The Symbolism of Wings in Tattoo Designs

Throughout the ages, wings have been symbolic of man’s desire to soar; to rise above earthly limitations and fly free and unencumbered into his own potential. Wing tattoos represent different things to different people, but no matter what form they take or where on the body they reside, they are a soulful testament to freedom and liberation.

photo by Flickr user The Flooz

photo by Flickr user The Flooz

Angel wings are often included in some way as part of a memorial tattoo for a lost loved one, assisting the spirit on its way to the afterlife. Freedom from the bonds of the body is represented here, as well as the journey to Heaven. The soul is let loose to continue it’s journey, weightless and undaunted by physical laws and obstacles, wherever it is going according to one’s personal beliefs.

Butterflies are known for their complete physical metamorphosis inside of their silky cocoons. Once inside, the caterpillar basically disintegrates, turning into mush and cellular goo, and from that goo a delicate and beautiful butterfly is formed, though no one is quite sure how. Butterfly tattoos and butterfly wings symbolize the profound transformation that we as humans undergo throughout our lives, or more specifically, at certain times in our lives, unique to each persons experience.

photo by Flickr user Leah Makin Photography

photo by Flickr user Leah Makin Photography

A pair of wings tattooed on one’s back has become a fairly common choice for a tattoo in recent years. These wings take various forms. From small to full back sized, the details vary tremendously. The wings are often fluffy, dainty feathers, such as one would anticipate seeing on the back of an angel. Other people choose tattered wings that are losing feathers, or bloody wings that look as if they have been through a hard fight. Skeletal wings and even robotic wings are yet another take on this recurring theme.

Once again, these tattoos have specific, personal meaning to those who have chosen them. The torn, tattered and bloody wings could be representative of a very difficult journey, of overcoming extremely painful situations in ones life and rising up above it, despite the hurt. We can only presume what the true meanings behind each piece are. Tattoos offer us the chance to be inquisitive as we wonder what life experiences, thoughts and emotions entice a particular design.

Wings bridge the gap between the rocky earth and the endless sky, between being human and evolving as spirit, and as such, offer a sense of peace and ultimate freedom from what binds us. Whether they are the wings of angels, eagles, dragons or fairies, wings have been and will continue to be a popular choice for a tattoo because of the depth of meaning and symbolism that they represent and their openness to interpretation for those who have decided to ‘grow’ them.

2 Responses to “The Symbolism of Wings in Tattoo Designs”

  1. Tattoo Star Says:

    I’ve noticed Angel tattoo designs becoming very popular of late. The only problem with popular designs being that you might see your tattoo on another person, exactly what happened to my friend who got tattooed whilst we were away in Cyprus. When we got back there was another guy in the gym with the same tattoo on his back. Personally I prefer to come up with my own tattoo designs!
    Tattoo Star author of the blog, Tattoo Art. A discussion of tattoo design ideas and free tattoo advice.

  2. Angie Says:

    I appreciate the idea that flash designs can be individualized, with colors and small details easily manipulated so as to customize it for the wearer. Even if hundreds of other people have a tattoo that looks remarkably like their own, there will be distinctions that make theirs unique to them. I prefer to come up with the general idea behind my designs and then have an artist bring it to life for me, and I have never seen anyone with a tattoo that even resembled any of mine. Thanks for the comment!