Tattoos have been around for almost as long as humans have been communicating. Is a tattoo a fashion statement? Is it even a pagan fashion statement? Well let’s look at some of the history of tattoos , then hear some stories from sisters about their tattoos and what they mean to them.
A bit of History
The art of tattooing has been around for 7,000 years. The idea of tattooing was to use the body as a form of communication of ideas, of status, of religion and groups that a person belonged. Throughout history tattooing has been done for many reasons. In the Copper age (3500-3100 CE) they may have used tattooing for therapeutic reason, small lines and crosses on the body where wear and tear was shown apparent. In Middle Kingdom Egypt, women were the ones tattooed, not the men. A mummy found of a priestess of Hathor was tattooed, and many ceramic figurines and vessels were found with women with tattoos. In the New Kingdom, women were putting the dwarf god Bes on their thigh, as well as geometric patterns. In Ancient Greco-Roman times, tattoos were seen as a mark of punishment and shame. They would use tattooing on prisoners and slaves. In the Roman Empire slaves were tattooed to show taxes as being paid. As a contrast to the ancient Greeks and Romans, the Celts and Picts saw tattoos as a show of pride.
My personal stories about my tattoos are a bit boring, I hate to say. There was no divine inspiration; I drew it up with just playing with my favorite symbols (the star, the moon and added a circle to make a pentagram. And the next one is the SOA triskal , in woad blue.
But I do have a sister’s story that is inspirational. In her own words I give you her story…
“The art concept for the tattoo came from a pendant that was gifted to me by another Sister at the Realm of Sea intensive in May 2011. I was employed in corporate marketing at that time, but had also begun writing a fiction novel earlier in the year. I became very passionately involved with my writing and engaged in a lot of thinking about my vocation vs. avocation as the months passed. At the time of Descent, Ceridwen showed me a vision of the pendant image tattooed on my skin. I asked Her, “Do you mean this literally? Am I supposed to get a tattoo as part of my Descent work?” I will never forget Ceridwen’s response: “Why don’t you do it and see what happens?”
I took the pendant to Malia Reynolds, the tattoo artist at Memorial Tattoo, and she recreated the design for me with a few modifications. I requested that the apple blossoms be added to represent Avalon. I also requested that the whole tattoo be done in shades of blue and black, to appear as if you are looking at a cauldron in moonlight. The added blue accent on the moon was a stroke of Awen, literally added by Malia while she was tattooing … I remember she said to me, “Is it OK if I add some light blue on the full moon? I just feel like there needs to be blue on the moon.” Since I primarily work with Branwen energy in my personal journey, it was a moment of magic. I had not told Malia anything about Branwen, Her symbolism, or my relationship to Her. I did not go into imramma or meditation during the tattoo. It was my first tattoo and too exciting to miss! It also seemed like Malia and I were wrapped up in some mystical co-creation ritual together, whether consciously acknowledged or not, so I remained fully present with her. I had originally intended to have the tattoo placed on the inside of my left wrist but was told that the design was too intricate to fit in that area. We settled on my upper arm, at heart level. I am very happy with the placement, as it reminds me to follow my heart’s desire, to trust my visions, to drink deeply of the Awen that flows from Her cauldron. So back to Ceridwen’s original response … “Why don’t you do it and see what happens?” Before the next turn of the Cycle, I had moved to a new city, quit my corporate job, and embarked on a new journey of writing and sacred purpose. The road is still very rocky. But here I am. :)”
Tattoos can be a form of art, a way to show who you are, and an expression of self. They have been seen as distasteful, as a form of punishment, as a mark of ownership. If you have one, remember why you got it done. Was it to show who you are? Or was it to be a rebel? Many people find tattoos distasteful; they don’t understand why you would want to create something permanent on your body. Whether you’re a fan or not, next time you see a tattoo peeking out, remember that they are a expression of self.