What Is the Meaning of Feather Tattoos?

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Feather tattoos are among the more common tattoo designs chosen by body art enthusiasts. A feather tattoo design can have any of a number of meanings, or be a purely aesthetic option--the only person who really knows the ultimate meaning of any design is the wearer. Meaning can also depend on the type of feather chosen--a peacock feather has different connotations than an eagle feather, for example.

Tattoo.
Tattoo. (Image: Digital Vision./Digital Vision/Getty Images)

Air

Feathers are a symbol of the element of air. Thus a feather tattoo may invoke some of the mystical qualities associated with air, such as intellect, will, communication, breath and the soul or spirit.

Feathers are a symbol of the element of air.
Feathers are a symbol of the element of air. (Image: John Foxx/Stockbyte/Getty Images)

Flight

A feather tattoo design can also metaphorically symbolize flight in a number of contexts, from creative activity to a lightness of temperament, a desire to be as light as air in one's dealings with the world, unencumbered and unburdened.

A feather tattoo design can also metaphorically symbolize flight in a number of contexts.
A feather tattoo design can also metaphorically symbolize flight in a number of contexts. (Image: Photos.com/Photos.com/Getty Images)

Spirituality

As feathers are sometimes used in shamanic rituals to facilitate communication between this world and the spirit world, so a feather tattoo may be an attempt to open up a more permanent channel of communication with one's spiritual guides.

Feathers can symbolize spirituality.
Feathers can symbolize spirituality. (Image: Goodshoot/Goodshoot/Getty Images)

Freedom

The expression "free as a bird" can be symbolically condensed into a feather tattoo design--free from worries, free from societal restrictions and/or free from restraining relationships.

Free as a bird.
Free as a bird. (Image: Comstock/Comstock/Getty Images)

Courage

Many people inspired by certain Native American imagery and culture get eagle feather tattoos to symbolize their courage, conviction and strength. These tattoos are often incorporated into armbands or other Native-American-inspired imagery.

Many people inspired by certain Native American imagery.
Many people inspired by certain Native American imagery. (Image: Jupiterimages/liquidlibrary/Getty Images)

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