I really began to notice tattoos years ago when I attended a clothes-optional festival. There you could meet pagans, mystic Christians, Buddhists, and pretty much any open-minded ‘flavor’ of religion that accepts others. And being clothes-optional also left bodies open to scrutiny. Some amazing works of art had been needled onto skin. Even more fascinating were the stories that went with them.
One woman told me of the tiny Ladybug tattoo over her heart. During a time where she felt so insignificant in life, where life had little meaning, she found herself hiking through the Redwood forest. She told me how even more small and insignificant she felt being amid trees hundreds of feet tall, hundreds of years old. Its dark there, she continues to explain, where the forest branches nearly block out the sun. Yet, somehow a single beam of sunlight managed to break through to touch the base of one of these trees. There, taking advantage of the warmth and light was a mess of Ladybugs. These bugs were smaller than I was, but nothing hid the beauty they had right there. To honor the lesson of the Ladybug, that even the smallest of insects matter, she had it tattooed over her heart.
I find with most pagans, the markings on them not only hold a story, but a powerful meaning behind the symbolism. Some choose a god or goddess, while others may pick an animal or totem, while others might have a design from the heritage of the Celts, Nordic tradition, or Native American; whichever calls to them.
My coven all have the same spiral Celtic design to symbolize our unity and being such a close knit family. We picked different sizes, colors, and different parts of our bodies, but everyone has the mark somewhere on them. The artists that did them for us said how amazed they were that our group did this all in one day, in a circle cast for protection and in love and trust, and took turns being there through the painful process. Some drummed, others held a hand, while others still spoke words of encouragement.
Our group doesn’t demand members to have a tattoo, but nearly all members had it done just the same.
I can provide a bit of advice after having one done.
- Avoid anything with words such as names. Relationships change over time. Removing tattoos is just as painful as having one put on.
- Do not get drunk beforehand. You want a clear head when you decide.
- Avoid tensing or holding your breath with the pain. Long, steady, slow breaths help control pain.
- Different parts of the body have different tolerances of pain. Near bones or joints hurt more than the fleshier parts of the body.
- “Fill in” areas hurt more than having lines drawn.
- Not every artist induces the same amount of pain. Mine used short bursts while drawing, while the other tended to use longer strokes (which hurt more).
- Research the artist before deciding. Choose one with a great reputation, who is clean, and has a code of ethics. For instance, the artist who did mine refuses to tattoo pregnant women or anyone who is drunk.
- Take your time in choosing the design and place of your tattoo. This will be permanent.
Mine will always remind me of my brothers and sisters in the Craft, as well as my relationship with the triple goddess.