Richard Hale is a tattoo enthusiast who studies and researches tattoo symbolism, meanings, and history.
Do You Want a Gypsy Tattoo?
One of the more popular old-school tattoos is the gypsy, which ranks up there with other designs such as the anchor, swallow, mermaid, and compass. After decades of popularity, the gypsy remains as prevalent as ever.
What Is a Gypsy?
Well, over the past 600 years or so, the definition has varied. The original gypsies came from northern India and Egypt. They were a nomadic group who lived on and worked the land to make a living on only what was available to them. This nomadic life required extraordinary creativity and intelligence in order to survive. It is believed that they traveled to Europe somewhere around the 14th century, and over the next six centuries, they would migrate all over the world. Today, the term often refers to a member of an itinerant people in Europe, North Africa, and America, with dark skin and hair who speak Romany and make a living with seasonal work, trade, and fortune-telling.
In a larger sense, the word "gypsy" can describe any nomadic, untethered, wandering, self-sufficient, off-the-grid, free-spirited traveler.
Gypsy Tattoo Design Details
Gypsy tattoos usually portray a beautiful female with traditional details associated with her origins. Some designs depict gypsies as they looked many centuries ago, in traditional garb. They're often portrayed with black hair, dark skin, jewelry, flowers, and heavy make-up. They may also be designed with large feathers and scarves covering their long black hair. You'll see some with only the head and shoulders shown while others portray her entire body.
Often, she is shown looking off into the distance, usually in profile, with a star-gazing look on her face. This look holds symbolic importance because it represents the idea that she can see into the future. Some portray the gypsy with a crystal ball for the same reason. If you are looking toward the future or feel that you possess a special ability of foresight, this design may be perfect for you.
Another popular variation portrays her in a pin-up style popular in the mid-1900s. We've seen a resurgence of interest that has created a new school pinup style. Other variations include realistic or cartoon styles. All these options make it a fun tattoo to work with. Remember, you should always consider adding your own personal interpretation of any style.
Gypsy Head Skull or Calavera
We're starting to see variations that combine two traditions: gypsy and sugar skull designs. In this combo, the gypsy is shown with all her traditional characteristics, but not her beautiful face. Instead, a skull is placed where her head once was. The sugar skull (also known as Calavera) is used to celebrate the Day of the Dead (Día de Los Muertos), a Mexican event that celebrates and honors the lives of the departed. Thus, the gypsy skull tattoo might represent the loss of a loved one.
Gypsy Tattoo Meanings and Interpretations
Of course, this tattoo usually has deep symbolic importance for the women and men who wear it. Individual interpretations vary, but here are some of the common associations:
- Independence and self-sufficiency
- Journey and travel
- Prophecy and vision
- Good fortune
- Female strength
- Life's path
Spells, magic, and rituals were a way of life for early gypsies, who are said to have intimate knowledge of the power of nature and the elements. They believed they would find their way if it was meant to be. Many gypsies believed that it was important to live every day as if it were your last. The gypsy tattoo can be motivational, there to remind you of this very fact.
It can also symbolize female power. Gypsies were always viewed as very strong women, independent, and down-to-earth. If you are an independent woman, or want to honor and remember a strong woman in your life, perhaps this design is perfect for you.
Customizing the Gypsy Tattoo
You can do a lot to make this tattoo unique and personal. If you want to focus on the gypsy's close relationship with nature, you might incorporate other natural details such as butterflies, flowers, birds, mountains, sky, stars, clouds, or trees. If you prefer to spotlight her magical aspects like a crystal ball or astrological symbols. You might also consider the mood you'd like to capture. Most commonly, she is portrayed with a blank look on her face, but you might want to personalize her expression. You may even see one with her eyes covered: This is the blind gypsy, who does not need eyes to see.
Before You Get Inked
There are thousands of tattoos to choose from, so take your time to do your research before you get inked. Make sure you are 100% sure that this is the one you want. Even with laser removal and cover-up, some can't be removed or fixed. You want to make sure that you fully understand what your tattoo represents.
