly resembles the story of the fall of Satan. Instead of thinking of it as divine coincidence, the similarities are most likely caused by Christian missionaries that struggled to convert the native Hawaiians and made analogies using their own gods.
Close cultures with similar myths have no Satan-like fall, and it is widely thought that Kanaloa was not the god of the underworld to begin with. Instead, Milu/Miru was. It’s quite a long story that is best left to anthropologists and religious studies majors. The meaning behind it matters little when the designs look so awesome. If anything, these tattoos show your reverence to the enchanting and unforgiving sea.
Octopus Tattoos for Everyone
The moral of the story is that the story behind octopuses varies from person to person and, just like the color of the octopus, it can change at any point in time or space. Those who wear the tattoo show that they are adaptable, intelligent, wise, and excellent at understanding. They may know a little too much and keep it private, but it is never with bad intentions. If you’re looking for an eight-legged tattoo, take a long time to consider your design. There are so many different colors, shapes, sizes, and variations, that it might leave your head spinning if you approach the tattoo artist without an idea in mind!
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