Our fascination with ancient Egypt will never end.
It seems everyone has a passing knowledge of this culture, their practices, and especially their aesthetic.
Though it is often thought about as an old culture that died out over time, there are still people who worship ancient Egyptian gods.
So if you’re looking to get a tattoo of an Egyptian figure, it’s best to do your research first.
Read on for everything you need to know about the most popular ancient Egyptian tattoos!
Why Are We Still so Interested in Ancient Egypt?
William Shakespeare presented the dramatic tale of Anthony and Cleopatra in 1607.
Many of the iconic looks of the 1920s were inspired by the excavation of Tutankhamun’s tomb.
Like anything both aesthetically pleasing and timeless; ancient Egypt has inspired its share of tattoos.
Historians are still uncovering the tattooing practices of the Egyptians themselves.
At first, they thought tattoos were only worn by lower-class females.
Now, there is evidence to suggest that many Egyptians had skin markings.
As a culture interested in opulence and pageantry, it is no surprise that tattoos would be popular in Egypt.
A lot of time has gone into studying ancient Egyptians and their habits.
But there’s still more to discover.
Perhaps that is why we’re still so intrigued by this long-ago culture.
Today’s Egypt may look different, but the shadows of yesterday’s icons remain.
Are you considering an Egyptian tattoo?
Let’s arm you with some information before you head to the shop.
Here, we will explore some of the most popular ancient Egyptian tattoo designs.
We will start with the most iconic Egyptian figure in history:
According to most historians, Cleopatra was not the great beauty people think her to be.
She was beguiling and persuasive, and that is not a reputation she earned with her looks alone.
Cleopatra was clever and had a beautiful voice.
She knew exactly how to dazzle people when she wanted something.
For these reasons and more, she is recorded as a great beauty.
It doesn’t have much to do with her physical features.
Cleopatra was not unpleasant to look at.
She just didn’t have the symmetrical, modelesque features we imagine for her.
You may want a Cleopatra tattoo to remind you that some of the most memorable people in history were not classic beauties.
In today’s female-forward society, many people turn to Cleopatra as an example.
A Cleopatra tattoo may be a powerful image for a woman in power.
A Cleopatra tattoo can symbolize women in power and excellent leadership skills.
Cleopatra would often dress up as the goddess Isis- not just for the fashion.
When asked to meet with the Roman officer Mark Anthony, who later became her lover, she arrived in style.
Knowing that Anthony fancied himself a Dionysus on earth, she made herself up to look like Aphrodite.
She sailed toward him on a golden barge, sitting beneath a beautiful canopy.
Her servants, dressed as cupid, fanned her to enhance her regality.
This lavish display, mixed with the smell of Cleopatra’s chosen incense, certainly made an impression.
A Cleopatra tattoo can be a wonderful talisman for someone who’s not afraid to live an over-the-top life.
Looking for an ancient Egyptian tattoo, but Cleopatra’s not your thing?
Let’s turn our attention to another icon of the ancient world.
Nefertiti was a queen of Ancient Egypt and is an incredibly popular figure in tattooing.
Tattoos of Nefertiti symbolize power, royalty, and beauty.
The people that wear the tattoo believe that it will bring them luck as they endeavor to conquer their challenges.
Many people believe that they are not worthy to carry the beauty of Nefertiti around with them in this world, but her tattoos instruct us to think of these obstacles as an opportunity to grow our self-confidence.
King Tut Tattoos
This regal image is a popular tattoo choice across gender identities.
King Tut’s golden sarcophagus has the kind of beautiful detailing a tattoo artist dreams of.
Many people with King Tut tattoos fancy themselves born leaders.
This is a great design for someone who has felt destined for greatness from a young age.
For those who still work with Egyptian gods, a King Tut tattoo is a powerful reminder of their polytheistic faith.
You may get a King Tut death mask tattoo if you work in a dangerous field where you face death every day.
With this symbolism in mind, the death mask is a deeply spiritual symbol of protection.
Egyptian gods are fascinating and aesthetically pleasing, making them a natural choice for tattoo enthusiasts.
Osiris is one of the most well-known Egyptian deities.
His associations are with death, rebirth, natural cycles, and fertility.
Some are confused by Osiris because of the duality in his nature.
He is King of the Underworld in ancient Egyptian mythology.
An Osiris tattoo is not a decision to take lightly.
He’s the god of gods and will be a very powerful presence in your life.
People generally get Osiris tattoos for one of two reasons:
Do you identify with the idea of coming back to life?
