Tattoos

Tattoos in ‘modern’ culture have long been a sign of gang-related activity, criminals, or the underground sub-cultures in general. Although they are now mainstream, the type and placement of the tattoo still greatly affects its ‘acceptability’. Face, neck and hands are usually either hard-core enthusiasts, shock-value or gang. One or two tattoos might be acceptable where an entire body clothed with tattoos is not.

One of the tattoo types that is gaining in popularity is the horimono, the Japanese tattoos. Originally a cultural symbol, tattooing was outlawed in the late 1800s in an attempt to gain respect in Western eyes. At that time it became associated with outlaws and specifically the yakuza, Japan’s ‘mafia’.

In ancient cultures, tattoos told as many stories as the wise story-tellers. From marks of bravery and glory to marks meant to convey protection and luck, tattoos were rites of passage and telling symbols of a person’s status.

I’ve been fortunate to find a tattoo shop that still has a focus on individualistic art work and in making statement pieces. Ace Custom Tattoo has skilled artists, but it’s as much fun to listen to people talk, or to watch them interact with the artists. Simply lying under the needles is indeed an experience that changes a person. It’s permanent, more than anything else. Piercings will grow in. Children will leave the nest, marriages dissolve and plans change. A tattoo either has to be removed–a process that costs an incredible amount of pain and money–or covered up, or they last forever. It is truly a sort of passage, and I can only imagine how it would be with traditional methods!

In Inherent, tattooing is a sign of power. Personal, physical, spiritual, the more tattoos, the more power. Women, as the channels of power in the post-Marasran society, are the most heavily tattooed. Mothers have distinctive patterns, wives, healers all have their own patterns. Shamans and witches have patterns outlawed to the rest of the society.

Totem animals are proudly displayed, spirit guides are more often marked by a simple symbol in a discreet place. For characters such as Sviera, Txikia, Maurga and the other powerful priestesses and witches, tattoos are far more. Txikia, daughter of the Imordi, would have been tattooed young, receiving her first mark when her power began to manifest. From then on, the tattoos would grow and spread through the years (although due to her association with one of the Princes, her tattoos would have been covered and altered, thereby erasing much of her early history), until by the time of Inherent, she would be almost entirely covered.

Sviera, Queen of the Night and Lady of Chaos, would be the most elaborately tattooed of any of them, especially as her mate is Karamarog, an Imordi dragon. Her designs start at eyes and hands, swirling lines and pictures stretching the length of her body, telling the story of her power and achievements.

Women, in the world of Inherent, are considered nearly a different species from the men. In that age, the goddesses were still supreme, and their consorts were the heroes. Men achieved maturity, married and had children, and might achieve great deeds, but their inner journeys–the ones recorded through tattoos–were seldom as memorable. Women were respected and held in high honor. A heavily-tattooed woman could walk into any eastern city at that time and be welcomed and honored as a mouthpiece of the goddesses. However, western cultures in Kortango and the metropolises of Virgal-Goien were beginning to shift to a patriarchal religion, and the first witch-burnings were seen around the time of Sviera’s power.

Names have power. Tattoos were often names in physical form, and can tell a powerful story without a single word spoken.

What position in your fictional society do tattoos hold? Power, disgrace, honor? How are they done, and what are the traditional designs? I’d love to hear!

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One Response to “Tattoos”

  1. I can’t say otherwise it will be a spoiler for book 4.

    No, really.

    A tattoo plays a very significant role in the Lexus Toulouse books, steeped in mythology.

    Actually, the Empress knows all about them, but you have to ask her. I cannot give away any of her secrets. I cannot!

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