Interested in getting a crow tattoo?
It’s an uncommon choice, especially compared to other popularly-inked birds like parrots, owls, doves, and swallows. Crows tend to carry a deeper, more spiritual meaning.
Crows have a reputation for being mysterious, and when it comes to tattoos, they err on the darker side—literally and figuratively.
Keep reading to learn more about crow tattoo meanings and the symbolism of this magical bird. We’ll also provide an overview of different crow tattoo styles and where to place this tattoo on your body.
Why Crow Tattoos?
Crows are beautiful birds, but their beauty differs from colorful birds, which are more friendly-presenting. Crows are not the kind of bird typically featured in vibrant, upbeat tattoos.
Instead, the presence of crows creates a somber, solemn mood. These birds often appear in horror-themed, literary-influenced, and spiritual tattoos.
Native to North America, crows are significant figures in folklore, mythology, and urban legends and have been for centuries. Crows’ symbolism varies across cultures, with the black bird representing death, rebirth, adaptability, deceit, and cleverness, among other traits. Many people liken crows to otherworldly spiritual guides.
Because of the crow’s versatile meaning, it’s easy to understand why people get crows as tattoos to symbolize important ideals or life milestones.
Symbolism in Crow Tattoo Meanings
Tattoos don’t necessarily need to have meaning. People get tattooed all the time because they like an artist’s style or a particular design. However, many people permanently mark their bodies with the likeness of one or more crows because the bird represents something deeper for them.
Crow tattoo meanings fall along the spectrum, with concepts that symbolize good fortune and others representing the crow as a bad omen.
Death and Mourning
Crows and death are associated both literally as well as symbolically. Crows are predators and scavengers, and they are known to feast on the carcasses of dead animals and even humans. Thus, when a mammal dies and crows are nearby, you’ll likely see a murder of crows—the grim official term for a group of crows—circling overhead.
When a crow dies, other crows surround the deceased and behave in a way that looks like mourning. The birds gather in groups of 60 to 70 to hold what’s known as “crow funerals.” However, these “funerals” are actually opportunities for the crows to communicate about dangers close by and how to avoid them.
In mythology, crows are deeply associated with darkness and the underworld. In Swedish folklore, it’s believed that crows took flight to guide home the wandering souls of the dead, particularly people who were murdered and did not have Christian burials. In German folklore, crows were believed to be possessed by the souls of the damned.
Rebirth and Transformation
Crows also symbolize rebirth and transformation, a continuation of death and mourning.
Many religions and cultures see death as transitioning from a physical body to a spiritual one. Shamanic beliefs view death as the breakdown of the ego as a necessary prerequisite for higher-level spirituality. Thus, because crows symbolize death, they also embody rebirth and the opportunity to start anew.
Therefore, a crow tattoo can embody the end of one phase, experience, or event in life, as a critical step to the start of another.
Cleverness and Intelligence
You may have heard the term “bird brain.” Used less often today, the term was first coined in the 1930s to describe a scatterbrained, unintelligent, and shallow person. The term derives from the notion that birds have small brains, which implies they’re dull-witted. The term itself is untrue, and most certainly so regarding crows.
Crows are among the most intelligent birds in the world. One study likens their intelligence to a chimpanzee or a seven-year-old child.
Crows belong to a class of birds known as Corvids, and Corvids are the only birds capable of making tools. These birds use rocks, sticks, wire, or other available materials, and the goal is almost always to collect food.
Crows also relay information to other crows, make decisions as a group, and recognize human faces—and whether that human is friendly or threatening. Because of their cleverness, crows can adapt to many situations, no matter the challenge. A crow tattoo can serve as a reminder to take a logical approach to problems in life.
Magic and Mysticism
Some ancient cultures believed crows could see the past, present, and future. Many Native American tribes perceive crows as shapeshifters or entities that teeter between the physical and spiritual worlds. Crows are also regarded as wise spirit guides and are even believed to communicate messages from the gods.
Black crows, especially, have otherworldly associations. Black as a shade represents the void, or a place of everything and nothing, and the birthplace of potential.
Because of crows’ spiritual association, they’re also prominently associated with witchcraft, spell crafting, and rituals.
