The swallows are a welcome sign of spring, worldwide. Swallows in tattoos, however, were a historical symbol used by sailors to show off their sailing experience. Of British origin in the early days of sailing, it was the image of a barn swallow, usually tattooed on the chest, hands or neck. Travelling great distances was extremely difficult and dangerous in the early days of sailing, so one or more swallow tattoo denoted a very experienced and valuable sailor.
Another legend holds that since swallows return to the same location every year to mate and nest, the swallow will guarantee the sailor returns home safely. A sailor would have one swallow tattooed before setting out on a journey, and the second swallow tattooed at the end of their tour of duty, upon return to their home port.
We may not have swallow tattoos but we have a lot of swallows next to us every day! They are flying around, almost touching the sea surface and sometimes they hang on our ropes!