Richard Hale is a tattoo enthusiast who studies and researches tattoo symbolism, meanings, and history.
Spider and spider-web tattoos are "old school" and quite popular among men and some women. Since the spider tattoo can be designed in several different sizes, it can be tattooed nearly anywhere on the body.
As with all animal tattoos, the spider tattoo represents all the positive and negative qualities that society attributes to that animal.
We will take a look at different designs and discuss their varied meanings, and hopefully, you'll find ideas and inspiration for your next tattoo.
What Can Spider and Spider-Web Tattoos Mean?
Although spiders have many negative associations and meanings, they have positive ones, too. Given this vast range of possible meanings, only the person wearing the design could tell you what it represents to them, but people seeing the design may bring any of these meanings to it. Some possibilities are listed below.
- Balance, Harmony
- Creativity, Art
- Craftiness, Cleverness
- Good Luck
- Life's Struggles
- Female Power
- Love's Mystery
Which Species of Spider Is the Most Popular?
The most popular spider species for tattoo designs has to be the black widow spider, a glossy black spider with a red hourglass mark on its back. Of course, the female black widow is known for eating her partner once they are done mating. Thus the black widow represents female power, and it also symbolizes the mysterious and frightening aspects of love.
Spiders in Myths, Legends, and Culture
Spider tattoos and spider-web tattoos come in a variety of different designs, colors, and styles, and they can be associated with different elements and decorations. The spider appears in tribal tattoos all around the world. Countless myths and legends about spiders appear in all cultures.
Perhaps most commonly, the tattoo refers to our struggles in the web of life. Anything that enters the spider web will struggle to get out if it can. We struggle with life situations, just as the prey struggles in a spider’s web. Someone may choose these tattoo designs to represent their struggles in the past and how they overcame them.
The Spider Woman in Native American Culture
The spider web has associations with Native Americans and the dreamcatcher. The Anishinaabe people believed that "Spider Woman" would visit all the newborn children in the tribe to weave a magical web to protect the infants from anything bad. When the tribe grew in numbers, she was not able to weave the dreamcatchers for all the newborns of the tribe, so women began to weave their own dreamcatchers and place them at the cradleboard of the newborns.
Today, dreamcatchers are thought to bring good dreams and hold off bad dreams. Thus a spider-web tattoo, like a dreamcatcher, can symbolize protection.
Anansi the Spider in West African Culture
In West Africa, Anansi the spider is the subject of folktales and legends, stories that spread to the Caribbean and the American South. In fact, he is the god of stories. He is clever and subversive, able to battle much larger creatures. Like the spider Charlotte in the children’s book Charlotte’s Web, Anansi observes what the big creatures are doing and knows exactly what they are up to.
Arachne in Greek Mythology
Many legends state the spider showed man how to weave. In Greek mythology, a woman named Arachne was known as a great weaver. Athena was very jealous of Arachne's talents, so she chose to make Arachne's life a living hell. Once Arachne passed away, Athena felt awful. She felt so bad, she turned Arachne into a spider so she could once again be able to weave.
Negative Connotations of Spiders and Webs
In European tradition, spiders have many negative connotations. Many are poisonous, and if you invade their hidden places they bite without warning. Spiders look alien, and the larger they are the stranger they look. Their legs, eyes, hair, and scuttling speed are repulsive and make them choice monsters for science fiction movies. Spiders have even been blamed for the black plague.
Prison Tattoos and White Supremacist Symbols
Spider web tattoos are commonly worn by inmates in the prison systems. Some say the web represents prison bars. Prisoners may get spider webs tattooed on their elbows to represent how long they have spent sitting waiting in prison; the bigger the web, the longer the sentence. Spiders and spider webs are said to be a symbol used by white supremacist groups, including the KKK.
Positive Connotations of Spiders and Webs
Despite all their negative associations, spiders and their webs also have many positive meanings.
- A spider tattoo can represent wisdom, fertility, harmony, and balance.
