Geometric tattoos are in style. For the last couple of years, circle, line and triangle designs have become a trend in the best studios. Symbolically designed arrows have been the style chosen by millions of people who have decided to tattoo a bit of their own unique identity on their bodies, but, what does the geometric tattoo on your skin really mean?
The truth is that these symbols are directly related to alchemy, a practice largely used in ancient times up until the Renaissance, which involved eclectic knowledge from different religions, as well as elements of astrology, esotericism and mysticism.
Alchemy wasn’t just some fraudulent practice that sought to change things into gold or to launch a search for the philosopher’s stone. This discipline was meant to link people together and explain natural phenomena. Because of this it has been commonly known as a proto-science rather than a science, with the structured aim of reaching a greater understanding of the world around us.
Chemistry played a dominant role in alchemy, which was deeply tied to popular and religious beliefs. They tried to fuse the few elements that were known at that time, and each one had a specific ritual meaning, typically associated with a symbol.
These simple designs include one or several triangles, which were linked with the four elements of life: earth, fire, water and air. Since the times of Ancient Greece, great philosophers like Empedocles and Democritus tried to demonstrate that it was in fact possible to break all life down into one indivisible, basic unit from which all living things came. The four remaining elements, they claimed, were the only ones necessary for life.
Four triangles together signify balance between the elements, essential for health and reaching wisdom. Fire and air are represented by two equilateral triangles whose base looks upward, but air is differentiated by a horizontal line that crosses it; water and earth are opposites and the later has a line through it.
The designs that include geometric elements and small crescent moons or a complete sequence of each moon phase, symbolize of of the most prized chemical elements of the period: silver. Astrological pseudoscience made an association between silver with the moon, possibly for the color that they share and the way in which we on the earth appreciate the moon’s face.
The moon is also a symbol of femininity: different cultures around the world imagined a binomial between the sexes, in which the moon symbolized the woman, and the sun was tied to masculine characteristics and gold. The majority of the moon’s depictions, along with other associated elements of alchemy, are a symbol of a feminine and mysterious quality.
The famous myth about this object was one of alchemy’s aims and the most wanted by groups of alchemists who tried to find the way to create this substance. It’s symbol is that of the circle, which at the same time encases three angles in the form of a triangle. On each side there is a square which contains a circle in the middle.
The philosopher’s stone symbolizes perfection, and balance of all elements in hopes of reaching a state of physical and mental bliss, typically interpreted by alchemists as enlightenment, the elixir of life and immortality.
One composition that gathers each of these elements in just one design is that of arrows. In this piece, it’s common to find symbols of alchemy associated with gold, silver and the planets, in addition to triangles that make up the elements of life. The popularity of these pieces is due to the endless combinations between elements and shapes that you can create within the same design, making it difficult to find two different arrows.
Astral bodies also implicitly appear with the arrows, whether it is with their symbols or through a chart that symbolizes the solar system and the position of the Earth within in. The basic elements of alchemy (mercury, antimony, phosphorus, sulfur, salt, gold and silver) are mixed with random geometric forms in these types of tattoos.