When you think of wing tattoos, you might think of those large, detailed back tattoos that have become popular in recent years. These tattoos may also feature wings from angel tattoo designs, bird tattoo designs, and tattered butterfly tattoo designs. Angel wing tattoos are emblems of innocence, grace, divine justice, guidance, spirituality, and sweetness. These tattoo designs are often done in shades of black and grey, filling a large space and striving to look realistic, but can also be colorful or done like tribal tattoo designs.
For the most part, angel wing tattoos are primarily chosen by women. They are delicate and pretty, but the size makes them a considerable commitment. More recently, small angel wings have gained popularity. Often done in the same location, the shoulder blade and back area, these designs are much subtler and easier to conceal. Interestingly, these small wing tattoos have become a common design for less common areas. The back of necks, inside of wrists, and hipbones are all spots that feature wings. Sometimes, a person might choose to get a single wing, especially on the wrist or ankle.
Bird wings are also a popular choice for wing tattoos. Instead of white, feathery, angel wings, these wing tattoos usually feature bright, colorful feathers to mark them as specifically bird wings, rather than angel wings. Oftentimes, these bird wing designs look like they belong on a parrot or tropical bird. Bird wings are emblems of speed and protection. Birds, with their ability to fly, are often associated with freedom and taking flight, but can also be symbolic of escape, possibilities, and accomplishment. Like angel wing tattoos, bird wing tattoos can take up the entire back, extending all the way to the hips, or a very small area of skin. Again, like angel wing tattoos, bird wings can be tattooed in pairs or alone. Bird wings, in smaller designs, are popular tattoo choices with both men and women, but the large-scale back tattoos are still favored by women.
Butterfly or fairy wing tattoos are primarily chosen by women because they are fragile, feminine, and dainty. Butterflies are graceful, elegant, and ornate, while fairy tattoo designs are whimsical, innocent, and childlike. Interestingly, it is pretty impossible to distinguish between the two wing styles. Large back butterfly wing tattoos make the person look fairy-like, so these tattoos can perform double duty as far as meaning goes.
Decrepit, decayed, frayed, or tattered wings are a variant of the standard, normal wing tattoo design
These wings designs are sometimes styled after bats and are reminiscent of gargoyles. According to legend, gargoyles are humans who gave into their sinful natures, becoming greedy, lustful, gluttonous, envious, wrathful creatures. If a gargoyle is depicted with wings, it shows that the human is still capable of redemption, that the person inside can rise above their base and primitive instincts to become a higher being. Contrastingly, a gargoyle without wings is lost, completely taken over by this animal nature and unable to reclaim any sense of humanity.
Wings, as a design element, can also be added to other imagery, like heart tattoo designs, lion tattoo designs, nautical tattoo designs, gun tattoo designs, daggers, et cetera. Wing tattoos, in this instance, can represent a mystical aspect, transforming something into a more evolved state, and making something more spiritual. For example, a winged heart can represent love that is free or a heart that yearns for heaven. A winged heart tattoo can also symbolize love that has been redeemed, love that shelters, protects, and cares, or love that knows no bounds.
The location of the wings can also be significant. Hermes, or Mercury as he was known to the Romans, was a Greek god that had wings at his ankles. These wings served to speed him on his way as he delivered messages. Hermes, the messenger of the gods, was the god of thievery, eloquence, orating, and trading. Ankle tattoos are symbolic of this historic figure, who was the personification of quickness, both physically (speed) and mentally (wit).