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Star tattoos are popular tattoo designs for women as well as men. They are a good choice for a first tattoo because a star is usually small in design and doesn't have to be very complicated; a small and simple black star tattoo can be very striking.

The star is one of the oldest symbols and a significant image in many religions and belief systems. Stars have always been awe inspiring, even today, when we have the science to help us understand what they are.

Before modern times, humans looked up at the sky and tried to explain that magnificent view with the help of mythology and religion. That's why stars became such a powerful symbol. They are universal symbols, not tied to a specific religion or culture, and can mean a lot of different things to a lot of different people.

Shooting Star Tattoos

Everyone knows a shooting star is a meteor entering our atmosphere, but that's not what you think about when you get a shooting star tattoo.

Shooting star tattoos are a symbol for:

  • Wishes coming true
  • Success (short-lived)
  • Good luck

Often a shooting star incorporates a ‘trail’ of smaller stars or stardust, a great way for a tattoo to cover a slightly larger area but still remain subtle.

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Shooting star tattoos are usually worn by girls on an arm, leg, foot, wrist, on the side or on the lower back. They are not very masculine, so not a lot of men have them.

Here's a gallery with designs and pictures:

Nautical Star Tattoos

The nautical star tattoo is the most masculine design amongst star tattoos. It is a five-pointed star, the points are split in half and filled with an alternating color (usually black-red or black-white), creating a 3d illusion.

A little bit about the history of nautical star tattoos: In the early days of tattooing they used to be popular amongst sailors, who had them for guidance and protection (Sailor Jerry is a famous tattoo artist from those days).

Sailors used stars and the North Star (aka Polaris) for navigation, so it's not hard to see why so many of them have star tattoos. The tattoos function as a guide to get the sailors back home safely. Soldiers have them for the same reason. Swallow tattoos also have a similar kind of nautical history.

Here's a gallery of nautical star tats (click pics to enlarge):

Today, people have nautical star tattoos for similar reasons, though its meaning can vary slightly:

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  • You can rely on them when you are lost in your life, they are a light in the darkness.
  • In Ireland, the nautical star is a symbol for good health. It's an old Pagan symbol you can find in certain Irish hospitals.
  • Nautical stars have a special meaning in the gay and lesbian community. Some gay and lesbian people have a nautical star tattooed on their wrist as a sign of their disposition. The wrist is a place that can easily be covered by wearing a watch or a bracelet. Curiously, many celebrities have a star tattoo on their wrist (see further).

The nautical star is also a popular punk rock tattoo design.

Star of Life Tattoos

The star of life is a six-pointed star, usually blue and has the Rod of Asclepius in the middle. It represents and is usually worn by emergency medical personnel. The Rod of Asclepius is a symbol of medicine and healing. It's a snake entwined around a stick.

Each of the 6 points of the star has a meaning, as you can see in the following image:

Moon Star Tattoos & Other Combinations

The possibilities of combinations in star tattoo designs are endless, but there are some symbols that you'll see more often combined with stars:

  • The moon and sun (the most popular combination)
  • Planets
  • A fairy
  • A heart
  • Clouds
  • Skulls
  • Flowers

Here's some tattoo flash as examples (click designs to enlarge):

Lower Back & Tribal Star Tattoos

Tribal tattoos were the most popular kind of tattoo in the 90s, but you see them (new ones) less often nowadays. Lower back tattoos are still very popular among girls these days.

Here are some examples of tribal star tattoos:

Pentagram Tattoos

Another star tattoo with a religious and spiritual meaning is the pentagram tattoo.

The pentagram (aka pentangle), a five-pointed star, has been used as a symbol by many religions and cultures throughout history, it's one of the oldest symbols in the world.

Here's an overview of the different symbolic meanings of the pentagram:

  • The pentagram is a symbol of protection against evil.
  • Astronomy: the pentagram is a symbol of femininity. During it's path around the sun, the planet Venus follows a pattern that resembles a pentagram.
  • The pentagram is the symbol for the 5 elements: light, air, wind, fire and water.
  • Ancient Egypt: on ancient Egyptian graves, the pentagram is a symbol for the celestial sky.
  • Pythagoras: for Pythagoreans, the pentagram is a symbol for mathematical perfection.
  • Christianity: the pentagram symbolizes the 5 senses and is a symbol of health. In the Middle Ages, it was the symbol for the 5 cross wounds of Jesus Christ.
  • Satanism (black magic): they use a reversed pentagram inside a double circle. Inside the pentagram is the head of a goat. Each point has a Hebrew letter, forming the word LVYTN (Leviathan, a mythological sea monster from the Old Testament).
  • Wicca (white magic): a religion based on nature. The pentagram is a symbol of faith for wiccans. Pentagram tattoos are a fairly popular goth tattoo.

