Lady Liberty Tattoo: From Libertas To The Goddess of Freedom

Lady Liberty Tattoo: From Libertas To The Goddess of Freedom

- in Blog, Tattoo Meanings
Lady Liberty

The celebration of the Goddess of Freedom (or today’s Lady Liberty) began more than two thousand years ago among the ancient Romans. They named Her Libertas, the Latin word that means freedom. Libertas implied Freedom of action, Freedom from restraint, independence, rights, and related personal and social liberty forms.

The Roman religion had an extensive and complex pantheon with many Goddesses, Gods, and other sacred forms. Ancient Romans revered and deified specific values, known as Virtues, and Libertas were one of the most important. A few other Virtues were Hope (Spes), Justice (Justica), Piety (Pietas), and Courage (Virtus). According to their beliefs and religion, Roman citizens were to uphold Virtues in their personal lives and their culture.

Libertas usually took the form of a Goddess. Sometimes She appeared with the Roman God Jupiter, in the form of Jupiter Libertas. Libertas also was closely affiliated with the Goddess Feronia, and some viewed them as aspects of the same Goddess. Feronia is originally an ancient agricultural and fire, Goddess among the Etruscan or Sabine peoples. She was celebrated in central Italy as the Goddess of freedwomen and freedmen, and She was associated with granting freedom to slaves. 

Some of the Roman images of Libertas have survived on coins and other artifacts to this day. Libertas usually is illustrated as a matron in a flowing classical dress. She is shown holding both the Liberty Pole (vindicta) and Liberty Cap (pilleus). In some illustrations, Libertas wears the Liberty Cap or a crown of Laurel leaves. Sometimes She holds a spear instead of the Liberty Pole. On rare occasions, Liberty is shown with a Cat by Her feet.

Lady Liberty
Image by Gordon Johnson

Although the Roman empire is long gone, the Goddess Liberty still sustains. Over the centuries and across different cultures, She has continued to represent Freedom in Her appearances in paintings, sculptures, songs, stories, poems, tattoo culture, and other literature. She has most often taken shape and form of Lady Liberty in recent times.

Lady Liberty began rising in America during the colonial era due to the American struggle for political independence from Britain. American patriot Paul Revere was the first to interpret Lady Liberty in that context. Another leader, Thomas Paine, included Her in his poem, the “Liberty Tree,” referring to Her as “The Goddess of Liberty.” Freedom Goddess depictions emerged in America during its Revolution and a few years later in France. During the French Revolution, the symbol of the Republic, the Marianne, was illustrated wearing the Liberty Cap and sometimes accompanied by Liberty’s Cat.

In the USA, Lady Liberty became part of the official symbol of its newly formed states. Holding Her Liberty Cap and the Liberty Pole, Lady Liberty appears with the Goddess of Justice on the official New York State Flag. She appears on the front of the Great Seal of New Jersey, dated 1777.

As other states were formed in the USA, some chose to include Liberty imagery as their folklore. People used Lady Liberty images on coins, paintings, stamps, including the colossal bronze Statue of Freedom. Interestingly, both sides claimed Liberty during America’s Civil War era and sought to use Her images to promote their causes. Liberty was depicted freeing slaves among abolitionists, while states rights activists used Her image to represent independence from the “tyranny fist” of the centralized government. In recent times, Liberty images have been used in connection with a wide range of political through artistic scenery. 

The most famous of the Freedom Goddess, the Statue of Liberty, was a gift from France to the United States for America’s 100th birthday. French sculptor Frederic-Auguste Bartholdi created the Statue of Liberty with the help of Alexandre Gustave Eiffel. The head of Lady Liberty’s statue is displayed with a crown with solar rays, something like the crown on the Colossus of Rhodes. This was a magnificent monument to the Sun God Helios that once was one of the seven wonders of the ancient world. The crown’s seven rays represent the seven seas and continents. The torch Liberty holds in Her right hand is the Flame of Freedom, and beneath Her feet are broken chains representing conquering tyranny and enslavement. There is a tablet (in the left hand) inscribed with July 4, the date of the Independence Declaration, and the birth of the USA as a nation.

More than 100,000 people in France donated money to create the 46 meters tall copper-clad Statue of Liberty. In an effort spearheaded by newspaper magnate Joseph Pulitzer, thousands of Americans contributed money to build the 65-foot high granite base in the USA. The statue was finished in Paris in May of 1884 and shipped in pieces to the USA, reassembled. In a traditional Masonic ritual, work on pedestal construction began in August 1884, following Masons’ laying of the cornerstone of the Grand Lodge of New York. Thousands of people were present at the dedication ceremony held on October 28, 1886, including Suffragettes. While circling the island in a boat, they loudly proclaimed their freedom demand that women have the right to vote through a megaphone. 

The Liberty statue is one of America’s most exciting and beloved monuments. The United Nations declared it as a World Heritage site in 1984. 

Images of Lady Liberty are a big part of American popular art culture. In addition to the different Statue of Liberty postcards, t-shirts, and other souvenirs, Lady Liberty imagery can be found on TV, in movies, books and newspapers, on postage stamps and posters, poems, songs or in art museums and theaters or as a big part of the tattoo culture.

Lady Liberty is more than an emblem to many modern Wiccans and other Pagans. She is a powerful Goddess who can guide, inspire, protect, and comfort. Pagans have invoked Lady Liberty in personal or social liberation rituals. Because of Her ancient origins, Lady Liberty is an excellent Goddess to support Pagan religious freedom.

Liberty Goddess meditations and rituals

Personal Liberation:

You seek liberation if you wish to break or avoid a difficult situation. Imagine it taking the shape of a chain that holds you down. For a few seconds, experience its difficulty and the problems it causes. Then, invite the Goddess of Liberty to come to your assistance. She will be wearing a Liberty Cap and a Liberty Pole. Imagine your chains breaking away as She breaks them with the Liberty Pole. She will place Her Liberty Cap on your head. As you experience wearing Her Cap, allow guidance to come to you about particular things you can do in your everyday life to break the bad habit or change the problematic situation and take on healthier actions. When she comes to you, imagine her giving you Her Liberty Pole. Feel the power of the pole take action that can help your situation.

Religious Freedom Support:

Use this ritual to send spiritual support to people involved in religious freedom cases. Use an image of Lady Liberty, such as an illustration, photograph, tattoo, or sculpture. Set it in a central position and position the image to face the direction of the person or group needing help.Set a piece of paper with the names of those in distress before the image. Place and light white candles, one in each compass point, plus a fifth on top of the design naming those who need help. Welcome Her and then ask Her to protect, guide, and support those in need. Imagine those in need shinning with Lady Liberty’s Light and receiving guidance, strength, healing, protection, advice, and support from Her. 

Tattoos and tattooing are a big part of American culture and everyday life. Many ideas, meanings, and variations of Lady Liberty can be used as a part of a tattoo project. We need to find our story and symbolism behind it and use it with this powerful symbol of freedom.

 Use the Lady Liberty symbolic representation again in different designs. If you think it is appropriate, give it to the people in need as a reminder of the importance of Lady Liberty and those who took part in creating and using the tattoo design.

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