Feathers make up the plumage of birds and have been treasured by humans for centuries. Feathers serve a variety of purposes, protecting the bird from cold weather, giving some birds the ability to float on water and in the case of most birds; the ability to fly.
Feather Tattoos Symbolize the Spirit
Feathers are collected and used by shaman, witch doctors and natural healers in tribal cultures. These magicians believe that each type of bird has a special power that can be harnassed through burning one of their feathers or including the feather in some way in magical rituals. In North America, native American chiefs wore a feather to symbolize their connection with the spiritual world and their celestial wisdom. Feathers are also used in many North American charms such as dream catchers.
In ancient Egyptian mythology, the Goddess of justice, truth and morality, Ma’at, would weigh the soul of a newly deceased person against the weight of a feather. If the soul was heavier than the feather, the soul would not be allowed into the kingdom of the dead. Those souls who were allowed into the afterlife were the ones that were lighter than the feather.
Feathers were also revered by the Celtic tribes of Europe. Druids (the name given to celtic shaman) would wear cloaks that were covered in feathers. The druids believed that the feathers gave them a connection to heaven and would allow them to ascend to the spiritual realm, leaving their earthly bodies behind.
In tattoo art, a feather can have the same meaning as the bird that the feather comes from. For example, a peacock feather can symbolize beauty and pride. Feather tattoos can also have a more personal meaning. So the same tattoo of a peacock feather could be a symbol of a favorite song, movie or book that has the title “peacock”, or it can be a way to remember a loved one whose favorite bird is the peacock. The peacock feather is also associated with a number of gods and deities, cities and countries.
As Light as a Feather Tattoo
Feather tattoos don’t make a blatant social, religious or political statement. Tattoos of feathers are very popular because they are attractive and non-offensive while still holding a deeper meaning for the tattoo owner. There are thousands of types of feather tattoo designs to choose from, and most tattoo artists can design a feather tattoo in a range of styles.
Feather tattoo designs sometimes include other objects, especially tattoos that represent a part of native American culture. Objects that often accompany feathers in tattoos are beads, leather thongs and weaving. Feather tattoos also sometimes show the feather as it has been used by people in the past. These tattoos will have feathers as a part of a writing quill, fletched arrow or feathery fishing lure.
Most feather tattoos show only one feather, though more than one feather can add a whole new meaning to the tattoo design. In Christianity, three feathers is a symbol of a virtuous man. The three feathers stand for hope, faith and charity. In centuries past, Christian men would often order a ring that had three feathers inscribed into it. They would then make an imprint of the ring in the sealing wax of letters as a sign that they were virtuous, honest men. The number of feathers in a tattoo is chosen by the person who will wear the tattoo. Each feather can have it’s own meaning or can simply be a part of a larger design.
Tattoos of feathers can be created in many styles. Paisley and abstract feather tattoo can be very attractive while still containing the symbolism of the feather design. Sketched or drawn styles are perfect for tattoos that represent creativity or, if the style of the feather drawing is antique, it can represent something from the past. Feather tattoos that are popular in our modern era are often created by graphic designers; engineered to be both beautiful and meaningful.