- Spiders in nature create a variety of unique and beautiful webs to capture their food.
- They are rarely aggressive towards humans.
- They eat a variety of different bugs and insects, keeping pests in bounds, and so they contribute to the balance of life.
- Spiders also are very fertile (like Charlotte), and a female will give birth to thousands of spiders during her lifespan.
Holly jones on October 21, 2019:
How about a male spider done by ur family
zombiekitty on August 25, 2015:
Then you cant forget the killjoy spider, it originated from a alternative rockband. (My chemical romance). Now most punk and emo childern still infame it. Basecially its part of a huge story line, and it a
simbol used to represent a group of rebels. (Killjoys)
Richard Ricky Hale (author) from West Virginia on September 13, 2013:
Yeah, that sounds like a great pose. Writing 120 pages about spiders or anything for that matter would be tough. You have a great theme and idea. I forget the studies, but I remember a study that was done a year or so ago, explaining what percentage of men and women are afraid of spiders. It was quite high for both, over 50%, so over half of men and women are scared of spiders. But to my point, over 50% were interested in spiders. In return, I believe that there's a huge level of interest in spiders. My friend owns a local tattoo shop and he does a lot of business. As of 5-13, spider tattoos were up by 21%. It appears to be low, but spider tattoos have been decreasing for years, probably as more options are now available. Anyway, I believe people find interest in spiders despite being scared of them. Plus, there's a market for spiders also.
Andrea Norwood on September 10, 2013:
Thanks, I am going to try to put it on kindle single. I have worked so long and hard on this and putting the pieces in the proper places. I do hope it will work out great too. I am finishing up the 120 pages and it's just the length that kindle single accepts. I have to do a cover and I have a great idea for that. I want a woman on the front, because the black widow female is over the male sort of thing. So, I will let woman lead on front cover. I figure I will have her turned so she'll show the spider mark.
Richard Ricky Hale (author) from West Virginia on September 09, 2013:
Andrea, you'll have to let me know when it's on there. I like the colors, red and black. I've actually thought about a black widow tattoo. I'm currently trying to design a full sleeve, dark to light per say. This tattoo symbolizes my dark past and bright future, past mistakes, learning from these mistakes which turned me into the man I'm today. I'm hoping to start creating videos that explain how to make tattoos, such as the black widow and other spider tattoo designs. Time really consumes me right now though, less time for writing and things that I love. I miss writing for a living, but I have to work to make money. My SEO business is very slow right now as I continue to try to get our website up and going. Unfortunately, I don't make enough writing to support all my children, family, and expenses. Hopefully your spider book is a big hit, a chance for you to be successful and known. As long as it makes you happy, that's all that counts.
Andrea Norwood on September 07, 2013:
Yes, that's so true and I am doing the first 120 pages and putting it up on kindle fire as soon as the editing is done. People are going to really enjoy reading this and the second part two. I am putting both on kindle fire for now. Later, it can go book and both parts will be included, making the book 240 pages long. I am going to go and do my spider mark tattoo. I believe I will be the walckeaner and get the hourglass. Although the sicariidae is the richest and the deadliest in the book, I take a liking to the walckenaer because of the color I guess. Join me in getting one yourself.
Richard Ricky Hale (author) from West Virginia on September 05, 2013:
Hey Andrea:) I hope it does. The great thing, with the internet, you have the ability to market your book to the world. I do my own marketing on social platforms, blogs, and 2.0 websites. Yes, the Walckenaer, black widow tattoo. I remember reading about it when I was researching spider tattoos. By far, the black widow tattoo design is the best spider tattoo. I didn't know the left side/right side though, interesting.
Many people don't know the good spiders do for general life. For example, if it wasn't for spiders, we'd be overrun with insects, which is bad for farming and many plant life. I always find it amazing just how delicate the eco-system is anyway. That perfect balance is the cause of everyday life as we know it.
