Butterfly Tattoo

For most people, when they think about tattoo imagery, the subject matter of insects probably does not spring immediately to mind. In fact, it’s probably not even a close second. Yet one of the most popular designs being done today, probably ranking right at the top of those being done on women, and a symbol that has even come to typify the tattoos of the 90s, is the butterfly. While tattoos that use butterflies surely do capitalize on their great beauty and diversity, they are also highly symbolic creatures in many cultures, including our own.

Butterfly Tattoo Design by Greg James

Butterfly Tattoo Design by Greg James

Beginning in the east though, in Japan, one butterfly stands for young womanhood while two symbolize marital bliss. To the Aztecs of ancient Mexico however, the butterfly stood both for the souls of dead warriors who had fallen on the battlefield and the souls of women who had died in childbirth – the two most noble deaths of which an Aztec could conceive. In Christianity it likewise stands for the soul which has escaped the confines of the flesh. In the west, as elsewhere, the symbolism of the butterfly centers upon its unique transformation. From one existence as the slow and crawling caterpillar, then to the dormant and captive chrysalis or cocoon, and finally the rebirth into a light and airy winged creature, the metamorphosis of the butterfly is one of its most powerful and uplifting meanings. Accordingly, over time, the butterfly has also come to represent not only beauty itself but also the transitory nature of that beauty and indeed of all life. Despite their enormous variety and their delicate and detailed coloring, their embellishment in tattoo art may well rival that found in nature.

Tiger Butterfly Tattoo by Greg James

Tiger Butterfly Tattoo by Greg James


Butterfly Tattoo — 4 Comments

  1. I am a christain and a law student and just had a butterfly tatoo done… I am madly in love wit it bt i am getting negative comments like i wont get a job in a law firm and stuff

    • Hi Tshedy,

      As tattoos move further and further into the main stream, those sorts of negative comments are less and less applicable. As with any tattoo, the level of acceptance that we receive depends on so many factors: the subject matter, the placement, the size, the circumstances. If I had swastikas on my face, I would likely be barred from a workplace where I needed to interact with the public. But as someone with a backpiece, I taught at a university. I wasn’t particularly trying to hide my tattoo, but going backless isn’t the typical academic garb (I’ve since moved on from teaching). Though my first tattoo book had been published, I rarely had a tattoo conversation. Likewise, the professor with whom I shared an office had a tattoo on their inside wrist. It was often visible but had no apparent impact on what colleagues or students thought. With a new sleeve, I’m still not typically asked about tattoos, though more than when I just had a backpiece. Unless you’ve decided to have a tattoo on your hands, neck, or face, clothing that covers it is always an option. Frankly, because I’m so wary of the effects of UV radiation on tattoos, mine rarely see the light of day.

      I haven’t kept up with the latest polls about attitudes towards tattoos, but I feel safe in saying that they’re becoming commonplace enough that the majority of people aren’t bothered by them (or much interested), even though they do notice. No doubt your butterfly is lovely and I’m very glad you enjoy it. That’s the only real measure of the success of a tattoo. It’s often said that the people who care the most if people are tattooed or not are the UNtattooed. Let’s just say that those people are becoming fewer and fewer and their opinions are carrying less and less weight.

      All the best,

  2. I also have a butterfly tattoo and I am in contact with people on a daily basis at work but no one ever made a negative remark about it just few comments that im weird and other times people at work would sy things like oh no they will never do such thing etc. I have had my tattoos done because I love it and to me my butterfly and clover means something therefore I will wear it with pride .lol both tattoos on places where its not easy to see . You have your tattoo becAuse you wanted it not for any other reason…so enjoy it and never worry what others say or think of it.

  3. Pingback: SIGNIFICADO DE LOS TATUAJES | vidaibero

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