Swallow tattoos are a popular design that can have many different meanings all over the world. For a sailor the swallow tattoo was widely known as a status symbol. The origin of the tattoo dates back to a ship called “The Swallow.” The ship had a mutiny and in order for the sailors to know one another they each had a swallow tattooed on their chests. The swallow tattoos were meant to protect the sailor on their journey yet, others believed that if a sailor died at sea and had a swallow tattoo on their chest that it would fly their spirit to heaven. For this reason, swallow tattoos were a great comfort to sailors. The first swallow tattoo meant the sailor had traveled 5,000 miles and the second tattoo meant they had traveled 10,000 miles. Swallow tattoos are also a symbol of working-class pride, mostly in the UK. Older men with the swallow tattoo were great fighters in their younger years, the tattoo was supposed to give them fast hands. The tattoos meaning is “these fists fly” and can be located on most commonly be located on the back of hands. Swallow tattoos are also at times used in prison as a sign for “white power”, a gang tattoo at times. Then again some freed prisoners get the swallow tattoo as a sign of freedom.
The swallow is the only bird that mates for life, therefore the tattoo is also a sign of love, hope and loyalty to the family. The tattoo is almost always combined with flowers or stars. Swallow tattoos are often done in pairs, one for life and one for death, one for good and one for evil, along the lines of a yin and yang type tattoo.