TATTOO DESIGNS & SYMBOLS - SEAL TATTOOS
Tattoo designs - S >> Seal
Seal Tattoos - The seal is symbol of courage at sea for the Nootka people of the Pacific Northwest. As a creature that moves in water and on land, the seal is a symbol of elemental balance and harmony. The very word 'seal' is likely to conjure up images of the 'performing seal', balancing a ball on its nose, but in fact that's the sea lion, its close relative. The scientific term for both the seal and sea lion is Pinnipeds, meaning 'feather foot' or 'wing foot'.
Both have seals and sea lions have flippers on all four limbs, but the seal is unable to rotate its hind legs the way the sea lion is able. On land, the seal has to lurch and roll to cover terrain, whereas the sea lion is able to maneuver easily over rocky shores and beaches. But in the water, with its supple and streamlined body, the seal is supreme. Elephant seals have been recorded diving up to 1620 meters in depth (almost a mile beneath the surface) and staying underwater for up to two hours, an extraordinary evolutionary adaptation. The Sperm Whale is the only marine mammal able to dive deeper. The elephant seal is also the largest, and males may weigh up to five tons. During the breeding season, the 8% of males which acquire a harem of females do not feed, and they may lose up to twenty percent of their bodyweight.
Seals and sea lions are apex predators, but must keep a vigil eye open for Orcas - Killer Whales - and large sharks, the Great White, in particular. Seals have been hunted for both their meat, often a welcome addition to a sailor's table, and for their fur, and in some cases certain species have been pushed to the brink of extinction. The legend of the mermaid probably finds its origins in sailors spotting seals far out to sea, and after many months on the open ocean (and one too many tots of rum), imagining them to be beautiful maidens with fish-like tails.
Unlike the sea lion, the seal does not have visible ears, only small openings, giving rise to an association with listening to the inner voice. The sea, in which the seal is so confident and efficient, represents life's inner rhythms.
With its thick layer of blubber, the seal is able to stay warm as it delves deep beneath ice floes to catch fish. In the Nootka creation myth, that fur coat came from Raven, who rewarded Seal for his help in finding a landing spot. The Chinook people have a shape-shifter legend of a boy taking the form of a seal.
Being a creature of the water - though it delivers its young on land - the seal is a symbol of the creative forces, intuition, and the powers of the imagination. It communicates under water with a variety of barks, moans, yelps and sighs. The mating calls of the seal are well known to the Inuit, who 'tune in' to these 'love songs' by dipping their kayak paddles into the water and then putting their ear to the handle. By listening to these reverberating sounds, an Inuit hunter is able to locate the seal's whereabouts. For the Inuit, the seal is a symbol of prosperity and good fortune.
Seal myth and legend comes from the Celts, the Icelanders, as well as the Nootka. The famous story of the 'Selkies' comes from the Celts. Planted deep in their psyche is the notion that humankind can meet and mingle with other creatures of nature. From the mists of Celtic magic come the stories - often tragic and romantic - of beautiful Selkie men and women shedding their silky seal coats and catching the eye of some smitten human. Stories of humans falling in love with a Selkie are usually tinged with sorrow. The only way to keep a Selkie from returning to the sea is to steal, hide or burn its seal coat.
There are those who say that the Selkie legends reflect the ancient belief that some who drowned at sea took the form of a Selkie and sought to return to the living world of humans.
For many small coastal communities in Canada, Alaska, Siberia and throughout the Arctic lands ringing the North Pole, seal hunting may be the main source of income, food, and survival. Commercial 'sealing' is now regulated due to the depletion of the seal population, and public protest. Consequently, the seal has become an iconic symbol of preservation, conservation and animal rights.
Those who look to the seal as an animal guide - or see themselves with a seal tattoo - are likely playful, and may want the tattoo as a reminder not to get too serious. 'Going with the flow' is a powerful seal message warning against fighting the currents and changing tides, but instead to open to opportunities that are available to them. Seal people are often highly creative and imaginative.
Get inspired by some really great images and photos in our Seal Inspiration Gallery
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Tattoo designs - S >> Seal
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