Last week I asked people to share pictures of their tattoos with the story behind them. Here are the results:
Carl Bonebright: I knew I wanted a religious tattoo without it being something that was already a powerful symbol (the three horns, Helm of Awe, or Valknut, for example), because I didn’t want to risk offending any Gods. However, I was at the point where I had become completely confident and comfortable with my decision to be a Heathen henceforth, and I wanted to denote that somehow. Browsing the internet ages ago I had seen this art, and the artist had happily stated she would approve of it becoming a tattoo, so I dug it back out and judged it perfect for my needs. For me, it is a constant reminder of my being “halfway out of the broom closet”, where I don’t necessarily hide who I am, but I make some effort not to spell it out for others. The roots of Yggdrasil always manage to just peek out from under my shirts at work, reminding me that no matter what my current goal is in life or work, my religious and ancestral roots are always there. It helped a great deal that the artist did such an amazing job on it.
Kris Bradley: Sharing my ink! My witch was my first religious/spiritual tattoo (but not my first tattoo!). I got it to celebrate my coming out of the “broom closet”. I’d finally gotten tired of hiding the fact that I self-identified as a witch.
My half sleeve came a few years later, in celebration of the Goddess. It has a triple moon symbol, a shell, a cut apple (representing the shape of a pentagram), a goddess symbol, and lots of spirally vines and flowers. It also contains a ribbon with the names of my three children on it. This tattoo represents my personal relationship with the goddess. My plan is to take this down to a full sleeve one day when I can afford it and to create a sleeve on the other arm for my interpretation of the god.
Jessica: This piece is a big deal (not just because it’s on my chest) but because I got it after my Abuelo (grandfather) passed away. The design changed and morphed a few times before settling on this particular one. The wings were symbolic of my grandfather (who had a special place in his heart for eagles) and the girl in the center represented me. I chose to have her blindfolded because it’s how I felt when he passed on. Knowing what I know about death, I had a moment with him before they took his body away… after that I was just angry. It’s just an empty vessel I kept telling myself… His spirit will never die… Others did not (surprise!) sympathize with my sentiment, even going as far to say that I should just put the tattoo on my arm if I was going to get it anywhere (no where would have been the preference haha!). This was my way of keeping him alive within me and it has significantly changed the way I perceive my surroundings.
He was an integral part of my upbringing, and the first person to introduce me to spirituality. As a pastor with a doctorate in psychology who taught at seminaries in Cuba and Mexico, he had an EXTENSIVE library… Not just on the Christian faith, but on psychology, occult practices and various cultures of different faiths. He was the first person to introduce me to mythology when I was eight or nine… I was already showing a peculiar interest in literature, and he gifted me with my very first Time Life book set… Beautiful hard cover editions on the various myth’s of different cultures, and what I always affectionately referred to as the “sister set” which was another series of books on the archaeological findings of said cultures. I wasn’t even 10 and my worldview had already shifted in a way I would not realize until I was much
It was an incredibly painful experience that lasted 2 sessions (about 7 hours in total)… But when it was done I felt like I had become someone entirely different. I had walked through Hell and back and returned with this beautiful gift.
Christopher Angelo: I received this tattoo in intentionally created space.. a Body Transformation Weekend.. a ritually constructed container for Intentional work. Sacred Piercings, Brandings, Tattooings, Reiki Sessions, and more.. all given witness and energy by our community members. Artists acting as vessels for Intent and Will. Open hearts & Open souls.
The piece on my collar bone is a Dedication Tattoo. At the time, I had been studying the Victor Anderson Feri Tradition for several years.. a Tradition that I would eventually be Initiated into. One of the deities that Feris often work with is Melek Ta’Us, the Lord of the Painted Fan. During my training I had developed a strong connection with Him, and knew that wherever my path would take me I would be walking it with him.
Paul Ruckert created an image of Melek Ta’Us where before there had not been one. His image has circulated amongst many communities, including Feri. When I first saw it, it too resonated within me.. and I knew.. the tattoo that I would get as a Ritual Mark & Dedication to Him would be based on the collar bone design that Paul envisioned on this God. My tattoo artist quietly prepared herself and her equipment while I silently and joyfully invoked His presence. During our session my community drummed, chanted, witnessed and supported me (and others getting work done) with their presence and their energy.
Almost all of my tattoos were done in ritual space, or with Intent behind them. They mark places in my life, significant events, and magical works. They serve as reminders, as dedications, as foci for ongoing magic. They tell parts of my story for those with the eyes to read it, or the curiosity to ask about them.
Literata: I don’t want to contribute photos to the tattoo piece – part of me wants to keep my relatively new tattoos still fairly private – but I wanted to share one thing that matters to me about them. I have serious medical conditions, and sometimes I have to have heavy-duty tests or procedures, the kind where you go into a scary and dangerous situation with strangers mother-naked except for a hospital gown that closely resembles a cocktail napkin, not even a wedding ring for comfort. The best thing about my tattoos is that they can’t be separated from me. Even in the hospital, no one can make me take them off. My symbols of my identity and partnership, my religion, and my two closest goddesses are part of me and will always be with me through everything.
Great stories! Also check out this article by PNC-FL on body modification as ritual!