The freedom of flight, celestial guidance from angels, and the majesty of birds – what do all of these things have in common? Wings. A tattoo that has never gone out of style is wing tattoo designs.
There are a number of reasons for this tat’s popularity. Firstly, it has deep spiritual meaning.
Angels in a religious context have wings to traverse between the heavenly and mortal realms. Angels with regal wings have served as inspiration for many artists, such as Caravaggio with St Francis in Ecstasy and The Expulsion of Adam and Eve from Paradise by Benjamin West, just two examples of famous Christian-themed paintings.
It’s not just in Christianity that wings have deep symbolic meaning.
“According to Hindus, wings are the expression of the freedom to leave earthly things behind as a result of contemplation and to reach Paradise. The Rig Veda sees wings as intelligence, swifter than any bird,”New Acropolis
A Greek god that took wings as one of his defining symbols is Hermes. He had winged sandals – good thing, too, as he was responsible for a lot. Being the god of trade, wealth, luck, fertility, animal husbandry, sleep, language, thieves, and travel, he probably had to get around quite quickly.
Secondly, you can adapt wings to so many different tattoo styles. From realistic, intricate designs that go the length of your back, to a simple minimalistic tattoo on your ankle or wrist.
Suffice it to say, if you’re taken with the idea of adding wings to your body art, there are a lot of options to dive into.
Angel Wing Tattoos
Angel wings are generally associated with beings of a higher spiritual plane, such as heaven, being a source of guidance and protection to us mere mortals.
As Tattoo Me Now explains,
“People get angel wing tattoos to remind themselves that they are not alone. The wings are symbolic of a guardian angel. People often attach angel wings to a memorial or tribute tattoo of a lost loved one. They hope that the loved one will serve as a guardian angel moving forward in life.”
But, why do angels have wings?
As Learn Religions explains, angels, being spiritual beings who aren’t bound by the laws of physics, wouldn’t necessarily need wings to travel, but across the main Abrahamic religions, sacred texts all reference angels with some seriously impressive wings.
Learn Religions goes on to say that the wings referenced in religious texts go from being symbols of God’s powerful care to his creation.
“Another view of angels’ wings is that they’re meant to show how wonderfully God created angels, giving them the ability to travel from one dimension to another (which human beings may best understand as flying) and to do their work equally well in heaven and on Earth.”
Egyptian Wing Tattoos
Symbolic wings didn’t start with the Abrahamic religions; many ancient Egyptian symbols include depictions of wings, one being one of the oldest symbols in the world, the winged sun.
This is a symbol of royalty, divinity, and power. According to Egyptian Gods,
“In Egypt, it is a symbol of the soul and its eternity. It is often placed in temples as a memento to the people of their eternal nature. During the Middle Kingdom, it evolved into a symbol of protection and became a popular protective amulet during the Ptolemaic Period.”
This goddess was a magician and one of the most important deities among ancient Egyptians – she hasn’t lost her touch, as she is still revered by some pagan sects today.
After her husband was hacked apart and strewn across the world, Isis transformed into a bird to track down the pieces of her husband to put him back together.
This transformation is one of the reasons why some of the depictions of Isis include a set of vast wings.
Of course, you can’t discuss wing tattoos without birds, and one bird with distinctive meaning is the phoenix.
This mythological creature first appeared in ancient Egyptian folklore representing sun worship.
Related Post: Egyptian Tattoos: Symbolism and Meaning
According to legend, the Egyptian phoenix lived for 500 years,
“As its end approached, the phoenix fashioned a nest of aromatic boughs and spices, set it on fire, and was consumed in the flames. From the pyre miraculously sprang a new phoenix, which, after embalming its father’s ashes in an egg of myrrh, flew with the ashes to Heliopolis (‘City of the Sun’) in Egypt, where it deposited them on the altar in the temple of the Egyptian god of the sun, Re,”Britannica
This legendary bird didn’t stay in Egyptian stories, but took flight and made appearances in Chinese, Persian, and Greek mythologies.
A tattoo of this bird can represent rebirth, immortality, and the ability to rise from the ashes.
Hermes Wing Tattoos
In addition to his aforementioned responsibilities as a Greek god, Hermes was also the messenger of the Gods of Mount Olympus. He was the only Olympian to have the ability to cross between the worlds of the living and the dead.
As he needed to be fast delivering the decrees of the gods, Zeus gave Hermes his winged sandals.
Due to the fact that Hermes’ wings were at his feet, tattoos inspired by this swift Greek god are often placed on the ankle, and, because he was responsible for travel, this tattoo could represent a sense of adventure and wanderlust.
“The Greek god Hermes exemplified the powerful weight of freedom. He was both quick in spirit as well as movement, two attributes held dear by that ancient, prestigious culture. Known for the wings on his ankles, he represented the dreams of many to explore, to wander and know the world intimately,”Next Luxury
Before getting a tattoo, it’s important to do your research so that you’re 100% certain you relate to the meaning behind the ink. This can go a long way to ensuring you’ve got a design that you’ll love for years.
For 10 essential points to consider before getting a tattoo, click here.