Maybe you’ve recently had a difficult experience where you had to redefine your values.
An Osiris tattoo may be a good choice!
The ancient Egyptian spiritual structure is based largely on celestial structures.
The moon and the sun are important figures in this belief system.
The moon travels through the sky in two 14 day cycles, which is why Osiris was torn into 14 pieces.
He then dies for 3 days, the exact amount of time the moon goes dark before re-emerging/being resurrected.
If you have a special connection with the moon, this may be the ancient Egyptian tattoo for you.
Goddess Isis Tattoos
Isis is more than Osiris’s sister and Horus’s mother.
She is a divine enchantress.
There’s a reason Cleopatra was so drawn to this winged goddess.
Her image is still popular in many pagan belief systems today.
She also has fans in the celebrity world: Rihanna has an Isis tattoo on her chest in memory of her late grandmother.
Isis is a symbol of healing, magic, and wisdom beyond measure.
An Isis tattoo is often used as a symbol of maternal love and fertility.
One of the more popular Egyptian tattoos is the pharaoh tattoo.
Pharaohs were powerful rulers who brought great prosperity to their people during their reign, so it is no wonder that many people would want this symbol tattooed onto their skin.
Many hope to receive positive energy from the tattoo by drawing on the power of the pharaohs who came before them and benefiting from their royal protection.
Thanks to her associations with sun energy, cows & cow’s milk- Hathor is ultimately a maternal figure.
You may get a Hathor tattoo if you want to honor your Egyptian heritage and/or the women in your life, such as a long-term partner or mother.
She is a symbol of fertility, femininity, and motherly nurturing.
Hathor is often depicted with large wings, though these are more commonly attributed to Isis.
You may also want a Hathor tattoo as a woman who gets things done while taking care of the people who matter most.
A Hathor tattoo is something you don’t see every day, so it can be a nice unique tattoo piece for Egyptian people, art scholars, and history buffs alike.
Because she is ultimately the goddess of love, beauty, and divine motherhood- you will be able to find a version of Hathor in most traditions.
Thoth, like other Egyptian gods and goddesses, is most often depicted as having an animal’s head with a human’s body.
At times a Thoth tattoo is depicted as a baboon, and even then he will be holding a crescent moon.
Thoth being born so unconventionally and having an association with the moon gives him a somewhat gender-fluid nature.
He can be a wonderful guide to someone who feels betwixt or anyone who wants to find a balance between their masculine and feminine side.
Thanks to this god’s creative influence, there is a number of styles a Thoth tattoo may come in.
Most traditionally would be either an ancient Egyptian art style or in other cases portraiture.
The most common choice is to portray Thoth as a bird-headed man, others may choose an ibis or a baboon.
In ancient mythologies, he also works as a record keeper for the gods and is credited with bestowing the gift of the written word on humanity.
If you are looking to get a Thoth tattoo, there are so many ways you can approach it.
Egyptian Tattoo Symbols
Some Egyptian symbols look great on their own or can accompany other Egyptian tattoo images, including:
Ankh tattoos are used to signify eternal life and rebirth.
They are viewed as a means of preserving life through eternal peace, everlasting love, and an undying spirit.
People who get ankh tattoos are often attempting to honor something about themselves or others that they want to live on forever.
Eye of Horus Tattoos
Eye of Horus tattoos have been used for centuries as symbols of protection against the wearer’s enemies.
The eye is also considered to be a central source of magical power, as well as wisdom and prosperity.
In Ancient Egypt, it was believed that an individual’s life is protected by special spirits called “ka” or “sah.”
When one was born, they were given a “ka”, and if their “ka” ever left them during their lifetime, this would lead to untimely death.
Eye of Horus tattoos are believed to help prevent this from happening.
Djed tattoos symbolize balance and stability.
They are a representation of the djed pillar found in Ancient Egyptian architecture, which was believed to represent fertility and stability.
These tattoos are commonly used as reminders for people to make peace with the challenges they face in life.
In addition to their importance as an ancient symbol of strength, they also invoke protection from supernatural forces that might cause enemies to infiltrate the wearer’s body or mind.
Crook & Flail Tattoos
Crook and flail tattoos are an expression of power, strength, and steadfastness.
Pharaohs often used these symbols to demonstrate their strength and authority when ruling over the common people.
The tattoo represents a person’s inner strength, ability to remain strong in the face of adversity, and ability to recover from its consequences.
In Ancient Egypt, scarab beetles were used as symbols for the sun’s journey across the sky.
