Crosses possibly have more meanings than any other well-known symbol. Some designs have the obvious religious association and others have meanings which are more rooted in culture and ethnic identity. There are cross designs which carry with them military associations and some which are very much associated with outlaw culture. There are versions which are associated with various supremacist groups, as well. This is one of the most powerful symbols in Western culture and, when considering adding one to one's tattoo work, one should investigate diligently the meaning of these various devices.
Religious crosses are the first and most obvious incarnations of these designs. It is the most recognized symbol of the Christian faith and more followers are opting to have this device added to their bodies, usually in a conspicuous spot such as on the arm. Women have these tattoos added to their bodies as well, usually in a more discreet location. Designs intended to communicate devotion usually feature other symbols familiar to the associated religion such as archangels, fire, lines of scripture and other personal expressions of one's belief. Crosses tattooed on in this fashion tend to be among the most meaningful tattoos their wearers bear.
Some crosses are very much associated with a certain nation or an ethnic group and may or may not have any religious meaning to them. The Celtic cross is an excellent example of such a symbol that usually has both meanings. These crosses feature a circle which surrounds the interior of the cross and they generally have very ornate Celtic "knot" designs around the interior. This symbol is one of the most recognized devices used by those of Celtic descent and is generally appealing to most individuals. The synergy represented by this device makes it an interesting tattoo to wear.
There are crosses which are associated with outlaw culture. Foremost among these is the Iron Cross. This symbol has become associated with bikers, particularly those who belong to the "1%er" gangs. This may or may not be a good tattoo for some individuals. While this tattoo does have an association with being a rebel, it is also a former military decoration given to those who served in the German military during the First and Second World Wars. This may make this tattoo very unappealing to those who associate it with this time period and the ideology with which that time is associated.
Tribal crosses are an excellent way to add the geometric distinctiveness of a cross to one's body without adding any particular meaning. These abstract designs may or may not mean something specific to the bearer. They happen to look very appealing which is oftentimes the main reason that people have these tattoos. Other popular and more esoteric designs include the Knights Templar cross, a standard cross with one extra horizontal line near the top. This tattoo has interesting historical connotations and was the symbol of the elite knights who fought in the crusades and who protected pilgrims.
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