Home » 45 Aztec Tattoo Designs With Meaning

45 Aztec Tattoo Designs With Meaning

This post contains affiliate links. If you click and buy we may make a commission, at no additional charge to you. Please see our disclaimer for more details.

The concept of Aztec tattoos first took off among the ancient Aztec civilization, from the 14th to the 16th centuries, in Central America and Mexico. Back then, each Aztec tattoo corresponded to a fascinating ritual honoring a specific god. The tattoos also helped the Aztec people keep their tribes differentiated. Furthermore, by wearing the tattoos, each individual could display a warrior’s prowess. Today, Aztec tattoos are popular for being both an important reminder of the original mesoamerican culture and the deeper meaning of the tattoo. 

The prominence and history of Aztec culture grant us a depth of knowledge about life and death based on the myths, legends, and natural events that shaped their rich civilization. The remarkable Artifacts left behind by the Aztec people reveal a lot about their history, beliefs, and culture. Observed from these artifacts are the incredible symbols of Aztec gods and god-like creatures that are the main inspiration behind Aztec tattoos.   

Ever wondered why the style of Aztec tattoos inspires people from around the world? It’s owing to their symbolism and beauty. In this article, I’ve shared images of 45 such designs that are currently being admired and loved on the internet. The source/artist information is mentioned beneath each design so that you can directly follow the artist for more of their work. 

Aztec Tattoo Symbolism

Aztec tattoo designs have evolved through time. Yet, the idea behind each design carries the same significance of Aztec culture and traditions as before. The designs depict gods, tribal patterns, and creatures (animals). 

Most Aztec tattoos consist of masculine designs consisting of elements like:

  • Eagle
  • Crocodile
  • Skull
  • Warrior
  • Sun god (Huītzilōpōchtli)
  • Serpent god (Quetzalcoatl)
  • The Aztec calendar

The meaning behind each design comprises a combination of Aztec symbolism and a modern interpretation.

The unique characteristics of Aztec tattoo designs make them stand apart from other types of tribal tattoo designs. So much so that it is impossible to confuse an Aztec tribal design with that of another tribe.

Although ancient Aztec tattoo designs were simpler, their purpose among the tribes was significant. Since religion was an extremely important part of their culture, the Aztec people often got engraved with tattoos during rituals to honor a chosen god, distinguish their tribes, or show an individual’s specific status. Even children had tattoos.

People, these days, get inked with highly detailed Aztec tattoos for several reasons. As mentioned earlier, some like to cherish and honor ancient cultures by always remembering their symbols and original meanings. There are others who prefer the best Aztec tattoos for the ornate beauty of the designs. A popular trend I’ve noted through my research is that multiple symbols, like the sun and the eagle, for instance, can be combined to form one incredible design.

Aztec Tattoo Designs

As can be seen from the amazing Aztec tattoo designs below, the modern take on Aztec tattooing considers the use of bright colors equal to that of standalone black ink. Furthermore, these tattoos are most popular among men due to their masculine design elements as well as meanings.

If you’ve been on the lookout for unique and meaningful new body art, you are sure to fall in love with these wonderful ideas.

Eagle Aztec Tattoos

Source: @chrisrodastattoo via Instagram

In Aztec civilization, eagles were aptly considered as a representation of qualities such as courage, power, and inner strength. Aztec warriors often got engraved with eagle tattoos to derive their inner strength from these herculean birds. The headpiece tattoo above depicts an eagle in black and grey ink around the man’s ear. It’s a catchy location and design, tattooed to perfection. 

Source: @johnny_ayala via Instagram

In Mexican culture, Aztec in particular, the eagle is depicted as a warrior’s helm. The above upper back piece engraved in black and grey is the perfect example of that sort of depiction. 

Source: @tat2frel via Instagram

As seen from the above shoulder piece, an authentic Aztec eagle design shows the eagle facing the west with its beak fully open and wings spanning above its head. The occasional depiction of the eagle grasping the snake with its mouth is more in line with modern Mexican culture.

Crocodile Aztec Tattoos

Source: @tatudemiacdmx via Instagram

As per the Aztec belief, the Earth was formed using the body of the crocodile. Hence, they wore crocodile tattoos as a means to honor the animal, much like a god. The crocodile symbolizes strength, problem-solving, and creation. The crocodile was more of a mythical creature embodying part physical characteristics of a crocodile, fish, and a toad. The serpent-like creature also represents aggression.

