Butterfly tattoos are beautiful, dynamic and versatile motifs for a man or a woman. Butterflies as a group are a classic icon in the visual and decorative arts. There is also frequent reference to these lovely creatures in music.
Butterfly tattoos, like butterflies, show up everywhere. You hardly have to think about it to see butterflies in every corner of life. Most people learn the story of the caterpillar’s incredible change from a “worm” to a beautiful winged insect while they are still young children, and the idea of transformation and hidden beauty is quickly ingrained in their minds. So on this level, butterflies are really a part of our popular culture. Later, the metaphor develops further associations for us such as a new beginning, major life changes, and rebirth. It could stand for the uncertainty and instability of life here on Earth. In a more literal way, butterflies stand for a person’s unencumbered spirit and the freedom of that spirit to take flight. They also stand for a love of nature and the environment. A memorial tattoo for a loved one is very often conceived and designed as a butterfly tattoo.
Interest in butterflies seems to be common to people on every continent. In Egypt, they were apparently used in tomb paintings purely for their ethereal beauty. The detail is so refined, I’ve read, that present day species can be readily identified, notably Danaus chrysippus, similar to the North American Monarch. Butterflies in China are representative of long life, and of a young man in love, respectively. Chinese kites featuring the slender-bodied diurnal lepidopteran insects are well-known around the world; butterflies make frequent appearances in Chinese scrolls; and Chinese butterfly tattoos are some of the earliest known butterfly tattoos. In South America butterflies were associated with a warrior’s soul, in an interesting parallel to the ancient Greek word for the insect, which is the same as the Greek psyche, or soul. In the North American Blackfoot tribe, butterflies were the bringers of dreams, the keepers of secrets, and an archetype of the lower part of the human soul that constantly seeks excitement and change. On the European continent, butterflies meant life after death in the ancient Celtic culture. In the Flemish renaissance iconography, it meant fleeting love, and to the Irish Catholics, butterflies symbolized souls waiting to enter purgatory.
Butterfly tattoos have a unique versatility that is almost unending. The design options can be considered in terms of size, color, style, and number and variety of design elements.
Size is related to design, in that when the butterfly tattoo size is smaller than the actual life size of the creature, a lot of detail is lost. This is no problem if the smaller sizes used are not in a realist or photographic style. A few non-realist styles include the wildly popular tribal butterfly tattoo, the Tiger-fly or Leopard-fly which are hybrids, Skully butterflies, heart butterflies and so on. I have yet to see a Steampunk butterfly tattoo, but this would be very effective coming from the needle of a great artist. The color is optional, and if it is to be used, depends somewhat on the skill of the tattooist. Depending on the size, placement and visibility of the ink, color is obviously a fashion consideration. When two people get matched inks to celebrate their union, it is common for one butterfly tattoo to be slightly different from the other in color or slight variation in design. The variety and number of design parts you can choose from are one of the most creative parts of personalizing the butterfly tattoo to truly represent you and you alone. Besides the winged creature itself, your tattoo may include other stuff of unlimited variety, for example, nature scenes, a guitar, fairies, musical notes, a quotation and so on.
Butterfly tattoos can be a lot of fun to choose. Good luck in choosing your ideal one. Just remember: a thoughtfully chosen design can provide awesome beauty and enjoyment for you as well as for everyone who sees your tattoo for the rest of your life.