Spider and Spider-Web Tattoo Designs and Meanings
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
Spiders in Myths, Legends, and Culture
Spider tattoos and spider-web tattoos come in a variety of different designs, colors, and styles, and 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 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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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 also the mysterious and frightening aspects of love.
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.