As European raiders and explorers entered the American land, Aztec civilization started to decay, especially when smallpox brought from Europe spread across the New World. Nevertheless, that didn’t stop the rich Aztec culture and mythology to persevere, with the famous monuments of the ancient civilization being one of the most popular attractions in Central America.
However, the remnants of the Aztec civilization are not only present in pieces of furniture, objects, and monuments. Its mythology, beliefs, and traditions live through ink, with many people regularly visiting tattoo artists with ideas of inking Aztec symbols on their bodies.
Initially, it was believed that the Aztec symbols were a signature of the Mexican mafia and cartels, with symbols coming to life mostly in prison. However, it is no longer just like that. Many admirers of ancient history proudly flaunt Aztec symbols on their bodies, with both smaller and larger tattoos being charming and popular.
In this article, we’ll take a deep and detailed look at the symbolism behind the Aztec tattoos. Additionally, we’ll take a look at the best Aztec tattoo ideas, and designs that flooded the social media networks and decorate the bodies of many tattoo addicts around the world.
Both Mayas and Aztecs were proudly wearing tattoos. The tattoos were more prominent on Aztec men and they were used to highlight one’s social status and power. Women weren’t wearing much prominent makeup or body paint. However, a special type of clay was used to cover their faces and limbs.
Most Aztecs have wiped out thanks to the European invaders who not only wanted to establish their territory on the American land, but also spread pathogens and diseases that affected indigenous people.
Today, Aztecs are not entirely wiped out. Instead, they’re known as people of the Nahua. According to some estimations, there are about 1,5000 million Nahua people who live scattered across rural Mexico, united in small groups and communities.
Most of them today are farmers or work as traders of their crafts that they still design to promote their culture and rich history that was at its peak between the 12th and 15th centuries. Interestingly, there are a lot of indigenous groups scattered across Mexico and the rest of Central America. Among Nahua, there are around 60 more groups.
History of Aztec Tattoos
Throughout history, we learned about different tattoo designs of many different empires and civilizations, but the Aztec tattoos are different than any others.
Popular culture, comics, and TV show always hinted that Vikings and other Norsemen had tattoos across their bodies, but because of lack of evidence (skin decays after death), we can only rely on poems and journals of different travelers who lived at the time. With Aztec tattoos, we can be certain that they practiced body art because of the art they were leaving on their objects and monuments of the past.
Aztec tattoos are authentic. They represent the social status of a warrior, shaman, or some other important entity in society. Additionally, Aztec people enjoyed tattoos as a mark of belonging in a specific group or tribe, while also being used to list accomplishments.
Mostly, warriors would get tattoos, and the more tattoos the person had, the more they contributed to society as a warrior. Tattoos would distinguish them from other men, showing that they’re important and that they should be respected.
Unlike body art of other empires and civilizations, Aztec tattoos were always in black or grey ink, which is why a lot of people today don’t opt for shading or using effects like watercolor when getting tattooed (although they’re not restricted from that.)
Usual tattoos in those times included skeletons, the sun, animals like a hummingbird or an eagle which was used to give respect to the supreme god of the Aztec mythology, warriors, headbands, headdress, or a body of a woman. If they were getting tattooed with a person, they’d often wear a headdress which was a decoration of success and high social status.
Interestingly, Aztecs even inked their children to give respect to the Gods. It would also be used to instill stronger faith and belief. If they’d get a tattoo of the sun, which was the key symbol of Aztec culture, they’d ink it on their chest or back. Today, a lot of people get a tattoo of the sun sitting at the center of the circular plate with various other symbols. They’d often get it inked as the center of the Aztec calendar.
Aztec Tattoo Meaning
As we walked you through the brief history of tattoos and Aztecs, you must slowly get the idea of what are the meanings behind the Aztec tattoos. If you still didn’t get to figure it out, here is a detailed walkthrough of the meanings behind the Aztec symbols on tattoos.
The sun is the supreme symbol in the Aztec culture. It is the symbol of power and sacrifice and it marked the center of the Aztec world. It was the world itself, the heaven. Aztecs believed in multiple suns and the most powerful god of the Aztec culture was Huitzilopochtli, who was the god of sun, war, and sacrifice.
