One of the most famous designs in the tattoo industry is the feather. Those who admire Native American culture and tattoo enthusiasts sought this design for its meaning and its aesthetic quality. It is versatile and can be added as another element to a bigger design or stand on its own. You could be as unique as you want with the style or you can go with the traditional ones. In general, a feather tattoo has long been part of body art.
While many choose a feather tattoo for its delicate and captivating look, others choose it for its deeper meaning. This imagery is long affiliated with freedom, something everybody wants.
Feathers and Native Americans
Of course, feathers are associated with birds. However, it has become cultural and historic symbol mainly with Native Americans. These have become symbols of shamans, chiefs, elders, and their healers.
They often use an eagle’s feather to decorate the headdress and signify their status in the tribe. The feather is said to contain part of the bird’s soul and so they use it as a part of their rituals. Warriors don eagle feathers to summon the courage and strength of the creature.
You might also see feathers usually attached to dreamcatchers. They say feathers are used to help protect us from nightmares.
Native Americans also worship birds. There is no surprise the feather is a great sign of power in many tribes back in the past. They believe that if a feather falls from the sky, it holds the energy of the bird, wind and sky. It then represents the thunder and wind gods.
Now, a number of tribes still hold feathers as a symbol of status and power. However, feathers became more than just headdress decors. They’ve used tattoos to call on the power of the creatures and symbolize their heritage.
Feather Tattoo Meaning
Apart from its history, this style of tattoo also carries on various meanings. The most popular is the ability to “take flight” spiritually, mentally, creatively, and emotionally. Sometimes, the meaning could change depending from what bird the feather is from or if it has another element to accompany it. Many tattoo enthusiasts also choose a bird feather with a personal meaning.
Usually, the change in the meaning of the feather is based on the characteristic of the bird it is from. As mentioned, eagle feather is more about courage and strength. Peacock feathers, on the other hand, have become popular among women as it could represent elegance and beauty.
Here are what other bird feathers mean:
- Crow – Crows are among the smartest birds so it is no surprise their feather could represent cunning people. It is one of the best tattoos to represent skillful persons. This design could also denote balance and release from the past.
- Owl –This bird has two common meanings: wisdom, and guide of the afterlife. An owl’s feather could represent any of these. However, it could also be used to represent silence or speed. So, if you are someone who loves peace and quiet or perhaps love going fast, this is a good design for you.
- Hawk – As a tattoo, hawk feather represents strength and protection. This is good for police officers, soldiers, firefighters and everyone who fights to protect people.
- Dove – Dove feather tattoos are a good way to represent love, peace and gentleness.
- Pheasant – This bird has long been linked to success, wealth, and prosperity. Pheasant feathers are also good tattoo designs for those who want to achieve these three things. Suffice to say, it is perfect for business people and entrepreneurs.
- Raven – Raven feathers are another symbol for knowledge and wisdom. It is also a great way to represent creativity. It is a good tattoo for students, teachers, and people who love to learn. Since it’s also for creative people, artists and writers could find this design a perfect fit.
Feather Tattoos in Various Cultures
Native Americans were not the only ones who deemed feathers as sacred or important. Egyptians’ culture also had a close link to feathers. They relate it to the air gods, in particular the god Shu. He was the father of the earth and the god of air. Ma’at, Egyptian goddess of truth and justice is also linked to the feather, particularly that of an ostrich. Hieroglyphs for both these deities were depicted with feathers.
However, you might be more familiar with the Egyptian legend of the afterlife. The souls would offer their heart on trial with the gods Anubis and Osiris. Their hearts will be weighed on the balance with a feather. If their heart is as light as a feather, they have lived a good life and would then have a better afterlife. Egyptian feather tattoos draw from this legend.
Feathers are also important for Christians. It is closely related to the dove, a simple of peace and love in the religion. Feathers from angel’s wings have become very common tattoo designs.
In Celtic culture, the feather symbol was used to invoke the sky gods. Their deity, the god Morrigan is depicted to wear a cloak made from crow feathers. This enables him to turn into a crow and fly into battle. In tattoos, a Celtic feather could represent higher reason.
Feather Tattoos and the Dead
Many others believe that feathers are a way to connect to their loved ones who passed away. Some say that when a feather floats in front of you, the spirit of a loved one has passed on. Others say it means these souls are trying to communicate with you.
As a tattoo, it can easily be made into a dedication piece for your family or friend who passed away. Many use the image of an angel feather.
