What does the swallow tattoo mean?

The swallow tattoo on the right lip means what many believe was a symbol created by the devil or Satan. (Photo: Getty Images/iStockphoto)

A swallow (and other sea creatures) has become increasingly popular in the tattoo world.

In the 1940s, the use of swallow tattoos began to spread in Europe, with a trend that is also evident in North America. However, in the years that followed, as tattoo parlors began to find acceptance among the young and affluent, the term “sea creature” was used to describe people who wanted a tattoo of a sea creature. However, the word ‘sea creature’ became increasingly popular in the 90s and today is frequently used in tattoos as an adjective.

However, a single swallow is not necessarily a tattoo of the devil, and, according to art historian and tattoo artist James E. Brown, it is also not commonly seen as such in the United Kingdom.

I am currently getting an tattoo of a fish on my abdomen. How does it relate to the swallow (and is there anything else associated with this tattoo?)

To find a common sea creature that has been tattooed onto a body of art, look first at the artist, who may choose to represent the tattoo in some way, e.g., in large black ink beneath the skin with the artist’s name and work number. But, you can also find tattoos created by illustrators — usually artists who are either known or frequent tattoo parlors.

When the tattoos are created in a studio, they are typically used without a tattoo machine, where the artist draws and then uses a machine — either ink roller or spray gun — to spray ink into the body of an image.

“Once the ink is in the tattoo, it is typically removed,” says Brown. “This allows the artist to create detailed imagery to better represent the sea creatures in the tattoo.”

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