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The never-aging mark

If the skin of the average human body was laid flat as a map, a sheet of parchment, it would spread over twenty square feet.
The human form, whether isolated in the forests of the Amazon, swept clean by the bitter winds of the Arctic, or soothed by sunset rains of Polynesia became through the brilliance of inspired artistry a map of culture and myth, a sacred geography of the soul, all expressed by the simplicity of forms painted, carved, incised, or etched upon the canvas of the body.
[Ancient Marks: The Sacred Origins of Tattoos and Body Marking - by Chris Rainier]


Origins

Despite the word "tattoo" being quite recent, tattoos themselves have a much longer and ancient history: hunters with tattooed bodies appear on rock paintings dating back to high paloelitic, and a perfectly preserved mummy with tattoos all over her body, aging about 5000 years, was found under a glacier on the Italian Alps.

We also have proofs of tattooing habits from almost any ancient culture: Egyptians, Aztechs, Celts, Scythians; all of these people and many more knew the art of tattooing the body, and considered it magical and religious.


Reasons

Mostly, tattooing was used in fertility rites, as a defense against bad spirits and as protection for newborn babies (some arabian families still paint family-owned henna tattooes on pregnant women as a sign of good luck and protection); the tattooed symbol allowed communications between the physical body and the ethereal plan; during initiations, being tattooed meant deserving to become a man through bearing pain. Tattoos marked then the life of their bearers, witnessing their courage, strength, and belonging to a certain family or group of poeple.


Techniques more here

In the past, being tattooed required courage and resistance, as originally tattooes were painted carving the skin or poking it with a chisel hit by a small hammer (hence the word Tatau, in Maori language = beating).

Slow operations which, in Maori integral tattoos, required 5 days to be completed, circumstance which makes clear why a feast was prepared to welcome among the adults those who passed the trial...

Nowadays, modern tattooing machines just leave a temporary pulsing sensation, and warmth.

Tattoos were in late centuries regarded suspiciously, if not forbidden, by western religious authorities, until explorers brought back from their voyages, from Cook on, admiring descriptions of what was going to become tattoo as we know it.


A gift

In our days, when we are always short of time, pausing for the time of getting tattooed is almost a dream, a small gift we give ourselves.
For this reason it´s important to choose a design that´s right for us, to be lived day after day.

Maori tattoos tell the story of their bearers, it´s like a visiting card anyone can read; our tattoos talk about us, they say something of our inner essence: it´s important to chose it well, in order to feel it ours forever.

Tattoos are a means to celebrating a transformation of the spirit: a tattoo that´s tuned on our usual mood, which we liked most or which reminds us of something important, will exalt our qualities, and never get us tired. Our spirit will mould around it instead.


Meanings

Here are some of the meanings that various cultures assign to some animals or symbols.
Clicking on the following designs you´ll find more specific details.