Updated: Dec 14, 2017
Why feather tattooed? Feathers carry various meanings depending on the approach which might be spiritual, traditional, cultural, religious or mythical. Obviously a feather is very interesting to examine as a symbol because it is not a separate element but it might come from a bird, mythical creature or angel and has a different interpretation in every case. This is why it is a vast topic and a single post could prove to be insufficient to cover it's aspects. Artistically speaking it is a design with millions of possibilities for creating a unique and beautiful tattoo. In addition, it's size and shape looks wonderful in many body placements like the arms, feet, shoulder blade or neck. Coloured or black, tribal or mandala style, it gives an illusion of movement and usually comes ensemble with other designs as an additional decoration element. Even if you don't like feathers, maybe because they remind you of a murdered chicken and it sure is creepy, I am positive that you will find a design which will entrap you with it's grace and uniqueness and maybe will be your tattoo choice just for it's indisputable beauty. Religious - Traditional - Spiritual meaning
Feathers are directly associated with the element of air, the sky, and freedom... So a feather in many civilisations is a symbol of freedom, travelling, flying, Heaven and God. From ancient times , Native Americans considered feathers to carry a symbolism of spirituality and cultural power. For the warrior it was something he had to earn by his accomplishments and bravery. For the tribal shaman it was the symbol of his connection to the spiritual realm and a key element in ceremonies and rituals. For Iroquois it was a symbol of fertility. Some of the most common and sacred feathers in Native Americans come from the eagle, the hawk, the turkey... For the Ancient Egyptians feather is a symbol of lightness of the heart. When a soul left this world and visited the "other side", according to the Book of Dead it had to pass an examination about the lessons the soul learned from this life...
"THE 'HEART' OF THE SOUL WAS HANDED OVER TO OSIRIS WHO PLACED IT ON A GREAT GOLDEN SCALE BALANCED AGAINST THE WHITE FEATHER OF MA'AT, THE FEATHER OF TRUTH."
Ma'at was the Goddess of truth and justice and she had an ostrich feather to represent both. Feathers can also be a symbol of connection to someone that has passed away. For some cultures seeing a feather falling from a sky is a connection attempt from someone that you loved and has left this life. It is a sign of a message that comes from the angelic realm. This is why people might chose a feather tattoo as a memorabilia of their connection to a deceased they loved. In Greek mythology the peacock was created by Goddess Hera and it's feathers represent the universe with the "eyes" of the stars on them. For Hindus the peacock feathers are sacred and associated to Lord Krishna (they adorned his head) and goddess Lakshmi (Hindu Goddess of wealth, fortune and prosperity).
Birds and their feather symbolism
It stands to reason that the feather carries the energy and the symbolism of the bird from which it originates. Animal symbolism in general is a vast subject in tattoo symbolism and will definitely be a theme in my forthcoming posts. Following is a small sample of popular feathers from birds that are usually inked and have a very powerful meaning:
The eagle is one of the most honoured and admired bird (a strong spirit animal) and it's feather is symbolic for leadership, freedom, strength, prestige.
The ostrich feather is the symbol of lightness of the heart, truth and justice.
The peacock feather, maybe the most popular one because of it's artistic beauty and uniqueness, stands for beauty, grace, fortune, immortality, protection, Peacock is considered as the manifestation of the celestial Phoenix bird.
The dove feather brings peace
The owl feather represents ability to sea in the dark, silence and wisdom
The crow feather is a symbol of talent and release of the past
Last but not least, never forget that the symbolism of the tattoo you decide to add to your body is ultimately about how it makes you feel and what it means to you. Sometimes, we are not even sure why we are attracted to a specific shape, or specific colours... It is something like falling in love with a person, the last thing you need when it happens to you is justifying what your heart is longing for... So it is up to your heart and instinct !