Aries is the first sign in the Zodiac. It is named after the constellation of Aries, which is sometimes better known as «The Ram». Interestingly enough, Aries derives its name from an old story in Greek mythology.
It seems that once upon a time there was a set of twins named Phrixus and Helle. They were the children of a goddess named Nephele (who was the goddess of the clouds) and a mortal man, who was merely a king. At any rate, they were both being raised by their mortal father and their human stepmother, who naturally despised them. So their stepmother arranged a situation to make it look like the only way their kingdom could survive was if these children were sacrificed. However, right before they could be killed they were rescued by a flying ram (or it might have been swimming, accounts seem to differ) with golden fleece. The golden ram had been sent by their real mother, the goddess Nephele.
The story continues to say that as they were carried to safety Helle fainted (as all fair maidens are known to do) and fell off the ram only to drown in the waters below. Phrixus managed to stay on the ram long enough to be rescued by a king who was a son to the sun god Helios. The King took him in and treated him kindly. Phrixus ended up sacrificing the golden ram that had saved his life to Zeus and gave to the king its golden fleece. The king then took the golden fleece and hung it in a tree where it stayed until it was retrieved by a different young man in Greek mythology. (The fleece was pretty safe where it was, since it was supposedly guarded by a dragon that never needed to sleep).
The constellation of Aries is viewed as a ram lying down with its head turned towards the right. While many of the stars that make up this constellation are dim, the brightest star is one called «Hamal», which is Arabic and means «Head of the Sheep». Many ancient Greeks used to orient their temples around this particular star. This constellation was also used by them to mark the beginning of spring.
The element that Aries belongs to is «fire» and it is considered to be one of the four signs that have «cardinal» qualities. Fire is an element that represents creative energies and personal desires. To have «cardinal» qualities means that you tend to initiate change around you.
When it comes to getting an Aries tattoo, there are a variety of symbols that are often used. Some people like the idea of having the constellation itself drawn on them, while others prefer to have the symbol of the Ram done. Many professional tattoo parlors will combine the Aries sign with one or two other interpretations to give a very unique and personal touch. An example of this is to have the Rams head drawn and then superimpose flames surrounding it. This combines both the Aries sign with the overlay of its «element». Others choose to use the Sanskrit name (for Aries it is Mesha) and leave it like that.
Whatever you choose, make sure you talk it over with the artist who is going to be doing the tattoo. Very often they have ideas that would add creativity to your original idea and would make the finished product even better. With so many choices to choose from, the hardest part will be narrowing it down.