“Wear your heart on your skin in this life” ~Sylvia Plath
Recently, I celebrated my tattoo-versary with a dear friend, sister, and fellow Priestess. We had both become ordained as priestesses at Mother Grove Goddess Temple in Asheville, and we wanted to find a way to mark the occasion. We had been on this journey together, are kindred spirits, and consider each other family. We could’ve just done a Hallmark card, an evening of celebration and whiskey, or general jubilation, all of which we did. We needed more. So we chose to get matching tattoos.
Before moving to the magical town of Asheville, I had two tattoos to claim on my body. One of the first things I really registered when visiting my future home was “Whew, lots of different colored hair! And, “So MANY tattoos!” No judgment, just observation. I had two, which are full of meaning to me. I struggle with the whole tattoo thing, being Jewish. Tattoos, even for Reform people like me, can be a tricky subject. Concentration camps. Never forget. And I don’t, and for me, after much soul searching, decided that tattoos can be a defiant, we survived! So never again. Never. Ever. Again. I digress.
My first tattoo is in honor of my sons, and in the weird, magical way my life goes, ended up starting out as three green hearts intertwined. Three for them and me, always together. A few weeks after I got this tattoo, a person sitting next to me noticed that the three hearts on its side actually looked the initials of my two sons (both begin with the letter E) attached to a larger L (me). Coincidence? Methinks not. I had honestly never noticed that in the design, but it made sense, as I was so drawn to it. The second marks the beginning of my spiritual journey, when I knew I was meant for other things than the life I was living. To remind me daily, I needed something permanent. Being mildly (okay, hugely) obsessive about Sylvia Plath, I chose the words I am. I am. I am. In a copy of her handwriting. What was written on my heart was now visible on my skin.
Since then, I have more than usually aware of other people’s tattoos. They usually have a story. Another friend recently shared her tattoos of the elements that decorate her legs. Another has the symbolism of his tradition on his arm in stark black, as a reminder of his calling. We each have our stories, and the words of Sylvia Plath echo when I see them: Wear your heart on your skin.
Tattoos are also protection magic, as some use symbols for protection against what they consider evil. Some honor their deities, some mark an occasion. One of my favorites is the Appalachian Trail symbol of someone who hiked it back in the 90s. Another person marks the longitude and the latitude of their favorite place in the world.
Totems are another theme I have noticed. Wikipedia notes that totems are “…a spirit being, sacred object, or symbol that serves as an emblem of a group of people, such as a family, clan, lineage, or tribe.” I have seen country flags, family crests, family names, sayings and mottoes. My next tattoo (yes, it is true. Once you have one, you think of the next one!) will incorporate elements of that which has been so prominent in my life these last few years: La Luna the moon, the Goddess, stars, and spirals. Life is not a straight line by any means, but a circular pattern of recurring themes at times.
What about you? I’d like to know more about your tattoos, what they mean for you, which ones you are planning next. Are tattoos your story or your journal? Are they reminders? Please do share.