Many beach goers see the pelicans that flock along the wharf as just another bird of the sea. People who wear pelican tattoos, however, know that these birds carry deep spiritual significance.
In Ancient Egypt, the pelican was associated with death and the afterlife.
The bird was also revered by the Moche people of Peru and the Murri of Australia. In India, a myth states that a pelican once killed its children and felt such guilt that it pecked open its breast and resurrected them with its own blood.
In medieval Europe, Christians viewed the pelican as an ultimate creature of matriarchy and motherhood. They believed (incorrectly) that in the scarcity of food, the pelican mother would wound herself and allow her chicks to drink her blood. Scholars and clerics aligned the sacrifice of the pelican with that of Jesus, and for a time it even usurped the depiction of the lamb and the flag. Queen Elizabeth adopted the pelican as her symbol, identifying herself as the mother of England.
That the pelican has come to represent so many diverse values to so many different cultures around the world is a testament to its mythic status. Whatever that beautiful, large-beaked bird means to you, a pelican tattoo will cement your faith.