Updated: May 12, 2021
Tattoos have always held an enigmatic story. Some practical and superficial, while others become an exploration into the inner and outer realms. Humans discovered ways to adorn their bodies, through experimentation and intuition, how to internalize the surrounding world into indelible designs that permanently mark our externalized, physical bodies.
We have made inks from charr and carbon, needles from thorns and bones, designs from nature and inspired by higher powers. Our ingenuity and connection with how we transform and alter our skin is something familiar... something we have done for thousands of years.
Tattoos have the ability to completely shift how we see ourselves and one another, how we carry ourselves and walk along the surface. With intention and purpose, they can protect and aid in self-transformation, transcend and become recognized in the afterlife. They serve to beautify, to honor, to make a proclamation, a rite of passage, and they also have the ability to heal. Every facet of tattooing is constantly fluctuating and it remains a fascinating practice. It has always been something enveloped by mystery, origins as unknown as the moments before birth, flesh oxidizing, finally returning to the Earth... a profound perforation of a perfect vessel.
The intention of these writings is to share a broader philosophy of why tattooing exists, where it comes from, and how it has changed us. I wish to illustrate this through implementing pieces of my travels, personal history, interests, and thoughts, interwoven with research and discoveries I've made about former tattoo practices. I believe we are living in an age where sharing intimate stories can deepen our perspective, giving insight into ancient concepts that have transferred to modernity. I want to explore how tattooing becomes embedded in every one of your cells once it bores through the first layers of skin-- how the cells of our body resemble the infinite qualities of a multiverse... how does that change the way you see tattoos? From the moment the needle punctures, you step away from your previous Self, alchemizing into the next version of you.
After 2012, there were a lot of revolutions in my life that turned me away from a job that wasn't suited, to do everything in my will to become a shop hand so I could start tattooing. During that time, someone close to me got ill and eventually passed on. Her death was immense and significant, encompassed by Daoism, Buddha, and a myriad of spiritual experiences that have undoubtedly influenced and changed me for the better.
These experiences became tied to tattooing, leading into Chinese Medicine and the medicinal/therapeutic effects within Tattoo Acupuncture. By understanding the types of inks that were concocted from local herbs or poultices that reduced infection and inflammation, to the thorns of an orange bush that was used to pierce the skin, I wonder about the spiritual and remedial qualities of magical and medicinal tattoos. While my curiosity in ancient, indigenous, and shamanic tattooing are of deep interest, I believe they are wholeheartedly sacred and belong to those respective groups. I'm simply a student and an outsider that wishes to keep a light shining on these facets and to assist in preventing their disappearance. Historically, most of these incredible cultures have been wiped out due to colonization, homogenization, and proselytization of religion. However, many people are waking up and realizing the importance of these tattoo traditions, some are being revived by indigenous peoples and those that hold this revered knowledge.
We are living in an epoch of new paradigms, the bridging of worlds, being able to redefine the way we see our future and continue the cycle of growth. Many of us know and believe that time is simultaneous, understanding that existence comes from a primordial center, the drop dancing atop the surface of water, dripping down... and rippling out.
Currently a student of Chinese Medicine and a tattooer at Saved Tattoo in Brooklyn, my wish is to continue studying this form of medicinal tattooing and how it treats and changes the physical and ethereal bodies. As time goes on and I finish my Masters in Science and Acupuncture, I hope to meet others that share this attraction to these tattoo traditions with skills to help document and interact with people and places where tattooing is still sacred.
My deepest love and gratitude for those who give and wear tattoos proudly, those who carry and continue to carry the lineage into the next phase, and to those who have dedicated their lives to tattooing, in every way shape and form. I am sincerely looking forward to what this will bring and I humbly welcome what's to come.
“Batok ko allugamma
Gattok ko umoy impakwa
Isun de dalliwannga
Maumas kad da kukuwa
Taynan da didad luta
Nu maag ta miwagga
Adipon pagay Maura
Ilnok ta te libon ta”
from Jake Verzosa's, "The Last Tattooed Women of Kalinga."