Andrea Norwood on September 05, 2013:
Yes, and hopefully this book will change all of that and plus it's a very interesting book too. I plan to get the spider genus tattoo I was telling you about done soon. I think I want to be a Walckenaer and the Walckenaer's are the latrodectus, black widow spiders, so they tattoo's are the bright red hour glass. The females wear theirs on the left side of their ear an inch below the left ear, and the males wear their on the right side of the back an inch below their shoulder. The other tattoos would be the same for male and female only different tattoos. They are better known as mark, spider marks, like birth marks or similar to it.
Richard Ricky Hale (author) from West Virginia on August 30, 2013:
Right. You have a great idea and you know exactly how you want it to be portrayed. When I first became interested in spider tattoos and tattoos in general, I always thought about writing a book about all tattoos. I wish I had the time to do so, but I always knew the way I wanted it portrayed. Spiders have many benefits, many that people don't know. Spiders are very important to the eco-system. Your right, for centuries, spiders have been misunderstood.
Andrea Norwood on August 30, 2013:
I think I will name my book "Them" because they are different but simialr to human although they are spiders. The spider want to get along with the humans and make what and who they are known to them, but they know the humans will become trouble and not that the spiders couldn't defend theirselves against the humans if necessary. The spiders don't want to be thought of as the monsters, creeps and freaks they have been judged as throughout centuries. The other matters dealing with the southern white spirit vampires are other matters too.
Richard Ricky Hale (author) from West Virginia on August 30, 2013:
@Andrea, anytime. I'm interested all the way:) Absolutely, support matters a lot. See, you have great ideas, your a creative mind. Hopefully, it catches and it reaches that global level:)
@Mimi, thanks for your comment Mimi!! I'm curious, what type of spider did you choose and does your tattoo symbolize anything?
mimi on August 30, 2013:
I have a spider web with the spider at the middle
Andrea Norwood on August 29, 2013:
Thanks so much for being supportive of my work. It means so much to me. I am even thinking on making the spider wine signature goblets. The more support on my ideas the better and the more it will circulate in the world.
Richard Ricky Hale (author) from West Virginia on August 27, 2013:
Andrea, anytime. I always support someone's success. It sounds like a great idea and I wish you all the best. Just make sure you come back by to leave me a link to get to it :) I'm sure you'll do great!
Andrea Norwood on August 27, 2013:
Hey, thanks for listening and liking what I had to say and liking it about the book!
Richard Ricky Hale (author) from West Virginia on August 26, 2013:
Oh, ok! Cool, I wish you all the best with your book. Well, you can't go wrong with a Twilight-like book. Personally, I enjoyed that series. Not to the point of team Jacob or Edward, but it was a cool movie series. Best wishes with it Andrea.
Andrea Norwood on August 26, 2013:
There's more to it than that. I am writing a book on them, with the tone of twilight. It is going to be good! I want to show people that spiders don't have to be all creepy, and sure there is some dark in them and so is there in every character but the spiders have some good views too. These spiders are socialite and created by their creator in the image and likeness of humans.
Richard Ricky Hale (author) from West Virginia on August 25, 2013:
Andrea, thanks for taking the time to comment on the spider tattoo. Interesting Andrea, so your taking the symbols for each specific spider and placing them above the left ear. This spider tattoo, or this mark is worn at different areas between male and female. I like the idea and concept, being that every spider has a unique mark or symbol. We appreciate you sharing this Andrea and thanks for visiting.
Andrea Norwood on August 24, 2013:
Hi again spider fans!
I am writing a book dealing with human spiders and I have a idea I like to share with you about a spider mark. What I mean by this is like a birth mark it looks so real on the human male or female. Females wear the spider mark (different marks for different spider genus) on the left side of the ear an inch below the ear, for instance if they are walckenaer, they will bare a bright red hourglass etc, the males wear their mark on the right side of their back an inch below their shoulder and if they are a walckenaer they too wear the hourglass, a brown recluse the three fork claw etc. I think it's a great idea and I use it in my book also. All for using this tattoo i will really thank you.
