What's this tattoo mean?
July 14, 2008 8:05 PM   Subscribe

What, if any, significance is the imagery in this tattoo?

A friend of mine emailed me a picture of this tattoo, and it's made me decide that I want one similar in style to this one, but I don't want to rip this dude off. Any idea about the significance of the imagery? My initial thought is of crossing the river Styx, but someone may no more. Also, any similar ideas to this one would be appreciated.
posted by comeonsurferrosa to Clothing, Beauty, & Fashion (13 answers total) 1 user marked this as a favorite
Some of the Greek legends I remember from childhood describe the ferryman Charon as carrying a dim lantern that did not completely illuminate the breadth of the river Styx as he poled his boat, full of the newly dead from one side of the river to the other.
posted by arnicae at 8:21 PM on July 14, 2008

The first thing it reminded me is the Christian image of a dove surrounded with light which (I think -- not a Christian) represents the Holy Spirit. I thought I had seen it in some big churches. Turns out it's in St Peter's. It's not only the visual style of the glow but also the placement of the lantern - above, like a guiding light - that made me recall the dove. (Awesome tattoo, by the way.)
posted by PercussivePaul at 9:07 PM on July 14, 2008

It looks like Dia de los Muertos imagery to me. Browse around this flickr tag, for example. I'm pretty culturally ignorant about it but that Wikipedia article seems to cover it pretty well.
posted by mindsound at 9:07 PM on July 14, 2008

That exact image is extremely familiar for some reason. I think it's from a famous painting. The art style looks like Dali or Bosch ... any art historians around?
posted by aeschenkarnos at 9:14 PM on July 14, 2008

I will second aeschenkarnos: I am almost positive that is from a painting, but I can not for the life of me recall by whom.
posted by kaseijin at 9:33 PM on July 14, 2008

It's possible it's a danse macabre or part of one. There was a MeFi FPP about the genre.
posted by jedicus at 9:55 PM on July 14, 2008

My immediate guess was a Grateful Dead album cover. But Dead's imagery always turned me off, so I never paid close attention (and missed incalculable amounts of good times).
posted by Goofyy at 10:17 PM on July 14, 2008

Data point: it looks like Charon/Styx/boat fulla dead guys to me too.
posted by pseudostrabismus at 11:14 PM on July 14, 2008

For inspiration you could check out the work of José Guadalupe Posada (see this excellent collection at the Universtiy of Mexico's Center for Southwest Research) and the Dance of Death series by Hans Holbein the Younger.
posted by tallus at 5:13 AM on July 15, 2008

Here's the thread on the message board where that photo originated:


The first page starts with the sketch, but the link goes to the page with the finished pics. It's just a 2-page thread.
posted by Joseph Gurl at 5:16 AM on July 15, 2008

Best answer: That was so lame.

Here's the link, posted more link-like.

posted by Joseph Gurl at 5:17 AM on July 15, 2008

Definitely Charon, from the posted link.
posted by electroboy at 6:32 AM on July 15, 2008

I don't have time to do the digging, but the star-shaped nimbus around the lantern looks like a quote from the cover art from a Led Zepplin album -- the one with Stairway to Heaven on it?
posted by ottereroticist at 9:15 AM on July 15, 2008

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