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Raven Tattoo Meanings, Designs, and Ideas

Updated on January 26, 2016
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Richard Hale is a tattoo enthusiast who studies and researches tattoo symbolism, meanings and history.

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The raven is a dark, elegant bird that translates nicely into a tattoo. Like most animal designs, the raven is deeply symbolic and usually quite meaningful to the wearer. It can be designed in many different ways to suit your personality.

In this article, I will discuss raven tattoos and raven tattoo designs and their symbolic meanings. In the end, I hope that you are able to find ideas and inspiration for your next tattoo.

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Raven tattoo.
Raven tattoo.
Raven tattoo. | Source

Symbolism and History

This tattoo can symbolize both the good and bad in yourself. This bird has been a longtime symbol of darkness, death, and mystery. Many people think of death when they think about the raven. Despite this, it can also represent some of the best attributes one could have.

  • Where does the association between the raven and death originate? Towns in medieval Europe, ravaged by plague and war, were littered with bodies. It was not uncommon to see animals scavenging the decaying bodies, especially ravens. Therefore, they became associated with death.
  • The raven is also a common theme in ancient and modern literature. In most books, the raven was a dark character and often linked to death.
  • Many ancient cultures believed that the raven carried powerful secrets and that they were magical.
  • In mythology, the raven is thought to be someone that can't keep a secret.
  • The raven is also associated to the Celtic culture. This is one reason why you will see raven tattoos in Celtic art. The Celts were no strangers to war and the visions of war and saw ravens eating the dead on the battlefield. They viewed the raven as a symbol of war and death.
  • However, the Celtic raven tattoo represents protection, magic, and prophecy. This is primarily because they believed that the raven had magical powers.
  • The Native Americans believed that the raven brought light to the earth. The Native Americans also believed that the raven was a symbol of balance, a symbol of the good and bad in someone.
  • In Greek and Roman mythology, the raven is linked to Apollo and Athena. Since the raven is a solar animal, it symbolizes attributes of the sun and wisdom.
  • The raven is a symbol of intelligence and wisdom.

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Raven tattoo by Justin Dion.
Raven tattoo by Justin Dion.
Raven tattoo by Justin Dion. | Source

Designs and Symbolism

Common associations with ravens are:

  • Protection
  • Magic
  • Future
  • Secrets
  • Death
  • Light
  • Shadows
  • Inner self
  • War
  • Prophecy
  • Memory
  • Misery
  • Pain
  • Intelligence
  • Wisdom
  • Thought

Raven tattoos can be portrayed with a variety of symbols that represent death, such as a skull. It is not uncommon to see raven tattoo designs with blood, either from the raven or something else. They can also be done in Celtic or tribal style. Although tribal tattoos have little symbolic significance, the Celtic raven is associated with war, magic, and misery.

The raven can be portrayed in various postures, like flying with its wings open or crouched on a perch. There's no wrong way to do it.

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Raven tattoo on upper back.
Raven tattoo on upper back.
Raven tattoo on upper back. | Source

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    • aviannovice profile image

      Deb Hirt 4 years ago from Stillwater, OK

      I would never get a tattoo, but some of these are very striking.

    • alocsin profile image

      alocsin 4 years ago from Orange County, CA

      Interesting that a lot of animal tattoo have cartoon variants, but not the raven. Voting this Up and Beautiful.

    • kj force profile image

      kjforce 4 years ago from Florida

      thelyricwriter...enjoyed this hub..basically I am a fan of Poe...and his famous writes...

      My uncle had a pet Raven..whose tongue was split so he learned to speak..he was.very attached to my uncle, followed him everywhere..nice photos..and research..kudos..

    • kashmir56 profile image

      Thomas Silvia 4 years ago from Massachusetts

      Love these raven tattoos and the pictures were beautiful ! The Raven is one of my favorite Poe Story .

      Vote up and more !!!

    • Gypsy Rose Lee profile image

      Gypsy Rose Lee 4 years ago from Riga, Latvia

      Have always been fascinated by ravens. Great tattoos.

    • always exploring profile image

      Ruby Jean Fuller 4 years ago from Southern Illinois

      Beautiful artistic work..

    • BeyondMax profile image

      BeyondMax 4 years ago from Sydney, Australia

      Love these creepy guys, even if they are giving me chills. LOL =)

    • thelyricwriter profile image
      Author

      Richard Ricky Hale 4 years ago from West Virginia

      Aviannovice

      Alocsin

      Kj

      Kash

      Hypsy

      Ruby

      Max

      Thank you all for taking the time to comment, vote, and for your kind words. I knew the Raven could talk a little, but they are truly intelligent birds. The symbolism dates back centuries, very cool to research on this one. Appreciate all of you reading it.

    • profile image

      Eric 4 years ago

      One thing that wasn't mentioned in the article was the raven in norse mythology. Odin, leader of the Norse gods, owned two pet ravens named hugin and munin who were his eyes in the mortal realm and as a result, ravens were seen by Vikings as a reminder that Odin was watching over and protecting them, as well as a symbol of divine wisdom.

    • thelyricwriter profile image
      Author

      Richard Ricky Hale 4 years ago from West Virginia

      Eric, thanks for your comment and adding to this page. Your right. The raven was actually very symbolic in Norse myths and legend. I actually saved the story for my Viking tattoo article, but it is certainly associated to Norse mythology. Appreciate the addition.

    • profile image

      Ron Burgundy 4 years ago

      Great Odin's Raven!

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