Tribal Butterfly Tattoos

By | December 25, 2013

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Tattoos started centuries ago and traces its roots from a frozen body uncovered with tattoo art work (used for arthritis back then), to 2,400 year old mummies who bore tattoo designs that were decorative in nature, thought to have magical implications. A tattoo was a representation of status; those who bore them, were marking their bodies due to ritualistic/traditional purposes. The word ‘tattoo’ comes from two parts of a derivative; ‘ta’, which is a Polynesian word, meaning to strike something; ‘tatau’, which is a Tahitian word, meaning to mark something.

I remember watching a show on tribesmen that used the ancient ways of tattooing by striking a needle dipped in ink, with a wooden stick. The sound it produced was said to have been similar to the word ‘tatau’. The release of a magazine that had only tattoo information, barring advertisements, was ‘Tattoo Time’, with its first edition being called ‘New Tribalism’. It opened up a whole new outlook on tribal tattoos, brought on by American innovators Don Ed Hardy and Leo Zulueta. It was founded in 1982, featuring native tattoos from Borneo and Samoa. Before getting tribal butterfly tattoos one has umpteen things to consider. We quell those doubts in the following write-up.

Tribal Butterfly Tattoos – Meaning and Personal Interpretation

Tribal butterfly tattoo designs translate into many reasons behind the idea, making them symbolic in nature to those who find it as a means of defining who they are, or what they’ve been through. So why are you getting one? A tattoo is a permanent mark, that one has to live with for a long time to come; remember – putting yourself through a laser tattoo removal surgery is an excruciating experience.

It is a process where the laser targets ink from within the many skin layers, breaking it down, penetrating deep enough to remove the remnants of your tattoo. These sessions can take up to five to eight weeks, to see visible results. It is expensive and a not so pleasant experience. So before you get comfortable on that tattooist’s chair meant for customers, make sure you know what you’re getting yourself into.

Representing Change

A tribal butterfly signifies a state of evolving. People may have changed over a course of time, and will want to remember that transcendence period, marking it as a permanent reminder. It can be due to a near death experience, a memorable relationship, death of a loved one, losing people in your life, personal struggles, battling a disease and so on.


A lepidopterist is one who collects/observes butterflies and moths. If one has a kind of fascination towards these insects, then getting a tribal butterfly art piece done seems like the perfect idea.

Representing Freedom

One can be tied down to many things, with a feeling of being overpowered, dominated over, and pushed around. There comes a time in one’s life, when these factors propel us to realize that we are better than that; elbowing our way out of cocoon-like situations. It is an immense feeling when breaking free, shedding our pasts and all those that tried to define you as someone you weren’t – like that of a newborn butterfly.

Nature Lover

The belief that we are interconnected with mother nature, where our primal states of being are forgotten due to our mortal shells, can be represented by the tribal butterfly tattoo. The butterfly can signify your bond with what surrounds you, highlighting how much nature means to you.

Not Taking Life for Granted

A butterfly is known to have a lifespan that lasts from a few days, to weeks or even months, depending on their species. One can never be certain to wake up to yet another day, and continue with one’s daily routines; a butterfly can represent how we should live each day to the fullest by doing things that we neglect or postpone constantly.

These tribal butterfly tattoo meanings are some of the many ways that you can use the tattoo to stand for something that speaks for you. These ideas can be very helpful in aiding you on how to go about on choosing an artwork piece that works in your favor.

Tattoo Body Placement

Tribal butterfly tattoo designs are generally put in areas that complement the tattoo, rather than having someone cringe at it in disapproval when you show them where you got it done. So be shrewd when picking out which part of the body you want it inked on, by taking the following suggestive placement ideas.

Lower Back

Lower back butterfly tattoos are one of the most common places butterfly tattoos are inked. A nice way to center the alignment of the tattoo is by adding extra design work on the left and right sides, so that it makes the butterfly pop rather than stay isolated. This idea can be incorporated later on when you’re ready to add more detail to the lower back tribal work.

Nape of the Neck

The tribal butterfly can be positioned two inches below the hair roots. Here the tattoo has to be minimal in size; you don’t want it to be too big until and unless the detailing of the tribal design is intricate and needs to be shown in a bigger size.


A nice place to get a tribal butterfly tattoo done is on the hip, just above where the hip bone curves away from the body. Especially for those who have slender hips, it can be placed there to give it the artwork a different feel to it, being an area that isn’t always picked out for tattooing, unless it suits you.


Avoid getting tattoos done on the flat surface of your feet (the front), since it isn’t advisable to do so. It is a friction prone area for shoes, socks (sweat) and even pedicure procedures. The ankle is an apt area to get it done. It is usually done a little higher above the ankle area, positioning it not too low and not too high. These can look really good if the design is chosen well and inked perfectly.


A slightly angled butterfly positioned on your shoulder can make it look more appealing as opposed to it being tattooed straight. The tattoo size for the shoulder is better when it isn’t too large, again depending upon the detailing of the tattoo work.

A tattoo session can give you goose bumps and trigger an adrenaline rush; keeps you wanting to go back for more. It may be painful the first time around, but it just turns addictive from there on. No one ever forgets the first time they get inked, and how they felt once the session was over. Always revise your artwork piece to make sure it is the kind of design you want to have inked onto your body.

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