Email: jarush@sbcglobal.net

About Tattooing

by John A. Rush © 2009, 2013

Many reasons are offered as to “why tattoo.” I grew up during a time when tattooing was considered the act of bad boys, criminals, and sailors. Brief histories of tattooing reveal, however, that tattooing has a wider distribution and depth than usually appreciated, with the most secure evidence coming from the Upper Paleolithic (30-12,000 BCE —before the current era) in Europe. But undoubtedly the ritual practices go back before the age of modern humans (see Rush 2005). The original practices were connected to ideas and concepts of life, death, magical protective charms, or specific identity with the monsters in their waking life and in their dreams. These monsters were those powerful predators who provided food in the form of carcasses but ate them on a regular basis. Life and death; the Lord giveth and the Lord taketh away, life eats life.

All tattooing is potentially spiritual in the sense of movement along a path toward illumination. And what is that path? “Know thy self!” The tattooing ritual and the associated pain can be used to get in touch with you, not as a mechanism to see how much pain you can stand, but to use the pain as a vehicle of release. At some point in the tattooing process, you realize that the pain is an illusion. The pain is there but you can intensify or diminish the experience. All events in your mind are subject to reinterpretation, and when your interpretation alters, its significance to you alters as well.

Tattoo Galleries:

Tattooing and scarification are age old traditions and serve many purposes from that of identifying criminals, group identity, rites of passage, emotional/spiritual cleansing, memory of a loved one, and so on. The following represents a mythic/ spiritual statement divided into several mythic themes all of which have as there core life, death, and return. The stories told through these tattoos (Egyptian, Chinese, Tibetan, Celtic, etc.) are all interrelated and show common themes of life, death, and return (or residence in another place). But there are other symbols and references that suggest culture contact.Tattooing and scarification are age-old traditions and serve many purposes from that of identifying criminals, group identity, rites of passage, emotional/spiritual cleansing, memory of a loved one, and so on. The following represents a mythic/ spiritual statement divided into several mythic themes all of which have as their core life, death, and return. The stories told through these tattoos (Egyptian, Chinese, Tibetan, Celtic, etc.) are all interrelated and show common themes of life, death, and return (or residence in another place). But there are other symbols and references that suggest cultural contact.