Centipede Tattoos: History, Meanings & Designs

Centipede Tattoos: History, Meanings & Designs

Centipedes make popular tattoos along with many other creepy-crawly creatures.  Most people agree that they can make beautiful tattoos whether in color or black ink, but most people don’t know the symbolism, meanings, and variations of these tattoos.

Centipedes have a wide variety of meanings and symbolism depending on the surrounding culture.  Sometimes they are viewed negatively and associated with death and disease, other times they are associated with strength and power.

Let’s take a deeper dive into all of the different ways that the centipede has been viewed throughout history as well as some very unique ideas that incorporate this iconic animal.


What is the History of Centipede Tattoos?

Contrary to popular belief, centipedes are not insects.  They are actually arthropods, just like crabs, scorpions, butterflies, and trilobites.  There are thousands of different species out there, but they all share an abundance of body segments, legs, and venom. 

The name comes from the Latin words for hundred and feet, though this isn’t exactly accurate.  These creatures actually have one pair of feet per section of their body, so their total number of legs depends on the number of sections that it has.  Longer species can actually have hundreds of legs!

All centipedes are actually poisonous carnivores.  They will inject their venom into their prey before devouring them.  Though most aren’t deadly to humans, they can surely incapacitate and paralyze smaller organisms.     


What Do Centipede Tattoos Symbolize?

The symbolism of centipedes varies between the many cultures that have incorporated this animal into their lore.  These ideas range from luck and happiness all the way to power, death, and despair.

  • In ancient Asian cultures, they are viewed as a symbol of power.  This is because even though they are small, they possess the ability to scare, poison, and even kill creatures that are much larger.  They are said to scare even the fiercest dragon.
  • Similarly, in some Native American tribes, they are also viewed as powerful creatures.  Native’s believed that they had harnessed the ability to pass between the underworld and our world.  It’s not hard to see why these cultures considered this animal to be powerful.
  • In Filipino culture, they are considered to be a good luck charm, especially for weary travelers.
  • In other European and North American folklores, they associate the animal with death, decay, pestilence, disease, and bad omens.
  • The Egyptians considered the centipede to be the antithesis of the snake, which were heavenly creatures of light.  They were considered to be dangerous creatures of the night.

What Do Centipede Tattoos Mean?

The true meaning behind any tattoo depends on the person wearing it, but understanding the symbolism behind the tattoo can give you a better idea of what someone’s tattoo means.

Some people are unaware of the cultural significance of centipedes in ancient cultures, but they still get them tattooed on their skin.  This is because many people have an interest in deadly animals.  This is also true for creatures that make our skin crawl like spiders, insects, and snakes.

Those who are familiar with the ancient lore of these creatures have an affinity for strength, power, and danger.  This is because these small creatures pack a big punch with their neurotoxic venom.  They can also have a connection with the idea of being lucky or being in need of luck.


Where Do Centipede Tattoos Usually Go?

Centipede tattoos will accentuate any part of the body that they are applied to.

  • Arms and legs are great locations because of the long meandering body of centipedes.  They can wrap around your limb to create a stunning visual pattern.
  • Hands and fingers are also popular locations for centipede tattoos because of their visibility.  Nothing quite catches the eye like a poisonous creature on someone’s hand!
  • Chest and back pieces are ideal because they can be huge.  The many legs and segments of a centipede look great when displayed on a large canvas.

No matter where you decide to place a centipede tattoo it will undoubtedly stand out among others!


Characteristics and Styles of Centipede Tattoos

These tattoos tend to share two main characteristics, a long winding body and a large number of small insect-like legs.  Let’s explore some of the more creative variations of this tattoo.

Centipede Skull

The centipede crawling through the mouth and eye sockets of a human skull is an eye-catching variation on this type of tattoo.  It can symbolize the ability to survive death because they poison and kill their prey before they consume it.

Hearts And Other Symbols

The long bodies of centipedes make them great candidates for forming shapes and symbols.  They can be drawn into hearts and other shapes that symbolize love to juxtapose the ideas of happiness and death.

Centipede Of Faces

Since most people already consider centipedes to be creepy or gross, they are commonly paired with jarring images of masks or faces.  Nothing says creepy quite like a centipede made of painful faces.

Japanese Centipede

The Japanese centipede is a widely popular variation of this type of tattoo.  They can frequently be seen with a segmented body attached to the head of a geisha, samurai, or ninja.  This isn’t surprising considering the tight bond this animal shares with Japanese culture.

Lucky Centipedes

Because certain cultures consider the centipede to be a mark of good luck, they can be paired with other modern symbols of luck.  This includes four-leafed clovers and the number seven.

Snakes And Centipedes

Since some ancient cultures considered the centipede to be the opposite of snakes, they can be displayed together to represent the duality of life (similar to yin and yang).

Poisonous Centipedes

Centipedes are frequently associated with other poisonous imagery such as “XXX” and other venomous animals. 


Final Thoughts

Centipede tattoos make an eye-catching addition to anyone’s body whether they represent a love of ancient power, poisonous creatures, or good luck.  They are great for creating cathartic pieces because of their long bodies and creepy reputation.  If you are in the market for a head-turning tattoo, then the centipede is definitely for you.  

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