The Astrology of Tattoos
Exploring my favorite form of adornment through the lens of the stars.
I think about tattoos a lot, probably because I’m covered in them.
I got my first tattoo, a stick-n-poke of a coffee cup executed by my ex in our college dorm room, when I was 18 years old. Reader, it was love at first ink. The artistry, the subculture, the instant hit of coolness I felt — all of it exhilarated me.
Between the ages of 19 and 22, I got tattooed with the feverish passion of a 20-something newly flush with disposable income. My collection quickly grew from a few scattered pieces on my arms and legs to two full sleeves. At 26, I have both hands, my shoulder, and the back of my neck inked.
These days, I get tattooed much less frequently than I did in my early 20s. But my love for this art form hasn’t diminished. If anything, it’s deepened, especially with a new lens through which to view it.
As a heavily tattooed person, I’m often asked what my tattoos “mean.” I struggle to answer this question (and as a Gemini Sun and Venus, that’s saying something, because I’m always down to talk about myself).
If I’m being honest, most of my tattoos don’t have any personal or profound meaning. They’re just artwork I find pleasurable and enjoy looking at every day. I love the beauty of the natural world, and that’s reflected in the organic imagery I’m draped in, from florals, to fruits, to wild animals. I also have quite a few pieces that reference music or queer culture.
For me, the meaningfulness isn’t in the imagery; it’s in the act of getting and wearing tattoos. I often joke that I “look tough for protection,” but there’s some truth to it. As a queer femme navigating a sexist, cis-heteronormative world, I feel strong and beautiful when I exercise agency over my physical appearance.
I’m covered in tattoos because I chose to be. What’s more empowering than that?
As an astrologer and tattoo lover, I can’t help but consider my favorite form of bodily adornment through the lens of astrology.
Tattooing is a centuries-old practice with various traditions across different cultures and geographic regions — not unlike astrology. There are other similarities, too. Both tattooers and astrologers typically hone their craft under the guidance of mentor(s). These modalities require specialized knowledge and technology, which is why reputable practitioners charge what they do. When you spend hundreds of dollars on a birth chart reading or tattoo, you’re not just paying for the session; you’re compensating a professional for their years of training and experience.
But where do tattoos fall among the stars? I conceptualize tattooing* primarily as a marriage of Venusian and Martian energies. Of course, it’s a visual art form, which is firmly Venusian. If you commission a custom piece, your tattooer will present you with an original, one-off design. Even non-custom flash, which artists sometimes repeat on different clients, are original drawings. There’s a reason they’re called “tattoo artists.”
At the same time, you can’t discount the needles of it all. Have you ever seen a tattoo machine up close? It’s a bunch of tiny sharps bundled together for the express purpose of penetrating your epidermis.
And let’s not forget that getting tattooed hurts. Anyone who claims otherwise is lying, or has a tiny tat that took less than five minutes. The process draws blood, which is why most artists advise clients not to take blood-thinning pain relievers before getting tattooed. Physical endurance, decisive action, stab-y things — these all fall under Mars’s purview.
Both Venus and Mars belong to the night sect, which is lunar territory. In astrology, the Moon governs our emotions and physical bodies. This feels especially relevant in the context of tattoos, a form of visual art (Venus) executed by the strategic stabbing of needles (Mars) into a person’s skin (the Moon). The medium requires embodiment. In fact, that’s kind of the whole point of getting a tattoo: to wear it on your body in perpetuity.
And therein lies another defining quality of tattoos: their permanence. Astrologically speaking, this is the realm of good ol’ Saturn. As the outermost planet still visible to the naked eye from our vantage point on Earth, the Ringed Planet governs longevity, maturation, and responsibility.
Saturn teaches us that every action has its consequences, including the choice to get a tattoo. That doesn’t mean the consequences are negative. I love watching my tattoos settle into my skin and fade ever so slightly as they age. I’d argue that this is also a Saturnian process.
Selfishly, I love the Venus-Mars astrological rationale because my natal Mars is in Taurus, a Venus-ruled sign. (Taurus is the exaltation sign of the Moon, too, so the embodiment element is compounded.) It’s a neat justification for the inexplicable draw I’ve always felt toward tattoos and tattooed people.
That’s not to say you have to have this signature in your birth chart to like tattoos. Rather, your natal Venus, Mars, and Moon placements may reflect your tattoo-related tendencies back to you.
If the topic of tattoos piques your interest, I’d recommend examining all three of these placements — by zodiac sign, house, and aspect — for insight into your own preferences. Venus will speak first and foremost to your ~aesthetic goals~.
For instance, my natal Venus is in Gemini, a mutable sign ruled by Mercury. She’s in mutual reception with my natal Mercury in Taurus, further emphasizing the mercurial nature of my taste.
Lo and behold, I really dig the look of patchwork tattoo sleeves, which consist of smaller, one-off tattoos pieced together over time to fill an entire arm or leg. This allows me to collect tattoos in different styles from multiple artists.
Meanwhile, Mars and the Moon (and any aspects between them) will articulate the embodiment component. As a Cancer rising, my natal Moon in Leo rules my 1st House of self and the body. I find that this placement quite literally represents my physical state. My Leo Moon forms a harsh, nearly exact square to my Taurus Mars. As much as I love getting tattooed, the process takes a heavy toll on my body, so I’ve learned to space out larger pieces over multiple sessions.
This process of synthesizing natal placements in a specific context is arguably what I love most about astrology. Your birth chart is a wellspring brimming with insight into your individuality, and once you become fluent in the language of the cosmos, you can employ this wisdom in a practical way. This, too, is a path I chose.
*As I alluded to earlier, there are myriad forms of tattooing around the world. Some, such as the tattoos of New Zealand’s Maori community, are closed traditions with deep spiritual and cultural importance. For the purposes of this essay, I’m exploring tattoos as purely recreational adornment from my perspective as a white queer person living in the United States.