Richard Hale is a tattoo enthusiast who studies and researches tattoo symbolism, meanings, and history.
One popular tattoo that you may be interested in is the sun tattoo, which is considered to be a mainstream tattoo worn by both men and women.
Life would not be possible without the sun. Because of this, it is a very important and meaningful symbol. Sun tattoo designs can be designed in a variety of different colors, sizes, and styles. Not all suns are yellow balls with rays shooting out of them; below you'll find a wide and inventive range of interpretations, in discussion and in photographs.
We hope that you are able to find ideas and inspiration for your next tattoo.
History and Symbolism of the Sun Tattoo
The sun is the center of our galaxy and gives off heat, light, and energy and makes life and growth possible for all living things on earth. When we take a look at the ancient symbolism, we find that many different cultures have worshipped the sun as the source of life. In these cultures, the sun represented life-giving energy. Since the sun is depicted in the recorded accounts of nearly all ancient cultures, that makes it arguably the highest-regarded symbol of life on earth.
Ancient civilizations used the symbol of the sun to represent vitality and fertility. Native Americans considered the sun to be the guardian of the day with the power to heal. One of the most ancient designs is a circle with a point in the middle. This design is commonly used in astrology and astronomy. The ancient Egyptians associated the sun with Horus (the rising sun), Ra (the sun's zenith), and Osiris (the setting sun). Another ancient depiction is the solar wheel and the sun cross, a circle with a cross centered in the middle (the cross has equal sides, not like a Christian cross symbol). There are many different variations of the sun cross, including some from the Middle East.
Some cultures believed that the sun was sacred and used it as a sacred symbol. These civilizations, like the Greeks, Romans, and Egyptians, even worshipped the sun and viewed it as a god. The Greeks associated the sun with the eye of the god Zeus and the Hindus saw it as the eye of Varuna, the divine rejuvenator. To the Incas, the sun was considered the "divine ancestor of the nation." The Zia Indians held the sun as a sacred symbol and would paint it on their ceremonial vases. The ancient Chinese viewed the sun as the great male principle, the ultimate Yang. They also personified the sun as a great, cosmic eye in the sky.
In some religions, such as Christianity, the sun represents life, energy, force, strength, power, and rebirth. Some also believe the sun represents Christ and his many attributes. In Christianity, the moon and the sun are associated. In fact, the moon and sun tattoo has its own meaning. (Learn more about the sun and moon tattoo later in this article.)
Alchemically, the sun is symbolic of the mind or intellect. Its material is considered to be gold and its planetary sign (a circle with a dot in the center) is also a chemical symbol signifying the completion of a great work. This sun symbol represents the self in relation to a cosmic whole. The sun symbol, a circle with a dot (☉), first appeared in Europe during the Renaissance and is still used in astronomy today.
In astrology, the sun is symbolic of the outwardly-expressed self, the part of oneself that shines openly upon one's friends and family. The position of the sun at our time of birth determines our sun sign and outward personality.
Animals and flowers are also used to represent the sun. The eagle was a symbol of the sun rising in all-powerful glory and the tiger has been associated with a setting sun. The phoenix and dragon are also associated with the sun, as are the rose, lotus, chrysanthemum, and sunflower. All of these animals and flowers can be and are used in tattoo designs. They can be used for their symbolic meanings or just for the beauty of the design.
Three things cannot be long hidden: the sun, the moon, and the truth.
My sun sets to rise again.
— Elizabeth Barrett Browning
Sun Tattoos and Meanings
Because there are so many different ways to design a sun, this makes for some interesting and unique tattoos. The Celtic, tribal, and black sun tattoos are just a few of the different styles possible with this design.
Two of the most common meanings of the sun tattoo are truth and light. Many people believe that the sun gives light to guide us through dark times. Anyone that has survived difficulty may consider a sun tattoo to represent that. It is also a sign of the wearer's troubled past, a dark time that changed after they saw the light. For them, this tattoo might be a visual reminder of the darkness that preceded the light of day.
The sun tattoo might also represent the fact that you shined light on someone else's life. This is a good tattoo for best friends, for example. Perhaps someone has been there for you through thick and thin. They may have helped you through dark times or been there for you when no one else was. The sun tattoo can be a symbol of that appreciation. Perhaps someone saved your life, literally or metaphorically. The sun tattoo can represent your appreciation.
Ain't no sunshine when she's gone
It's not warm when she's away
— Bill Withers
Meanings of the Sun Tattoo
dusk or dawn
male (or female) enegry
spirituality or religion
Laughter is the sun that drives winter from the human face.
— Victor Hugo
Sun Tattoo Designs (Including Tribal, Celtic, and Sun-and-Moon Tattoos)
The sun was a universal symbol used by many different cultures and civilizations. From North American Natives to the Aztecs, from Egyptians to Celts, the sun was a highly regarded symbol.
