Moon tattoos can take many forms. From whimsical, cartoon man-on-the-moon faces to somber religious and spiritual symbols, moon tattoos have a variety of meanings. Coming in all shapes and sizes, moon tattoo designs are some of the most popular tattoo designs. Moons are frequently incorporated into other designs, especially fairy tattoos. An example of a clever moon tattoo design is the classic moon from Melies' 1902 movie A trip to the moon.
On the other hand, the moon alone is a rich, significant, and meaningful symbol. From the ancient Greeks to Islam to New Age philosophies, the moon has been a spiritual and religious symbol, often featured in religious tattoo designs. The moon is associated with Artemis (Diana), the goddess of hunting and virginity. Perhaps because of the moon's connection to the menstrual cycle, which both go through phases and cause change, not to mention the link between predatory animals like wolves and the moon, the goddess was often represented by a moon design in art and literature.
Although there are no original Muslim signs and practicing Muslims are unlikely to be tattooed, those who do not follow Islam but want to express pride in their familial history or cultural background might choose the crescent moon and star symbol for a tattoo design, because it has long been associated with Islam.
A long time ago, the city that would later become Constantinople, and then Istanbul, adopted the crescent, although this choice may or may not have been connected to the Greek goddess Artemis, and featured it on their flag. When the Turks took Constantinople, they also took the flag and, with it, the crescent symbol. The standard Muslim crescent includes a five pointed star, which is believed to represent the five pillars of the Islam faith. The design is recognized an Islamic symbol around the world, but many Muslims do not recognize or embrace it. Furthermore, it's potential link to Artemis or Diane is seen as offensive and inappropriate. A crescent and moon tattoo, however, would be seen as connected to Islam and Islamic heritage by most non-believers.
In New Age and pagan beliefs, the phases of the moon represent the passage of time and are connected to female energy. From youth to death (Maiden, Mother, Matron, and Crone), the moon cycles through life in the same way humans do. The moon is the ruler of senses, controlling emotions and dictating feelings. The moon can also represent the inner child or our hidden feelings and desires.
In tattoo designs, fairies and sprites are often depicted as perched on a crescent moon. A moon forms a crescent twice in it's cycle, at the beginning and near the end. The fairy seated on the crescent can either represent a youthfulness, because the moon is young and fairies are symbols of childhood and innocence, or an ending of idyllic childhood, youth, innocence, and blissful ignorance. These moon tattoos are usually feminine and delicate, drawing upon the imagery of a slender, female moon coupled with a beautiful, delicate, alluring fairy.
The moon is also important in Asian culture, because the moon (Yin) balances the sun (Yang). In the Yin Yang philosophy, the entire universe in kept in balance because for every object, element, or force, there is a counter balance. For good, there is bad. For dark, there is light. For cold, there is heat. For feminine, there is masculine. The moon, specifically, represents Yin, being feminine and passive. In Chinese Yin Yang tattoos, there must also always be balance. The sun would be designed with the moon, because they compliment each other and keep each other in balance and harmony. These tattoos would likely also feature other Yin Yang symbols, like water and flames.
Even outside of Asian culture, the sun/moon tattoo design is a common motif. In most societies, the sun and moon are opposites, as day is to night and male is to female. There is something intriguingly complete about the sun combined with moon. This tattoo design seems all encompassing, uniting seemingly disparate celestial bodies and everything they stand for.