Of all the creatures in the world, none are more honored, loved and ancient as that of the butterfly.
They exist on every continent in the world, except Antarctica, and humankind has marveled at their beauty, fragility and resilience.
There’s a host of tales, legends and myths surrounding various species of butterflies in places like Ireland and Greece all the way across the ocean to the Americas.
Because swallowtails are butterflies, they take on most of the common meanings that any garden variety represents. These include change, transformation, death and rebirth. But, swallowtails in particular carry additional symbolisms that include things like intuition, insight, beauty and strength.
Always do your own research into specific species and develop an idea of what it means to you.
Remember, it doesn’t have to be a popular or widely accepted interpretation. In the end, it must be something profound for you.
Greek Mythological Connections ; Meaning
Swallowtails are some of the most common types butterflies, having somewhere in the ballpark of 550 to over 600 species.
Their symbolism and meaning is rich with layers of depth and have a connection to ancient Greek mythology.
Several species take on the names of characters and deities from this culture. The specific species you want for a tattoo will fuse the symbolism based on that myth. The following list indicates some of the more common species.
- Apollo: Sun god of wisdom, light, truth and justice; intricate association with the nine muses.
- Machaon: Son of Asclepius, the great healer and brilliant doctor.
- Homer: One of the greatest historians and storytellers of the ancient Greek world.
- Polyxena: Daughter of King Priam, ruler of Troy at the time of the Trojan War.
- Mnemosyne: Mother to the nine muses of song, music, poetry and dance.
- Parnassus: This is the mountain where the nine muses live.
- Glaucus: A prophetic sea god and father of Bellerophon who transformed into a deity after eating a magical herb, some theorize it was a special mushroom.
- Polydamas: As the lieutenant and friend of Hektor during the Trojan War, he always offered cautious battle plans and military advice.
Based on what we know about specific types of swallowtails, there is a particular meaning that accompanies them.
To learn more about the species you want as a tattoo, learn about their habits, behaviors, mating rituals, characteristics and migration patterns. These give essential clues into their deeper meanings.
The following examples hope to inspire an interpretation other species for your own understanding:
These types of butterflies have classic blue and black markings that are hands-down breathtaking.
They are messengers from the great beyond and tell us we are ready for the next phase of our lives.
Such fancy flutterers depict a flow of enlightenment, strength, insight and enrichment coming into your life.
They encourage action to shape the future we wish to create and tell us to let go of those things that no longer serve a purpose in our lives. This includes people, ideas, beliefs and attitudes.
These gorgeous yellow and black butterflies have wing markings that make them look like tigers.
These colors not only denote integration of the light and dark aspects of the self but they also speak to a deeper association with the rhythms of life.
Tiger Swallowtails signify rest, prayer and healing in regards to lunar cycles along with projecting more positive solar energies.
Zebras have their name by the appearance of their wings; they’re black with white stripes that appear as the horse-like animal from Africa.
They denote the balance between dualities, a yoking together of extreme opposites.
These types of butterflies signify controlled freedom, limitless boundaries and the power of self-integration.
The Meaning of Swallowtail Colors
Although many species are black or incorporate a heavy amount of black, they vary in size, color and markings.
Some have specs of blue, white, yellow, green, orange and red. All of these colors have their own special meaning in relationship to the swallowtail.
- Black: freedom, authenticity and self-acceptance; nighttime, rest, dreams, hidden wisdom and regeneration
- Blue: spirituality, tranquility and faithfulness; heavenly associations, authority, humility, virtue and holiness
- Green: fertility, nature and growth; renewal, matters of the heart and abundance
- Orange: health, wellness and gut instincts; creativity, sensuality and success
- Red: passion, courage and power; vitality, personal security, inner will and love
- White: purity, innocence and rebirth; spirituality, peace, angelic protection, loyalty and new beginnings.
Yellow: joy, happiness and truth; warmth, light, action, vitality and personal power
There are a million different ways you could have a swallowtail tattoo on your body.
Depending on the species and where they inhabit, you could focus the overall design to reflect that nation, culture or tradition.
For instance, if you have your sights set on the Asian Swallowtail, you can feature the beautiful black and yellow of this butterfly in a Japanese-style display.
For an Eastern Black, you could get it done as a watercolor, traditional American or Native American totem.
If you want to connect to the Greek understanding of these butterflies, you could do a 3D, abstract, art deco or hyper realistic.
For instance, it’s possible to have the nine muses dancing around a swallowtail or Mnemnosyne’s face decorated in swallowtail wings.
Then you want to think about the placement of the tattoo. Butterflies often make a great accent for wrists and ankles.
But, many people will have just the wings tattooed on the back of the shoulders or highlighting the delicateness of the front of the shoulder.
You could even have a string of butterflies radiating in size up the thigh or calf.
The swallowtail butterfly is a time-honored creature that’s perfect for any tattoo.
For something that’s delicate colorful and beautiful while denoting personal power, change and transformation, a butterfly like this will be ideal.
Remember, take your time, do your own research and think long about how you want it to look against your skin.