Lightning is a story-tale sign that signals that a storm is on the horizon, but it can mean much more when seen as tattoo designs. The lightning bolt is very often used to symbolize strength or power, but many other meanings connected with lightning you might not know of.
In history, lightning has been famously associated with the Gods, specifically the Greek god Zeus. The Gods’ father is frequently represented as holding or throwing powerful lightning bolts, which symbolized his power over other Gods and man. Zeus’s lightning bolts were unpredictable, so this is the reason why lightning has been seen as a symbol of the unpredictable nature of humankind and the world in general. The lightning bolt symbolizes power and strength, intelligence, intuition, and spiritual enlightenment in Greek culture. Ancient Greeks also saw lightning as a sign of fertility because lightning comes with rain, a primary component of crops growing and mother earth being fertile.
Greece is not the only place where lightning bolts hold strong symbolism since many different cultures associate distinct meanings with lightning. For instance, in Chinese culture, lightning is closely connected with the idea of fertility for much the same reasons as Greeks believe. In Native American lore, lightning goes hand-in-hand with the thunderbird, which signifies honesty, truth, and morality. Legend says that lightning comes from the thunderbird’s eyes to strike those who are misguided and untruthful.
The Celts held the lightning bolt in highly spiritual regard. Wherever lightning struck, that was considered a sacred and holy place to perform religious ceremonies and rituals on these locations. For most cultures that believe that lightning is a powerful and meaningful force, many associations are held positively.
Lightning symbolizes many positive concepts, all of which change slightly depending on the context. As we mentioned, the lightning bird symbolizes honesty, truth, and morality, so a person getting a lightning tattoo with this design can, according to legend, be considered a trustworthy and moral character.
The lightning bolt is often used as to metaphor for emotions like fear, admiration, clarity, inspiration, and creativity. It’s seen as a primal ability, much like our raw emotions and instincts, and the volatile nature of lightning makes it an excellent symbol for primal urges.
Unfortunately, there are some not-so-positive associations with lightning as a symbol. When lightning is combined with clouds, it could symbolize misfortune or bad luck. Being presented in this sense, lightning tattoos can represent one’s triumph over bad times, overcoming the storm that this image embodies.
On a much more negative side, twin lightning bolts used side-by-side symbolize white supremacy and have no positive significance. These symbols are usually seen in prison tattoos, signify one’s status and opinions, and are used as gang signs for white supremacists. Twin bolts represent the symbol for the elite Nazi groups, the SS, and the lightning bolts are a rune type symbol for these letters. The Schutz Staffeln, or SS, was formed within the Nazi party as a protection unit when subjected to physical resistance from other political parties.
The lightning bolt symbol is similar to the capital letter “S” as well as to Nordic runes. In the runic alphabet, the “s” character has become associated in Germanic countries with sun, strength, battle, victory—words that all began with an “s” in the old Scandinavian language. Although not a rune, a single lightning bolt is sometimes referred to as the victory rune.
Lightning Tattoos and Pop Culture
A lightning bolt tattoo is being used more and more to show off one’s fandom of a bespectacled wizard boy in its simplest form. A single, small lightning bolt is a common tattoo motif choice for Harry Potter fans to embody their love of the series. The single lightning bolt is commonly seen on its own, combined with the recognized glasses or in and around the Horcrux sign from the books. When used with these other components from the book, it’s clear when a lightning bolt tattoo symbolizes the Harry Potter fandom.
Lightning tattoos carry a lot more meaning than you may have previously thought. Depending on what a lightning bolt is paired with and the context of the design in which it’s used, lightning can symbolize many different things, most of which have positive associations. Some negative ideas have been paired with lightning tattoos, but most designs involving lightning illustrate strength and power, of which there are so many kinds.