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The nautical star is a symbolic star associated with the sea services of the United States armed forces and with tattoo culture. It is usually rendered as a five-pointed star in dark and light shades counterchanged in a manner reminiscent of a compass rose.
The nautical star is frequently encountered as an informal signifier indicating membership in the United States Coast Guard, United States Navy, or Marine Corps. The symbol recalls both the five-pointed star of the US national flag and the distinctive color pattern of the compass rose found on many nautical charts. The nautical star also represented a traveler or sailor's way home whenever they were lost in life or travel.
Nautical star tattoos are one of the most popular styles of star tattoos.
A nautical star on the left wrist or right wrist aligned with the thumb is believed to be a positive guide for the future. The left palm is used in palm readings to reveal a person's future and the nautical star is used in this instance to guide the palm. As with many tattoo designs, the nautical star may or may not be intended to convey a meaning to the viewer. In some cases, the wearer may simply appreciate the design for its beauty, simplicity, symmetry or ability to serve as a backdrop or an additional ornamental element of any tattoo. For other wearers, the symbol is intended to convey one of a variety of different meanings. The nautical star with angel wings on the right back shoulder represents that someone is watching over the wearer of the tattoo. This symbol is often associated with sailors and those who make their living on or by the sea. Quite apart from the military/naval connotations, the nautical star recalls a sailor's reliance on celestial navigation. At times, the tattoo can be coloured in red or green to symbolize membership of the port or starboard watch, respectively.
Often the symbol is used to convey an allegorical meaning. The link to celestial navigation could, for example, symbolize the wearer's wish to find his or her way home safely, particularly in the case of military personnel. It could express a desire to find his or her way in life more generally.
When two stars are worn on the chest, the wearers left will be red, and the wearers right will be green. This represents port and starboard. At sea, if a vessel can view both port and starboard lights, it is an indication that another vessel is headed directly for them and they must "give way." In this sense, the port and starboard tattoo is a warning to others to "give way." Like other traditional sailor tattoos, this design should only be worn by those who have earned the right by: engaging in dangerous activities at sea, winning a bar fight in a foreign port, or other epic actions.
A nautical star with pink and black is considered the "punk rock pink ribbon", symbolizing breast cancer. A version with green and black is considered the "Irish eyes", symbolizing Irish strength and diversity.
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- "Nautical Star Tattoos". LoveToKnow. LoveToKnow Corp. 2007-04-18. Retrieved 2008-12-13.
- "Nautical Star: Everyone's Got One, What Does It Mean?". Tattoo.com. 2013-01-03. Retrieved 2014-05-30.