Wings are a popular tattoo design for placing across the shoulders and upper back. The wings can resemble those of insects, birds, dragons, demons and angels. The meaning of the wings tattoo depends on what creatures the wings come from, the color and pattern of the wings and whether there are other symbols or objects attached to the wings.
Types of Wing Tattoos
Birds, angels and dragons have two wings, whereas insects like dragonflies and butterflies have four wings. The general outline of wing tattoos is the same, with the upper wings (or upper part of the wings) being wider than the lower wings or lower part of the single wings. The shape of wings compliments the shape of the upper back and shoulders because the design narrows towards the waist, giving the torso a lean, shapely appearance.
Wings can be added to other symbols to add more meaning to the original design. Popular objects and symbols to combine wings with are hearts, crowns, roses and skulls. Wings symbolize freedom and flight, so adding wings to another design creates the meaning that a person found freedom through religion, love, health, a cause or a purpose.
The Meaning of Wings Tattoos
Wing tattoo designs are a symbol of flight and the freedom of flying. Not all wings tattoos have the same meaning though – the symbolism is linked to the animal or insect the wings are taken from. Likewise, the color of the tattoo ink and the patterns (if any) displayed on the wings can change the meaning of wing tattoos.
Butterfly wing tattoos can contain bright colors and eye catching patterns. Butterfly tattoos symbolize rebirth, emergence, change and new life. A tattoo of butterfly wings on the back transforms a human into a fantasy creature, a real life fairy. The wings can symbolize a life-changing event, new beginnings and a general love of life and having fun.
Dragon wing tattoos are based loosely on bat’s wings. Over the years fantasy artists have transformed dragon wings, adding barbs, talons and finger-like protrusions. Bat-like dragon wings are an aspect of Western dragons, and therefore a tattoo of dragon’s wings will have a similar meaning to the symbolism of Western dragons. Bat-like dragons wings symbolize magic, fantasy and strength and are ethereal or otherworldly. The similarity between dragon wings and demon wings mean that the symbolism becomes a bit blurred.
Demon wings are similar in appearance to dragon wings, but have a much darker meaning. A tatttoo of dragon wings across the back could be symbolic that a person feels they have a beast within, or a darker side to their nature that they are constantly wrestling with. A tattoo of demon wings doesn’t necessarily mean that the owner of the tattoo is a bad or evil person – just that they are willing to accept the darker side of their personality.
Angel wings are usually depicted as being feathery, like bird wings. Sometimes angel wings appear to be made of light. The design of the wings doesn’t change the meaning of angel wings. They symbolize spiritual enlightenment, a lifting of the spirit and the idea that a person is living closer to God. This is a popular tattoo with Christians whose religious sect doesn’t frown upon tattoos. Religious angel wings tattoos can be combined with symbols of Jesus Christ such as the crucifixion cross or a crown of thorns to symbolize that a person feels they have been set free from past burdens, forgiven their sins and come closer to God through their love of Jesus Christ.
Birds wings symbolize freedom, flight and the ability to move on from a past event. The meaning of bird wing tattoos changes according to which bird the wing design comes from. Eagles mean strength and power, whereas a parrot means humor, vivacity, mimicry and vocal expression.
Insect wings such as dragonfly wings are not as common a choice for a tattoo as butterfly wings, but share a similar meaning. Dragonflies undergo a similar change to the metamorphosis of a caterpillar into a butterfly, except that dragonfly larva are called nymphs and live in water. Water is a symbol of fluidity and the ever-changing nature of the world. This extra symbol of change means that dragonflies are a symbol of constant transformation and movement. The transparent nature of dragonfly wings is a symbol of truth – one can see through the wings to the skin beneath.