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The bearer of the anchor is likely a seafarer of some type —traditionally military (Navy, Marines, or Coast Guard) but sometimes also recreational. In maritime lore, the tattooed anchor showed that a seaman had sailed the Atlantic Ocean. In ancient times among Mediterranean seafarers, the anchor symbolized the sea gods.

Because of the great importance in navigation, the anchor was regarded in ancient times as a symbol of safety. The Christians, therefore, in adopting the anchor as a symbol of hope in future existence, merely gave a new and higher signification to a familiar emblem. In early Christianity, the anchor (with horizontal tie bar under the ring) was used as a covert symbol by virtue of its resemblance to a cross. Indeed, the crux dissimulata is just an anchor.

Many times the anchor is combined with other symbols that elaborate something more specific—various creatures of the sea, ships, lifesavers, names of ports. In general, though, it guarantees stability and security in the physical world and by extension also steadfastness, hope, and trust in the spiritual world.

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