Good Fortune or a Bad Omen
Depending on who you ask or what country you’re in, crows are a bad omen or a sign of good fortune. Much of the interpretation lies in the number of crows you see. Likewise, the number of crows you tattoo on your body is important to your tattoo’s meaning.
Let’s look into the meanings associated with the number of crows.
A single black crow is a sign of spirituality. You may tattoo a crow on your body to memorialize a loved one that passed. One crow communicates a message of comfort and the notion that you’re never alone because your loved one is watching over you.
However, it’s important to note that a single crow might also be a bad omen. It can also represent loneliness and the struggles of solitude and depression.
Two crows are symbolic of change and new beginnings. It represents the soon-to-be ending to any chaos in your life. It also signifies having two sides to your personality, or the concept that you can think and behave in two different ways.
A sighting of two crows is also seen as good luck.
Three crows represent a message sent from your guardian angel. This number also embodies good health and the inspiration to work on your mindset through constant self-reflection.
A sighting of three crows is also a sign of an up-and-coming wedding.
Four crows represent balance, stability, wealth, and prosperity. It’s also a sign of good fortune and a message that your prayers are being answered.
Five crows signify a change to come, often suddenly and without warning. The change isn’t necessarily a bad one, but it can be.
Unfortunately, five crows is also a sign of disease or pain, particularly regarding family. It can also signify that an important secret is being kept from loved ones.
Six crows are generally a symbol of bad luck. Six crows signify a loss of personal assets or theft in the home.
Six crows can also represent a deep longing and desire to become popular or well-liked amongst peers.
A Rhyme to Remember
Crows are associated with several different meanings, as mentioned. Depending on your country and the beliefs upheld there, the superstitions related to them will differ.
In 1992, The Dictionary of Superstitions by Oxford University Press published the following rhyme about crows that likens the number of crows to particular meanings:
One for sorrow,
two for mirth,
three for a wedding,
four for a birth,
five for rich,
six for poor,
seven for a witch,
I can tell you no more.
A dead crow carries a meaning that’s separate from live crows.
A dead crow is an omen of something bad to come, and it can represent something that is currently happening. It signifies a lack of safety and that a negative experience may soon plague you or your loved ones.
Crow Feathers and Meaning
Crow feathers have many meanings, too. These black feathers symbolize releasing past emotions and attachments to prior situations and being open to new experiences. Simply, black crow feathers represent a release from the past.
Some cultures believe that crow feathers are another way guardian angels or ancestors attempt to communicate with loved ones. Seeing a crow feather signifies that you’re on the right path.
Some cultures use crow feathers as a form of protection from evil. Crow feathers also represent enlightenment and good fortune.
What’s the Difference Between Crows and Ravens?
Crows and ravens are Corvids, but these birds differ in many ways.
First, ravens are double the size of crows. Ravens weigh an average of 2.5 lbs. with a 3.5- to four-foot wingspan, while crows average 1.25 lbs. with a 2.5-foot wingspan.
The shape of their wings, bodies, beaks, and heads also differs. Ravens have larger, thicker, curvier beaks and shaggier feathers at the base of their beaks. Ravens’ heads are rounder, while crows’ heads are more triangular-shaped.
Crows and ravens also sound different. Crows caw and purr while ravens shriek and croak.
Crows tend to travel in large groups while ravens do so in pairs. Crows flap their wings more often when in flight, while ravens prefer to glide and soar. You’ll also notice that crows’ tails are wedge-shaped while ravens’ tails resemble a fan.
You’ll never see crows and ravens hanging out together or around one another. These birds don’t get along and are known to attack each other!
Crow Tattoo Considerations
Now that you’re familiar with the symbolism of crows let’s consider how to choose the right tattoo for you. We’ll discuss popular styles used for tattoos that feature crows and share a few examples of crow tattoos.
How to Choose the Right Crow Tattoo For You
When you’re choosing a crow for your tattoo, it helps if you like the shade of black. Crows are usually black, though albino crows do exist. (Fun fact: the odds of a white crow is about one in 10,000.)
So before following through with a crow tattoo, make sure you’re okay with the use of color—or lack thereof.
