For many, tattoos are the ultimate form of self expression. For the others, they hold a negative societal stigma. This is common knowledge, but what about tattoos makes people either fall in love, or hate with great intensity? I’ve done some research in order to answer these questions on both sides of the coin as an unbiased observer. This is merely a quick review into the past and present of tattoos that I hope the uneducated and aficionados alike will appreciate.
In many cultures around the world, tattoos were “rights of passage” rituals that men and women underwent in order to celebrate their cultural achievements, and as an indicator of their societal status’. Candidates for tattoos would have to undergo extremely painful sessions for hours, and even sessions that lasted for days. These recipients had to endure it or else they were often excommunicated from their respective tribes, and out of their entire societal structures for abandonment of their culture’s rituals. But this was a very rare occurrence in many cultures due to the fact that earning the right to receive tattoos were badges of honor that instilled an immense sense of pride.
Alternatively, tattoos were even used in spiritual and religious practices as pseudo “runes” that were intended to promote healing energies for the sickly, injured, and those individuals experiencing spiritual woes. Although we will never know if these practices truly worked in every culture for every individual whom survived; but what we do know for sure is that many people have died during or after these regular rituals. Depending on the culture, needles were re-purposed from fish bones, boar’s teeth, porcupine spikes, and even the thorns of certain plant and flower species. These tools were cleaned to the best of these ancient culture’s abilities at the time, but were still unhygienic. If the subject of the tattoo didn’t pass-out, or run away from the pain of the procedure, many fell severely ill from the growth and poisoning of bacteria underneath the dermis (their skin where the ink was injected) from the ink itself that was used.
Ancients of various cultures used different ink pigments from plant-based materials; but the more common black ink were crafted from the mixture of black carbon ash (which is wood that was completely burned all the way through) and plain water. The wood ash was the true pigment, and the water played the active role in allowing the powdery substance to pass through the tiny needle holes in the skin. It is uncommon to many people, but our dermis is semi-transparent, which is how the ink from tattoos seem to reside on the surface.
In the darker realm of this reality , tattoos were brands of punishment to those who refused to adhere to societal standards and committed heinous crimes against others. The offenders were made to live with the shame of their misdeeds for the rest of their lives, with everyone they ever were to encounter understanding fully well what they had done to earn their metaphorical shackles. Once tattoos under these circumstances were incurred, redemption was an unattainable commodity. These skin brands were also used to classify slaves by their ownership and mark their roles within the given society. These were the origins where tattoos earned negative stigmatization around the world. Branding bandits, criminals, and pariahs became a common practice. And we see this in modern day society with gang members who are imprisoned “earn” tattoos based on their crimes. But these are incurred with the involvement of their respective gang affiliation.
As societies around the world evolved and advanced in the realm of technology, food management, medical practices, and domestic roles; many cultural norms faded away into the ether. Westernization took precedence in the Americas and influenced other countries. Tattoos, while still holding negative connotations became a medium of self-expression by the brave few. It started to gain its place as symbols of pride and artistic integrity. It wasn’t a flight of whimsy; but the missing puzzle pieces to the souls of the misunderstood and unaccepted. Through a myriad of shapes and colors, tattoos became a way of being able to communicate what words failed to….poetry for the eyes, and vindication for the soul.
Many religious practitioners of all walks of faith hold that permanently marking the body through such barbaric means is considered self-mutilation. Even with the advancement of technology in which ink is administered, tattoos are considered unholy practices to be avoided at all costs. And those who receive them are in kind with those whom receive the “mark of the beast” in Holy scriptures. It is believed that self-mutilation of all types (tattoos, piercings, scarification, etc…) is a blood-sacrificial pact with the demon overlord himself, The Devil.
Now, regardless of what your beliefs are; we must remember to respect the opinions and beliefs of others. Remain respectful and show solidarity. Mankind will never agree on everything that is done and said; and regardless if people’s negative views on tattoos are correct or not, opinions are ephemeral without concrete proof, which no one on either side has. So keep your mind open and agree to disagree. That is how acceptance is formulated.
Tattoos will always hold the weight of positivity and negativity, as with every artistic practice in the world. But one thing people on both sides of the coin agree on is what kind of tattoo you decide to receive speaks volumes about the person you are. So if you are an individual who is yearning to receive a tattoo; answer these following questions:
Why do you want to get a tattoo? And will you receiving it/them communicate your message…your truth? Remember that tattoos lasts a lifetime. And if you believe that laser removal, or black-out tattoos to cover up unwanted ones will solve a “problem”, then I’m quite sure getting one isn’t a wise decision in the first place. But that’s my respectful opinion.