Tattoos and Body Art
Care of Birds
The Difference Between

What is the difference between a sparrow and swallow tattoo?

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July 29, 2009 1:27AM

the main difference is that the birds are two different species. A sparrow is a small, brown-grey colored bird. A swallow is a larger blue bird with red cheeks and a greyish-white breast. the two tattoos also have separate meanings: a sparrow tattoo is very rare and may have a religious meaning (the passage from the Gospel of Matthew referred to below). the swallow is related to sailing and is on earliest record in the 1500's, though it probably has much more ancient roots. Sailors get their first swallow after their first 5,000 miles at sea and their second after their first 10,000. Typically, they will get a banner put between the two and add nautical stars for each 5,000 after that (On a separate note, after a sailor crosses the equator, he will traditionally get a tattoo of a tortoise shell or Neptunis Rex (King Neptune) on his back). The swallow tattoo is also used as a good-luck charm because swallows have long been known to travel long distances over land and sea, but always return to the same place for the mating season. Thus, the sailors believed that not only would the swallows bring them home safely, but if they were to die at sea, the swallows would carry them to home to heaven. It is also known that the swallow can have very different connotations outside of the shipyards. Some prisoners will tattoo sparrows on themselves when they get out representing their freedom. Fighters have been known to tattoo sparrows on their fists as a charm to make their punch faster (i.e. "these fists fly"), and white supremecists (especially in British and Commonwealth prisons) use them to advertise themselves as being such. All this being said, most of the time tattoos mean what you say they mean. I asked a few tattoo artists and think that they are one in the same I'm not too sure about the swallow tattoos because I haven't researched them. From the previous posts it seems as though they have a sailing history behind them. Apparently swallows were seen by sailors as they were returning to land. The swallows would be the first sign letting the sailors know they would be returning home. I have read that they also may have signified the distance traveled by sailors, usually great distances. As far as the sparrow tattoos I've always known of them as a religious tattoo and nothing else. Although I guess a tattoo can mean whatever you want it to. I 've never heard of them being related to sailing or white supremacy. Luke 12:6-7 and Matthew 10:29-31 explain how God will not forget one single sparrow and how each hair on your head is numbered so you are more valuable than many sparrows. It explains how God cares for every one of us and no one will be forgotten.