The snake almost always has its most open bearing vicious feigns and a snarling tongue.
Unlike in western cultures, the Japanese view of snakes is more positive.
In Japan, the snake is seen as beautiful and a force to be reconned with.
There is more to Japanese snake tattoos than meets the eye.
Let’s take a look at the general meaning of Hebi Tattoos.
Hebi Tattoo Meanings
Since snakes shed their skin, they are often seen as transformative beings.
In a way, they each become a new snake each time they shed because their entire set of skin becomes new again.
Therefore, Hebi tattoos can be symbols of rebirth.
If you have had an enormous change in your life then a Hebi tattoo can represent this transformation.
The tattoo can also represent eternal life or the existence of a soul.
If you believe in heaven or reincarnation then you may consider receiving a Hebi tattoo.
It is an ancient Japanese belief that seeing a live snake is very good luck (seeing a dead one is a stroke of bad luck).
Because of this, another meaning of Hebi tattoos is good fortune in life.
You may want to consider getting a white Japanese snake tattoo if you want extra good luck– the Japanese believed that white snakes are a good omen.
In fact, snakes are even seen to this day as almost religiously sacred animals in Japan and they have a high significance in their culture.
Under the Japanese zodiac, there are twelve different animals in each cycle.
The snake represents the sixth animal in the cycle.
If you were born in the year of the snake, it is said that you are mysterious, wise, often full of intuition and that you have good luck with money.
People born in the year of the snake also tend to be very hard on themselves, while at the same time being very easy-going people when it comes to interpersonal relationships.
Everything that has to do with the snake as a Japanese zodiac symbol adds to the meaning of the Hebi tattoo.
Hebi Tattoo Colors and Their Meanings
Hebi tattoos come in a variety of colors which each signify a certain meaning.
If you want your Hebi tattoo to have a certain color simply because it’s your favorite color, you don’t have to put too much thought into the meaning behind it.
However, you may just want to pick out a certain color Hebi tattoo to indicate its special meaning.
White Hebi Tattoos
The meaning of white Hebi tattoos tends to be religious in nature.
This can be seen in the Shide, which is a snake-shaped Japanese paper streamer that is used for blessings.
White Japanese snakes represent purity, rituals, and ceremonies such as weddings.
These white snake tattoos also represent good fortune and luck in any and all situations.
Red Hebi Tattoos
Red is the Japanese color of the Samurai, who used to wear red often as a sign of power.
The color red in the Japanese tattoo culture also symbolizes strength and liveliness.
Red Hebi tattoos are power symbols that are used to denote confidence and prove to yourself that you are capable of succeeding in anything you set your mind to.
Black Hebi Tattoos
Have you ever wondered why the last and most significant belt in karate is black?
That’s because the color black in Japanese symbolism represents wisdom, endurance, and discipline.
For that reason, black Hebi tattoos are symbols of life intelligence and experience.
Black Hebi tattoos mean that you have spent a lot of time and put in a lot of effort to get to where you are today.
Indigo Hebi Tattoos
In ancient Japan, purple was the color of emperors and of Gods.
This color was always so hard to manufacture that it was almost solely worn by the upper classes.
Because of this, like it is in most cultures around the world, purple is the Japanese color meaning royalty.
Purple Hebi tattoos mean that you will have good fortune in life and that things will go well for your overall.
The color has the meaning of protection in Japan because it was worn for its antibacterial qualities and other great properties.
Indigo cloth is nearly fire-resistant, but it’s also odor resistant and can help keep wounds from becoming infected.
Therefore, purple Hebi tattoos represent protection and safety in life and can ward off evil.
Yellow Hebi Tattoos
In a mix of both ancient and modern Japanese beliefs, the color yellow can symbolize bravery, loyalty, a long life, and wealth.
Yellow Hebi tattoos can represent an eternal life that goes on and on through either the belief in a heaven or in reincarnation.
These tattoos also mean that you will have good luck when it comes to wealth and prosperity in your life and the tattoo itself may bring this kind of luck with it.
Green Hebi Tattoos
Green is a common color for snakes, so many Hebi tattoos are green anyways.
However, some green Hebi tattoos do denote a special meaning of spring because green is the color of new leaves on trees.
Green Hebi tattoos also represent the meanings of exuberance and youth.
Hebi Designs and Their Meanings
Not only do Japanese snake tattoos differ in color, but their meanings also change a lot based on their designs.
Let’s take a look at some popular Hebi tattoo designs and their meanings:
Hebi with Skull Tattoo
Hebi tattoos often have skull tattoos nearby in a sleeve in a chest piece, or sometimes the snake is coming out of a skull’s head.
These tattoos are a nice reminder of the snake’s important meaning of rebirth or of the life cycle.
This tattoo design can also refer to eternal life, sometimes referring to eternal damnation but not always (this can be a positive tattoo, too).
This tattoo can also mean that if something happens to remember that life is all about change and that there are always second chances.
Hebi with Wave Tattoos
This tattoo is also a reminder that Japanese snake tattoos refer to change– waves come in and out just as life constantly moves forward.
Hebi tattoos with waves also symbolize how life is constantly reinventing itself just like the snake.
Things always seem to come full circle and life never really seems to end– everything is eternal. If you hold this belief, then you may want to add waves to your Hebi tattoo.
Hebi Tattoo With Chrysanthemums
The Japanese believe that chrysanthemums represent generosity, how powerful humans really are, and that if you are determined to do something you will succeed.
Hebi tattoos with chrysanthemum tattoos mean that you will have great luck as well as great determination in life.
This tattoo can also mean that the soul is powerful and that powerful forces are helping to guide you along your journey through life.
Hebi Tattoo With Namakubi
This tattoo can mean pretty much one of two things.
Either your aim is to intimidate people with a really scary-looking tattoo (which will probably succeed), or you want to remember that you only have so much time in this life and that life is short.
The first meaning is about taking pride in your ability to be confident and courageous in any situation.
The latter meaning is more of a reminder to live life to the fullest.
Although the snake represents rebirth, this tattoo design represents the life in front of you and how it will go by quickly so you must use it wisely.
Hebi Sleeve Tattoo
The most popular place to have a Hebi tattoo is as a sleeve, often with a lot of imagery coordinated together.
Hebi sleeve tattoos have a lot of meanings.
They can refer to eternal life and rebirth or change.
They can also mean that you desire to have better luck by receiving a Hebi tattoo, especially better luck with money.
These tattoos can also mean that you have great intuition and interpersonal communication.
It is important to choose the right color and surrounding symbolism for your Hebi sleeve to denote the proper meaning that you are looking for in your tattoo.
Although it seems as if Hebi tattoos are limited to those who are from Japan or who have Japanese heritage, nowadays people of literally any style and from any country can get a Hebi tattoo.
What’s important is the symbolism that comes from the Japanese traditions, not whether or not you are Japanese yourself.
It is not offensive in any way to receive a Hebi tattoo if you are not Japanese.
In fact, go for it!
You will be far from the only person to get one!
Alyssa Kucinski is a writer, curator, and photographer who publishes articles on the topics of the arts, culture, and social justice. She graduated from the Fashion Institute of Technology with a degree in fashion business and art history and museum professions. Her experience working with a variety of art institutions, her world travel, and her inquisitive nature provides her with a unique insight. Check out her about page, she would love to connect with you!