Windrose Tattoos: History, Meanings & Designs

Windrose Tattoos: History, Meanings & Designs

While it’s often mistaken as a symbol of a simple compass, when you see a circle with a star inside bearing 4, 8, 16, or even 32 points, you are looking at a windrose and it’s an important symbol hearkening back to the early sailors of yore. So, what does it really mean?

Today we’ll take a closer look at the symbolism, meanings, and more of windrose tattoos so that you can have a better understanding of this symbol of freedom and this savior of the lost. Let’s take a closer look at windrose tattoos!


What is the History of Windrose Tattoos?

The Windrose first made its appearance around the 1th century, where it an increasingly popular addition to many a map. The reason for this was quite practical – the windrose artistically depicts information that every captain needs. It tells you the speed and direction of winds as depicted over time! That pretty depiction is actually a matter of life and death.

Known also as a ‘compass rose’ or a ‘compass star’, this invaluable addition soon made its way to the rest of the world and have made their way into modern navigation, as we still use this clever design to this very day. No longer just for ships, windroses are used for aviation too – quite the leap from those ancient maps.

So, when you design a windrose tattoo, you have an image that is quite well-known and also has a large number of centuries behind it, which you can bet comes with a lot of rich history and symbolism that you can cleverly incorporate into your own designs. It’s ancient, useful, and not going away anytime soon.


What Do Windrose Tattoos Symbolize?

Windrose tattoos have a lot of meanings and much will depend on how it is depicted. History enthusiasts might tattoo a complete map, resplendent with a windrose, which could be decorative or actually depict the wind conditions during the time that the original map was made.

For some tattoo owners, the windrose can symbolize the adventurous spirit of the early sailors and aviators, who targeted a depiction of some land from a map and armed themselves with the data that they would need to arrive and to go where they wanted in these new and exotic lands.

A windrose can also be a symbol of self-reliance, telling the world that the tattoo’s owner is a planner and goes where they like – but make no mistake, they know exactly what they are doing. It can even mean that the owner knows that they tend to get lost a lot and they are hoping that providence will provide.

Finally, the windrose might just be a decorative choice and that’s okay as well – it’s your message and your skin art, so think carefully on what you want to say with your own windrose. You’ve certainly got a lot of options!


What Do Windrose Tattoos Mean?

The meaning of windrose tattoos can vary quite a bit. For instance, the number of points in the star up to 32) can indicate which direction the wind or ‘wind analogy’ is coming from, while the length of the spokes in the circle indicate how often the wind blew during that time.

This is all fine and useful to know if you want to get very technical with your tattoo, but if you are just trying to show that you are looking for guidance, a simple four-point windrose design might perfectly fit the bill.

Depicted on a map, it could mean that the owner of the tattoo is an adventure seeker, especially if it’s a treasure map, although if the landscape depicted is from fantasy stories then the tattoo could mean that the owner appreciates this type of fiction or at least the ‘spirit’ of it.

With its navigational history, various meanings will apply, from ‘one who leads the lost’ to ‘one who often gets lost but prepares, so you’ve really got a flexibility with windrose tattoos that you don’t find with a lot of other symbols. This can be a lot of fun to design to your specifications if you’re willing to take the time!


Where Do Windrose Tattoos Usually Go?

As it was originally a nautical symbol, windrose tattoos are quite often depicted on the forearm, a favorite and rather traditional spot for sailor tattoos. That said, the outer arm is not uncommon either, and if you are depicting an ancient map, then you should definitely go with the back.

If movies have taught us one thing, it’s that the old ‘treasure map on the back’ imagery is certainly powerful, though it’s a bold choice that not many will be brave enough to make.

Ultimately, it will go wherever you like, as it’s quite the compact symbol, so unless you are hiding quite a lot of literal meaning in your personal windstar then it doesn’t have to be big to make an impact. Just think about what you want to say with it and the perfect location will come to you.


Characteristics and Styles of Windrose Tattoos

More often than not, windroses are depicted as black and white, but you certainly aren’t limited to this. We recommend googling ‘13th century maps Spanish Italian’ so that you can see some of the original windroses and get a little inspiration in your own design.

As far as the styles, the sky is the limit, and you can go the serious route with a stark black and white depiction, add some eye-popping color with watercolor, or even make light of ‘feeling lost’ with a little New School magic.

Have fun with it and see what you can create.


Some closing comments on Windrose tattoos

So, now you know when you see a windrose what you are really looking at is a practical addition to early cartography that is so useful, it’s still in use today! windrose tattoos are a great way to tell the world about your adventurous spirit, Naval military experience, or even as a lighthearted poke at your tendency to get lost.

Take a look at some of the old designs and see what you think. A windrose tattoo might just be the perfect symbol that you never knew you were looking for!

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