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What is the meaning of feather tattoos?

Updated April 17, 2017

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.

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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.


A feather tattoo design can also metaphorically symbolise 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.


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.


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.


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

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About the Author

Lori A. Selke has been a professional writer and editor for more than 15 years, touching on topics ranging from LGBT issues to sexuality and sexual health, parenting, alternative health, travel, and food and cooking. Her work has appeared in Curve Magazine, Girlfriends, Libido, The Children's Advocate, Decider.com, The SF Weekly, EthicalFoods.com and GoMag.com.

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