What is an Expendables movie logo doing up there? Well, our focus is going to be on the skull. The skull whose image is mirrored in ink on my skin. I didn’t know it at the time, but the tattoo artist had chosen that image for my tat, so it was a pleasant surprise to see Muninn (my skull’s name, yes I named it) staring back at me from the tail end of Barney Ross’ plane. This tat is forever surprising me, and I was reminded of that with this post from a beautiful blogger that I’ve been following. Munin is what I’d call my gateway tat, and it actually makes for a pretty good story, now that I come to think of it.
I got my tat September of last year, but I had been planning to get one ever since I was nine. The one I’ve always wanted was a full back dragon, even after I found out how much just the outline would cost and the potential ouchies that could occur. I wanted a Yakuza-like beauty, all sleek lines and bright colors. However, the movies always portray getting a tattoo to be max-level macho-guy pain and, until that day, I had never fully grasped the fact that tattooing is in essence imbedding a design into your skin by pricking (stabbing? jabbing?) it over and over and over with needles.
Now, I hate needles. ‘Kick-your-doctor-in-the-face-because-he’s-giving-you-your-immunization-shot-via-ass-cheek’ kind of hate. So when I saw the equipment, I ‘graciously’ let my friends go first so I could judge their facial expressions and wimp out by blaming them. Yep, I’m that person.
It was unexpectedly instructive. My best friend, who went first, didn’t take it very well (read: there was crying, hugging, liquor chocolates, and distracting herself by singing). Perhaps it was the placement (next to her shoulder blade) or the design, but she stuck to it like a trooper even though she was sobbing into my shirt. Next went my best friend’s sister’s best friend (say that three times and take an Advil), who personalized a dandelion seed head with a quote across her lower back. It was a bit larger than the previous one, very detailed, and over what I would assume would be more sensitive territory. She didn’t show much pain, but I could tell it hurt her. Nevertheless, she was happy with the end result and had a big smile on her face when she looked in the mirror.
Having seen all that, I was definitely in two minds about getting a tattoo on the spur of the moment. I didn’t care about looking like a wimp in front of my friends, my boyfriend and a couple of tattooed strangers; I just wanted to know if I could handle getting my dream tattoo. So with much mental preparation and a deep, deep breath, I committed to a skull tattoo over the right side of my pelvis. The actual process was painful in an annoyingly ticklish way; I kept wanting to stop the artist because I was confused over not knowing whether to laugh or cry. And thus began a journey that I didn’t know I was starting, because:
1) I, or at least my hip, was featured in a local tattoo magazine. Apparently not many Filipino girls get inked in that area because it’s said to be really painful (I didn’t know that, I only chose that place because it would be hidden from view);
2) I was on the third day of my period when I got Muninn (due to the heightened sensitivity, also supposed to be more painful). September was also when I got pregnant with my daughter;
3) Because I got pregnant, my boyfriend and I got engaged;
4) We decided we were ready to be a family so we set a date for the wedding;
5) Two months after our wedding, I gave birth to a healthy, affectionate little darling.
All that happened in the space of a year. When I look back at it, I can’t believe I managed to stay sane(ish). Topsy-turvy emotions all around, swinging from my darkest depressions, a plateau of indifference, the heights of giddiness, then back down again. Every time I realize what’s happened, I let out a big breath and a prayer of thanks that I made it through. But everything is really just beginning.
When I read joann’s post, I was reminded of that fate-full day. I say ‘fate-full’ because I know that the act of agreeing to getting a tattoo was life-changing. What I don’t know is whether naming him after one of Odin All-father’s ravens was my gateway. Depending on where you look, ‘Muninn’ is either translated as ‘memory’ or ‘desire’, but I haven’t really studied the Norse Gods past some rudimentary mythology, and nothing much is said about the All-father’s ‘eyes’. I’ll dig a little more, but the concept of public libraries is laughed upon around here, so I don’t know if I’ll get anything from Google-fu.
Tattooing itself, the way I understand it, is kind of like ye old Polynesian Facebook. Back on the islands, people used it to denote rank, show off important events, or ask for protection. You could read a person’s life by the markings on their skin: where he’s from, what she’s done, their totems, a warrior, a mother, a priest. In modern times and with modern usage, the process and purpose has been altered but its not altogether different. From what I see, we use it to show sides of our personality that are usually hidden from view, the things we are proud of, the events and people we want to remember.
From someone trying to get back to pre-Spanish colonial times, this could be a way back into tradition. I know there are traditional Philippine tattoos, possibly from when Polynesians and Malays were all over these islands. Personally, I like the use of it as a supplication and as a reminder of important events. It’s a great starting point for my spiritual journey. Research awaits me!
Does anyone have any experience regarding the use of tattoos in ritual or religion? Or maybe you have a story about your own ink (or ink you want to get). I’d love to hear about it!
(This is my first contribution to the Pagan Blog Project 2014, yay!)