Skull Aztec Tattoos

Source: @justtatts510 via Instagram

A Skull Aztec tattoo signifies the deity ‘Death’ and the north. It also represents the sixth day. Skulls were also a symbol to honor the Mayan gods whilst being a cause of embarrassment to the enemies. The Aztec culture aside, a human skull tattoo generally symbolizes being unafraid of death, and that death is inevitable. The skull image, then, is a reminder that we should make the best of our lives. The above chest piece tattoo is an excellent example of a skull Aztec tattoo. Generally, Aztec tattoos are black and white, yet the amazing shading work by the tattooist brings this piece to life no less than if it were colored.

Source: @jessem_tattoos via Instagram

The above 3D look sleeve tattoo depicts a realistic skull with various other god-like elements from Aztec culture. 

Source: @reyreytattoos via Instagram

The above piece is truly unique. It’s a full sleeve tattoo of the Aztec skull, with bright green and red touches to make it more vibrant. Such illustrative, colored pieces are typically less realistic than their black and white counterparts. 

Source: @ironxwielder via Instagram

The skull is the main element in the above upper back tattoo. Multiple other elements, including the eagle helmet, enhance the overall appeal of this piece, making it a unique, traditional design. 

Source: @eddiemartinez_art via Instagram

This thigh piece is another masterpiece. The realistic, black and white skull and various other intricate details give this tattoo the rich Aztec look fans envisage. 

Aztec Warrior Tattoos

Source: @spaceghostt_ via Instagram

An Aztec warrior tattoo is an ultimate tribute to mesoamerican culture. Hugely popular among men, Aztec warrior tattoos symbolize belief in the afterlife, prowess, and competitiveness. Common among these warrior images are the helms famously worn by the Aztec warriors. These helms mainly resemble the two most important animals in Aztec culture — Eagles and Jaguars. However, modern Mexican Aztec tattoos may deviate from that norm, wherein you’ll often find other helms featured yet inspired by Aztec culture. One such example is the helm shown in the above arm tattoo.

Source: @jsauceda21 via Instagram

The way the warriors dressed represented the tribe they belonged to. Henceforth, their fellow tribesmen would dress the same way to show their commitment and belongingness towards their tribe. Aztec warrior tattoos are growing in popularity due to their meaning: to be brave, loyal, and strong. The shield or the headdress of an Aztec warrior signifies that you have the power and the heart of a true warrior. It also means you’re forever determined and loyal towards your embodied warrior traits.

Source: @jcabelloart_hst via Instagram

This is a striking example of a flawless Aztec warrior tattoo. The artist has done a fabulous job using the black and grey shading technique. Every detail from the helm, the facial features, and the eclipsed sun are a vivid reminder of Aztec civilization’s meaningful culture and history. This type of design requires multiple sessions and the best tattoo equipment, yet the results are worth the pain, wait, and cost. Why worry about the process anyway? There are awesome after-care balms and other products to take care of things.

Source: @art_danny_ponce via Instagram

This tattoo is yet another classic example of a traditional Aztec warrior design with a Jaguar helm. 

Source: @jennalunaa via Instagram

This realistic piece on the forearm gives you a glimpse of Aztec architecture and other intricate Aztec patterns. The warrior image looks stunning in the black and white ink work.

Source: @josebandera via Instagram

Many of the Aztec warrior tattoos are depicted showing the warrior holding a shield or wielding a traditional weapon. Popular ideas for the weapons include spears, bows, or macuahuitl (traditional Aztec wooden swords).

Source: @mumia916 via Instagram

Who says Aztec tattoo designs are only for men? While that’s true to a large extent, there are some amazing exceptions, including the above tattoo. This pretty piece looks incredible when engraved on a woman’s upper arm.

Source: @danielgarciart via Instagram

The above tattoo shows an Aztec warrior in full-length view. This style looks best inked on the back of the calf region. As per the history books, the degree to which the warrior’s costume and gear were artistically elaborate determined their ranking.

Source: @seventattoolv via Instagram

As mentioned earlier, an Aztec Warrior tattoo symbolizes the belief in an afterlife, which is why it’s often depicted with an eagle. The eagle signifies the tribal origin of a warrior as well as is symbolic for uplifting the warriors’ spirits by giving them strength and courage. Hence, this amazing Aztec tattoo on the arm makes a powerful statement.

