Harpy Tattoos: History, Meanings & Designs

Harpy Tattoos: History, Meanings & Designs

Most commonly known from Homer’s ‘The Odyssey’, the Harpy was a fierce half-woman and half-bird creature that punished those who had offended the gods. Whether by snatching their souls to take to the underworld or stealing food away from hungry mouths, it’s an imagery that has captivated the world and found it’s way into the world of tattoos.

Today we’ll talk about Harpy tattoos to tell you a little about their history, their meanings, common placements, and more. If you like Greek myth or the fierce spirit that the Harpy embodies, then be sure to read on and see what Harpy tattoos can say – it’s a lot more than you’d think!


What is the History of Harpy Tattoos?

The mythology of Greece is well-known around the world and one of the most famous of their creatures was the Harpy. Depicted as half-woman and half-bird, these creatures were said to have an insatiable hunger and to smell of death and decay. They were also about the size of Eagles, or perhaps just a little taller.

While they may have originally been spirits of the wind, in the myths they were often used as punishment by Zeus and the other gods and goddesses.

The most common scene would be a man who was seated in front of a table filled with food, but was starving, as every time he would try to eat the Harpies would snatch the food away! Incidentally, ‘snatch’ is the right word, as the name ‘Harpy’ translates directly to ‘snatcher’ from the original Greek.

Featured most famously in Homer’s ‘The Odyssey’, Harpies also made appearances in other tales, and were sometimes believed to snatch the souls of those who died to quickly take them to the Underworld below! While Greeks and Romans didn’t like to tattoo their bodies, the prevalence of these tales ensured that Harpy tattoos made an early appearance in our history!


What Do Harpy Tattoos Symbolize?

Harpies can represent a lot of things. They are greedy, for instance, and are also often symbols of punishment. A harpy can also be a dramatic representation of a woman who is foul-mouthed and downright mean, though they are just as likely to represent vengeance.

A Harpy might also symbolize the tendency that life seems to have of always taking things away from of, if portrayed in the broader sense, and some also view them not so much as monsters, but rather fierce manifestations of Nature – which tends to punish humans and animals alike when they get too ‘greedy’.

With their popularity in Greek myth, you really have a large pool of symbolism to draw from and a lot of recognition that started in Greece but is now firmly set around the world. As such, Harpy tattoos can not only symbolize a lot of things, but that symbolism might carry through even with other faraway and different cultures.


What Do Harpy Tattoos Mean?

The most common meaning when you see a Harpy tattoo is that it represents the owner, as if to say that they are not one to be trifled with and are ready to punish those who might dare to try it.

The second most common meaning is that the Harpy will represent someone else who was overly cruel or greedy!

Harpy tattoos can also just mean that someone has a love for traditional Greek mythos, or could also represent that they have a great respect and reverence for Nature – after all, these wind spirits were considered more of a natural consequence, rather than inherently evil, though like every myth the meanings have branched and evolved.

In the end, it will depend on how your Harpy is placed and whether it’s part of a scene or intended to express your own wilder, darker nature, or to depict the cruel machinations of another.

With such a famous subject, you can impart just about any meaning that you might like, even with minute changes such as facial expression on your skin art Harpy. So, take your time and have some fun with it – Harpy tattoos aren’t just powerful, but pretty flexible when it comes to their meaning.


Where Do Harpy Tattoos Usually Go?

Where Harpy tattoos go is really going to depend on the intent. Owners that wish to use the Harpy to warn others will pick a prominent place, such as the outer and upper arm or if particularly bold, maybe even a hand!

More often than not, however, a Harpy might go on the ankle or more intimately, the hip, as a warning to those who get close that the owner of this tattoo is not necessarily the forgiving sort and that transgressions will not be taken lightly!

As this is a famous myth, some might wish to use a backpiece to depict the classic scene from Odysseus where the blind man, Phineus, is being punished by the Harpies who keep snatching his food away, but barring a complex scene like this the most common placement will be somewhere intimate or highly visible.


Characteristics and Styles of Harpy Tattoos

Harpy tattoos can be done in many different styles and with the age of this myth, there are a lot of depictions to choose from. While the creatures of myth were small, they aren’t always depicted as such, and their typical characteristics include a frightening appearance and a fierceness of spirit.

They are said to be fast creatures as well, and this can certainly be communicated by a clever artist, though in almost all depictions you will have a clear image of a half-woman and half-bird (despite that some tales described them as swift maidens, rather than half animal at all!).

As they are intended to be powerful and frightening, many opt with styles that have more realism to them, but New School can be a lot of fun too, as the ‘cartoony’ art makes a fierce Harpy into one that is also rather fun, as well.

It all depends on the kind of Harpy that you have in mind and what she will be saying to those who view your beautiful, fierce skin art.


In closing

It’s hard to go wrong with Greek myths. Many of us grew up hearing them read to us from our parents or we studied them in school and everyone who has been exposed of them has heard of the Harpy.

Frightening, vengeful, and a force of nature, it’s really hard to find a more recognizable and fiercely beautiful skin art option than the classic Harpy, so be sure to have a little fun with this. Whatever design you finally choose, you can’t go wrong with Harpy tattoos!

Leave a Reply