Sirius Black is represented as having numerous tattoos in the film Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban. I cannot find reference to Sirius's tattoos in the book. Does Sirius Black have tattoos in canon?

If so, what is the origin of Sirius's tattoos? Are they runes, an ancient language, or hieroglyphics or something else?

Please no Wikipedia/HP Wiki/Wikia answers.

  • I don't know how to answer this since as far as I recall there is nothing mentioned in the books about Sirius having tattoos. You don't want wikia answers but the page on Sirius confirms this as well.
    – Dason
    Jun 17, 2012 at 3:51
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    I definitely don't want a Wiki answer. Information in the HP Wikia is routinely inconsistent and sometimes dead wrong. I mean, it could be that your link is fully correct, but I just don't trust the HP Wikia. :) Jun 17, 2012 at 4:04
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    I understand that. But what exactly would an answer look like here since I don't actually think there is any non-movie canon that would support Sirius having tattoos?
    – Dason
    Jun 17, 2012 at 4:13
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    @GabeWillard There's a difference between knowing what the answer is and knowing what an acceptable answer would look like. I just want to know if I post an answer that just says "Sirius doesn't have any tattoos" what else would I need to add to be acceptable?
    – Dason
    Jun 17, 2012 at 4:27
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    @GabeWillard Is not the first question "Does Sirius Black have tattoos in canon?". If the answer is "no" then how does one provide anything other than that? It's possible that the answer is "yes" due to some interview with JKR or some hidden gem on Pottermore so I'm not going to provide an answer of "no". But I don't see how you can claim that that's not what she's asking when it's literally the first question being asked. It's easy to describe what one would need to do to answer in the affirmative - give some source. What does one do if the answer is negative?
    – Dason
    Jun 17, 2012 at 4:42

4 Answers 4


Cuarón and Gary Oldman made up those tattoos and hairstyle. If it's not mentioned in the books, then you should leave it to your imagination. ;)

Lizo: Did you have an input into how Sirius looks in this film?

Gary: Yeah, a little bit. I had long hair and a beard and I thought it's a look that we could possibly go with and I turned up.

In terms of costumes I mean it's limited - I wear a prison outfit, I've escaped. But a lot of the look, the tattoos and things was Alfonso.

  • and it's actually from Wikipedia's References. But I've heard this thing somewhere before, maybe in interviews on the DVD or youtube.
    – n611x007
    Jun 20, 2012 at 8:47
  • This is a fine answer -- thanks for the link to the interview with Gary Oldman. I'll take it as Sirius Black having tattoos is movie canon, not book canon. :) Oct 7, 2012 at 17:14
  • The tatoos go well with the motorbike, right?
    – b_jonas
    Jan 26, 2013 at 19:41

Sirius's tattoos were not in the book; the director of the movie Prisoner of Azkaban, Alfonso Cuaron, came up with them. They roughly translate to alchemy symbols and ancient runes -- for example, the one in the center of Sirius's chest basically means 'Neptune' or 'water'. No official answer has been stated to why, how, or when Sirius was tattooed, but it is implied that they were prison tattoos from Azkaban. Like his prison ID number, they may have been a way of torturing him if they were branded on.

  • Do you have any source for the claim that the director invented them?
    – alexwlchan
    Jun 15, 2014 at 23:05
  • I agree they could be like Prison Tattoos, but non-canonically.
    – Pobrecita
    Jun 16, 2014 at 16:28
  • Like the answer below, cool concept, but where did you get this information? A source would be fantastic. Of course it could be different in the wizarding world, but prison tattoos in the Muggle USA usually have very specific and sometimes almost reverent meanings; they are not just random shapes or designs. They tell life stories. What would be the meaning of random alchemy symbols on a prisoner in Azkaban? The prisoner number makes sense, but I'm not convinced on the alchemy symbols theory (Unless, of course, you can provide a source to what you're saying.). :) Jun 17, 2014 at 3:59

The only tattoo JK Rowling came up with was the neck tattoo, which reads his Azkaban number. The others were not in the book.

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    This is a cool concept, but how do you know? Do you have a source? :) Jun 17, 2014 at 3:53

Many of the tattoos (from the movie- I don't recall them in the books at all) are various elder futhark runes (usually reversed- ansuz, laguz, naudhiz, uruz, etcetera), some resemble alchemical symbols and sigil works or magickal keys, some resemble astrological symbols (Jupiter, Neptune), the text resembles Theban script (used by witches to this day as a magical way of writing). There's even Greek looking letters (omega). Even his azkaban prison number had elder futhark runes (perthro and elhaz- strangely meaning on a basic level, luck and protection, although often animal or totem protection so since he is an animagus and that's what protects him and helps him escape I suppose it makes some sense). Most of the runes are rather noticeable, many of the other symbols seem to be gibberish or specific symbols (as stated above) that have been slightly or stylistically altered. One even resembles a reiki symbol. Many of these symbols are used by real life craft users to this day and most can be found in the book, Signs and Symbols Bible: the Definitive Guide to Mysterious Markings (most magical alphabets listed toward the back). You can also google elder futhark or keys of Solomon or astrological symbols to get a basic idea. And as far as potential purpose (for speculation only as I have no proof from the series to substantiate), it would be simple to create a powerful spell for protection or power using Theban or runes or keys or alchemical symbols or sigilwork to place upon ones body. Those who practice the craft do so and it is powerful (even non practitioners do a form of this as spirit tattoos practiced in Thailand). I would assume the tattoos in the movie were based off such things and made to give that feel of a powerful spell and arcane secrets of the craft. Or perhaps to boost his bad boy image he has in prisoner of azkaban.

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