An image that contains the acronym, R. I. P. (rest in peace, requiescat in pace in the original Latin) is a tribute to the passing on of a loved one or, more abstractly, an aspect or concept that has seemed to fade away. Most often, RIP is used to commemorate a death with respect and compassion.
It is traditionally found on tombstones followed by the name of the deceased as well as the date of their birth and the date of their passing. This has been introduced into tattoos that serve as a constant reminder of the life and presence of the soul who has passed on.
An RIP tattoo is a tribute to the deceased but it is also a cathartic experience for the individual that may help them find closure in a difficult time. The Caduceus, a dagger or staff with a snake wound around it, can be included in RIP tattoos as it represents healing. Although the acronym is used ubiquitously today, it’s rooted in early Christian history when it originally referenced those who had died with the peace of Christ in their hearts. Now, it is used less specifically as a religious statement but as a wish for respect.
Requiescat in pace has been found on tombstones and other memorials for hundreds of years. Since the eighth century, RIP has been used by the Catholic church to designate good Christians who spent their lives dedicated to the church. Before this, the Hebrew rendering of the phrase was used in Judaism to describe a deceased person who lived righteously and died for a righteous cause.
In these cases, the entire phrase was chiseled into stone and it was not until recently that the acronym replaced the phrase. Tattoo designs that include the phrase, especially in Latin, convey a sense of history and significance because the time was taken to write the words rather than the simpler shorthand.
Whether the design accompanies the script or the script stands alone, a tattoo featuring RIP is used as a means of expressing grief and compassion for a person who has died. RIP designs that include nothing more than “RIP” usually rely on large, grandeur fonts to create a fuller tattoo. In some cases, Rest in Peace is used rather than the acronym and the “P” is interchanged for Paradise, referencing a beautiful afterlife.
Often, the name and date of their death is an image with the phrase in order to honor them. Along with this, even as part of the script itself, designs can be incorporated, either line work, flowers, or other items that preserve the memory of the deceased. Regardless of how they are designed, these designs are incredibly personal and intimate and serve as a memorial to the memory of the lost loved one.
Frequently, RIP tattoo designs include EKG lines to represent the heartbeat of the person who has passed on. Heart shapes are often included in the peaks and valleys of the heartbeat as well as heavenly images like wings and crosses. Names and dates are generally included as well to clarify the individual who is being mourned.
Traditional RIP tattoos that imitate the “Sailor Jerry” style are done simply with or without color. The designs are generally small and are comprised of a heart shape with a name or date centered inside, angelic wings outspread on either side and RIP resting on top. Some designs include a banner around the heart or above or below it that holds names, dates, or the relationship between the individual and the deceased. Traditional designs also may include the Caduceus on its own or pierced through the winged heart.
For many Christians, RIP tattoos dedicated to loved ones can be accompanied by crosses, doves, roses, or praying hands to emphasize the good qualities and deeds of that person. The relics of Christ and Christianity represent the resting of the newly released soul in the Kingdom of Heaven. Wings and beams of light are also used to enhance the imagery and highlight the nobility and virtue of the recently deceased. For Catholic individuals, the Latin form of the phrase is often used to emphasize religious beliefs as well as righteousness and Godliness.
RIP tattoo designs that are based in Judaism can be highlighted with Stars of David and other traditionally Jewish symbols like the Hamsa or letters from the Hebrew alphabet or Hebrew words like Chai and Shin. Regardless of religion, the design created around the script often creates a sense of light and positivity surrounding the memory of the person who has passed on.
Large RIP pieces, especially those dedicated to a lost child, are usually portrait tattoos. These designs often do not include words or dates beyond “RIP” and allow the focus to be placed on the portrait. Portraits are generally reserved for very close relationships like parents, children, and partners.