The Truth Behind Crescent Moon Tattoos

If you're considering getting a tattoo, you may be attracted to some of the beautiful designs you've seen that involve a crescent moon — but what, exactly, does that image mean? It's kind of important to figure that out before having anything permanently inked into your skin, right? 

After all, you probably don't want to be sending the message that you were the toughest person in a prison gang ... umm, unless you do, in which case, the crescent moon is not the tattoo you're looking for. It has a number of different meanings, but all of them are pretty peaceful in nature.

Crescent moon tattoo symbolism

The crescent moon, depicting as it does the lunar orb at a phase in which much of it is hidden from view, is a symbol people often choose to represent their dark and mysterious side. The crescent moon is also viewed as a symbol of regeneration, and as such is often associated with motherhood and fertility, although the Tattoos Win blog mentions that some Native American and African tribes viewed the moon as being masculine and indicative of clarifying energy.

The crescent moon also has religious implications. Byrdie relates that in Greek and Roman mythology, the moon is associated with Diana, goddess of the hunt, and its crescent shape may echo the shape of the bow that was her preferred weapon. The Virgin Mary is sometimes depicted standing upon a crescent moon, so this symbol could be associated with Roman Catholicism as well (via the University of Dayton). And of course, the crescent moon and star symbol are universally associated with Islam.

Waxing or waning crescent moon tattoos

One thing to keep in mind, when choosing a crescent moon tattoo, is whether you want the moon to be waxing (increasing), illuminated on the right side, or waning (decreasing), illuminated on the left (via the University of Maryland). According to Byrdie, the waxing moon is a symbol of growth and creativity, while the waning moon symbolizes release and reflection. Zenned Out explains that Wiccans associate the waxing moon with the Maiden phase of the Triple Goddess, representing youth and purity. The waning moon, on the other hand, is associated with the goddess in her crone phase, embodying wisdom and fulfillment.

There is one well-known instance, however, where a waning crescent is most assuredly not associated with old age (nor, especially, with wisdom) — one of the most beloved and enduring advertising icons over the past century-plus has been Miller High Life's eternally young and lovely Girl in the Moon (via MillerCoors Behind the Beer). She, and no doubt the beverage she promotes, have inspired countless crescent moon tattoos.

When the crescent moon is with a sun or stars

According to Trendspotter, if you get inked with a crescent moon alongside the sun and stars, it can represent a family: the sun as a masculine force, the moon as feminine, and the stars as the offspring. 

Of course, there are also more literal interpretations of the sun and moon depicted together — this tattoo could represent day and night, the cycles of nature, or the balance of light and darkness in our lives. In traditional Chinese philosophy, the sun represents Yang and the moon Yin, which were forces created from the chaos of the universe. As the mythology goes, Yin and Yang facilitated a balance that allowed for the first human to be born — their circular combined symbol can also represent a cosmic egg, per the World History Encyclopedia

Trendspotter also notes that the moon and stars together in a tattoo can be deeply rooted in spirituality or light amongst darkness. If familial roles apply, the moon may also represent a motherly figure and the stars her children. 

If your crescent moon tattoo is going to have celestial significance or witchy vibes, symbols seen in tarot decks may spark your artistic inspiration. And like tarot readings, historical symbolism matters as much to the interpretation as a personal significance. So whether you integrate the cosmic symbolism of your chosen images or choose a favorite interpretation, your crescent moon tattoo should also hold a special meaning just for you.