10. HOLD and FAST

HoldFast

These words are a charm spelled out on the four front-facing fingers on each hand. Sailors hope it brings them good luck while gripping the rigging. Holding fast means the sailor isn’t going to let the line go, no matter what. Sailors were a superstitious bunch and life on a sailing ship was tough (to say the least). Anything that gave them the edge in saving their own lives was worth doing.

11. Pig and Rooster

Sailor tattoo pig rooster

The foot tattoos of pigs and roosters were worn by sailors in WWII in the hopes it would keep the sailor from drowning. The Navy shipped these animals in crates at the time. When ships went down, the crates floated, and the animals inside would sometimes be the only survivors

12. Compass Rose

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Another good luck charm that allows a sailor to find his way home.

13. Crosses

Worn on the soles of a sailor’s feet, these are thought to ward off sharks

14. Dagger through a Rose

Sailors aboard the USS New Jersey (National Archives)

Sailors aboard the USS New Jersey (National Archives)

This tattoo means the sailor is loyal and willing to fight anything, even something as sweet and beautiful as a rose

15. Dragon

Wearing a dragon means the sailor has served in China.

16. Golden Dragon

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When a sailor crossed the International Date Line, he earns the right to wear the Golden Dragon tattoo. The International Date Line is the imaginary line of longitude that separates two calendar dates. When someone sails from East to West, they set their clock back one hour for every 15 degrees of longitude they pass. When they pass the date line, they’ve gained a full 24 hours.

17. Harpoon

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Sailors tattooed with harpoons were serving or had served in a whaling or fishing fleet.

18. King Neptune
German sailors in the 1930s being addressed by King Neptune while "crossing the line."

German sailors in the 1930s being addressed by King Neptune while “crossing the line.”

Another badge of honor earned for crossing the Equator.

19. Palm Tree

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The palm tree has two meanings, depending on your navy. Sailors in the Royal Navy during World War II could wear it after sailing on Mediterranean cruises. It can also be worn by U.S. sailors who served in Hawaii.

This article appeared on WeAreTheMighty.com

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