What Is a Swallow’s Meaning?

The swallow is a common tattoo design that represents several things to different cultures. The swallow is a sign of sailing expertise, working-class pride, and optimism for a new beginning for many people.

Swallow tattoos have special implications for sailors. A sailor who has gone more than 5,000 nautical miles will usually get a swallow tattoo to show that he has a lot of expertise. Swallow tattoos are also said to be lucky for sailors, who think that if they drown, the swallow will securely whisk their soul away. In England, the birds were also connected with working-class pride, and many combatants had swallows tattooed on their knuckles or fists to represent their strength and speed.

The swallow was identified with Aphrodite, the goddess of love, in ancient Greece, and was thought to bring good luck and happiness. The ancient Romans considered the swallow to be a totem bird for grieving mothers, representing the spirits of children who perished in delivery. The swallow is a sign of sacrifice and rebirth for modern Christians, as well as a symbol of new beginnings.

Swallows are regarded as a symbol of hope regardless of one’s cultural beliefs. Many civilizations preserve the birds, and they are rarely killed or injured.

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Misha Khatri
Misha Khatri is an emeritus professor in the University of Notre Dame's Department of Chemistry and Biochemistry. He graduated from Northern Illinois University with a BSc in Chemistry and Mathematics and a PhD in Physical Analytical Chemistry from the University of Utah.

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