Scarab Beetle Tattoos
The Scarab is an iconic symbol of ancient Egypt. With its wings outstretched and clutching a strange orb, it is both fantastical and seemingly rooted to an actual insect. The truth is that these scarabs were just as popular back then as they are now. Why were these bugs so popular? Why do those ‘scaraboids’ look so different from the bugs? What do Scarabs symbolize? Finally, how do we make an amazing tattoo design out of these amazing symbols? Today, let’s talk about the best Scarab beetle tattoos, Scarab beetle tattoos’ meaning, and the symbolism that goes with the Scarab beetle.
Scarab Beetle Tattoos Meaning
Scarabs were associated with the Egyptian god Khepri. It’s thanks to this god that Scarab beetle talismans became amazingly popular by about 2,000 BCE (or, 4,000 years ago). Khepri was the god of the morning sun and rebirth. While there were other gods that claimed the sun, Khepri in particular took charge of the sunrise. Scarab beetles have a tendency to roll—well, let’s not mince words—dung balls together. These smelly contraptions tend to be filled with fly eggs, from which new life is born.
In a time where the origins of life were scarcely understood, it appeared that the Scarabs were creating life all on their own. Just like his little counterparts, Khepri rolled the sun into the skies each day. The red orb you see scarabs holding represents the sun and is called the Eye of Ra. You can read about that on my dedicated Eye of Ra tattoos page!
Symbolism of Scarab Beetle Tattoos
Back to the matter at hand, though! We don’t really hear the word Khepri often. We’re more likely to think of Ra, Osiris, Isis, and Anubis when it comes to Egyptian gods. I even gave Anubis, the Eye of Ra, and the Eye of Osiris their own tattoo pages, that’s how popular they are! So why don’t we hear about Khepri, despite seeing so many beetles around? What do those big red dots and beautiful wings represent?
The truth is that the Scarabs…were perfectly shaped. Yep, it’s all about those curves! They were slightly ovoid, lending them the exact shape needed for a talisman. In a time where seals were the most accurate depiction of identity, amulets shaped like scarabs were easy to make and customize. Its association with Khepri was part of its importance, but it appeared to be more of a trend than a religious icon. Seals were used to press patterns into wax. They were meticulously crafted and each one was unique. It was like a signature…if your signature was able to glue a letter together. In this way, the scarab was a symbol of trust.
Anyways, even if its main popularity was as a tool, the symbology of scarab beetle tattoos pays tribute to both Ra and Khepri. Khepri and Ra did more than roll the sun around. As you already know, the red jewel that scarab beetle tattoos hold is representative of the Eye of Ra…and therefore the sun. It is meticulously crafted some nothing, both by Ra and Khepri. Khepri was seen as a minor form of Ra, but he did have his own reputation as a god. Not only did he bring the sun back to life each morning—giving him an association with rebirth—but he governed the scarabs, which could create life out of nothing. This was the flourishing warmth that the sun had. Khepri represented creation from nothing and his work was the source of all life. Not bad for a ‘minor’ god! If you want to keep your tattoo from becoming a source of life (aka a bacteria haven), make sure to read my aftercare guide and consider looking into tattoo lotions or sunscreens.
The wings you see on the side of scarabs are a sign that the scarab is funerary in nature. That means that it was meant to protect the heart or soul of a loved one! It was believed that Anubis would weigh a dead person’s heart against the truth. If the heart won out, then the soul could continue on into the underworld. If not? Well, tough luck. Winged scarabs often had instructions on them to encourage the heart to put in a good word for the soul. That’s right—these were meant to bribe an organ! Even if this practice was a little odd, the designs they made were beautiful. Funerary scarabs were typically made out of blue and green stone, but the odd black or gray scarabs have been unearthed here and there. In tattoos, all colors are fair game!