Richard Ricky Hale (author) from West Virginia on August 23, 2013:
Hey Tom! Thanks for taking the time to visit and drop a comment. Awesome! Tom, are you working with a theme or just spiders? If you don't mind, can you share your experience with neck tattoos? Resource for others only Tom. I've never been inked on the neck, but I'm planning to get a new tat soon. If you plan on taking a picture, send me a link, would love to see it! Take care and thanks again.
Tom L on August 22, 2013:
some good artwork here. Have a few spiders now & getting a few on the neck this weekend - looking forward to these ones.
Andrea Norwood from Elberton, Georgia on March 26, 2013:
I love all of them and the ones on the females and males upper parts are great! I am writing a book about human spiders and I see just the perfect poses for a book cover. They all are so good I don't know which to choose.
Richard Ricky Hale (author) from West Virginia on April 08, 2012:
Jeff, thanks for stopping by. That sounds like a bad tattoo. If you ever get the chance, I would love to see a pic when you are finished.
jeff on April 03, 2012:
Well i have a skull on the arm i want the black widow tattoo on and im gnna get it would tie in fine with my weaping soul skull inside a zipper and is gnna have a fine web coming atound wrist to a rose with the word mom right under wear the blood is dripping fron bottom of zipper gnna be dope
Richard Ricky Hale (author) from West Virginia on February 12, 2012:
Tina, thanks for taking the time to drop by. I really don't like spiders either. Their a unique tattoo choice though. I agree, the art work is great. Hope you have a good one Tina.
Christina Lornemark from Sweden on February 11, 2012:
Oh, even though I am not fond of spiders myself I have to say that these pictures shows great art work! Even the hair on the spiders leg a visible on some of them! To me, spiders stand for fear and death and I would never want to have a tattoo of a spider. But I can also agree with they standing for wisdom and fertility. The tattoo with spiders crawling up on her neck is both beautiful and terrible:))
Thanks for the great information about spiders tattoos, to me it is like entering a new world!
Richard Ricky Hale (author) from West Virginia on February 09, 2012:
*Alocsin, thanks for taking the time to come by. I agree, they have something unique. Interesting perspective.
*Frank, glad you liked it. Best wishes Frank.
*Gypsy, thanks for your comment love. Very well said. Most of us run, male or remale, maybe just me.
*Seeker, thanks for taking the time to drop by. I am more drawn to the web and its meaning too. Just don't get the realistic ones.
*AE, thanks for all your support. For real. My luck, if I had onr, I would forget about it and it would scare the **** out of me.
Ruby Jean Richert from Southern Illinois on February 07, 2012:
Wow, Beautiful but not for me. I'm terrified of spiders. The ones going up her neck are awesome..Thank you again..
Helen Murphy Howell from Fife, Scotland on February 07, 2012:
I agree with the other contributors that although spiders are creepy the art work was phenomenal! I love the spiders webs and could cope with that, but I think to see such a life-like tattoo on someone of a spider would put me off going near them! LOL!!
I love dream catchers - the authentic ones and not the plastic multi-million production line ones - they are so beautiful and a wonderful piece of art.
I loved this hub especially the art work and the legends surrounding these fascinating animals. Voted up + awesome!
Gypsy Rose Lee from Daytona Beach, Florida on February 07, 2012:
Voted up and great job as always. Spiders have never been one of my favorites but I don't run screaming from them. However dead, alive or imaginative I wouldn't want them crawling on me. I do like those spider web tattoos though. Looking forward to more.
Frank Atanacio from Shelton on February 06, 2012:
thelyricwriter some of these are just so cool Love it!!!!
Aurelio Locsin from Orange County, CA on February 06, 2012:
As creepy as these are, I am drawn to them because they indicate an edginess. Voting this Up and Beautiful.