What Does a Spider Web Tattoo Mean: [Symbolism Explained]

In the diverse world of tattoos, the spider web tattoo is often seen as a mysterious and enigmatic design. With its intricate web patterns and striking appearance, this tattoo has piqued the interest of many. But what does a spider web tattoo truly represent? Delving into the symbolism and history of this iconic tattoo can reveal surprising depths and complexities.

Traditionally, the spider web tattoo has been associated with incarceration, gangs, violence, and other negative aspects of society. This association emerged due to its popularity among prisoners, who would get the tattoo as a representation of their time spent behind bars. However, there is more to the spider web than just these darker connotations. Some interpretations attribute positive meanings to the design, such as patience and determination, a nod to the spider’s hunting technique.

In this article, we aim to explore the various meanings and interpretations of the spider web tattoo. By shedding light on its history and origins, as well as its cultural significance, we hope to provide a comprehensive understanding of this fascinating tattoo design. So, whether you’re considering getting a spider web tattoo yourself or simply intrigued by its multifaceted symbolism, read on to learn more about the enigmatic spider web.

Spider Web Tattoo Meaning

What Does a Spider Web Tattoo Mean

Prison Symbolism

The spider web tattoo has long been associated with prison culture. In the past, it was a prominent indicator that someone had spent a considerable amount of time behind bars. It is believed that prisoners started getting their spider web tattoos as early as the 1970s, although the symbolism was around prior to the seventies 2.

Over time, the spider web tattoo has evolved to signify more than just incarceration. It can represent the passage of time and the patience of the spider awaiting its prey, reflecting the experience of prisoners who have endured long sentences.

Read Also: Star tattoo meaning in the prison

Negative Connotations

Apart from its connection to prison culture, the spider web tattoo has also been linked to negative aspects such as racism, gangs, violence, and even murder. In some cases, the design has been used by gang members or white supremacists as a symbol of their affiliations, further contributing to its dark reputation.

Despite these associations, it’s important to note that not everyone who sports a spider web tattoo has such connections or intentions. Some may view their tattoos as a reflection of their life struggles and overcoming difficult obstacles.

Positive Connotations

The spider web tattoo, for all its negative connotations, also holds positive symbolism. Spiders and their webs have long held significance in indigenous cultures, giving the tattoos deeper cultural roots.

In modern interpretations, the spider web can represent patience, passive aggressiveness, reflection, and perseverance. Additionally, some people choose to get the tattoo as a symbol of creativity, transformation, or divine feminine energy.

It is clear that spider web tattoos have quite a range of meanings, far beyond their reputation as a prison symbol. When considering getting a spider web tattoo, it’s essential to be aware of the myriad interpretations and potential connotations this powerful design can convey.

Spider Web Tattoo Design and Symbolism

Spider Web Tattoo Meaning And Symbolism - Infographic
Spider Web Tattoo Meaning And Symbolism – Infographic

Ancient Cultures

In ancient cultures, the spider was seen as a powerful symbol and was often associated with creation. The spider’s web, with its intricate design, was thought to represent the interwoven nature of life and reality. Like the spider, ancient cultures believed that humans weave their own webs, as they strive for balance and harmony in their lives.

Spider web designs in tattoos have been found in various civilizations, symbolizing different aspects of their belief systems. In some cases, the web was considered a bridge between the physical and spiritual worlds, or even a map of the cosmos, revealing deep connections between all living beings.

Native American Significance

Native American tribes held the spider as a highly significant figure in their spiritual beliefs. The spider was often seen as a symbol of creation and the web as an illustration of the interconnectedness of life or the “web of life.” In Native American mythology, certain creation stories even feature a spider character, which highlights the spider’s importance in their spiritual worldview.

Spider web tattoos among Native Americans were not only emblematic of the spider’s creative powers but also served as a reminder of the delicate balance of life. As a result, these tattoos helped individuals stay grounded and connected to their cultural roots and spiritual beliefs.


