As a denizen of the deep, it takes on much of the symbolism of water itself - the psyche, emotion, fluidity, and intuition. To that, add strategy, secrecy, and the power of reason, all attributes that were in action when the giant squid first rose from the deeps to hit the Cinemascope screen in the film "20,000 Leagues Under the Sea" (1954).
It's true, the squid and octopus are voracious predators, occasionally turning on themselves. For reasons no one has figured out, they will devour themselves, starting with their tentacles and ending with their death. There are hundreds and hundreds of different species of squid and octopus (289 discovered so far), inhabiting every ocean and sea that covers our blue planet. They range in size from a few inches to enormous denizens of the deep. The giant squid reaches lengths of over 40 feet (60 feet has been reported) and their only predator is the great Sperm Whale of Moby Dick fame. The North Pacific Giant Octopus can weigh up to 150 pounds with arms that span nearly 20 feet. Like the great Kraken of Pirate's of the Caribbean fame, these eight-armed wonders can fuel the imagination, and not a few nightmares!
Octopi don't have a spine, which makes them 'invertebrates', and which also accounts for their agility, grace and flexibility. Without much of a solid structure, they're free to 'go with the flow'. No wonder that they are escape artists extraordinaire. An Octopus as a totem guide would be a reminder to loosen up, to give up old and calcified habits, to try something new for a change.
As a design, the octopus is a tattoo artist's and tattoo enthusiast's dream. The creature's very features giving it immense flexibility in the way it can be utilized as a design. Tentacles can be wrapped around arms and legs, draped over shoulders and wrapped around waists and backs. And because of their chameleon-like ability to change color to match their surroundings, octopi come in a veritable rainbow of colors. They are ideal designs to incorporate into large maritime scenes and they can symbolize a wide range of characteristics and virtues. A tattoo design doesn't get much more 'flexible' than that.