Source: @sherifftattoos via Instagram

I love this glorious chest piece. It’s got a lot happening, yet it doesn’t look perplexing at all. It’s a complete tribute to Aztec history and culture. Shown in the image are a couple of warriors, the two most important Aztec animals, the skull, the serpent god, the sun, and other patterns. 

Aztec Sun God (Huītzilōpōchtli) Tattoos

Source: @jocilynnfalco via Instagram

This awesome pectoral chest piece shows the Aztec god of the sun and war — Huītzilōpōchtli. As per Aztec mythology and culture, the rising and setting sun is representative of proof that there is life after death. This deity is commonly also portrayed as a hummingbird. Furthermore, this deity is often depicted as a brave warrior holding a serpent in one hand. 

The Aztecs are thought to have mourned when they thought the powerful god, Huītzilōpōchtli, had died during an eclipse. The Aztec civilization believed the sun was the entire world and that it was Tollan (i.e. heaven), wherein warriors and women that died during childbirth could only be accepted.

Source: @jrnunez via Instagram

The above Aztec sun tattoo represents oneness with Earth and love towards the entire human race. The whole human race is recognized as one and the message is, we should all accept and love this world as our home. The light of the sun is further symbolic of protection from evil.

Source: @rob_galvan_tattoos via Instagram

Such tattoos of the sun or sun-god are awesome design ideas that can look great on most body parts. The above sun-god tattoo on the hand will always protect you from evil. The Aztec Sun god is the most powerful among all Aztec gods.

Aztec Serpent God (Quetzalcoatl) Tattoos

Source: @tattoocharlie via Instagram

The gigantic feathered serpent, Quetzalcoatl, is one of the most powerful Aztec gods. He is considered the god of fertility, learning, art, and dawn. If you get a Quetzalcoatl tattoo engraved on your body, you’re wearing a symbol of strength, knowledge, and creativity. 

Source: @tattoosbygoethe via Instagram

The Aztecs considered Quetzalcoatl as the world’s ultimate protector. This is a popular tattoo because of its many positive meanings. It’s a symbol of protection from evil forces, possessing intelligence, lifelong learning, and enhancing knowledge. 

Aztec Calendar Tattoos

Source: @frank310 via Instagram

As can be seen in the above chest tattoo, the Aztec calendar depicted in black and white is a large, intricate design. This symbol of Aztec culture is a popular tattoo option if you wholeheartedly admire the culture. On top of the cultural significance because of all the details and patterns. What makes it more special is the symbolism of leadership and strength conveyed through this ancient divinatory tool. 

Source: @juan_vago_tattoos via Instagram

This is yet another beautiful Aztec calendar tattoo. It exudes an extra dose of patriotism through the colorful United States and Mexico flags. The Aztec calendar has two cycles. The first is a 365-day yearly cycle called xiuhpōhualli. Next, there is the 260-day ritual cycle called tōnalpōhualli.

Source: @rob_galvan_tattoos via Instagram

The Aztec calendar design is typically tattooed in a realistic style. Black and white ink is the general way to go when tattooing this design. This particular tattoo is entirely in black with empty spaces to represent the details. 

Other Popular Aztec Tattoo Ideas To Inspire You

In Aztec culture, there are multiple gods to worship, and in the modern era, there is a plethora of advanced tattooing equipment to hone our imaginations. As a result, there has been a growing influx of Aztec-inspired designs that have stormed tattoo parlors. Given below are some references to what old meets new has resulted in. You’ll note, the results are beautiful, astonishing works of art that have many takers worldwide.

Without further ado, here are some more crazy, awesome Aztec tattoo designs to inspire you further:

Complete Back Aztec Tattoo

Source: @ via Instagram

If you’re culturally and passionately into the mesoamerican art form, then this traditional tattoo is the perfect pick. You have to be bold to own such a large tattoo that takes up your entire back. Yet, the rich cultural, mythological, and positive history and significance of Aztec symbolism stands out from the crowd and makes this tattoo worth the risk.

Leg Sleeve Tattoo

Source: @ via Instagram

This leg sleeve is quite intricate and looks stunning, especially with the contrast of red with black and grey. You can spot the Aztec calendar, sun, and other tribal imagery associated with Aztec culture in this design. 

Chest & Half Sleeve Tattoo

Source: @ via Instagram

You can give the Rock competition with this amazing chest and half sleeve piece depicting the great Aztec warriors. 

