Â If you’re looking forÂ a tattoo that covers a lot of symbolic territory, thenÂ the squidÂ or octopus may well be the motif you’re looking for. Naturally intelligent, creative and flexible,Â the octopusÂ also acquires its mystique from the watery environment in whichÂ it lives. Add to thatÂ the octopus’ chameleon-like ability to change its color, or disappear in a cloud ofÂ black inkÂ when frightened or attacked and you have an enigmaticphantom ofÂ magic, wonder and transformation. The mysteries of the untamed sea contribute to the sense of wonder and mystery that surrounds this eight-tentacled creature.
As a denizen of the deep, it takes on much of the symbolismÂ of water itself – the psyche, emotion, fluidity, and intuition. To that, add strategy, secrecy, and the power of reason, all attributes that were in action when the giant squidÂ first rose from the deeps to hit the Cinema scope screen in the film “20,000 Leagues Under the Sea” (1954).
It’s true,Â the squidÂ and octopus are voracious predators, occasionally turning on themselves.Â For reasonsÂ no one has figured out, they will devour themselves, starting with their tentacles and ending with their death. There are hundreds and hundreds of different species of squid and octopus (289 discovered so far), inhabiting every ocean and sea that covers our blue planet. They range in size from a few inches to enormous denizens of the deep. TheÂ giant squidÂ reaches lengths of over 40 feet (60 feet has been reported) and their only predator is the great Sperm Whale of Moby Dick fame. The North Pacific Giant Octopus can weigh up to 150 pounds with arms that span nearly 20 feet. Like the great Kraken of Pirate’s of the Caribbean fame, these eight-armed wonders can fuel the imagination, and not a few nightmares!
Octopi don’t have a spine, which makes them ‘invertebrates’, and which also accounts for their agility, grace and flexibility. Without much of a solid structure, they’re free to ‘go with the flow’. No wonder that they are escape artists extraordinaire. An Octopus as a totem guide would be a reminder to loosen up, to give up old and calcified habits, to try something new for a change.
The octopus’ ability to disengage a limb when under attack earns it the right to stand as a symbol of ‘jettisoning excess baggage’ from our lives. It reminds us that our life’s journey moves forward more expeditiously when we continue with only what we truly need. Of course,Â the octopusÂ can grow back that limb, making it a symbol of regeneration.
As a master of camouflage, itsÂ symbolismÂ grows more mysterious.Â The octopusÂ can literally disappear before our eyes. And if that tactic doesn’t work to evade predators, it ejects a dense black cloud of ink behind which it makes its escape. Octopus as illusionist – it’s all part of the mystery surrounding this bottom-dwelling creature of the sea.
Various observations ofÂ the octopusÂ by people over the years have attached even more qualities to this animal’s very busy aura — will, focus, magic, illusion, defense, mystery, expansion, complexity, adaptability, insatiability, and unpredictability.
Because the oceans are influenced by lunar cycles, by its waxing and waning and its constant motion and lightless depths,Â the octopusÂ is considered to be a feminine energy.
‘Water demon’, this is how mythologists interpreted early images ofÂ the octopusÂ found on Greek pottery. In many cases,Â the octopusÂ was depicted with severed tentacles, as if it was the loser in battle. Around the world, cultures have chosen to represent the sea’s mood and mind with images of an angry monster, serpent, or octopus. In many creation myths, it was the jealous octopus, symbol of ‘the waters’, that tried to prevent the advent of life on terra firma. For the Babylonians, the god Marduk was dispatched to subdue the god of salt waters, Tiamat. The Greeks have their story of Apollo overcoming Python. The Egyptians speak of their sun god, Horus, killing the serpent Aphopis. Krishna destroyed Anatha. The sea monster was the ‘enemy of life’, at least on earth.
‘Tentacles’ have a negative connotation because of their ability to reach, grab, and ensnare. Humans aren’t practiced in defence against eight predatory arms, makingÂ the octopusÂ a true monster. The allegory of tentacles has been applied to various organizations or corporations that overreach acceptable limits. In the 1901 novel, “The Octopus”, farmers battled overzealous railroad barons. Fascists in WW2 were represented as an octopus reaching out to control the whole of Europe. More recently, a National Rifle Association publication depicted New York’s mayor, Michael Bloomberg, as an octopus for his campaign against guns. “Tentacles!” shouted the headline. The NRA was then accused of anti-Semitism, due to Hitler having employed the same symbol to represent what Nazis perceived as Jewish conspiracy and control.
As a design,Â the octopusÂ isÂ a tattooÂ artist’s and tattoo enthusiast’s dream. The creature’s very features giving it immense flexibility in the way it can be utilized as a design. Tentacles can be wrapped around arms and legs, draped over shoulders and wrapped around waists and backs. And because of their chameleon-like ability to change color to match their surroundings, octopi come in a veritable rainbow of colors. They are ideal designs to incorporate into large maritime scenes and they can symbolize a wide range of characteristics and virtues.Â A tattooÂ design doesn’t get much more ‘flexible’ than that. Â octopus tattoo design done in morbid tattoo parlor in cash and carry mall Makati Manila, Philippines.