You may have noticed the proliferation of tattoo markings on recent generations, with inked-up skin becoming more the norm than the exception for certain sets. You might even wonder, why do people get tattoos? Myself, I have several of my own special symbols just as dear to me as anyone’s . . .
Don’t get me wrong, I love clean bare unmarked skin.I’m not part of a hardcore tattoo subculture, obsessed with marking up every spare surface of my body, lying awake at night absorbed in visions of skin art, always in the process of getting another piece done. And admittedly, some designs are questionable (#ruffgirltrampstamp).
But I have found designing and imprinting permanent art on my body to be a soothing, cathartic and meaningful way to recognize themes, movements, changes, unions, balances and the workings of time, across the spectrum of my whole life.
Sometimes people without tattoos have expressed a disconnection with the reasons why other people get tattooed. I can only speak for myself. However, I am an astute social observer so you can trust me if I hazard some guesses as to the significance of tattooing in everyday mainstream culture.
To me, tattoos harbour great spiritual significance. When we express something permanently on our external self, we are stating our commitment to that inspiration. We’re saying it means enough, deep down, that we are willing to make it flesh.
In a society that abandoned (mostly) religion and magic in exchange for entertainment and wor, I think we still crave an element of ongoing meaning in our lives. Because we are so style-oriented, a tattoo is a culturally-acknowledged statement of meaning on our body. We might get to share stories with those who ask about our tattoos.
Most importantly, the presence and sight of this drawing every day for life makes a truly indelible impact on the spirit of its wearer. It becomes a part of your identity.
As the world seems to become ever busier, wider, filled with uncontrollable chaos and untamed knowledge, colonized by powers and complexes of powers farther beyond our reach than we can imagine, it’s become increasingly important for everyone to find ways to express their unique purpose.
We are such small, repeatable individuals in the grand scope of things; it’s no wonder we seek ways to “brand” ourselves and our ideas. By putting a permanent design on the skin, we are making our regular old bodies a canvas for brilliant (& sometimes stupid) ideas.
With the decline of religion, society is finding new ways of expressing personal meaning. Rather than going somewhere to pray or worship, a lot of people have started to identify more with broad themes and values, like family, freedom, strength, courage and faith. We have these imprinted on our bodies to reveal our allegiance to their principles.
At the same time as the world is becoming more overwhelming, we’re becoming more personally individualized. My own tattoos are all themed with the same simple, black line style and all contain either flowers, birds or insects. Each design embodies animal medicine and earth symbology, and each speaks to the spiritual significance of a certain learning in my life.
In a society where we rarely have to deal with suffering, injury or death, sometimes it helps to have a little pain of our own. There is some ready identification with pain, living through it, coming out on the other side changed, marked.
The tattooing itself brings sharp, searing pain and soaring endorphins. But the process of healing continues for a few weeks and you get to watch it progress. As the ink absorbs and becomes embedded in your body, its meaning becomes embedded in your psyche.
To invite this painful permanence brings an explosive catharsis, a healing as much as an eternal scar.
Being the Hero
We are the center of our own universe, let’s face it. We need to make something of this life that we’re all given. For many of us who like being tattooed, our collection of ink art reveals our journey as the Heroine of our own story, co-creator of our destiny, manifestors of accomplishment, reckoning and pathmaking.
Sometimes the only way to say it is with a tattoo.