If this is your first tattoo, it’s also encouraged that you choose something meaningful. If you want a tattoo of a crow because you’re a fan of the artwork or the artist, that’s certainly okay and carries a story and memory of its own.
Different Styles of Crow Tattoos
Crows are designed in many tattoo styles, including traditional, new traditional, fine line, watercolor, blackwork, realism, trash polka, geometric, black and grey, abstract, and Japanese-style tattooing. Tribal-, patch-, and cartoon-style designs are less popular for crows.
You may choose to tattoo a crow in flight or perched on a tree branch or power line. A popular tattoo design features a crow standing atop or alongside a skull paired with two or three red roses. Some crow tattoos have horror elements, such as a grim reaper or a graveyard scene.
To make your tattoo stand out, you may place a colorful background behind the crow, such as a vivid sunset or blue-hued moon. You can also stick to black and grey tattoos for a clean, classic look.
Examples of Crow Tattoos
Here are a few examples of tattoos that have crows in the design.
A trash polka-style crow
A new traditional-style crow
A bicep crow with a spooky setting
A fine-line crow with a rose
A colorful Halloween-themed crow
Common Placement Areas for Crow Tattoos
You can place a crow tattoo nearly anywhere on the body. However, the location you choose for your tattoo also carries a unique meaning. The arms, wrists, chest, and back are some of the most popular spots for tattoos of crows.
Tattoos on the Arm
The arms are a common place for crow tattoos. A tattoo on the bicep allows room for a larger piece, as does the entirety of the forearm.
Having a crow tattoo on the forearm symbolizes spiritual connection. A crow tattoo on the bicep represents the beholder as creative, not necessarily in the aspect of art, but in their ability to lead a meaningful life.
Crow Tattoos on the Wrist
The wrist is another popular location for crow tattoos. Typically, people will choose this area for a silhouette of a crow or a tattoo that isn’t heavy with detail.
Tattooing a crow on the wrist also signifies a spiritual connection. It represents the ability to handle life through guidance and wisdom.
Crow Tattoos on the Chest
Tattooing one or more crows on your chest is a great choice if you want a large, bold, and somewhat piercing artwork. Choosing this location signifies that the beholder approaches life face forward—in both a figurative and literal sense.
The chest is also a very sensitive location energetically. People keep their emotions and life issues, such as personal troubles, trauma, and relationship turmoil, “close to the chest.”
A crow tattoo in this location may represent overcoming trauma and facing life head-on in its aftermath.
Crow Tattoo on the Back
Crows have a reputation for being deceitful. As natural tricksters, they will scheme to achieve what they want or need. Having a tattoo with this meaning on your back represents life challenges.
Unfavorable circumstances will happen, perhaps right underneath your nose, but this tattoo signifies the ability to prevail fearlessly.
Fun Facts About Crows
Now that you’ve learned about the symbolic meaning of crows, here are three fun facts about this mysterious bird.
Fact 1: Crows have big brains.
A crow’s body-to-brain ratio is the largest of all birds. Crows even have a bigger body-to-brain ratio than we humans do. No wonder they’re so intelligent and quick to “think on their feet” (and while in flight, too).
Fact 2: Crows are great communicators.
As mentioned earlier, crows hold “funerals” for their dead. During the occasion, they share potential dangers with the other crows present. Crows remember these dangers for generations and generations to come.
An experiment was performed where some crows were captured and later released by a person wearing a caveman mask. A decade later, someone with a caveman mask returned to the same area, and the crows threateningly dove and cawed at him.
The crows’ actions indicated their awareness of the “threat,” even after ten years.
Fact 3: Crows believe there is strength in numbers.
To ward off enemies and protect their own, crows gather in packs to intimidate the threat. Together, the crows will dive down to try and knock the threat with their beaks, and some may even perish in the process.
Crow Tattoos: Bold Art with Deep Meaning
Crows carry such deep symbolic meaning, making them great tattoos representing personal milestones, morals, and motivations. Crow tattoos are ideal for those looking for a bold tattoo with deep meaning — a crow adds a dark and mysterious feel to any tattoo.
Interested in learning about the symbolism of other tattoos? Check out our website’s Tattoo Meanings blog posts to see what other images might be right for your future tattoos!