Star Tattoo Ideas

Here's a gallery with more star tattoo ideas:

Famous Star Tattoos

  • Britney Spears: has a small star tattoo on her right hand.
  • George Clooney: has a temporary star on his chest in the movie From Dusk Till Dawn
  • Megan Fox: has a moon & star tattoo on her right leg.
  • Aaliyah: this late R&B star had has a star on her hand.
  • Drew Barrymore: famous actress with a moon star tat on her right foot.
  • Tokio Hotel: Bill Kaulitz, singer of the band Tokio Hotel, has a star design on his abdomen and his band's logo on his neck.
  • Rihanna: has a small star on her left ear and a shower of stars in her neck. She also has a Sanskrit prayer tattoo on the side of her hip.
  • Victoria Beckham: a Spice Girl with 5 stars on her lower back, depicting her family members.
  • Bjork: has a small star behind her right ear.
  • Boy George: 80s singer with a Star of David tattoo.
  • Gisele Bundchen: super model with a star on the inside of her left wrist and a moon & star on her right ankle.
  • Aaron Carter: singer with a nautical star tattoo on his right arm.
  • Gerry Halliwell: a Spice Girl with a star on her back.
  • Kate Hudson: Kate has a small star on her left foot.
  • Norah Jones: famous jazz singer with a star on her lower back.
  • Anna Kournikova: tennis player with a stars tattoo on the lower back.
  • Avril Lavigne: punk-pop singer with a small star tat on her left wrist.
  • Lindsay Lohan:actress with a small star on her left wrist.
  • Eva Longoria: another actress with a star on her left wrist.
  • Kelly Osbourne: reality TV actress and singer with a small star on her neck.
  • Pink: she has a shooting star tattoo on her left shoulder and a red star on her hand.
  • Ashlee Simpson: another celebrity with a star on her left wrist.
  • Joss Stone: has a shooting star under her right ankle.
  • Tila Tequila: has stars on her both hands.
  • Bruce Willis: has 3 stars on his left shoulder.

The 56 Star Girl

Star Girl

An 18 year old Belgian girl called Kimberley became world famous in a couple of days because of her tattoo story, that goes like this:

Kimberley went to a local tattoo artist because she wanted 3 colored dots tattooed on her face. The tattoo artist convinced her to have 3 stars instead of dots. What follows is a bit unclear, but she claims she fell asleep or passed out... Anyway, when she woke up she discovers she has 56 stars on the left side of her face!

This is a very strange story... Why would a tattoo artist do such a thing anyway and how can you fall asleep while having a tattoo? Some people say the whole story is a hoax orchestrated by a local radio station...

Update: Kimberley confessed 'off camera' that she didn't fall asleep and that she made up the whole story because she was afraid of her father's reaction. She wanted the stars tattoo and actually liked it in the beginning. She is now having the tattoo removed (laser removal), a process that will take about 2 years, but should bring her face in the original condition. She says she wants to keep the stars above her eyes...

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In a post on her blog, Sonja Larsen reports her husband’s response when she said she needed an explanation for why she was publishing her first book at 50:

Oh that’s not hard is it? he says. You spent 10 years trying to forget it, 10 years dealing with it and 10 years writing about it.

Reading her memoir, Red Star Tattoo: My Life as a Girl Revolutionary, I could see why it took so long to find a way to think and talk about her childhood growing up in a commune and then–as a teen independent of her parents–in a cult-like political organization, the National Labor Federation. (It’s a political science student she meets after leaving the group who helps her learn to name it as a cult).

When the book opens, 8-year-old Sonja is hitch-hiking from Montreal to California with a young man in his 20s, because everyone knows it’s easier to get picked up with a kid, and she wants to do her part for the group. The commune her parents have joined has decided to move to warmer climes, and Sonja is in the advance party. Her parents arrive in California a few months later. Larsen recounts this trip (which had some scary moments, but not nearly as many as it might have) straightforwardly, from the perspective of her child self who mostly took this life for granted. But there are hints of another perspective, too:

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But what did my parents say to me when it was time to go–goodbye? See you soon? See you later?

I found Red Star Tattoo a page-turner from the start, but it gained power as it went along, in part because Larsen’s time in the Communist group is so riveting and horrifying. Just what you would imagine happens to a teenage girl in a cult-like group run by a charismatic man happens to her (and this book will be triggering for some people).

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But it’s also because she recounts her story in a way that reflects the maturing of the self she writes about, so the later sections are colored both by her growing awareness that much of what’s happening around her is wrong, and by generosity towards the adults in her life who didn’t fully protect her from it.

Choice was what our parents gave us when they had nothing else to give, not protection, not even sympathy. And that freedom was something they couldn’t take back, even if they’d tried.

I think that much of this book recounts Larsen’s search for the secure love and belonging she felt as a very young child, before her parents began searching for more than an ordinary life. And though she’s clear-sighted about how her parents failed her, she’s also grateful for what her life gave her.

Among those gifts are not just great stories, but compassion. Larsen now works for a community organization in Vancouver’s Downtown Eastside, the poorest neighborhood in Canada. Of this work, she writes:

I don’t know how to change the world. I don’t know if it can be changed the way I tried. But people’s worlds change sometimes. I express this belief in the most banal of ways: remembering a name, finding a pencil, asking if everything is okay, even though I know that being asked is not the same as being brave enough to tell. These small inadequate gestures that make up my day and that will probably not be enough. Maybe most of all it takes luck. That the stranger who picks you up by the side of the road lets you go. That you survive the dangerous men who can spot a girl like you and that Little Red Riding Hood target on your back. I know this. Yet there are days when these little things feel like the only revolutionary work I have ever done.

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Sonja Larsen was lucky, more or less. I’m grateful she found a way to tell her stories.