Feather Tattoos: Designs, Ideas, and Meanings
The beautiful feather tattoo design is highly sought-after among those who admire body art and Native American traditions and heritage. The feather design holds deep symbolic meanings to whomever wears it, men and women, who choose it as a symbol to represent their beliefs and heritage or to display some spiritual aspect.
The Feather as a Native American Symbol
Birds figure prominently in many Native American creation myths and the feather has always been an important symbol to them, often included as a design feature in their headdresses, clothing, weapons, tools, jewelry, and Ojibwe dreamcatchers.
Most Native Americans ascribe to animism, the belief that all natural things in the universe have spirits. Animists believe that souls exist in living things (people, animals, and plants) but also in rocks, feathers, and other natural phenomena—they believe that every part of nature is alive and has an inherent quality, virtue, power, and wisdom.
Feathers are perceived as gifts falling from the sky. When one falls to earth, Native Americans believe it carries with it all of the energy of its former attachment to the bird, wind, and sky and represents the power of the thunder gods, wind, and air. Native American chiefs would wear many feathers during ceremonies to represent their connection to spiritual realms, and warriors were given one as a special gift when they were exceptionally courageous or honorable in battle.
They believed that birds can act as spirit guides, walking you through the different stages of life: Teaching, guiding, and offering protection. Eagle feathers are one of the most honored and hold great symbolic significance.
Meanings of Different Types of Feathers
sacredness, strength, courage leadership, and prestige
skill, cunning, balance, and release from the past
speed, soul healing
silence, speed, vision
creation, wisdom, knowledge
love, beauty, intelligence
peace, love, gentleness
prosperity, wealth, success
beauty, pride, all-seeing
Feather Symbolism in Christian, Celtic, Egyptian, and Other Religions and Cultures
The feather was also symbolic in ancient Christianity, believed to be a symbol of virtue, mentioned many times in the Bible. Verse four of Psalm 91, for example: “He shall cover you with His feathers, and under His wings you shall take refuge; His truth shall be your shield and buckler.” You may see three of them curved into a signet ring— one represents hope, one faith, and one charity.
It was also symbolic to the Celts whose druids wore feathered robes in ceremonial events. The Egyptians believed that they were associated with the sky gods. Many other cultures and religions ascribed special spiritual or symbolic meaning to them.
Birds of a feather flock together.
The Feather as a Spiritual Connection to the Dead
Feathers can also be associated with those who have passed away. Some cultures believe if one falls on your path, it is a sign that someone you know has passed on to the afterlife or that someone who died is trying to communicate with you.
- Dream: Did you know that they are also symbolic in dreams? Which makes sense, given their place in dreamcatchers. Some believe that white ones symbolize a fresh spiritual start. The type of feather dreamed matters to its interpretation, but in general it might suggest a thought, a goal, or an ideal.
- Color: A white one can also represent innocence, while red is said to symbolize passion and love, and yellow and orange ones usually represent intelligence.
- Number: One of the most common designs is the single feather, but other designs incorporate more than one, and some depict an entire wingful. The meaning of the number of feathers depicted is up to the wearer.
- Type: Some of the most common types used are the eagle, peacock, egret, ostrich, swallow, and turkey. The table above gives more common meanings for some of these types, but the meaning of any tattoo is up to its wearer. Some wearers choose angel feathers. This might represent protection from a higher power.
- Beauty: Some people may choose a tattoo not because of any symbolic meaning but just because they think it's beautiful.
There are many different styles, designs, and meanings for a feather tattoo, so you have plenty of choices and options to think about.
What a Feather Tattoo Might Represent
As you have already read, the feather is very symbolic to multiple cultures and civilizations, and in each context, its meaning is slightly different. Below is a partial list of various ideas they might represent:
- High spirit
- Journey of the soul
- Communication with the other side
Of course, the meaning of the tattoo depends on the wearer. One of the best things about the feather is that fits nicely in a variety of different places on your body. The arms, legs, sides, ankles, upper back, lower back, upper shoulders, and behind the ears are all possible locations.
Hope is the thing with feathers that perches in the soul - and sings the tunes without the words - and never stops at all.— Emily Dickinson