Tattoos: Your Heart, Your Protection, Your Totem

Tattoos: Your Heart, Your Protection, Your Totem July 7, 2018

“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.

My fellow priestess/friend/sister (there is no one word to contain our relationship) and I decided on a triskele. The Celtic symbol to represent the triple goddess, our love of all things Irish, the two of us tied to the bigger thing in our lives: our calling. We are similar yet not, each doing our own thing, and there for each other when needed. The location of tattoos is always the hardest thing for me to decide, but we instantly decided on our back. To show that we have each other’s back, and that we are behind in each other as we pursue our endeavors. It was a magical day when we each got our tattoos, enhanced by the fact that our tattoo artist Mike had decorated his work space with all things Green Man, of which we are both very fond. Was it a coincidence that we had Mike do our tattoos and he was attuned to our love of all things Celtic? Methinks not.

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.


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  • My first tattoo was aparently a rather cliche one; a scorpion. It is cliche, as I found out later, because it seems that most if not all born under the sun sign of Scorpio end up marking themselves in someway that signifies their sun sign. My second tattoo was of a dragon coming out of a dive breathing fire that turns into a Phoenix. Both of these tattoos are on my back and I refer to them as my warning labels. My 3rd and last tattoo is aproximately over my heart chakra. It is a triquetta over a yin yang with the shading dictated by the way the two interact. The 3rd tattoo symbolizes my beliefs.

  • Brianne Raven Wolf

    I really like this article Lisa, as I have quite a few tattoos that mean a lot to me as well. Including one faerie on my right breast, a triple goddess with pentacle on my left breast, and a triple goddess with a wolf in the full moon on my left arm. The faerie on my breast, and two other tattoos were done with an artist that used to live in Baraboo, WI. and relocated to Asheville a few years ago. Chris owns Mountain Temple Tattoo in Asheville now. I write a blog on The Agora, called Between Two Worlds: and have a blog by that name as well.

  • Christine Filas

    I have 5, each from a different state. I would love to get one depicting my Lord and Lady in sigils but I am old and the skin is too loose and wrinkled. I would not subject an artist to this old feeble canvas that is my skin.

  • Beth Thomas

    I really enjoyed your story. I have 8 tattoos. My most recent is a Mandela on my arm with the tristolie in the center and the Leo symbol in the lace part. My sister and I shard a Celtic heart on our backs that means sisters, my daughter and son both have keys… and I have the lock. I love them all. ❤️

  • bonmots

    Thank you so much! Your tattoos sound lovely, many thanks for sharing them with me.

  • bonmots

    What a great idea! Thanks for sharing that. Your canvas is a beauty, no doubt.

  • bonmots

    Thanks for sharing, Brianne! Much appreciated. Will look Chris up for my next tattoo.

  • bonmots

    Doesn’t sound cliched to me at all! Those sound amazing. Thanks for sharing!