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star symbolism in body art

The star has been a powerful and mystical symbol since time immemorial, with a slew of associations both dark and divine.  So it should come as no surprise then to a modified generation that it pops up in body art left and right.  But what does the star mean to those who wear it?  And why is it one of the most popular motifs worldwide for youth skin art?

 star tattoos and piecings

A return to our ancestral roots may be partially responsible, as many ancient civilizations revered the symbol.  The Rub el Hizb, an eight pointed star created by overlaying two squares, is a Muslim symbol that has been used for hundreds of years and appears in the flags or coat of arms of many countries including Turkmenistan, Uzbekistan, and Kazakhstan.  The “morning star,” (a representation of Venus) which is a four pointed star, has been a symbol for strength of spirit and the watchful eye of the ancestors for many Native American tribes over the centuries as well.  And other four, five, and six pointed stars have been tied to the Sumerian, Greek, and ancient Shinto peoples as early as several hundred years BCE.

In modern times, the star has far simpler associations, such as legal ties (via the sheriff’s badge), religious connotations (think Star of David and Wiccan pentacle), and maritime leanings through the nautical star and eight-point compass rose.  It also appears as a symbol of rank or pride in almost every nation in the world’s military uniforms or insignia.  For those who are tattooed, the nautical association is generally the most relevant, as imagery of the north star has been inked superstitiously onto many a sailor since the 1800s.

 stars in nautical tattoo art

Some fun contemporary star idioms: catch a falling star, reach for the stars, Per Aspera Ad Astra (by rough ways to the stars), like a shooting star, until the stars collide, and you stole my star.

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