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Are swallow tattoos still closely tied to the Navy


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Living in Virginia a couple hours away from the largest naval base on the east coast, I'm wondering it it would be disrespectful for me to get a swallow tattoo with my daughters names in scroll. I know historical significance of the swallow tattoo in sailor lore showed experience at sea. I've never served, nor will I now, so I'll always be a Civilian. Give where Tattoos are today, has anyone heard or read if this would be disrespectful to those that served. FYI, both my grandfather and my wife's grandfather served in the Navy during WWII, so another reason I would want to respect this if it still holds strong meaning.

The swallow represents my wife and the scroll our three daughters. I'm going to add a couple other elements. Yes I know swallows are trite these days, but I have always thought of my girls associated with birds. Besides I'm having my artist, not copy, but use elements from City and Colour Sometimes album cover as a starting point in our design


I've already told my artist I want a good old school traditional bird in mostly black and grey, not a swirly girly looking bird. I'll add the wolfs head to my other arm in a couple years. :)

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I wouldn't worry too much about the "meaning" of any of the traditional tattoo images/designs because if you dig deep enough you will find that a single image can be tied to numerous groups and/or causes, some that you agree with and others that you want nothing to do with.

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I agree with the previous posters.

the tattoo is very personal to you, therefore I believe that the Traditional tattoo can mean whatever you want it to mean. The Swallow tattoo in particular is very ambiguous and has many meanings over the past century.

Originally, it was tattooed on sailors for good luck, as seeing a swallow at sea indicated that land was nearby. Eventually, having a swallow tattoo was seen as a career-landmark for the sailor as he got the swallow tattoo after sailing a certain amount of miles I believe.

In WW2, as you already mentioned, many sailors, and soldiers even, in the US military got the traditional swallow tattooed on themselves, sometimes with a sweetheart's name in a banner accompanying it.

In Britain in the 60's, 70's and 80's, however, it was associated with 'hard-men', who would have it tattooed on their necks, or on their hands. Traditionally, a swallow tattoo on each hand indicated that "these fists fly" or that they had done time in prison.

The Swallow tattoo is also a symbol for love and loyalty, as swallows choose one mate for life. Swallows also return home every year, so a swallow tattoo might indicate that the person wearing the tattoo feels a deep emotional connection to their hometown.

I plan to have a swallow tattooed on each shoulder blade soon, as a symbol for loyalty and also because I personally love the tattoo and it's history.

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