Raven Tattoo Meaning: An Enigmatic Symbol

March 8, 2022
Max Stevens

The raven is undeniably one of the coolest birds to get a tattoo of, as it’s both elegant and appears overtly mysterious. 

Like most animal tattoos, a raven tattoo typically holds intense symbolic meaning for the wearer. 

An artist can design a raven tattoo in various ways, but this design is usually inked in an all-black style, and it’s usually a large and intricate representation. 

The raven is considered one of the smartest animals on Earth and is frequently symbolic of both wisdom and intelligence. 

But, this large bird can also represent several other meanings, which we’re going to cover in great detail. 

The reason why ravens are considered extremely intelligent lies behind their innate talent for talking, as well as voice imitation. They can also produce a wide variety of sounds, like, for instance, car horns, sirens, and dog barks.

Even though the song of ravens isn’t particularly appealing, they are officially classified as the largest songbirds. 

We will now acquaint ourselves with the symbolism of ravens in various cultures and traditions. Later in the article, we’ll also discuss how they can be designed, which will hopefully serve as inspiration for your awesome future tattoo.

Raven Tattoo Vector

The Cultural Importance of Ravens

Ravens are historically among some of the most frequently mentioned animals, and their importance covers both the mythological realm and literature. 

These birds often had powerful and magical qualities in various cultural traditions, which translated into contemporary literature, where ravens usually express vicious or sinister traits. 

Other Bird Tattoo Ideas: Eagle Tattoo Ideas

Ravens play a crucial role in Norse mythology, as they are directly connected to Odin, the king of all gods. Odin had two ravens, Huginn and Muninn, where one raven represented thought and the other memory.

Odin’s ravens would fly and collect precious information and then return to the god to inform him of pressing matters.

It’s interesting to point out that Odin also had two wolves, and ravens are frequently regarded as wolf-birds, as they tend to form cooperative symbiotic relationships with these animals. 

Ravens are also prominent in Ancient Greek and Roman mythology, and this bird is intricately connected to Athena and Apollo. 

Native Americans held a belief that ravens were an important symbol of balance. 

The raven also plays a role in the Quran’s version of the story of Cain and Abel, where it instructs Cain how to bury his sibling after he murdered him. 

Ravens are also an important staple in Celtic mythology. Celts often conflicted with other tribes and cultures, and ravens frequently scavenged the battlefield after each conflict. 

For this reason, they typically associated ravens with death and believed that these birds possessed mystical powers. 

The raven also appeared in the bible, where Noah released it from the ark with a dove to look for land after the cataclysmic flood. 

Inuits also revered ravens, and in their traditions, this bird usually has trickster qualities, intelligently deceiving both wolves and humans.

What Does a Raven Tattoo Mean

Now that we’ve covered the most important mythological meanings of ravens, we can move on to the most popular meanings of a raven tattoo. 

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A raven tattoo can represent protection to the wearer since ravens tend to watch over the events of humans.

Because of their dark and mysterious character, ravens can also represent the unconscious part of our psyche, also referred to in Jungian philosophy as the shadow. 

Since these birds also have a mythological connection to death, you can also use them to symbolise the afterlife.

Ravens were also given various magical properties in numerous cultures, so they can also represent magic. 

Finally, they are sometimes used as an all-seeing or omniscient symbol, and as they’re extremely intelligent, ravens can also denote wisdom. 

Ravens and Death 

Ravens became a symbol of death when various superstitions raged rampant in medieval times. 

This primarily happened because ravens are scavengers, and they would frequently scavenge the battlefields in search of food. 

Naturally, the horrible sight of these birds feasting on the deceased warriors produced a superstition that ravens are somehow connected to death, and this irrational belief lingers to this day. 

Ravens and Wolves 

raven and wolf tattoo on arm
Raven and Wolf Tattoo Source: https://www.instagram.com/johnredcorn_tattoos/

As we previously mentioned, ravens are also known as wolf-birds. They’ve earned this name because they sometimes form a cooperative relationship with wolves. 

Ravens follow a wolf pack to scavenge any remaining leftovers and return the favour by leading the wolves to pray and sometimes even alerting them of any dangers lying ahead. 

It’s not uncommon for wolves and ravens to engage in playful behaviour, which typically occurs with the young offspring of wolves. 

The Difference Between Ravens and Crows 

If you’re looking to get a raven tattoo, it’s important to get several details right since ravens have an uncanny resemblance to crows.

Other Cool Bird Ideas: Wing Tattoo Ideas & Meanings

Firstly, ravens have a longer and more curved beak when compared to crows. Their neck feathers are also slightly different: raven’s neck feathers have an uncombed appearance, while crows are completely smooth. 

Their wings also have differences. Crows have shorter wing feathers, while ravens are considerably longer and look like human fingers. 

Popular Designs of Raven Tattoos 

celtic raven tattoo on man's shoulder
Celtic Raven Tattoo Source: https://www.instagram.com/bearcattattoogallery/

Since they are a powerful symbol, ravens are typically tattooed alone, either in flight or perched position.

Some people also opt for a single raven feather, mainly because they want the meaning of the raven but would like to avoid tattooing the entire bird. 

Ravens are also frequently accompanied by other meaningful symbols. 

If the tattoo references death, the bird can be tattooed with a symbol of time (for instance, a timepiece). If the tattoo has a more personal connotation, it can also incorporate the date of death of a beloved one. 

Since ravens symbolise insight, they can also be tattooed with other symbols of that nature, like the all-seeing eye. 

Best Places For a Raven Tattoo 

blue raven tattoo at the center of man's neck
Blue Raven Tattoo Source: https://www.instagram.com/neotradtattz/

Ravens and other bird tattoos look fantastic when they’re inked with a lot of detail, and for this reason, a raven tattoo is usually placed on a large area of the body. 

This includes the chest, back, thighs and upper arms. This doesn’t mean that the raven can’t be tattooed as a small design, but people usually get a large tattoo of this bird. 

As for the colouring, ravens are typically inked in just black or black and grey, but sometimes a little colour is added to mix things up.


Max Stevens

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