Getting a tattoo is something that I have given a great deal of thought to, in terms of what it means personally and what it means spiritually. Tattoos are a statement. They change the way people see you and the way you see yourself. For me though there is also a spiritual aspect to them. There is a power that is expressed through them.
There is a great book on the subject by Lars Krutak called Spiritual Skin: Magical Tattoos and Scarification. He describes himself as a Tattoo anthropologist . He has traveled the world looking at tattoos and what they mean for the tribes who do them. His book contains some fantastic pictures and goes into some lovely details of the different tribes. For me there were a few reasons why people in the different tribes got tattooed:
- protection – using the tattoo as a form of spiritual protection from attack, even to the point of being a physical protection from danger
- initiation – the tattoos are part the initiation process for the tribe. This includes recording number of people killed by the warrior.
- beautification – making the person more appealing to a mate.
- treatment for illness / disease – using the tattoos like acupuncture to treat pain or disease, or using them to ward off disease causing spirits.
My purpose in getting tattooed was very varied. I wanted to embrace a different way of expressing myself. I found a tattoo artist whose art moved me emotionally. I felt a deep connection to his work and felt at ease with him. I wanted to express the inner spiritual changes in my life on the outside, revealing more of my true self. I also wanted to move away from the shame I felt about my body. This was a deep seated shame coming from some dark places. Part of me wants to reclaim my body as mine, not anybody elses.
Tattoos can make the body more beautiful. We use them to make moments in our lives, like the birth of children. Yet the spiritual is often not so obvious. For me they are a form of sacred. I set out with a specific spiritual intention to the process, which has got deeper as the tattoo has grown. It has become a way of honoring the spiritual, while healing some deep wounds.
A common question I get asked is didn’t that hurt? The answer is simple – yes. There have been times when I’ve vomited a few hours after. There have been days afterwards when I have struggled to move because it hurts. But I have been surprised how after a little while that all fades into the background (till the next time). Some people now turn away from me when they see part of it. I’ve had to work on letting go of being judged by others.
For me tattoos are spiritual, reflections of our deeper selves which connect us to protection and initiation. The process has been one of trust. I have had to trust my spirit allies on the process. I have had to trust the tattoo artist to bring out what is deep within me, some spoken and some unspoken. My tattoos are now my sacred skin drawing me close to spirit, which I am deeply grateful for.