The gecko is a small lizard that has become hugely popular in the tattoo world. Perhaps because this undeniably cute character can be kept as a pet or possibly because it is one of the most common subjects in the tribal tattoos of Polynesia, which are now favourites in the West too. But maybe it is simply because wherever you go the gecko is considered a good luck symbol.
Like all lizards, if a gecko is under attack from an enemy it can leave its tail behind when escaping and subsequently grow a new one. For this reason, it symbolises rebirth and good luck. In many cultures the gecko is commonly reproduced on necklaces, pendants or jewellery, printed onto fabrics or woven into carpet designs. In Indonesia it is a symbol of honesty and craftsmen carve it out of wood, paint it in a batik style with intricate, extremely colourful designs. It is also a symbol of good luck in Hawaii and Maui in particular uses it as the emblem of the island itself, so bright green geckos can be found on T-shirts, caps and all kinds of souvenirs.
Geckos are very popular as pets and can be kept in tanks, but even in the wild they live near human homes. The common house gecko, describing several varieties, lives near houses and is not a pest because it feeds on unwanted insects such as flies and mosquitoes. One feature that makes it unique among lizards is its “voice”. It emits sounds to communicate with other members of the species and when it is hungry it lets out a particular noise that sounds like – ge-ko ge-ko – hence its name.
Geckos belong to the large Gekkonidae family, a group of small reptiles closely related to lizards and harmless to man. They live in warm climates all over the world, from the Mediterranean to the Americas and the Polynesian Islands. There are over 60 different species, ranging from 3cm to 30 cm in length. The gecko’s feet are of particular interest because they can cling to a variety of surfaces, including glass.
They are equipped with special bristles that enable them to walk on ceilings and climb up smooth, vertical surfaces, which they can run along at a metre per second or hold on to with just one foot. Geckos can also sustain an incredible force of traction, up to many kilos above its own weight. Many scientific studies have been carried out into their amazing ability to cling on to any surface. They have inspired current projects to produce a superglue and a robot that can run on walls and ceilings. Many companies are taking an interest in this research, from NASA to Nike, which is developing a futuristic shoe (that will enable the wearer to walk upside down).
But let’s get back to the fascinating world of symbols. If you dream about a lizard or gecko it means you have to start afresh. Of all the reptiles, only turtles, tortoises and lizards (and therefore geckos) are always considered positive animals and friends of humans. Compared to other reptiles with a similar appearance, such as the green lizard (which lives alone in isolated areas) or the crocodile (which represents danger), our little lizards live near houses, are shy, harmless and go about their business undisturbed. Their presence is appreciated and considered lucky, so much so that killing them is considered taboo.
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