Aztec Dot Work Tattoo

Source: @ via Instagram

Are you a fan of dot work? If yes, this is an incredible Aztec warrior depiction in precise black dot work. It’s a fantastic idea if you’re looking to cover your entire frontal thigh region with a new tattoo.

Aztec Necklace Tattoos

Source: @ via Instagram

Aztec tribal patterns inspire this elegant necklace piece. As the “icing on the cake,” you have the bird with its wings spanning higher than its head level to indicate leadership and prowess. Don’t want to overdo it, and the choice below looks great too.

Source: @ via Instagram

Aztec Tribal Jaguar Tattoo

Source: @ via Instagram

This is a cute tribal depiction of the Jaguar, suitable for women. In Aztec culture, the Jaguar holds immense importance and stands to be the ruler of the Underworld. As per Myan mythology, the animal is a symbol of the night sun and darkness.

Colorful Tribal Aztec Tattoo

Source: @ via Instagram

Want something colorful, this vibrant, bright design of the Aztec Sun god has huge fanbase approval online. In terms of placement, you can consider this piece for your forearm region.

Aztec Rain God (Tlaloc) Tattoo

Source: @ via Instagram

Tlaloc is the supreme god of rain, water, and earthly fertility. His popularity stems from his ability to grant life and sustenance. He’s worshiped for these abilities. This chest piece has precision written all over it. The intricacy and depth with which the tattooist has inked the design are praiseworthy.

Aztec Underworld God/God Of Death (Mictlantecuhtli) Tattoos

Source: @ via Instagram

The Aztec god of death is typically portrayed with a skull face. I love the realistic effect given to the teeth, even though the character is mythological in nature. This is a wonderful forearm piece. You can’t go wrong with this choice, especially if you’re an Aztec enthusiast. If the above version isn’t creepy enough, the one below should suffice. 

Source: @ via Instagram

The incredible symbolism of the underworld god is fertility, health, and abundance.

Source: @ via Instagram

Finally, this bold headpiece makes more than a statement. It’s got the god of death — a skull figure — placed on the owner’s skull itself. 

Aztec Ethnic Ornamental Tattoos

Source: @ via Instagram

Like other tribal cultures, the Aztec tribe has plenty of ethnic patterns associated with artifacts, ancient tattoos, and other symbolic material evidence. The tattooist has come up with this simplistic, ethnic ornamental design inspired by Aztec mythology that looks extremely sexy when inked vertically along the spine.

Source: @ via Instagram

This simple, elegant ornamentation is inspired by Aztec culture. It looks perfect in black linework on this region of the back.

Source: @ via Instagram

Finally, the delicate, colorful, Aztec-inspired ornamentation above the ankle looks immaculate and beautiful. This type of tattoo is cheap, painless, quick to do, and extremely attractive.

Aztec Fire Serpent (Xiuhcoatl) Tattoos

Source: @ via Instagram

Serpent gods are central to Aztec mythology. The daring, tribal tattoo above is a fire serpent (Xiuhcoatl) design. 

Source: @ via Instagram

The fire serpent is a coiled, mythical snake whose name is Xiuhcoatl, which translates into “turquoise snake.” The symbolism of this creature with the given colors is preciousness, relevance to time and the calendar, and an association with fire and celestial figures.

Source: @ via Instagram

This realistic, 3D, sleeve design, depicts a warrior, Aztec architecture, and the serpents. It’s the work of a gifted tattooist that has left no stone unturned to make this design flawless. Imagine waking up every morning with that design on your arm. Won’t you feel powerful, motivated, and inspired every single day?

Conclusion

Aztec tattoos look incredible in traditional, tribal, or realistic styles. Furthermore, the designs can be black and white or colored, and there are quite a few options for women these days as well. Your chest, back, shoulder, arm, and leg are some of the most popular locations to get inked with an Aztec tattoo. The incredible amount of detailing and intricacy in the designs of most Aztec tattoos makes them among the most beautiful and sought-after in the tribal category. It’s not the beauty of the designs that alone influences their popularity. To most enthusiasts, it’s the rich cultural significance and deep meanings that make Aztec tattoos all the more worth one’s time and investment.

About Author

Jonathan Corby "Jonny" is a guy who is passionate about Tattooing and successfully running a Tattoo Studio in NY. Through my journey as a Tattoo Artist I have made unforgettable memories. This irrational poetry and sense of freedom of art on skin has given a blissfull experience to my life. Each Tattoo has a story behind it; Lets share one!