As a result, scarab tattoos symbolize life’s journey, rebirth, and resilience.
People often get them when they are leaving a difficult chapter in their lives and entering a newer, brighter chapter.
One of the main popular symbols in Ancient Egypt was the cartouche.
It was believed that this symbol would protect the wearer from evil in this life and the afterlife.
People who get these symbols tattooed on their bodies often believe that it will protect them from the attacks of their enemies, lighten their burdens in life, and bring good luck to their endeavors.
Uraeus is the name of the rearing cobra which adorned the crowns of pharaohs and gods.
It was adopted by royalty to symbolize the divine protection they had been granted.
Uraeus tattoos symbolize “ren,” meaning “renewal” or “protection”.
They are seen as a powerful force against evil and darkness.
The pyramids are such an amazing feat, people are still theorizing how the Egyptians built them.
A pyramid tattoo can be a symbol of great human achievements.
In the mystical sense, pyramids are triangular, symbolizing the element of fire.
They amplify and raise energy.
Be sure to balance yourself out with some water, air, or earth energy!
Giza’s great pyramid and sphinx is one of the seven wonders of the ancient world.
The Sphinx has the head of a Pharaoh with the body of a lion.
The lion is associated with Sekhmet, daughter of the sun god Ra.
The potent combination of a solar deity, the power of a lion, and the wisdom of a Pharaoh, make this a stunning symbol.
Like pyramid tattoos, it can symbolize great human achievements.
This Egyptian symbol as a tattoo can also symbolize great strength and power- wield it wisely!
Egyptian Tattoo Styles
Egyptian tattoos come in many designs and styles.
Egyptian tattoo styles can be portrayed as black and grey, colored, sketched, realistic, traditional, and neotraditional.
Below, we’ll discuss some of the tattoo designs that work best with Egyptian tattoos.
Neo-traditional Egyptian Tattoos
Neotraditional Egyptian tattoos are a blend of the traditional and contemporary.
They combine the ancient symbolism found in Egyptian tattoo designs with recent artistic trends like bright colors and stylized, illustrative art.
Sketchy Egyptian Tattoos
Sketchy Egyptian tattoos are done in a style that uses thin black line drawings to capture the desired design.
Sketchy tattoos often look like drawings in a sketchbook (hence the name), but in the case of Egyptian tattoos, they also look like engravings on stone.
This provides a fantastic layer of realism to the Egyptian art style which is most commonly found carved on stone walls and tablets.
Watercolor Egyptian Tattoos
Watercolor tattoos are a growing trend in the tattoo world.
They are very popular because of their bright colors and whimsical, artistic qualities.
Watercolor tattoos work best when they are colorful, but not too detailed.
That makes them a great match for less detailed Egyptian tattoo designs like the cartouche or ankh, which allow the hazy colors of the watercolor to shine through.
Egyptian Tattoo Ideas
Egypt’s ancient imagery is so beautiful, it’s no wonder it has inspired so much art.
If you approach these symbols respectfully, they can make beautiful tattoos.
Stuck on ideas? Check out our gallery for some Egyptian inspiration!
Egyptian Sleeve Tattoos
The Egyptian tattoo sleeve is a popular design of tattooing that uses an entire arm as a canvas to explore tattoos themed around Ancient Egypt and Egyptian styles.
Sleeve tattoos often use the traditional ankh and eye of Horus designs, but more creative artists will design unique sleeve tattoos taking inspiration from more obscure aspects of Ancient Egyptian lore and culture.
Large-scale Egyptian Tattoos
Large-scale Egyptian tattoo designs are explorations of the same styles and designs that we’ve discussed in this article but on a much larger scale.
They include cartouches, scarabs, ankhs, and Eye of Horus tattoos to create large-scale masterpieces on backs, necks, shoulders, and other large regions of the body.
Egyptian Skull Tattoos
The shape of the Egyptian skull in the tattoos is often interpreted in many different ways.
Some see skull tattoos as symbols of death, while others see them as symbols of everlasting life.
Black & Grey Egyptian Tattoos
Black and grey tattoo styles work very well with many Egyptian tattoos due to their sculptural and architectural nature.
The shading of black and grey tattoos allows artists to create Egyptian tattoos with a sense of depth and realism that’s hard to replicate with other styles.
The popularity of Egyptian god and goddess tattoos may seem strange, but ancient Egyptian art and spirituality have an undeniable appeal.
The images are lush and ornate, the stories are exciting, and the ideas are less dogmatic and binary gendered than more mainstream belief systems.