Eagle Tattoos: History, Meanings & Designs

Eagle Tattoos: History, Meanings & Designs

Eagle tattoos have long held historical meaning and significance, perhaps dating as far back as several thousand years ago, or as long as we have had the ability to inject permanent ink under the skin. Outside of strict, traditional meanings, eagle tattoos are immensely popular for a variety of reasons. 

In modern times, the significance of an eagle tattoo usually revolves around western ideals of liberty and freedom. It’s also very important to Native American Cultures, as an eagle represents the great spirit. It represents salvation in Christianity and the yearning to fly in a variety of cultures. 

The bald eagle is second only to the American flag as a symbol of freedom, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness. Its also widely used in biker clubs and gangs for mostly the same reasons. 

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What is the History of Eagle Tattoos?

The history of eagle tattoos is slightly varied, depending on the point of view, which mostly extends to the various cultures. In the US, the bald eagle is the national bird and the symbol of our republic. 

However, the bald eagle is not the only eagle that roams the skies over North America.

For the most part, eagles are representative of power, freedom, and bravery. Eagles are birds of prey and are generally respected as such throughout North and South America. 

For Native Americans, eagles of all types are spiritual symbols and they all have different meanings, depending on the tribe and their point of view. There are many Native tribes in both North and South America and their beliefs, in terms of eagles, are different, however, they all follow the same vein in that they are spiritual in nature. 

For the most part, it’s a symbol of protection, like a shield. 

For the Japanese, the eagle is a symbol of overwhelming power and explosive, forward momentum. Japanese culture places particular emphasis on the talons of the eagle, which are already large and far more extensively illustrated in Japanese art forms. 

Mexico carries the eagle on their flag and their national feelings on the eagle closely mirror that of Japan. In Mexico, the very heritage of the people is identified with the eagle and it goes all the way back to Mayan and Aztec cultures from ancient times. 

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What Do Eagle Tattoos Symbolize?

From the perspective of the onlooker, eagle tattoos symbolize power. In fact, they are often combined with lions or wolves to further emphasize that lone word and all of the meaning that it entails. 

The symbol of the eagle takes many forms. The artistic and fiercely patriotic display is typically done in bright colors of red, white, and blue, while other eagles are done in tribal styles, which mimic the ancient designs of native cultures. 

Even when the artistry of the eagle is rendered in tribal aesthetics, it still retains its core meaning in that it symbolizes power. You can’t look at an eagle tattoo and think to yourself that it reminds you of a flowery garden. 

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Characteristics and Styles of Eagle Tattoos

There are three ways in which the eagle is traditionally represented as a tattoo. None of these methods are inferior or superior to any other but representative of both the personal preferences of the person getting the tattoo and how they think that particular aesthetic will present itself to others. 

Of course, the variations between the three different design types are nearly limitless, with the sophisticated, raw power of the screaming bald eagle matching perfectly with the stoic calmness of the silent, retrospective eagle design. 

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Tribal Eagle Tattoos

When eagles are presented as tribal artwork, they are typically associated with Native cultures, mostly in North America but extending into South America as well. The historical and spiritual symbolism of the eagle is rendered in limited color variations, yet no less effective.

The effect of a tribal eagle tattoo is no less than seeing one, perched aloft and carved of wood at the top of a spirit totem. The symbology and meaning behind the eagle are not lost in the art form. 

While the colors may be more limited, the artistic style of a tribal tattoo, with its blockier curves and stricter angles, projects the raw edge of power that the eagle manifests wherever it is represented. 

Standard Eagle Tattoos              

We use the word “standard” very hesitantly, knowing that the word is eclipsed by the sheer variety of individual, artistic styles that are represented by the eagle tattoo. From screaming eagles to solemn, raptor stares—from soaring eagles to talon-focused, predatory attacks, the eagle is fierce and majestic in its renderings. 

For those who prefer black and white eagle tattoos, nothing is lost with the absence of color. After all, black and white merely draw attention to the finer details. More modern representations include a lot of curves, grace, and elegance in the design, with deep colors making the raptor appear to leap from the skin. 

Traditional American Eagle tattoos are another variation of the myriad artistic styles in which the symbolism of the eagle is conveyed. Minimal coloring and similarity with tribal tattoos bridge the gap between tribals and conventional eagles. 

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Realistic Eagle Tattoos

The coolest aesthetic vibe rests with the realistic eagle tattoos. Through these, the eagle’s power and soaring might are projected to the forefront in all of its glory. You usually see these eagles mingling with other apex predators or draped in the American flag. 

These types of tattoos are highly symbolic of patriotism and tend to be more for the types who want to emphasize the ideals of freedom and liberty, along with the power and majesty of these incredible birds of prey. 

A true, realistic eagle tattoo will competently convey the penetrating glare of a true raptor that is about to launch itself into the hunt. 

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All Things Considered

Eagles have a long history that dates back thousands of years and have always served, to one degree or another, as a powerful symbol to most cultures, even in modern times. The artistic designs in eagle tattoos are numerous and all of them are powerful representations of the bird itself.

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