How long ago did the modern world start to lose all of its rituals? Is it modernity itself that dictates that we have no more need for these ceremonies of purification and anointment? I wonder if it could be traced back to the creation of secularism, the separation of church and state. Belief in one life, when you’re dead you’re done. Or is it more recent with a general disappointment in religion and a desire to be free of the constricting, oppressive social pressure and power of the church? Say we are free from religious guilt, the motor making us behave, to follow the rules of society for fear of descending into chaos; but we still feel a need for penance, atonement, repentance, confession. For our own psychological relief, a re-boot, ability to start afresh. Jung spoke of the necessity of the archetypes of religion as a way for us to understand reality.
In rejecting a state’s imposition of official religious position, we forget that we have a choice. We can still believe in the power of a marking. Make an offering of skin. If we make our own rituals we ourselves control the administration, receive the sacrament. A tattoo is a test of endurance, proof of inner strength, a marking of a time and place. It can also be an act of catharsis, to liberate oneself from trauma by re-enactment; or the act of tattoo as a path to evacuation. With the pain we transcend our fears, our weaknesses; we purify, and start again, renewed. The pain is something we must learn to submit to in order to support the discomfort; resisting only makes it worse and is exhausting in the end. Trust in the tattoo artist is paramount. Why sacred tattoo? Why is it magic? Modern approach to religion is a personalized journey. We choose what we worship, what is holy. The preparations for a tattoo are very ritualistic: water, needle, blood, the powders (inks), the transfer, the pain, a protective film/barrier (bandage), aftercare, (clean, re-purify), the rebirth (new tattoo, new person). Storytelling or confession during the tattoo can be ritualistic and therapeutic. When we experience the application (the pain) of a new tattoo we are really “in the moment”. Ed Hardy had a sign in his studio that read “stay in your body”. Perhaps he didn’t want people to astral project during their séance; perhaps they would miss out on important lessons! Or perhaps they wouldn’t come back.
I’m deeply interested in:
- Tattoos as a celebration, I want to help people mark the great moments in life, souvenirs, and accomplishments. I believe we can work towards manifesting something in our life, working with the idea of attraction, or affirmation; the tattoo can represent our aspirations, goals, and wish for transformation. A vibration, not only of the needles but also this exciting energy, it can be hypnotic, and cleansing.
- A tattoo as protection, I’ve discussed with many the idea of tattoos as armor. Real magic symbols or made up ones, we assign what has power and where it goes. I like to think of actualizing in this sense, what is inside becomes exteriorized; inspired by a sort of primal urge to make this mark. The language of symbols is fascinating; Russian prison tattoos have real assigned meanings, but we can also learn a lot about a person by the tattoos and unconscious symbols they choose. It might take a long conversation to learn each other’s personal ideas behind symbols. Linguistics and visual vocabulary speak on an unconscious level. What about secret powers that tattoos can give us? I know powerful lawyers, politicians and teachers that like having their secret tattoos. What if we just have an impulse to cover our nakedness? I feel more comfortable naked with my tattoos.
- Healing tattoos, the impulse to experience physical pain as a cure for emotional pain. After heartbreak a tattoo project can be good medicine. This is an ancient pagan practice, to “mark oneself for the dead”. My theory is that natural endorphins soothe all kinds of ills. The physical pain is so much easier to deal with, plus it’s over once the tattoo is done.
- Personal metamorphosis by tattoo: your potential; who you want to be. A tattoo devotee believes, makes a wish with each new tattoo. Taping into infinite intelligence and/or the subconscious: symbols to express one’s true self. A tattoo journey can be a soul search; that is why the first tattoo can takes years to decide upon. A lot of people are searching for permanence, not much is permanent in life except a tattoo.
- Storytelling through tattoos; I love to tell stories or hear them while tattooing. Henry Goldfield used to say we were in show business. Talking certainly helps to forget the pain, distraction tricks the brain. Sharing this way connects us. I want to spend the rest of my life developing my storytelling technique; with words or images, always in exchange with the listener/reader.
I am violently opposed to any negative affirmations or self mutilations. It’s just not in my desire to be partly responsible for negative self prophesy. There are other philosophies out there, they’re just not in sync with my own.
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