You probably get the greater picture. Since Aztecs believed in being rewarded in the afterlife, they were sacrificing themselves and bringing the human sacrifices to the sun to mark its power and instill pure faith in it.
Interestingly, Aztecs also believed that the sun was one of the afterworlds that came after death. It was the heaven known as Tollan, where only warriors and women who died while giving birth could go.
Although they’re highly different compared to murder, death, and calamity, skeletons in Aztec culture have a positive meaning. One of those meanings includes happiness, but it’s also present as rebirth, fertility. The skull itself was the seed of fertility that would establish them as a civilization throughout history.
Eagles were divine animals for Aztecs. They were usually depicted as statues with patterned feathers protruding from their bodies and heads. In most of their architecture, the eagles were shown with their beaks wide open and wings spread apart as if it’s about to fly.
Eagles were connected to Aztec warriors, as they manifested honor, strength, and courage. Most of the courageous warriors were adorned with eagle feathers and headdresses. More importantly, many people who consider themselves warriors against some physical or mental struggles today proudly wear the Aztec eagle tattoo.
Crocodiles are divine creatures. Aztecs believed that the world laid on the bodies of crocodiles which represented their connection with Gods and other divine beings. Crocodiles today manifest creation, ambition, so a lot of creative souls get it tattooed. People who get crocodile tattoos don’t shy away from adding tribal symbols onto their bodies, because crocodiles also meant creativity.
Aztec and Mayan calendars with the sun in the middle were brought to attention in 2012 when the predicted end of the world was supposed to end. After the event didn’t occur, many people were inspired to get the calendar inked. It is associated with eternity and the connection between a human soul and eternity. It also marks the beginning and the end of life, and time in general.
The feathered serpent is another respected symbol in Aztec mythology, for it was believed to be the main protector of the world and everything that lives on it. With that in mind, the feathered serpent is the symbol of courage, protection, shielding, and love for the world.
It’s a quite complex symbol that is hard to tattoo, so make sure to find a talented tattoo artist that can help bring your tattoo to life.
40+ Best Aztec Tattoo Design Ideas
Now that we highlighted the key meanings of Aztec symbols that are popularly depicted in tattoos, let’s take a look at some tattoo ideas that you can get inked.
- The Sun – One of the most important symbols of the Aztec empire can be tattooed anywhere that you want. One of the more popular locations is that on the chest, which makes it closer to your heart.
- Skulls – Skulls aren’t depicted as bad in Aztec mythology. Instead, they’re the symbol of life and fertility. It means living as a whole and not just procreation.
- Birds – Hummingbirds and eagles are the most popular birds in the Aztec culture. Getting a tattoo of them looks like a great idea.
- Armband – Tribal tattoos and armbands inspired by Aztec symbols and geometrical signs could make a great appearance on your arm, especially if you combine it with some cool-looking sleeves.
- Serpent – There’s a snake or serpent in every mythology. Unlike other cultures, the Aztec feathered snake has a positive meaning of protection. If you need a lucky amulet to protect you, consider this tattoo.
- Calendar – For those who believe that the soul is eternal, you should take a look at some great Aztec calendar tattoos.
Aztec tattoo designs are an endless source of inspiration. That’s why we searched and dug for our most favorite ones. Let us share them with you below, and hopefully, you can use some of them for your next tattoo.
Small Aztec Tattoo
Not everyone is a fan of big, detailed, and dimensioned tattoos that will take your breath away. Some people prefer small and minimalistic designs that won’t draw too much attention but will showcase your respect and admiration for certain cultures.
Small tattoos can go anywhere, but they’re ideal on areas around the wrist, legs, upper back, chest, neck, and face. What’s the best is that you can also combine different symbols, especially the geometric ones, as shown in the picture.
Aztec Tattoos For Women
Get an Aztec warrior lady on your warrior body. Women go through different hormonal and physical transformations throughout their life. Instead of hiding your challenges and struggles, you can crown overcoming them with a unique and creative tattoo, inspired by one of the images above. Beautiful!
