TATTOO DESIGNS & SYMBOLS - BIRD OF PARADISE TATTOOS
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Bird of Paradise Tattoo Design Meanings - Bird of Paradise tattoo designs can be found popping up in the most interesting of places, from the artwork of Greg Irons - iconoclastic San Francisco-based tattoo artist and graphic artist in the 60's and 70's - to the traditional Japanese tattooing of previous centuries. What is the attraction? The Bird of Paradise is the 'Diva' of the avian world, the flashy cousin of the raven and crow. The Bird of Paradise was rumoured to have come from the heavenly realms, where it soared through paradise without ever touching the earth. In fact, most of the species are endemic to the forested highlands of New Guinea and nearby islands, but they can also be found in Indonesia and eastern Australia. But the bird, and its legend, have travelled far afield and captured the imagination of people and cultures around the world. It is a testament to the extraordinary beauty of this winged vision.
The first European to file a report on the bird of paradise had this to say about it: "It was like a meteor whose body, cutting through the air, leaves a long trail of light."
Their extravagant appearance is a symbol to some people of elaborate thoughts, a healthy disregard for worldly concerns, and even suggests a special closeness to God, or at the very least, the favor of God.
Above all, the bird of paradise symbolizes just that - paradise -- and the miracle of life on earth. Because the bird is usually depicted in flight, those persons wearing a Bird of Paradise tattoo may be announcing to the world that their psychic kinship is with beings who prefer to 'rise above it all'.
The Bird of Paradise is a solitary tree dweller. Each species possesses its own shrill cry or whistle, and each male keeps his own well-guarded territory. Their flight is slow, perhaps because their habitat is not far reaching, and because they are not a migratory bird. The sexes have little contact with each other outside of mating season when the male's intricate seduction display resembles a wild dance.
New Guineans are said to have copied the rituals of the Bird of Paradise. Their traditional dances still evoke the bird's mating exhibition, its strut and stomp and, above all, its flamboyant plumage, which is said to symbolize the spirit flying. Anthropologist Gillian Gillison says, "By wearing the feathers, you get back the part of yourself that living takes away. You capture the animal's life force. It makes you a warrior." The bird of paradise has become so identified with Papua New Guinea, and the cultural practices of her people, that the bird is featured on the national flag. (from: nationalgeographic.com)
In the southern sky, the constellation 'Apus' refers to the Bird of Paradise. Apus means 'without foot'. Likewise, one of the species is named Paradisaea apoda, meaning 'legless bird of paradise'. No such legless variety exists, and the deceit originates with early native traders in bird skins, who removed the wings and feet before selling them. A legend developed among the earliest European explorers that these birds, visitors from paradise, flew with their faces forever facing the sun, surviving on nothing but air or dew from Heaven, and never touching the earth until they died. The female was believed to have laid her eggs on the male's back, and hatched them as he flew.
The British poet, John Keats, referred to the 'legless birds of paradise' (in his Eve of Saint Mark). And the 17th century poet, John Milton (author of Paradise Lost), has been likened to a bird of paradise: "...the poet-teacher-bird, whose plume is the pen of poetry."
Some varieties of the Bird of Paradise have been listed as endangered species (indeed, as endangered as poetry in the modern literary realm ), a direct result of the demands of the millinery trade in the 18th and 19th centuries. The birds were aggressively hunted to provide their beauty for the hats of upper class women. The wholesale massacre of the bird no longer takes place, but the black market in exotic plumes continues to thrive. Today, bird of paradise habitat is threatened and being lost to palm oil plantations, to widespread logging of rain forests and to oil, prospecting and mining. To protect the species that are in danger, the government of New Guinea has included all species in their protection legislation. Zoos around the world are playing an effective role in breeding the rarer Birds of Paradise.
South Americans have their own version of the Bird of Paradise, called the 'quetzal'. While not the same species, they share a reputation for beauty, and a common habitat high in dense forests. In Guatemala, the quetzal is the unit of currency as well as their national bird.
Famous Jazz musician, Charlie Parker, whose nickname was 'Bird', wrote a famous Jazz piece aptly called, 'Bird of Paradise'.
Get inspired by some really amazing images and photos in our Bird of Paradise Inspiration Gallery
See also: Bird Tattoo Index
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