Scarab Beetle Tattoo Traditional
Traditional scarab beetle tattoos are easy to pull off thanks to their classic color scheme. Red, yellow, black, and a bit of blue are all colors commonly seen in traditional tattoos from the early 20th century. With their basic geometry, it’s quite simple for artists to make these insects shine with the splendor and glory of the myths behind them. As for traditional designs, the outstretched wings of a scarab undoubtedly must go in. Although it relegates it to a funerary scarab—something only used to help mummies along—it still looks wicked cool and serves as a permanent amulet for you. You know, just in case you needed some help convincing Anubis you were a good dude in life.
The other traditional symbol to throw in is the Eye of Ra. As mentioned before, the scarab god Khepri was seen as something that made life from nothing. It rolled the sun into being each day, initiating the rebirth that we know as a night and day cycle. The Eye of Ra represents the power of the Sun. While not the sun itself, it’s the power lent from the celestial object that is depicted. By bestowing your scarab with a traditional Eye of Ra tattoo in its little beetle claws, you’re showing that age-old power the scarabs had over life itself. If you’re interested in a larger tattoo, think about trying some tattoo numbing cream (I made a buyer’s guide on this page).
Lastly, if you want to go for a more realistic look—akin to what you see in Egyptian murals—stick to simple geometry. Yes, even more simple than a beetle normally is. Shapes were simplified to make chiseling them in stone easier. Egyptians could make some pretty detailed papyrus designs, but for the walls themselves, they rarely took the time to make individual feather points, for example. They simply made a straight curve and then chiseled out a small tip to give the illusion of individually rendered feathers. Straight lines and bold color separations evoke the same feeling that those ancient reliefs do. The traditional colors for scarab beetle tattoos are red, gold, a blue-ish black, and turquoise. For mosaics and jewelry, each feather had their own gem, giving it the look of stained glass. As long as you stick to these guidelines, you’ll be able to make a flawless scarab beetle tattoo, traditional and authentic alike!
Small Egyptian Scarab Tattoos
For small Egyptian scarab tattoos, you want to focus on the form of the beetle. A scarab beetle’s geometry is easy to recognize and ink. Add in feathers, and you have an even more recognizable critter. The simplicity of a geometric scarab tattoo means that you can seriously reduce it in size without ruining its quantity.
Although you can add color to these small designs, I find that sticking to black ink and maybe one pigment creates the best look for small scarab tattoos. The line work is what matters in this situation, so any pigment should serve to highlight it. The Eye of Ra is the obvious thing to highlight—either as a solid disc or as some sort of jewel—but pigment can also be used to distinguish between layers of feathers. Adding a bit of color behind the beetle also makes the tattoo pop and appear 3D. Despite being such a simple adjustment, it really brings the focus onto the combination of skin an ink.
Another way to make your small Egyptian scarab tattoo shine is to add patterns to it. This is a more modern art technique—certainly not something the ancient Egyptians would have practiced—but it looks amazing regardless. Filigree patterns in particular look good spread across its wings. It sounds weird, but you can reference wallpaper, curtain designs, card patterns, and scrapbooking paper for some really neat designs to use for your little tattoos. You obviously don’t want to pick one that looks like your Grandma’s curtains, but it’s a good base point to find a simple way for your tattoo to stand out.
One last way to make your modern scarab beetle tattoo pop is to add some contraptions to it. Insects are small and delicate—just like a watch—so incorporating steampunk elements makes them look amazing. There are plenty of other ways to pull off a small Egyptian scarab tattoo, but I’ll let the picture gallery do the talking from here.
The Best Scarab Beetle Tattoos
Whether you’re honoring an ancient tattooing tradition or just looking for a unique tattoo design, scarab beetle tattoos offer something that looks good and has serious history. Learning about the symbolism of scarab beetles only helps to inspire designs. Will you go for a traditional design, full of strong lines and vivid color? Or perhaps a small and modern tattoo with more delicate linework is more your style? A steampunk scarab beetle looks good as well. Whatever the case, you share a tattoo symbol that people have loved for thousands of years in the past…and likely thousands of years in the future!