Swallows are a staple of American traditional tattooing, and were first tattooed on sailors. They are as popular as ever to those who love travel and the sea, and are now done in other styles such as black and grey, realism, linework, dotwork, surrealism, and watercolor.
The meaning of a swallow tattoo was firstly to indicate that a sailor had sailed 5000 miles. They also mean a return home, as swallows would migrate, returning to their homes. A metaphorical return also meant that if a sailor died at sea, the swallow would carry their souls to heaven.
The Grim Reaper is a sign of death in many cultures. In Western culture it is often seen as a skeleton in a cloak, with a scythe or a noose, usually a male. He is usually seen as frightening, but in myth does not actually kill people, he merely guides you to the afterlife. This version of the reaper is based off of Charon, from Greek mythology, who steers the boat across the River Styx, carrying the dead across to the underworld.
Reaper tattoos are usually done in American traditional style, but are also often done in black and grey, neo traditional, dotwork, and realism.
The reaper is often shown in tattoo form as just a hood and skull,with its scythe, but is also often seen in full body form.
The name Rock of Ages comes from a hymn written by Augustus Toplady in the mid to late 1700’s while he found refuge from a violent storm on a rock at sea. The first two lines of the hymn are “Rock of ages, cleft for me, Let me hide myself in thee.” Rock of ages then became a painting about 100 years later. In the 1860’s Johannes Oertel painted a picture that was first called “Saved, or an Emblematic Representation of Christian Faith” which was later widely reproduced and called “Rock of Ages”.
The image was perfect for tattooing, with its strong, dramatic nautical theme, beautiful woman, and religious symbolism. As a tattoo this piece often also features a sinking ship, multiple women on the rock, skulls, multiple crosses, etc. The image has been recreated as a tattoo for a long time now, and can be traced as a tattoo as far back as the late 19th Century when it was tattooed by Samuel O’Reilly.
It is usually done in old school traditional style, but can also be done in black and grey or realism. The shape and diversity of the piece means it can be done well on many parts of the body. It is most popular on arms or as a full back piece.
The image can have many meanings, but most obvious is that your faith, whatever it is, will keep you safe during troubled times.
Sean Baltzell is a thirty something year old, old school traditional artist working out of Tower Classic Tattooing in St. Louis. Sean is a talented artist who draws inspiration from skateboard graphics and album artwork from his younger days, mixing them with timeless old school designs, such as nautical themes, Japanese style, women, and animals.
A portfolio by Brian Cummings shows clients who have been tattooed, some quite heavily, by Sean Baltzell.
Moth tattoos are the darker version of a butterfly tattoo. They often stand for searching for a light in the dark. They are also often associated with moonlight, searching for this light with little to no regard for their own safety. This makes it a vulnerable, spontaneous, but determined creature.
Moth tattoos can be done in most styles, but are most popular in black and grey, dotwork, realism, and old school. They are also often done in neo traditional.
Death moth tattoos are also an extremely popular design. Deaths-Head Hawkmoth get their name from a species of moth that gets it’s name from the skull-like mark on its thorax. It has often been seen as a bad omen in history.In 1840, entomologist Moses Harris wrote that “It is regarded not as the creation of a benevolent being, but the device of evil spirits—spirits enemies to man—conceived and fabricated in the dark, and the very shining of its eyes is thought to represent the fiery element whence it is supposed to have proceeded. Flying into their apartments in the evening at times it extinguishes the light; foretelling war, pestilence, hunger, death to man and beast.” It is no wonder then that it is a popular tattoo design for lovers of the darker side of life.
Do you have your own moth tattoo? Let’s see it in the comments!
Wolf tattoo’s are often done in American Traditional, or realism, but can also be done in black and grey, neo-traditional, dotwork, tribal, etc. The wolf is often a symbol of determination. It can also stand for having strong ties to family and friends, as the wolf is a pack animal.
The wolf is a particularly meaningful animal for Native American peoples; it is seen as a totem of power and strength, and also a spiritual guide. Wolves are symbolic of family life, as wolves mate for life and are strong parents.
The wolf can also be used to represent hard times, or surviving hard times. A wolf tattoo that features a dagger often means that the person wearing the tattoo has overcome hardship, as well as a promise to oneself that they will never be defeated by personal struggles. Whatever the reason for a wolf tattoo,it is a strong design.
Black and grey wolf by Matthew Henning of Sacred Heart tattoo in Manchester.
Detailed neo-traditional hand banger by Håkan Hävermark at Crooked Moon tattoo in Helsingborg, Sweden.
Black and grey wolf by Matthew Henning of Sacred Heart tattoo in Manchester, and detailed neo-traditional hand banger by Håkan Hävermark at Crooked Moon tattoo in Helsingborg, Sweden.
Another popular wolf design is a woman wearing a wolf as a cowl, often inspired by Little Red Riding Hood or Princess Mononoke.
Tattoos of Jesus Christ are a very popular design, particularly scenes depicting him wearing the crown of thorns or him on the cross. Jesus tattoos are also often paired with his mother Mary, or angels.
Jesus tattoos can be done in many styles, but the most popular are American traditional, realism, and black and grey. Here are a few of the best!
Devil tattoos are one of the classics in tattoo history. Devil doesn’t always refer to a red man with horns, it can also be just a symbol of evil. Having a symbol like this on your body can mean protection from demons/the devil by scaring them away. It can show a mischievous side of you, or a rebellious attitude. Sometimes they can be portrayed with an angel counterpart, or a woman, generally symbolizing the balance between good and evil.
Here are some of the best devil tattoo designs. They come in all kinds of styles, from American traditional, to neo-traditional, new school, black and grey, watercolour, realism, and experimental. Whatever the style, a devil tattoo is bold “as hell”.