For centuries we have been telling stories about the exotic and mysterious people known as gypsies (although this term is considered pejorative these days). Traditionally known for their musical talent, wayfaring lifestyle and often unscrupulous nature these romanticized vagabonds have been the subject of intrigue and ridicule around the world.
While there are enough myths and stories about this unique travelling culture, it has its roots in reality. The Romani or Roma people are a distinct ethnic group that migrated from India sometime in the 6th century, making their way to Central, Eastern and Southern Europe, and eventually the Americas.
The Roma have a distinct culture that draws from their origins on the sub-continent as well as their stops along the way in Russia and Eastern Europe leading to an artistic sensibility, family structure and musical style that is an interesting mixture of East and West. These people have also faced persecution and prejudice for centuries due to their outsider status and migratory tendencies.
Thanks to the mysterious and exotic associations that many people have with the Roma they have become symbolic of a carefree existence, going wherever the wind may take them and having a freedom that many can only aspire to. Because of these characteristics—some real, some constructed—the Roma and their rambling lifestyle have become powerful symbols in art and culture, and the world of tattoos is no exception.
1. Black and Gray Gypsy Tattoos
There is just something about black and gray tattoos. They have a classic quality, an understated elegance, about them that is hard to capture with color ink. In the hands of a talented artist, black and gray ink can evoke memories of classic films like Casablanca or Citizen Kane, creating a nostalgia that brings old memories back into focus. While this style can be applied to any number of motifs and designs, the pieces inspired by stories of the gypsies of the past are especially suited for this style.
With saturated black, negative space highlights and clean gradation of gray wash tones, these tattoos put the artist’s skill and the wearer’s dedication on full display.
2. Color Gypsy Tattoos
While black and gray may suit some folks, for others there just is no way to convey their aesthetic and their attitude without the use of color. Thankfully, these gypsy inspired designs provide plenty of room for vivid colors: bright bandanas, gold earrings and rouge cheeks. Whether it’s an American traditional pinup gypsy girl, or a new school take on the iconic female fortune teller, color ink is perfectly suited for these tattoos.
3. Floral Gypsy Tattoos
Flowers are powerful symbols in just about every culture around the world; maybe that’s why they are such common elements in the art and designs of so many different groups of people. They are also extremely versatile in the different significance they hold; there are flowers for different occasions, different moods and different intentions. Some flowers represent romantic love, while others are more strongly associated with death and mourning.
Because of this variety of meaning and significance associated with different flowers they make for perfect additions to tattoo designs. They can be a center piece of a design or work as borders and filler, bringing splashes of color to almost any tattoo style.
4. Gypsy Crystal Ball Tattoos
There are few physical objects that are so powerfully associated with the mythologized gypsy than the crystal ball. In films and stories that we grew up with, a sultry female fortune teller arrives in town, travelling in a horse drawn carriage, offering her services as a fortune teller. Whether this trope arose out of reality or is simply a construction developed over hundreds of years is beside the point: these mystical oracles make for dramatic design elements and can represent the wearer’s fascination with the supernatural.
5. Gypsy Tattoos with an Animal
Animals make for great tattoos for a number of reasons. First off, man’s relationship with animals goes back to the prehistoric era and is an inextricable part of what it is to be human: we hunt animals, process and eat them and are able to survive. It goes deeper than that however. Animals have been incorporated into the definitively human act of storytelling for millennia. We give animals human characteristics, and at the same time attribute other people with traits—both enviable and undesirable—that we find in the animal world.
The donkey is classically associated with gypsies as are cats, but the way animals can be incorporated into tattoos is limited only by the imagination.
6. Gypsy Tattoos with Eyes
They say the eyes are the windows into the soul, this couldn’t be more true. The first things humans notice when we look at another face are the eyes; they are essential in interpreting the complex expressions and gestures that are key to our collective success as a species. There is something fundamentally intriguing about gazing into someone’s eyes, and this is one reason why they make for such compelling elements in tattoos.
The variety of different shapes, colors and countenances that can be captured in the eyes means the potential for expression is practically limitless.
