First published on Autostraddle
There’s no denying it, tarot and tattoos go together really well.
Like sunsets and mountaintops. Like early morning train journeys and headphones full of Bjork. Like re-reading Written on the Body after a break-up. So many symbols! So many pretty pictures! So many feelings! It’s no surprise that the internet is awash with pictures of dark-arts-body-art and arcane needlework.
I’m ashamed to say I don’t actually have a tarot tattoo myself and I’m really not sure why, so the very moment I finish writing up this article I’m gonna get my ass down to Black Crown in Leeds and get Gareth to cover me in cups, pentacles, swords and wands. Watch this space.
Meanwhile for your delectation I have compiled this set of the coolest, prettiest, sexiest and downright nicest tarot-related tattoos I can find.
PLUS! I also found the world’s most awesome tarot-reading lady tattoo-artist. You’re welcome!
Monique has the Ace of Cups with a quote from The Great Gatsby: “So we beat on, boats against the current, borne back ceaselessly into the past.”
Inkwork by Adam LoRusso at Pino Bros Ink, Cambridge, MA.
Straddler Jack has this whole gorgeous sleeve of tarot tattoos!
On my inner lower arm is The Fool, upper inner arm is The Devil, and upper back of my arm is Death. Shoulder cap is a mix of symbols from the Sun, Moon, and World cards, and lady on the front is based on the 6 of Wands. Only about half the color is done! All art based on Tarot Art Nouveau. I chose the cards based on Mary K Greer’s constellations work for my birthday and astrological sun sign (Capricorn).
Inkwork by Levi Hatch who now works at Fish Ladder Tattoo in Lansing, Michigan.
Brooke and her bestie Nadine got matching tarot tattoos of the Ace of Cups (with artwork based on the Tarot of Marseille deck):
Nadine’s is in color, my tattoos are only ever black and white. She’s the water sign actually, but as a typical fire sign (Leo, pretty much across the board, and if not Aries & Sag.) I wanna master my opposites and I always pick tattoo designs that are a little open-ended so I can aspire harder.
Here’s another friendship tattoo – Callie and her best mate have matching images of the four suits from the Wild Unknown Tarot:
My faraway bestie and I got the tarot signs together one weekend that she was visiting. We met in Chicago when we were 20, formed a band and DJ’d together weekly. We also had a mutual love for tarot.
I moved back to California when I was 25 but we’ll both do readings for one another whenever we get together which is about once or twice a year. Not only do I love my tattoo but it’s also a reminder of our friendship which has spanned over 15 years now 🙂
Katherine‘s Ace of Wands (again inspired by The Wild Unknown Tarot) tattooed by Ayako Junko Osaki at the awesome 4Points Body Gallery, MN:
Actually, The Wild Unknown Tarot has inspired a whole bunch of tarot tattoos, which they post on their Tumblr.
Witchbaby‘s awesome moon-phase tattoo isn’t strictly ‘tarot’ but I’m gonna include it anyway because I think it’s gorgeous:
Tarot reader Hilary Parry has the High Priestess inked onto her arm.
Why the High Priestess card? people have asked. My response is that she is a constant reminder to always always ALWAYS trust my intuition. What I really love about both my tattoo and the placement of it is that it does have multiple meanings, including the reversal. When most people see my tattoo, they are seeing the High Priestess card upright (and therefore all the meanings of the upright association). When I look at my tattoo, I am seeing the High Priestess reversed (because I must bend my arm at the elbow to take a good look at her). The reversal of the card is a reminder that every time I haven’t trusted my intuition, I always end up regretting it.
My gorgeous girl Emma has the platonic symbol for the element of water, which to me is completely linked to the suit of cups in tarot as I wrote about previously…
Here’s her sexy arm steering her boat, Flo:
I also wanna add in Leah’s awesome ‘we begin by listening’ tattoo which she mentioned when I interviewed her recently:
For Leah, this quote expresses the essence of her tarot and social justice practices:
One thing we’re doing within this activism is this focus on building, rather than on reacting, and on our own power as oppressed people to create our own amazing solutions… and two years ago when I started thinking “right, I’m gonna do this tarot thing as an actual business,” those worlds really started coming together, and I actually got them tattooed on my arm.
On my travels, I came across psychic tattoo artist Christian Castañeda, based in Mexico City. She has a stunning Instagram filled with tarot and other tattoos – here are a couple of my favourites:
For Christian, tarot and tattooing are intimately linked – after a tattoo session, she often pulls out her cards and reads tarot for her clients. I asked her more about how she combines the two.
There are two things that I think tarot and tattoos are related: both work in a very ritualistic way and both activities help people pour out one’s woes.
I started studying tarot because one of my best friends and mentor in life, gave me my first deck. It was the Marsella one. Six months later after he gave me the present, he passed away. Since we had a very special connection around our interests in alchemy and the occult, I decided to follow the path that he was about to teach me (he was an artist and a witch too).
Another reason for studying the tarot was that I needed to understand why was I working with certain specific symbols in my artistic practice.
My favourite tattoos are the ones who have this kind of Russian prison style, linework, dotwork, and engraving style. So if I don’t like the idea of the tattoo, I don’t do it. That’s because I believe that you have to love it if you are gonna make a mark on someone’s skin for life.
Writing this post has totally inspired my next tattoo… what about you? Have you got a tarot-related tattoo? Or are you inspired to get one? Which card or symbol would you get? Share it in the comments!
I’m a 30-something writer, artist, tarot reader, and perpetual explorer of the space between thought, feeling, and action.
I believe that spirituality and ritual are for everybody. I’m about the journey, in all of its messy, non-linear, chaotic iterations. I am excited by anticapitalist business and living with my whole entire self present. I use tarot cards to bring forth hidden truth, and ritual to affirm my commitment, over and over, to my ever-shifting path.