Anchor tattoos are one of the oldest tattoo designs in the West and they are still popular today. Why do people get anchor tattoos? What does the anchor symbol mean?
1. People used an anchor as a symbol of their Christianity
In early Christianity, Christians were persecuted by the ruling Romans. To identify themselves as Christians to one another and simultaneously lie low from anti-Christian threats, they used secret symbols like the anchor, which was chosen for its resemblance to a cross. The anchor’s nature of strongly holding ships steady even in stormy weather strengthened the analogy of the anchor to religion.
The religious use of the anchor was used to decorate Christian buildings to mark them as safe houses for fellow Christians seeking refuge. Anchor symbols can still be seen to be decorating some ancient buildings and Christian catacombs to this day.
Used in this religious way, the anchor is called the “Crux Dissimulata” which means the “dissimilar cross” or the “disguised cross” in Latin.
After the adoption of the anchor symbol by the Christians, meaning was given to the various parts of the anchor: The curved base of the anchor was deemed to be symbolic of Mary and the cross that rises from it is like Christ being born from her.
2. Seafarers used anchor tattoos to demonstrate their affinity with the sea
For centuries, sea-faring sailors and other mariners expressed a penchant for the anchor symbol, and it was an extremely popular tattoo in this community.
The nautical nature of the anchor symbol makes it clear why it was chosen by the sea-faring community. Why the anchor was chosen above other parts of the ship is likely for similar reasons that the Christians liked the symbol: For its connection with strength and stability, and also because it marked the successful, safe end of a voyage. In fact, a tradition arose where the anchor tattoo was used to celebrate a sailor’s first successful voyage across the Atlantic Ocean, and it was proudly exhibited as a sign of an experienced sailor.
Later, members of the US Navy carried on the “Atlantic Ocean crossing” anchor tattoo tradition. In our day, some marines, coastguards, fishermen and other sea-faring folk have adopted the long-held fondness for the anchor tattoo. It is even sported by cartoon sailor, Popeye!
For some, the anchor tattoo can be used to commemorate the end of a sailor’s career as he sets his anchor down for the last time.
3. People who have an indirect connection with the sea may also choose an anchor tattoo
People who have friends or family with nautical connections, may decide to get an anchor tattoo because it reminds them of their loved one. In families where a partner, a child or parent was a sailor, the sea-faring tradition can become deeply rooted in the family even if they don’t sail themselves.
People who simply have a love for the sea may also choose to sport the anchor tattoo.
4. The anchor as a symbol for stability
Even if you’re a land-lubber through and through, you may choose to get an anchor tattoo as a symbol of stability, security and groundedness.
Occasions where stability may be commemorated include:
- Acknowledging the secure support from loved ones, be it family, friends or a loving partner. Like being called their rock, they are called their anchor in stormy seas, offering a strong stability in their lives and helping to keep them in balance.
- On a similar note, the anchor may represent a person’s appreciation for having a safe port to come home to. This may be particularly meaningful for people who travel a lot in their work lives. Singer and actress Miley Cyrus says that its symbolic meaning for her gratitude for having a safe port is the main reason behind her anchor tattoo.
- For people who have had a tumultuous, unstable past, having an anchor tattoo can be a reminder for them to strive to maintain a more peaceful present and future. It could be a pledge to be faithful, loyal and a promise to be there for someone, no matter what happened in the past.
- Reminding them to stay down to Earth, which is especially an issue for people who are highly revered and in the public eye.
5. The anchor as a symbol for holding strongly to your principles
People who hold on to their values and principles no matter what may choose to exemplify this part of their personality with an anchor tattoo.
The anchor may be used by people who have become in tune with “who they are” after a long period of feeling they didn’t really know.
The anchor tattoo also became well-liked in the homosexual community to honor how they remain true to themselves even during hard times of intolerance from others.
6. A broken anchor may represent letting go of old inhibiting ways
Since an anchor represents the unchanging, for some it can be a symbol of problems and stuck situations that they are unable to move on from. Choosing a broken or cracked anchor tattoo can be a celebration of finally succeeding to let go of something, and moving forward.
7. It just looks good!
Some people decide on an anchor tattoo for no other reason than the simple: “Because I like the way it looks.”
Famous People with Anchor Tattoos:
- Popeye ( )
- Winston Churchill
- Kate Moss
- Miley Cyrus
- Kelly Osbourne