In many tribal societies, tattoo was used as to mark rites of passage, or as a rite of passage itself. Body modification was inherently dangerous and simply surviving the application of ink to skin meant that you were a fully grown woman/man. And the marks themselves had important cultural significance handed down from generation to generation.
Today tattoo is a mark of defiance, of deviance from the norm. Small tattoos are becoming acceptable, but people fear the consequences on their work life if they go to far out of the norm.
In an ideal world, I’d hope that the fearlessness tattoos connote would instead cause employers to choose heavily tattooed people as employees. Those who commit to tattooing (and by commit I mean commit to extensive tattoos, not just a butterfly on your ribcage) know how to overcome fear. They overcome fear of needles, of pain. And in the act of tattooing they overcome their bodily urge to scream, to pass out, to run away. They are able to suffer for something they truly want. They are not afraid of permanent commitment. They are not afraid of the judgment passed by others.
I find that I have the urge to tattoo myself when I stumble into those life moments that are incredibly difficult for me, that are throwing up challenges and barriers that I feel I cannot handle. The challenge of a tattoo, that is straight forward. You lay down and feel the needle against your skin for hours and you go deep inside the pain and breathe out, just let it go. In that clarifying moment where pain clears everything else from in front of your eyes, you realize that everything in life is doable.
I read an article that suggested that people undergo body modification to feel in control over their bodies. To a degree, for myself at least, I think that’s very true. I never loved my body until I started changing it, making it mine, filling it with beautiful artwork and potent symbols. They serve to mark that which I determine to be my rites of passage.
Anyways, these ramblings obviously have a source. I have two (incredibly exciting) appointments with one of my favorite tattoo artists in the world, Tomas Tomas, at Into You Tattoo London, in November and December. That got me to thinking about what exactly tattoo really means to me. And it means a lot. But I’m tired and I have papers I should be writing instead of this so I’ll leave that for another date. I can say that this is a moment in my life in which I need to be revitalized, reminded of quite a few things about I’ve forgotten/ignored about myself.
I can’t wait.