The sun and moon design is probably one of the most popular designs. The sun and the moon tattoo represents two sides, "yin" and "yang," and finding balance in life. Although the sun and the moon are thought to have opposing energies, when they combine, they form a strong union. Some people consider this tattoo to represent the union between man and woman. As you have learned, the sun is a symbol of life and energy, while the moon represents instincts and emotions. It also represents the subconscious, unconscious, and the unknown. The sun-and-moon tattoo is thought to represent the balance and harmony of a person's character. Some couples get matching sun-and-moon tattoos or split them up: The man gets the sun and the woman gets the moon.
Tribal sun designs are also a very popular choice. The beauty of the tribal style gives a unique and bold tattoo. This design is popular among Japanese, Chinese, and Hindus. The tribal sun tattoo focuses on the partnership of life and the sun. It also represents leadership, strength, light, and creativity.
The Celtic sun tattoo, also a popular tattoo choice among men and women, represents healing, fertility, and the source of life. In Celtic mythology, the sun was associated with a number of gods and symbolizes heat and medicine.
The black sun tattoo is also a common design. It represents the end of something old and the beginning of something new and can be associated with transitions from dusk and dawn, day to night. Others believe that the black sun represents rebirth. The Mayan and Aztec suns might also be represented
Turn your face to the sun and the shadows fall behind you.
— Charlotte Whitton
What happens to a dream deferred? Does it dry up like a raisin in the sun? Or does it explode?
— Langston Hughes
Before You Tattoo
It is very important to remember to do your research before you get inked. There are thousands of designs to choose from, with even more symbolic meanings. Of course, you may choose a design for its beauty only, but either way, don't rush into the tattoo process. Those that jump into a tattoo have a higher chance of regretting it later on down the road. If you feel like the sun tattoo design might not be for you, be sure to check out more styles and designs in the links below.
Thanks for visiting.
Yeah we all shine on, like the moon, and the stars, and the sun.
— John Lennon
© 2012 Richard Ricky Hale
Sun on October 08, 2015:
myname88 on January 30, 2015:
hi those tattoos are wonderful!!! congratulation for the collection!!! i have a sun tattoo too, as the third image (similar). What can I add below it? (as second tattoo...they told me that tattoos must be an odd number, so this would be like adding) thank u so much!!!
Richard Ricky Hale (author) from West Virginia on January 12, 2014:
Cindy, thanks for the comment. I would suggest adding something that is meaningful. What's important to you in life? Perhaps you could add your kids names or all your names. The sun tattoo can represent "life." It's an element that makes life possible. I don't know how your tattoo lines up, so I'm shooting in the dark. A wolf or fairy can go with the moon. As for sayings, "Reach For The Stars," "Never Look Back," "Destiny Awaits." It's just the wrong combination for phrases. If you add a clock or hourglass, you can refer the meaning to time possibly.
cindy on January 05, 2014:
Hi i got a sun tattoo years ago on my back with moon and stArs in it....at the time it had meaning to me as i was trying to get pregnant and it symbolizes fertility.. now it has no meaning to me and just looks kinda lonely on my back by itself any suggeztions maybe a saying i could add to it
Richard Ricky Hale (author) from West Virginia on July 21, 2012:
Lovedoctor, thanks for dropping by. There is a lot you can do with sun tattoos. You can use a variety of styles and designs. Plus, you can always add them to the moon. The sun is symbolic to nearly all cultures, so it is rich in symbolism.
lovedoctor926 on July 17, 2012:
Wow! These sun tattoos are so nice. I like the small pink one on top and the sun and moon is cool too. Interesting history behind the sun tattoos. Voted up!
Richard Ricky Hale (author) from West Virginia on July 17, 2012:
Max, always great to have you visit dear friend:) Hope all is well and good. I like tattoos of the sun and moon together the most. You can do a lot with sun tattoos, plenty of variety.
BeyondMax from Sydney, Australia on July 17, 2012:
Awe... how did I manage to miss the sun tattoos? These ones are just out of this world, what a variety!
Richard Ricky Hale (author) from West Virginia on June 03, 2012:
m0rd0r, always great to hear from you. None on this one, but I have been planning an article for that one. Thanks for your time.
Stoill Barzakov from Sofia, Bulgaria on May 28, 2012:
Very nice collection. Though ..., I almost expected to see the Indian symbol of the sun (the svastika).
adi on March 31, 2012:
PlasmaBeam from Carlsbad, CA on March 30, 2012:
Richard Ricky Hale (author) from West Virginia on January 20, 2012:
Gypsy, thanks for the visit. Hope you are having a good day. Glad you like them.
Gypsy Rose Lee from Daytona Beach, Florida on January 20, 2012:
Voted up and love those sunny tattoos.
Richard Ricky Hale (author) from West Virginia on January 19, 2012:
HBN, thanks for dropping by. I am glad you brought that up and I thank you very much. You have always supported them and it is much appreciated. That is key, a broader understanding of tattoos and meanings. Take care.
Gail Sobotkin from South Carolina on January 19, 2012:
I'm really enjoying this series because you go into so much depth with the symbolism and history of the tattoos and also show so many photos.
Before this series, I never really thought about the meaning of what I was seeing, I simply saw it as body art. Thanks for giving me a greater understanding.
Voted up across the board except for funny.