Do you have a spider web tattoo?
If not, do you know anyone who does?
Chances are, if you don’t have one yourself, you know someone who does.
Webbing tattoos are everywhere.
But why are they so popular? What do they mean? And, are they acceptable to get? Or do they have a sinister meaning?
Let’s take a closer look at spider web tattoos and their meanings.
History Of Spider Web Tattoos
Spider web tattoos have been around for centuries and are a popular choice for both men and women.
Spiders and their webs have long held strong significance in indigenous cultures — therefore making for meaningful tattoos.
That said, it is also important to be aware of the unfortunate dark side of spider web tattoos.
You see, a trend which originated in American prisons saw the spider web tattoo become popular among prison gangs.
What’s worse, is that the gangs who adopted the symbol were largely affiliated with white supremacy and racism.
Today, spider web tattoos are a difficult topic to discuss.
On one hand, they can be associated with hate.
On the other hand, they have lost some of their power as a hate symbol — and many are working to reassociate the symbol with its better, more spiritual meanings.
Today, web design is popular as it can be worked into any number of designs, from a traditional cobweb to more intricate webbing.
For many, the design is usually simple, consisting of a spider web with a spider in the center.
Spider Web Tattoo Meaning
Have you ever walked through a spiderweb and felt like it was destiny?
Like, there was some greater purpose to the web getting tangled in your hair?
Well, you’re not alone.
For centuries, people have seen spider webs as symbols of fate and destiny.
In many cultures, spiders are seen as benevolent creatures that spin their webs to help us find our way in life.
In some Native American traditions, spider webs are used in healing rituals to help people connect with their ancestors.
And in many Asian cultures, spiders are seen as good luck charms that bring good fortune to those who spot them.
At first glance, a spider web may not seem like much — it’s just a few sticky threads stretched out between two points.
But a closer look reveals an intricate structure that is both strong and vulnerable.
The web is a symbol of mortality because it is both fragile and long-lasting.
A single strand of silk can take weeks or even months to degrade, while the entire web can be destroyed in an instant.
The web is also a reminder that life is full of interconnected relationships.
Just as the spider’s web binds together different strands of silk, our lives are held together by the relationships we have with others.
And like the web, those relationships can be both fragile and long-lasting.
Spider web tattoos have been a popular design for centuries, and they hold a variety of different meanings for different Indigenous cultures.
For some, the cobweb tattoo is seen as a traditional design that represents protection from evil spirits.
For example, in Native American cultures, the spider is known as the ‘guardian of the home.’
In other cultures, webbing is seen as a symbol of strength and resilience, as it is said that spiders can rebuild their webs even if they are destroyed.
Association With White Supremecy, Hate, & Racism
There are a number of traditional tattoo designs that have been co-opted by white supremacists, and the spider web is one of the most popular.
Usually rendered in black ink, cobwebs or webbing are often seen on the elbows, knees or ankles of neo-Nazis and other far-right extremists.
The spider web is traditionally associated with criminal activity (hence its popularity in jailhouse tattoos), and white supremacists often adopt this symbol to show their willingness to engage in illegal acts.
In addition, the web can also be seen as a symbol of the Aryan race’s “spider’s web” of global domination.
Whatever the specific meaning, there’s no doubt that spider web tattoos have been adopted as a symbol of hate by white supremacists.
Association With Prison & Incarceration
Cobwebs and webbing are traditional tattoo design that has been popular among sailors, pioneers, and prisoners for centuries.
The design is said to represent the opportunities missed while incarcerated.
It can also symbolize the dark past that the wearer is trying to leave behind.
Today, spider web tattoos are still popular among those with a criminal past.
They often use the tattoo to show their awareness of the consequences of their actions and to express their determination to change their ways.
For many, the spider web tattoo is a reminder of the need to stay vigilant and not get caught in the same trap again.
Public Perception Of Spider Web Tattoos Today
Because of the spider web tattoo’s long-standing adoption by hate groups and prison gangs, it is rather unsurprising that many members of the general public hold a negative perception of cobweb tattoos.
While some tattoos may hold dark associations due to public ignorance (a skull, for example), there is no hiding the fact that the spider web tattoo is, in fact, a real symbol used by white supremacists.
All this said the public perception of webbing tattoos is typically connected to the traditional-style designs popularized by these gangs and hate groups.
It is safe to say that spider web tattoos that are unique, and not done in a traditional style likely hold little significance for the general public.
Should You Get A Spider Web Tattoo?
There’s no denying that spider web tattoos are cool.
They often incorporate intricate patterns and can be very eye-catching.
But, considering their association with prison gangs and white supremacy, are spider web tattoos worth getting?
Because the traditional cobweb pattern on an elbow is often used as a symbol of hate groups, getting one of these tattoos may signify to some that you support these groups.
If you’re not comfortable with that association, then this particular style of spider web tattoos is probably not for you.
Additionally, traditional spider web tattoos can be difficult to remove if you later change your mind about them.
The webbing patterns can be very intricate, and traditional tattoo removal methods may not be effective.
Laser removal may end up being the only way to completely get rid of a spider web tattoo.
So, if you’re not sure you’ll want your tattoo for life, it’s something to consider before getting inked.
That said, despite their controversial history, spider web tattoos can still be beautiful and visually arresting — as long as you choose a design unique enough to be free of hateful conotations.
Tips On Choosing A Spider Web Tattoo
By now you should be well aware of the associations that spider web tattoos have with white supremacy, hate, racism, prison, and incarnation.
If you still want to get a spider web tattoo, there is good news.
There are many ways to ensure that your cobweb tattoo won’t get you into trouble, or make anyone uncomfortable.
Here are a few tips to plan a spider web tattoo that is free of hateful connotations.
Consider Tattoo Placement
One of the best ways to avoid association with hate groups is to think about where you will get your spider web tattoo.
The most popular placement of webbing tattoos by hate groups is the elbow, followed by the hand or knee.
So, it is important to avoid these areas when getting a spider web tattoo.
Good alternative locations could include the upper arm or thigh.
Avoid “Traditional” Web Designs
The negative public perception of spider web tattoos is typically based on a web done in the “traditional” style.
This design is a simple, often symmetrical web whose simplicity gives it an almost “cartoony” look.
Sometimes a small section of this design is used on areas of the body such as the skin between one’s thumb and pointer finger or behind the ear.
By choosing a design that is radically different from these classic designs, you can ensure that your tattoo will not be mistaken for a symbol of hatred.
Add Unique Design Elements
To further sever any connection to hateful symbolism, try incorporating other interesting elements into your spider web tattoo.
Because the “traditional” style of tattoo is typically void of any other elements, this will help to further differentiate your design.
For example, try adding a subject into your design.
This could include a spider or something more original like a butterfly.
Adding a subject will also help to bring less attention to the web portion of the art.
Another idea is to place the web between two other elements.
Perhaps the cobweb could sit between two branches on a tree.
Due to the hateful associations that many members of the public have with spider web tattoos, it is crucial that one strongly considers if they truly want a cobweb tattoo.
The best advice we can offer is to avoid “traditional” styles of spier web tattoo designs — instead opting for some new and original.
This will ensure that your new piece of body art will not be mistaken for a symbol of hatred and white supremacy.
That said, spider web tattoos are very popular and often have personal meanings for the people who get them.
If you’re thinking of getting a spider web tattoo, just make sure to put strong consideration onto your design, and make sure to voice any of your concerns to your artist.
This way, you can ensure you receive a beautiful, meaningful, and hate-free piece of art.
We hope this article has helped give you a better understanding of the symbolism behind spider web tattoos.