The tattoo world has long favored all types of birds. They have come to hold great meaning in different stages of life, revere various feelings, and be seen as good or bad luck. Because there are so many different kinds of birds, they hold many different associations. Birds are extremely honored by humans because of their ability to fly. As a result, many legends, tales and myths have formed all over the world in which birds have most often been featured in a favourable light.
The bluebird, often confused with the swallow, has often been seen as the bird of good luck. The bright blue of the birds plumage has led to its association to the sky and also to happiness. A Korean legend states that the bluebird flies around humans and then reports back to the Gods while a Native American myth portrays the bluebird as an important emblem of the rising sun. The world of magic views the bluebird as a representation of confidence. On the other hand, a dead bluebird is seen as a loss of innocence and of disillusionment.
Tradition says a sailor would have a bluebird tattoo placed on his chest once he made it to 10,000 miles on the sea. At 20,000 miles, the sailor would have a second bird tattooed on his chest, creating a pair. Therefore, if a sailor had two bluebirds tattooed on his chest, it was believed he was a competent sailor.
Cranes have long been known as birds of happiness and of peace. They are the only birds who fly nonstop from destination to destination; therefore, cranes are seen as birds of strength and endurance. In Ancient Greece, cranes were representative of Apollo, the sun God while the Japanese believed the powerful cranes carried the souls of the recently deceased to paradise on their wings. Thus, choosing a crane as a bird tattoo could carry a variety of meanings to the wearer.
Crows have long trails of negative ideas connected to them. Even back to biblical times, crows were not favored. In the Bible, when Noah released birds into the sky to search for a sign of life on earth, the dove returned to the arc before the crow holding an olive branch in its beak. Even worse, the crow was released by Noah before the dove. Also in a negative light, the Celts see crows as signs of both conflict and death, the Irish believe crows perching trees without nesting are souls from purgatory, and the English view a single crow as bad fortune. Native Americans, however, seem to be the only ones to revere crows with respect. They proudly honour these birds as symbols of magic and ancient wisdom. Native Americans may choose to get crow tattoos to show honor and esteem to the bird.
Doves have great meaning in the Christian world. They are often seen as symbols of the Holy Ghost. Most famously, doves are featured in the Biblical story of Noah's Ark. As the story goes, the entire world was flooded to be rid of all of its evil. After 40 days and 40 nights, Noah sent birds out to try to find some sign of life. A single dove returned with an olive branch, showing that it was safe to return to life on land. Because of this, doves are strong symbols of hope, which is why many Christians choose dove tattoos as personal symbols of faith and hope.
Eagle tattoos are very popular among men. In many cases, men choose these birds to be featured in both military and patriotic tattoos. Eagles are strongly respected by the United States, and are, therefore, common tattoo choices for many Americans. Both the Greeks and the Persians viewed eagles as sacred to the sun (an eagle was actually the Greek sun god Zues' symbol). Eagles are the supreme birds of the air and have long been chosen symbols of royalty.
Native Americans have great respect for eagles as they believed their feathers would carry prayers to the sun. Women would give their men an eagle feather as a symbol of pride and security. Therefore, it is not uncommon for Native Americans to choose eagle tattoos when selecting designs that have connections to their heritage.
As birds of victory, falcons have long been seen as symbols of both war and military achievement. Hindu mythology believed that if a falcon came ahead of a soldier in battle, it was a good omen.
Falcons have the best eye-sight of all birds and are able to seek out mice in grass from over a mile high. For this reason, falcons have been considered symbols of perspective. They are also seen as representations of acute judgment and superior intellect. Because their strong talons and alarming screams, falcons are viewed as rulers of the sky. Therefore, falcon tattoos can be seen as symbols of performance, exception or ability.
Hawks have great meaning in both military and war victories. Like falcons, the Hindu people believed that seeing a hawk before battle was a good omen. In Egypt, The Egyptian's Book of the Dead stated that souls leaving the earth took the form of a hawk. However, hawks are most known for their superior vision, high intellect, unbreakable concentration and good judgment.
Hummingbirds have great meaning to Native Americans. They have long seen hummingbirds as love charms. It is believed that a dead hummingbird can be worn around the neck in a pouch will attract members of the opposite sex. There was also a legend that stated if a dead hummingbird was dried and put into a drink of the person one desires, then desire was sure to be returned.
Hummingbirds are ultimately symbols of attraction and deep love. Therefore, hummingbird tattoos may demonstrate one’s hope for true love or as a tribute to the person they love.
Owls are night hunters, feared by both man and animal because of their ability to fly silently as well as hear and see in the dark. Because of these skills, it has long been believed that owls were friends of witches. They are also known to some as “angels of death” and “goddesses of night.”
Owls also have a deep spiritual significance in China, Australia, India, Indonesia, Russia, Greenland and Sweden; therefore, owl tattoos could hold a mythical meaning to those choosing these designs. Others may pick owl tattoos to show respect to theses stealthy birds of the night.