You can always go with Aztec symbols coupled with some flowers and other feminine signs. But, the truth is, that may not be as attractive as showing the fierce and powerful side of feminine beauty. You can get a feminine Aztec tattoo anywhere that you want. However, arm tattoos remain the most popular.
Aztec Tattoos For Men
What may be a perfect tattoo for men is quite individual, but we did our best to make our pick of masculine tattoos. We combined complex sleeve tattoos that many men find attractive and feel bold about getting. The tattoos we listed feel powerful, stylish and will put your strength and courage into the first plan.
There is a combination of skulls, warriors, and various Aztec patterns that will add more depth to your curves, especially if you work out frequently and feel comfortable in your body.
Aztec Armband Tattoo
Armbands can represent multiple meanings. From grieving for a certain person that you loved to celebrating life, love, power, and strength. It’s also a symbol of eternity. Although Aztec civilization is pretty much extinct with scattered groups of descendants across Mexico, their culture continues to live on.
If you believe that the Aztec culture and legacy are eternal then the armband tattoo is designed just for you. We highlighted some of the patterned designs that you may like. They resemble tribal tattoos, which is why we also recommend checking out the best armband tattoo designs to inspire you.
Aztec Tattoos On Back
Aztec back tattoos are eternal, and they’ll easily drag all the attention to you, especially in the summer when we want to get to the pool or beaches for some fun and enjoyment. Aztec back tattoos can be interlaced with simple arrow-like symbols, as well as complex geometrical designs.
It’s worth mentioning that if you want a complex net of Aztec symbols on your back, it’s better to do it from multiple attempts, with a clear design and pattern that you’d like to use, so your tattoo artist can certainly know what he or she are doing. More importantly, find a tattoo artist that will carefully approach the design and turn it into the best result of the reality that you can think of.
Aztec Bicep Tattoo
When you don’t want to go a full sleeve, you either do your forearm or bicep. Some bold tattoo enthusiasts will take a step forward and do a shoulder tattoo that will then merge with the bicep. Let’s face it, Aztec tattoos are for the bold, and given the large area, you can get pretty much any symbol tattooed on your bicep. From warriors, the sun, geometrical symbols, and animals within the Aztec empire and believes.
Read More: 60+ Bicep Tattoo Ideas and Meanings Behind Them (2023 Updated)
Aztec Sleeve Tattoo
The best part about the sleeve tattoos is that there is enough space to put the entire Aztec mythology and signature culture on it and tell a story about it to others who admire your tattoo. They’re bold, deep, and consist of multiple dimensions that simply have a personality.
It is a blend of skulls, eagles, calendars, various symbols that are divine in the Aztec empire, and much more. It can even consist of armbands and geometrical symbols, as well as headdresses and masks that proud Aztec warriors wore during the chaotic times. Let your tattoo tell a story about the ascension of the Aztec empire, just like the designs above!
Aztec Chest Tattoo
Chest is a large space that gives some of the most wicked and boldest tattoo ideas a room to grow. If you can withstand the pain of the thin area between the chest and bones, then you’ll be greeted with the masterpiece tattoos from the tattoos above.
Luckily, the chest is also good for experimenting with smaller, and more minimalistic tattoos that won’t require heavy shading done by the side of your tattoo artist. There is enough space for dates, animals, god symbols, as well as different geometrical shapes that won’t take too much of your space.
The most popular Aztec symbol on the chest is the Aztec calendar with the sun in the middle. Given its symbolism with life and eternity, we understand why people tattoo it on their chest, close to the heart. After all, love is eternal.
Read More: Best Chest Tattoos for Men: 70+ Design Ideas (2023 Updated)
Aztec Skull Tattoo
As mentioned earlier, skeletons and skulls have a positive meaning in the Aztec culture. They symbolize life, fertility, childbirth, strength, and many other things. They’re synonymous with great things and more importantly for eternity.
Given that Aztecs often brought in human sacrifices for the better good, it can probably explain why they were obsessed with skeletons. Even today, many people like to add a smaller or larger skull for tattoos. In most cultures, a skull means victory over death, and with that in mind, people tend to celebrate such meaningful victories with a detailed skull tattoo, be it bigger or smaller.
