Today tattoos have become more popular than at any other time in recent history. More than 30% of people between the ages of 18 to 25, and 40 percent of those ages 26 to 40, have a tattoo and in many cases more than one. (Wong, 2003) With all of these tattoos being performed, does it seem strange that butterflies are the most common tattoo found on women? Not really, if you look into the history of the butterfly symbol and its importance in human history.
There have been many variations of the story of butterflies in human mythology. Some cultures believed that each time a butterfly left its cocoon, a human soul was formed. Other cultures see butterflies as the souls of the dead waiting in purgatory while other cultures show butterflies as symbols of joy and happiness. Many Native American tribes had specific ideas about the butterfly symbol. They believed that they symbolized everlasting life and considered them to be the transformers or changers of life. (Michilak, 2010)
The butterfly symbol is primarily used by women in today’s modern society but that has not always been true. Augustus, an emperor of Rome, used the butterfly to symbolize his power, and the male priests of Mayan culture also used the butterfly on their clothes to symbolize their sacred fire. (Hemingson, 2010)
The reasons why butterflies have become a more feminine symbol in today’s society are not known but considering modern society’s obsession with beauty, it seems to make sense. Butterflies symbolize beauty just like they did in the past yet they are still considered a symbol of change or metamorphosis. (Hemingson, 2010) So, if a woman is trying to decide what picture she wants to have put on her body for the rest of her life, it makes sense she would want something that was once a horrible ugly bug but became a beautiful butterfly. The woman who has this tattoo may feel that she will be metamorphosed after she gets her butterfly tattoo.
The idea has been purported that because the butterfly is known to symbolize death and rebirth that perhaps women choose the butterfly tattoos when they feel like things are too tough. The idea of bad things ending and starting over could be something you want to keep on your body for the rest of your life. Most likely a butterfly just symbolizes something beautiful to many women and they choose it solely for aesthetic reasons.
The butterfly has also been chosen as the symbol for the transgender community and has become the logo for the Butterfly Coalition International. The idea that the butterfly symbolizes metamorphosis for many people was the reasoning behind their choice. (Coalition, 2010) Obviously women and men choose butterfly tattoos for all sorts of reasons. But, whatever the reason, the placement of these tattoos can be as important as the tattoo design itself. The most popular area seems to be the lower back with the ankle coming in a close second. The shoulder area is also popular. Selection of these areas probably means that, more than likely, the person wants other people to see their tattoo. In some cases, a person will choose a hidden place because the meaning of their tattoo is for their loved ones as well as themselves.
There is no best way to find a butterfly tattoo but visiting as many possible tattoo design sites on the internet as well as real life tattoo shops is a great start. The designs range in size, color, and shape which makes the choice difficult but allows for so much more individuality for the seeker of a butterfly tattoo.