Compass tattoos, much like other maritime symbols – such as the nautical star, or swallows – have long been a symbol of navigating through rough seas. More commonly today, however, it is a symbol of navigating through existence, or rather, a talisman to aid in finding ones way through it.
One of the most frequently seen compass tattoos is the compass rose. This elegant figure is a relatively simple design; a small circle, with two stars placed on top of each other, a rose at the center, and the directions placed at each tip. Many people, however, choose to create a more intricate piece with these compass tattoos. They may be seen in gold or bronze colors, or they may be done in bright shades of blue, yellow, red and orange. You can create a piece that looks like metallic jewelry, sketches or even twist the stars into Celtic knots. For a more interesting twist, you could place the Earth or other planets at the center; or place the compass at the center of the planet itself.
Many people prefer to use something akin to a steampunk style in their compass tattoos. These pieces generally show older compasses, some of them may include the rose, or star compass, but they usually show a fairly simple face, with a gold or tarnished silver body. The faces may show the heavy details of the compass signals, it may show the twelve signs of the zodiac, or it may simply have a plain – if slightly aged – face, that shows only the dials and directions. For this style, you may also depict the inner workings of the compass, or show it hanging from a chain, much like an old watch.
Some people may stray from regular compass tattoos and use things that are bit more unusual; for instance, you may see a Vegvísir (or Nordic compass), which depicts runes in place of directions. You may also see varying types of compasses, such as the prismatic, astro or lodestone varieties.
Though the styles may have changed throughout time, compass tattoos have long been a symbol of finding your way, and this will not likely change any time soon.