7. Gypsy Tattoos with Hands
Our hands allow us to physically interact with the world; everything from hammering nails and throwing fists, to gently caressing a loved one are achieved with our own two hands. Perhaps that is why they make such interesting subjects in art. Our hands are symbolic of the duality of man, the potential for selfless good as well as true evil.
Hands are not inherently good or bad, it is what we do with them that imbue them with significance. In the mythologized world of gypsies, the hands were the tools of the trade; whether throwing Tarot or swiping an unwary patron’s pocket watch, the hands make the magic happen.
8. Gypsy Tattoos with Moons
Few physical objects are so loaded with meaning and significance than the moon. Watching over us since time immemorial, the moon is inextricably tied to the sacred feminine thanks to the mirroring of monthly cycles. The moon is also deeply tied to sailors and the sea as well as the world of magic and the occult. It is no surprise then that lunar elements are common in gypsy inspired tattoos, what with their fortune tellers, crystal balls and the general sense of mystique they conjure.
9. Gypsy Tattoos with Skulls
Skulls have been commonly used in tattoos since the original days of sailors getting ink to commemorate their travels at sea, and they are still popular today. These are perhaps the most instantly recognizable symbol of death that we have: a skull is the universal emblem for poison and danger on warning labels and signage.
It is also worth noting the interesting juxtaposition of meaning created when skulls are tattooed. Ink is the most permanent form of body decoration that we have, yet we decide to tattoo an image that is explicitly inked to the impermanent nature of our existence.
Whether the wearer delves this deep into the meaning behind these macabre symbols or they just like the way they look, skulls make for great additions to designs and can put a dark twist on what would be an otherwise light-hearted tattoo.
10. Gypsy Tattoos with Tarot Cards
The tarot deck originated in the 15th century and has become a powerful set of symbols, perhaps the most powerful set of mystic symbols in the modern Western world. They are perfectly suited for tattoos thanks to the incredible artwork that is often used in creating the assorted characters and objects that make up the deck.
This oracle can also be seamlessly incorporated into gypsy tattoos. Fortune telling is a common theme in these pieces and the variety of cards and their virtually endless potential for interpretation means that a tarot tattoo can hold very specific meaning for the wearer and still maintain a striking appearance.
11. Large Gypsy Tattoos
Some people prefer things big, and tattoos are a great way to share their love for things larger than life with the rest of the world. Big tattoos are sure to turn heads, especially if they utilize bright colors and an interesting design, and as tattoos continue to march into the mainstream, we see more and more people dive in with large, visible pieces. Gypsy motifs are also perfect for these large designs thanks to the opportunity for vibrant colors as well as the dramatic themes of magic, freedom and self-reliance.
12. Realistic Gypsy Tattoos
One of the beauties of tattoo art is the capacity for customization and individual expression: what is perfect for one is another person’s nightmare. Different strokes for different folks. Some people prefer an abstract interpretation while others want tattoos more firmly rooted in reality.
These realistic tattoos are great opportunities for talented artists to create stunning monuments to the world around us, and gypsy themes are perfect for these depictions. The inherently dramatic subject matter of these ancient vagabonds provides artists a chance to recreate a moving scene or accurately capture the forlorn expression on a woman’s face, and at the same time show off their incredible skill.
12. Traditional Gypsy Tattoos
For some people there is no style or trend that can replace the original, and in the world of Western tattoos, the original is known as American traditional. Typified by bold lines, a specific and limited color palette and simplified and stylized renditions of a number of themes, these tattoos have an old-school sensibility.
Originally inspired by sailors and their nautical wanderings, these tattoos had a limited number of elements to draw from. One of the most popular of these elements is the “pin-up girl”. These females, usually scantily clad and rosy cheeked, often take on variety of characteristics from different cultures. Gypsy girls are a classic style and are perfectly suited for this, original tattoo style.
Did you this gallery on gypsy tattoos but need more information on traditional themes? Click on the links below to look at a range of popular Traditional tattoo styles:
- American Traditional Tattoo Ideas
- Traditional Skull Tattoo Designs
- Dagger Tattoo Ideas
- Traditional Snake Tattoo Ideas