Scorpions, like spiders, are one of the most symbolically common invertebrates. Scorpions themselves are small to medium size creatures, most closely related to crabs and lobsters than to insects or arachnids. They almost universally feature a pair of crab-like claws and a single poisonous stinger that makes up their rear. While scorpion stings are generally no worse than a bee sting, some species possess far more potent venom, sometimes capable of killing a full grown man.
Like most animals, the scorpion's symbolism is only tangentially connected to the biological facts surrounding it. In symbol, a scorpion's sting is invariable lethal and its personality bloodthirsty. The symbolic scorpion lives to sting and stings to live, so its unsurprising that the poisonous stinger is central to its mythology. Scorpions are hunters, unlike spiders, which also factors into their symbolic value.
Traditional scorpion tattoos are primarily meant as wards or charm against misfortune. By inscribing the creature on one's skin, it is thought that some of the traits of the scorpion would also be transferred to the tattoo bearer. Most commonly this would include speed, ferocity and cunning. The small size of the scorpion belies its danger, and observing the lack of predators for these hardy little creatures, early man seized on them as a way to protect themselves from a variety of threats, both natural and supernatural. Surprisingly, scorpion tattoos are a very popular tattoo design for women.
This combination of protection and danger follows the scorpion in its appearances in mythology. In Egypt, where several dangerous species of scorpions were common, the creature was a common image in myth and legend. Isis, one of the most highly respected gods of the Egyptian pantheon, used giant scorpions as guardians and messengers during her search for her lover Osiris body. Aesop featured an untrustworthy scorpion in his fables and even fabled Orion was finally felled by a scorpion sting to his foot before being turned into a constellation.
In Biblical tradition, scorpions were often associated with treachery and subtle evil, most notable the devil himself. Several references to 'stomping out the scorpions' actually refer to expunging evil influences on places or people, and with the lack of scorpions as a sign of purity.
Tribal tattoo designs of scorpions are also very common.
Tibetan Buddhists have a far more benevolent view of the scorpion, as it was a dream of giant scorpions that ended the persecution of Buddhists in that country. They viewed the scorpion as a fundamentally pacifistic creature, only striking when a threat presented itself. As a result symbols of the scorpion dot many of the weapons they made.
One of the more potent and enduring symbols featuring the scorpion are found in Astrology. The Zodiac features Scorpio, the same scorpion who felled Orion, as one of the major star signs.
Scorpios are said to possess many of the traits of the star sign, including eroticism, capriciousness and strong responses to danger or threats (See scorpio tattoo designs).