Tuesday, December 09, 2008

Outside-the-rotation ink blogging

More off-the-rotation blogging: further to a query from a student asking about my tattoos.

I don't think of my ink as a means of self-definition; it's more a sense of marking key events, identifications, or aspects in my life. Although I did not plan this, since my first tattoo in 1975, the ink I've added has fit remarkably consistent criteria:

(a) locations on my body are balanced:

left inner forearm; right shoulder, left shoulder; right bicep, left bicep.

The next piece I add will be on my right inner forearm. When I balance the ink on my body in this way, I am conscious of a sense of better bodily and psychological balance; Ayurvedic philosophy would suggest that I've more effectively balanced the chakras.

(b) topics are balanced:

right shoulder is Sufi calligraphy of a hoopoe, a mystical bird, while left shoulder is Tlingit Indian iconography of the raven that stole the sun: e.g., a bird on each shoulder; biceps are Celtic knotwork of hounds: e.g., canines on each bicep; left inner forearm is a unicorn, while right inner forearm will be a Chinese dragon playing with a pearl: e.g., a mythical flying creature on each forearm.

(c) all are totem animals for me, and symbolic of my own past history:

Tlingit raven is part of my own Native American background, while hoopoe represents my study of Turkish Sufi language, music, and theology;

Celtic dogs are another part of my ethnicity and central to my musical personality;

unicorn is a character out of North European myth (another part of my ethnicity);

Chinese dragon symbolic of my study of Asian culture and, specifically, martial arts.

After the dragon, I will add a deceased friend's image of a grizzly bear (another of my Native American totem animals) on my left calf, and one of a river otter (with which Celtic/mythical animals I worked in my youth) on my right.

I see the ink on my body as a *reminder* to myself of where and who I have been. This is why I'm OK with adding an image at a particular watershed in my life, even if at a later date that particular topic might not carry the same symbolism for me (like the unicorn, for example). The point is to remind myself that, at one point in my life, those particular images *were* deeply symbolic to me. It's like a personal history, on my body.

Interesting question.

No comments: