Birds, real and mythical, have long been among the most popular of all the tattoo designs and symbols for centuries. All over the world, birds have been chosen to represent the widest range of human emotions and every country and culture has stories and myths were birds play central roles, so it’s no wonder they are a central feature in many tattoos. Bird tattoos can have countless meanings depending on the birds depicted. The birds depicted in the picture are swallows and are a favorite among sea faring people and is one of the centerpieces of the maritime tradition. Other bird tattoos that are associated with the maritime tradition include parrots and blue birds. Both of those birds signify good luck to those who travel the sea. Outside the sea faring tradition birds are more commonly associated with the feminine. In parts of rural Africa, ‘Hen’ refers to a motherly woman, while dove is the young girl. In Great Britain and the United States, chick and bird are synonyms for girlfriend, while old crow refers to the nagging old woman. Of course, their are exceptions to every rule, even in the tradition of bird tattoos. Eagles are often associated with great courage and are definitely a masculine symbol and what would Japanese tattooing be without the phoenix.
Bird tattoos can be seen in every culture throughout the world. And the symbolism expressed by the tattoos are often dependent on the society and the type of bird depicted. In North America, both Ravens and Crows are seen as tricksters and shape shifters among various native American tribes. They are birds often associated with Shamans and Medicine Men. Tribes usually associated themselves with certain birds and would proudly wear the clans bird tattoos. Among the Haida of the Pacific Northwest, the people identify themselves as belonging to either the Eagle or the Raven Clan. And for the Haida, Raven was the creator of the world, stealing the sun from where it was hidden in a box and allowing it to shine. Among the peoples of the Iroquoi Federation, there are both Heron and Snipe Clans. Another popular bird was the dove which signified peace and is usually adopted by members of the Christian faiths. In France, the rooster is associated with the proud heritage of that country and the sparrow and parrot are almost synonymous with many sea faring cultures and people. But, bird tattoos do not mean the same thing to different cultures and can often have dual meanings even in the same culture. Ravens, for instance are seen in the West as both symbols of good luck and harbingers of evil.