The Meaning of Elephant Tattoo Designs Will Surprise You
Elephant tattoos aren’t as popular as other forms of tattoos, they do have a sophistication and charm that can make them worthwhile additions to any collection of body art. But Elephant tattoos aren’t all about looks. They also have a considerable amount of symbolism behind them. It is agreed by most scholars that elephants represent such noble characteristics as strength, wisdom and nobility.
When elephant tattoos are inked they are done in one of two styles. They can either be tattooed in a cartoon-like fashion or they can be tattooed in a realistic fashion.
Cartoon style elephant tattoos are usually done with the features of the elephant exaggerated, especially the ears, tusks and trunk. They may also sport unusually long eyelashes and an innocent appearance. Elephant tattoos that are done realistically are usually set in a natural environment such as a jungle or playing in a stream.
Elephant tattoos may also be combined with other elements to add emphasis to the symbolic meaning or to add additional meanings to the design. Elephant tattoos are often paired with other types of animals such as parrots, snakes and the elephant’s arch enemy, the mouse. What you have incorporated into the design is dependent on your choice of design and the meaning you attach to it.
Just a regular elephant tattoo still has deep meaning. In India, the elephant is a symbol of power, patience, wisdom, success, prosperity, and benevolence. Ironically, elephants are also a symbol of both chastity and great sexual energy. And, though elephants appear heavy and clumsy, their image is also symbolic of both clouds and gracefulness. The Hmong have similar interpretations, and admonish people not to insult elephants; to do so could lead to destruction of property.
Many of these fascinating interpretations of elephant symbolism comes from the fact that elephants are fascinating creatures. They have a unique social structure in which group of females, as many as 400, band together to raise the offspring while the males roam alone. Perhaps the most fascinating thing about elephants are their death rituals.
Elephants often bury their dead with branches and dirt and, when coming upon the skeletal remains of a deceased elephant, they will pass the bones around from mouth to mouth, then return them just as they found them. No wonder Hmong legends also assume elephants lead spirits of the dead to the underworld.
In India, the God Ganesh, or Ganesha has the head of an Elephant and Ganesh is a prominent feature in Hindu art and temples all over Southeast Asia. Elephants in Asia are regarded with reverence, symbolizing a benign divinity and benevolence. In Asia today there are still religious ceremonies where people make offerings to elephants, wash them and anoint them with special oils and pigments, seeking their blessings and good will.
Elephant herds are always led by an adult female, and elephants often live to a great age, occasionally surpassing humans. In times of drought, the elephant herds will always remember which watering holes are the most reliable. This is where the myth that an elephant never forgets anything comes from. Elephants will come to the aide of another elephant in trouble or distress and will often refuse to leave the body of an elephant that has died for several days. Because of these traits, elephants are symbols of wisdom, loyalty, strength, fidelity and longevity.