Modern Interpretations

Today, the symbolism of spider web tattoos has evolved to encompass a variety of meanings, both positive and negative. In some cases, these tattoos still hold a spiritual significance, drawing upon the ancient connections between the spider and the cosmos, as well as the interconnectedness of life.

However, in contemporary times, the spider web tattoo has also become associated with incarceration, gangs, or violence. It’s believed that prisoners started getting spider web tattoos as early as the 1970s, although the symbolism was around prior to the seventies. This darker association with spider web tattoos has led to some misunderstandings and stigma surrounding the tattoo design.

Despite these negative associations, many individuals still choose to get spider web tattoos for personal meanings, such as resilience, strength, or interconnectedness. The web design is often used in combination with other symbols or imagery to create unique, meaningful tattoos.

In summary, the spider web tattoo meaning has evolved over time, accumulating various interpretations that span ancient cultures, Native American spiritual beliefs, and modern implications. While its significance may differ from person to person, the underlying theme of interconnectedness and creation remains a unifying element within this captivating tattoo design.

Spider Web Tattoo: Associated Meanings and Themes

Strength and Resilience

The spider web tattoo often symbolizes strength and resilience. As spiders use their intricate webs to catch prey, recipients of this tattoo can draw parallels to their own inner strength and ability to overcome obstacles. These associations further include the struggle and victory over challenges such as addiction, incarceration, or personal battles.

Spider webs are also known for their impressive construction, representing resourcefulness and a strong will to survive. They can serve as a reminder of one’s potential and the capacity to rebuild and persevere in the face of hardship.

Change and Transformation

Another theme often associated with spider web tattoos is change and transformation. Just as spiders weave and discard their webs, so too do people experience phases of transformation in their lives. This tattoo could symbolize the idea of metamorphosis, a personal evolution allowing for growth and new beginnings.

The spider tattoo itself can represent a connection to the natural world and remind the wearer of the cyclical nature of life. For some, the spider web tattoo may signify hope, reinforcing the belief that it’s possible to overcome negative circumstances and transform oneself for the better.

Protection and Guardian

Conversely, spider web tattoos also carry connotations of protection and the concept of a guardian. As webs are open yet intricate traps designed to safeguard the spider from potential threats, they can symbolize an individual’s desire for defense against life’s challenges or evil spirits.

The dark side of this tattoo can be a reminder to remain vigilant and strong in the face of adversity. In this way, the spider web tattoo serves as a symbol of a powerful protective force surrounding the wearer and providing them with the ability to face and conquer their obstacles.

In conclusion, while the spider web tattoo can have various interpretations, it consistently represents themes of strength, resilience, transformation, and protection. These tattoos can act as potent symbols for both personal empowerment and the intricate nature of human life, making them a popular choice for those looking to express personal growth, fortitude, and a sense of guardianship.

Criminal and Prison Associations

White Supremacy Connections

A spider web tattoo notably appears among white supremacist groups, such as white prison gangs. It sometimes symbolizes racial pride and discrimination against other ethnicities. However, this connection isn’t always the case. The spider web tattoo holds various meanings, transcending racial affiliations.

Jailhouse Tattoo Origin

The spider web tattoo historically signified the wearer’s time spent in prison. As a jailhouse tattoo, it started gaining prominence in the 1970s. The intricate weaving of the webs represents inmates’ feeling of being trapped within the prison system. This tattoo is universal, meaning it isn’t exclusive to specific gangs or groups.

Drugs and Addiction

Surprisingly, a spider web tattoo might also symbolize an individual’s struggle with drugs and addiction. The web, much like real-life arachnids, can be interpreted as trapping the user within the confines of their addiction. While not directly associated with drug-related criminal activity, the tattoo’s meaning can still be connected to such acts, as convicted individuals with a history of drug abuse might also wear this design.