© 2012 Richard Ricky Hale
vendetta brittz on January 18, 2016:
i love skull tatoos so much i wont even consider putting one on my back cause i love beach buggy parties to wear bikinis and show what i love.
tom lee on May 05, 2014:
olga on December 17, 2012:
this was helpful. thanks a lot !
Richard Ricky Hale (author) from West Virginia on August 18, 2012:
Rocknrudy, great question. Absolutely not. In Mexico and others areas, sugar skull tattoos are worn by both men and women. You do see them more on women, but a good sizes percentage of men do wear them. Great tattoo choice and a more then great reason to wear such a tattoo. If it is 110% what you want, get it done.
Rocknrudy on August 14, 2012:
I'm thinking of getting a gypsy sugar skull tattoo as a memorial tattoo for my sister. My question is: are gypsy skull tattoos just for women? Would a guy be able to pull this off??
Richard Ricky Hale (author) from West Virginia on July 12, 2012:
*Nell, thanks again for dropping by. LOL You never know Nell, maybe you could get both, huh? Thanks and take care.
*UnknownSpy, always great to hear from you. Many thanks. I thought about Gypsy when I wrote it so hopefully she likes it.
*Kash, always a pleasure to have you by my friend. I send my best wishes to you and thanks again pal!
*Seeker, thanks for the comment and great question:) I truly don't know. Your right, as a tattoo, the symbolism is very positive. Yet, in the past and today, the life of a gypsy is frowned upon. Everyone has to make a living. They are no different. I guess it is just like anyone else, they have an opinion. I commend them. They have stayed true for 6+ centuries. Really good question though Seeker.
*AE, always a treat:) I don't know that I know her. You will have to share her page link with me, would love to read them. Once again, thanks Ruby and take care.
*MM, thanks for stopping by. What a joy! Bet you had a ball. They would have loved to see that Lesley. That would have made their day!
*Max, my dear friend:) Thanks again for your time and comment. That is a perfect word to describe them, ENCHANTING!
*Gypsy, I was hoping that you would drop by. They are very colorful. Hope you liked them and hope all my research was in order:)
Gypsy Rose Lee from Daytona Beach, Florida on July 09, 2012:
Voted up and awesome. These are so colorful. Just fantastic.
BeyondMax from Sydney, Australia on July 09, 2012:
These are very detailed and some look so beautiful and enchanting!
Movie Master from United Kingdom on July 08, 2012:
Hi Ricky, these gypsy tattoo's are fabulous, I enjoyed reading too!
I went on a gypsy caravan holiday weekend recently, I really should have got one of these tattoos first!
Voted up my friend, best wishes
Ruby Jean Richert from Southern Illinois on July 07, 2012:
These are lovely. I have a hubber friend, Erin, who writes beautiful poetry about gypsies. Thank you my friend...
Helen Murphy Howell from Fife, Scotland on July 07, 2012:
LW this is another fascinating and beautiful hub. The gypsy tatoos are so unique and I find them awesome! What really interests me as well is the that the symbolism is so positive and yet the Gypsy people are not shown in a positive light on TV or by society - usually because of prejudice! I think many of the crafts - physical and psychic - that these people can teach us, as well as about caring for your own puts them in a very good light and we could learn a lot from them.
Great hub + voted up!
Thomas Silvia from Massachusetts on July 07, 2012:
These are so awesome and beautiful Gypsy tattoos, loved all the beautiful photos !
Vote up and more !!!
DragonBallSuper on July 07, 2012:
woo..those tattoos are very cool. bet Gyspy would love it..what do you say Gypsy?
Nell Rose from England on July 06, 2012:
These are really good, I don't think I could have one on my arm because they would take up a lot of room, I know this as I asked for an indian before I had my dreamcatcher, but I would love one, maybe if I work out? lol! really lovely artwork, and fascinating too, cheers nell
Beth Perry from Tennesee on July 06, 2012:
Richard Ricky Hale (author) from West Virginia on July 06, 2012:
Beth, your right on. This is known as the "Flying Gypsy". A creative idea and that is Amelia.
Beth Perry from Tennesee on July 06, 2012:
Those are some awesome tattoos! That one in black and white ink with the girl wearing the pearls reminds me of Amelia Earhardt!