Peacock tattoos are popular simply because of their vibrant colors and majestic feathers. Their allure is what has made them prevalent in royal gardens, temples, and at the gates of Paradise. Peacocks have been nicknamed " birds of 100 eyes" because of the amazing pattern in their plumage—also becoming known as all-seeing witnesses of secret transgressions.
Ancient civilizations in Rome, Egypt, and Greece viewed peacocks as symbols of the evil eye while in they can still be found in temples. It is said they are great snake slayers and are even thought to be immune to snake bites, which led to the belief that their venom rich blood was able to chase away evil spirits.
The phoenix is a mythological bird of fire very popular in the world of tattooing. It is thought that the phoenix lives for 500 years and then builds itself a nest in which it burrows, and finally sets itself on fire. At the end of three days, the phoenix rises again from the ashes, reborn. Egyptians and Greeks saw the phoenix as a symbol of the sun because of it rising each morning and fading into flames each evening. Christians saw the phoenix as a representation of resurrection because it was able to rise again. It is easy to see why phoenix tattoos are such popular body art selections—particularly for those seeking to exhibit messages of rebirth or starting anew.
Ravens have long been strong symbols to the people of the Americas. American Indians saw these birds as spirit guides, shape shifters and protectors. A myth once stated that the raven brought the sun to man—making the bird a sign of light. Another myth said the white raven stole the moon, stars, water and fire from Gray Eagle, the guardian of the elements. The raven's feathers were turned black by the fire it carried back to his people.
In the world of magic, ravens are secret keepers. Europeans see ravens as symbols of death as well as bad omens. Raven tattoos are particularly popular choices for fans of writer Edgar Alan Poe because of his famous narrative poem "The Raven” (a poem featuring a talking raven that visits a man slowly going crazy over his lost love). Others may choose raven tattoos to exhibit their roles as protectors or as leaders of a group.
Universally, roosters are seen as signs of the rising sun and known to welcome each new day with their morning calls. They are also known as symbols of courage, wisdom, and vigilance. In the Chinese zodiac, roosters are viewed as strong, capable, and confident workers who are able to bounce back from any situation. Some religions believe roosters are protectors and able to expel evil spirits. However, roosters chosen for body art are often fighting roosters because of their strong defensive attitudes to protect their territory.
Swallows are birds that have both positive and negation associations. In ancient times the swallow was affiliated with souls of the dead. A Greek legend once said that there were secret writings that revealed how one could morph into a swallow, and it was believed that ancient gods and goddesses did this. Swallows also had great meaning to mothers who had lost a child for it was thought they carried the souls of children to heaven.
Some see swallows as representations of fertility and renewal. Because swallows mate for life, they also stand for loyalty and fidelity. In Japan however, swallows can be symbols of unfaithfulness. There is a legend if a swallow is flying through your home, it brings negativity from the gods and is foreshadowing bad luck. Likewise, if one killed a swallow, it was also considered very back luck.
Swans are the largest birds that makes their homes on the water. They are know as birds of both love and war. A Greek legend featured a swan leading the chariot of Apollo through the heavens. Holding the position of Apollo's sacred bird, the swan was featured on Greek coins around 400 BC.
Native Americans view swans as representations of innocence, trust, grace and submission. Christians compare the grace and innocence of the swan to Virgin Mary. However, swan tattoos are most often chosen to represent sentiments of love.
Celebrities with Bird Tattoos
KING ALEXANDER / Royalty: has an eagle tattoo on his chest
JESSICA BIEL / Actress: has a dove tattoo on the right side of her abdomen
BRANDON BOYD / Musician: has an owl tattoo on the left side of his back
MELANIE C / Singer: has a phoenix tattoo on her upper back
MARIANNE FAITHFUL / Singer: has a swallow tattoo on her left hand
CHRISTIAN KANE / Actor: has an eagle tattoo on his right ankle
ELISA LAUB / Model: has a peacock tattoo over her left shoulder and back
SCOTT LEVY / Wrestler: has a raven tattoo on his left calf
LISA LOPES / Singer: had a falcon tattoo on left shoulder
MIKE MCCREADY / Musician: has a bluebird tattoo on his right arm
CATHERINE MCNEIL / Model: has a phoenix tattoo on her left shoulder blade
SIENNA MILLER / Actress: vas a bluebird tattoo on the inside of her left wrist
CHRISTINA RICCA / Actress: has a dove tattoo on the left side of her abdomen
KID ROCK / Singer: has an eagle tattoo on his back
SAM ROCKWELL JR / Actor: has a rooster tattoo on his right arm
JEREMY SHOCKEY / NFL Player: has an eagle tattoo on his right upper arm
STEVIE RAY VAUGHN / Musician: had peacock tattoo on his chest
ROBBIE WILLIAMS / Singer: has a falcon eye tattoo on the back of his neck
RUMER WILLIS / Actress: has a swallow tattoo on her shoulder
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