Other Interpretations of Feathers
Feathers have various interpretations that based on several factors. Apart from the bird they came from, here are more meanings you can adapt for your feather tattoo:
- Number – While it is common to get a single feather tattoo, others decide to have two or more. There isn’t really any specific meaning to this. Instead, what it represents is based on the wearer. However, you can use the number to signify your lost family and friends. You can also interpret this as the people in your life that you want to protect or wish peace upon.
- Colors – In tattoos, the colors tend to give a different meaning even when the subject is all the same. For feather tattoos, white denotes innocence. Red is used to symbolize love and passion. Orange is for intelligence and wisdom.
- Dream – A feather in your dream could also mean several things. You can use your dreams as a basis to your feather tattoo design. Just like with most tattoos, the meaning of a feather in your dream is more or less dependent on the person. But general meanings include a thought, an ideal, or a goal. That being said, your feather tattoo could represent your dreams and aspiration.
Combining with Other Elements
A lot of tattoo designs often incorporate one or more elements. This helps in adding value to its appearance as well as add more depth to its meaning. Below are some elements you could combine with your feather tattoo. Then again, the meanings of these tattoo designs could change and it is entirely up to you.
Arrow – While you can create a simple arrow sign, many choose to have feathers on one end. While you can add the meaning of the feather, most people that get this design lean more on the arrow’s representation.
Dreamcatcher – Feathers are pretty much a part of a dreamcatcher. The feathers in this basically have the same meaning as the entire design which is protection.
Native American headdress – This is a design that suits those with Native American blood in them. It shows how they are proud of their history, culture and their bloodline.
Birds – It is easier to determine the feather if it has a bird design along with it. As mentioned, the meaning of tattoo changes depending on what bird it is.
Compass – The compass as a tattoo often represents guidance or seeking guidance. Pairing it with a feather tattoo could mean you need guidance and protection. You can also dedicate this to the person who has given you both.
Skull – Skulls are often associated with death. That being said, a feather with a skull could be another dedication to a loved one who passed away.
Infinity sign – The most common design for this is a feather forming one side of the infinity stone. Another popular tattoo idea is two feathers forming the famous sign. It’s usually for couples and friends as the infinity sign means no end. It could simply mean that their love or friendship will never end.
Versatility in Placement
Another reason why many tattoo enthusiasts are getting feather tattoos is the fact that it is versatile. Not just with the designs but with the placement as well. It is possible to get a feather tattoo of any design on any place.
For those who want smaller tattoos, some good places include the back of the ears and the side of the fingers. The back of the ears have been gaining popularity over the years. It’s a good way to hide a tattoo for women since they can have their hair down. The side of the finger is a bit exposed so if you have a strict workplace, you might want to reconsider other places.
Medium sized tattoos are perfect for the forearms, the shoulder blades, sternum, the small of the back, legs and various other places. It is easy to play with the design since these places have enough space.
Larger tattoos would work perfectly on the chest, back, arms and the thighs. These have bigger spaces for more intricate and bigger tattoos. It’s not really the best idea to place smaller tattoos on wider areas since the tattoo could easily get lost in the space.
How can you make your feather tattoo more unique? Apart from the design, you can also choose a good tattoo style. Here are some appropriate styles for your next ink:
Watercolor – Think of a watercolor painting. Most notable features include the pastel colors and the soft strokes of the watercolor brush. This style of tattooing follows that same style, except the canvas is your skin and tattoo guns for the brush. The end result is a colorful and delicate feather tattoo.
White Ink – White ink is usually used for highlighting to give a tattoo the 3D effect. However, white ink tattoos have gained popularity for its peculiarity and beauty. Instead of using black or colored ink, tattoo artists use white ink for the entire design. It’s great for those who want their tattoos to look somewhat invisible.
Realism or 3D – One of the most sought after styles is the realistic or 3D tattoos. It takes great skill to accomplish a body art that looks like the real thing. If you wanted this kind of style, you need to find a good artist who knows the proper technique to make your tattoo look three-dimensional.
Tribal – Traditional tattoos tend to go with bold lines, spirals, and geometric patterns.
Linework – This is the usual style for simple and minimalist tattoos. It is the most basic of all the styles and only includes the linework. No shading, coloring or highlighting is involved. First-timers would want to get a simple tattoo like this first to get used to the pain of the tattoo gun.
Dotwork – Dotwork is probably the most complicated and grueling of all the styles. Usually, the design is made entirely of dots. They create the picture with the dots as well as the shading. However, it is more bearable than shading in terms of the pain. The end results are also so beautiful and delicate.
No matter what style you are going for, it is best to get the assistance of a skilled tattoo artist who is an expert in the style you chose.