Aztec Snake Tattoo
The feathered snake didn’t age well when it comes to tattoos. Luckily, it served as an inspiration to many other snake designs that also serve to promote the Aztec mythology and symbolism. Whether you would prefer a colored snake or a simple, minimalistic design, you can’t go wrong with some Aztec symbol accompanying it.
There are some nice examples of the Aztec feathered snakes too, you’ll just have to make it bigger for details to be more visible. If you go for a bigger design, you won’t make a mistake in turning it into a large back tattoo, or a sleeve, as displayed in one of the pictures.
Aztec Eagle Tattoo
Aztec eagle is the symbol of the supreme god of Aztecs who often was described as a hummingbird or a wolf. We described earlier what eagle meant, but it also means freedom, especially when you see how far it spreads its wings away.
Nevertheless, eagles are also an amazing detail for a tattoo, especially when you consider larger locations. Eagles are usually depicted with their beak wide open and wings spread away. A lot of tattoo artists get creative and add more patterns to the design, which we find to be a great idea and a detailed finish touch to an already amazing tattoo.
Aztec Warrior Tattoo
Aztec warriors contributed to the development and rise of the Aztec empire, as many historians claim. They were especially honored by the Gods and the empire’s leaders for contributing to the success of the raids and protection of women and babies. They were adorned in detailed headdresses but also decorated with body paint and tattoos.
If a warrior lives inside you, regardless if you’re a woman or a man, then a tattoo would look great on you, pointing out your best qualities and virtues. It’d look the best on your arm, back, or chest, but you can get creative and come up with your own designs depending on how big of a tattoo you want.
Aztec Geometrical Shapes Tattoo
Whether you’re looking for a small tattoo or a masterpiece painted across your back, you can’t go wrong with geometrical shapes and patterns. Patterns exist in various cultures, especially Nordic and Celtic. Aztec shapes are no exception and they were created with impeccable details.
Starting from knots, to decorations over Aztec statues and warriors, you can see a plethora of curvatures and geometrical shapes like triangles, rectangles, spirals, and much more. You can use patterns to fill in the blank space between larger symbols, or even combine different cultures on one tattoo as was shown in the second picture.
Aztec Calendar Tattoo
This article would not feel complete without one of the most accurately displayed calendars of those times. Living isolated in a long-ago yet to be discovered world, Aztecs seemed to have something of advanced technology to calculate times. Aztec calendar is shaped like a large disc with intervening symbols and patterns that would unite at the center, with the sun, which marks heaven, and all the light of life in Aztec mythology.
It’s a popular option on your sleeve, chest, back, thighs, and pretty much, wherever you want it to be. Make sure to pick a clear design, so that your tattoo artist will see what they’re doing and bring your tattoo to perfection.
Aztec Tattoo: Frequently Asked Questions
If reading our article or researching your best Aztec tattoo design left you with some unanswered questions, we’re here to try and find the answer. Check out our FAQ section to see if we can help.
Q: What Aztec Tattoo Symbol Works the Best For Me?
A: Any Aztec tattoo symbol can work with you if you identify with it. Sometimes, we get lost finding our true selves, but deep down, we’re all brave, strong, and powerful if we need to be. Any of the aforementioned symbols can make a great tattoo for you, and work as an amulet of strength.
Q: Can Girls Get Aztec Tattoo Symbols?
A: Of course, you can always try to go with a more feminine design, if you feel like you’re too delicate for some brutal designs from this list. However, there’s a raw strength hiding within all of us, and these tattoos can help unveil our deep strength.
Q: What is the Cost of the Aztec Tattoo Symbol?
A: Smaller designs can go as little as $50-$100. The problem with most Aztec tattoos, however, is that they’re usually larger and more importantly, they’re filled with details. Talk to your tattoo artist about what price could work with a design you want. Still, a more complex design, especially if it covers a larger area, could cost over $1,000.
Q: Does Getting an Aztec Tattoo Hurt?
A: Getting any tattoo could hurt, especially if you’re getting it on a more sensitive part, like the stomach, ribs, or other areas that have a thin skin layer. The pain you’ll experience also depends on your tattoo artist and your pain tolerance. Still, once the tattoo heals without a hassle, you’ll forget about all the pain when you see how great the tattoo came out.