The spider web tattoo possesses various implications, depending on factors such as culture, location, and personal interpretations. While rooted in prison and criminal associations, it can convey different meanings tied to racial discrimination, incarceration, or substance abuse struggles. As such, it is essential not to jump to conclusions about an individual solely based on their spider web tattoo.

Placement and Design of Spider Web Tattoos

Popular Tattoo Locations

Spider web tattoos, associated with both positive and negative meanings, can be found in various body locations, often chosen for their visual impact and symbolic meanings. Common sites for these tattoos include:

  • Elbows
  • Knees
  • Shoulders
  • Neck
  • Abdomen

Elbows and knees, for instance, draw attention to the intricacy of the design, while neck tattoos are more daring and display a sense of power.

Eye-Catching and Unique Designs

Spider web tattoos offer a wide range of eye-catching designs. By incorporating various elements, these tattoos can reflect the character and personal philosophy of the wearer.


Some tattoo enthusiasts opt for designs incorporating a spider web with a human skull, symbolizing mortality. This might serve as a reminder to seize each day and live life to the fullest, as well as acknowledging the inevitable cycle of life and death.

Tattoo Ink

In order to make tattoos more visually striking, artists can use different color inks. Traditional spider web tattoos include black and dark inks, but modern designs explore the use of vibrant colors, adding depth and appeal. Golds, blues, and greens are among the popular choices for a more artistic appearance.

Positive Connotations

While historically associated with darker themes, spider web tattoos can also have positive connotations, such as representing patience or creativity. This can be emphasized by adding imagery, like butterflies or flowers, which contrast with the web’s complexity. This embodiment of beauty and gentleness infuses the design with a more uplifting and optimistic tone.


Eyes are often incorporated into spider web tattoos as a symbol of protection, wisdom, and intuition. This visual element can make a tattoo more intriguing and meaningful.

In conclusion, spider web tattoos offer unique and eye-catching designs, making them an appealing choice for clients who seek a powerful and personal connection with their body art. By considering placement, tattoo ink, and design elements such as mortality or positive connotations, wearers can convey their individual character and vision through these captivating tattoos.

Cultural Representations and Variations

Navajo Spider Woman

In Navajo culture, the spider plays a significant role as the Spider Woman, also known as Na’ashjéii Asdzáá. She is considered a vital deity and is believed to have taught the Navajo people the art of weaving. The Spider Woman is associated with wisdom, creativity, and the intricate idea of interconnectedness within the web of life. A spider web tattoo derived from the Navajo perspective may represent the deeper understanding of the interconnectedness of life and the importance of balance and harmony in one’s existence.

An individual with Navajo heritage might choose to get a spider web tattoo to symbolize their connection to the Spider Woman, acknowledging her wisdom and the teachings she imparted to the Navajo people. The tattoo may also serve as a reminder of the strong cultural identity present in the Navajo tradition.

Black Widow Tattoo

The black widow tattoo is another variation of the spider web tattoo. This design often features a black widow spider, recognizable by its dark color and red hourglass-shaped marking on its abdomen. The black widow is known for its venomous bite and the female’s tendency to devour its mate after mating.

The black widow tattoo can represent several meanings, such as:

  • Power and strength
  • Femininity and sensuality
  • The cycle of life and death
  • Transformation and rebirth

In terms of American prisons, the spider web tattoo has had a different connotation. It is often associated with incarceration and is believed to have originated in prison settings as early as the 1970s1. The tattoo was used to identify individuals who had served time in prison or had affiliations with criminal gangs. However, it is essential to note that not everyone with a spider web tattoo in the American prison culture has a negative background; some individuals may have adopted the symbol as a testament to personal growth, change, or endurance in challenging circumstances.


The spider web tattoo has diverse cultural representations and variations. From the teachings of the Navajo Spider Woman to the deadly allure of the black widow, the tattoo carries a wide range of profound meanings and historical contexts. It is crucial to consider cultural and personal associations when choosing a spider web tattoo and understanding its symbolism.

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