Your body is a canvas, not only does it bear the marks of your growth from childhood into adulthood by way of scars, moles, and other natural born marks that begin littering our bodies; but many also choose to express their story through the intricate art of the tattoo.
Tattooing has been dated back to the late 4th millennium BC, where Otozi the Iceman was found to have carbon tattoos composed of dots and lines along his spine, ankle, and knee. It is thought that these tattoos were a form of healing due to their placement resembling acupuncture. These fascinating findings not only show that human’s relationship with body modification has lasted decades, but that this ancient art form can be used to convey an intricate story of lives long since past as well as our own today.
A cross-shaped tattoo on Ötzi's knee - Photo courtesy of Ancient Origins
The consideration of stories in tattoos isn’t a recognized concept throughout every society; but almost everyone who has experience under the tattoo gun knows just how much thought goes into each design that is laid out on the body. Whether you have tattoos or simply admire them on others, you likely have thought to yourself, what does that tattoo mean? What does it signify?
While not all tattoos have some significant or poignant meaning to the bearer, there is almost always a reason behind why the owner has chosen that specific design. But, even if someone isn’t familiar with tattoos or tattooing, they may find themselves curious about the meaning behind the pretty pictures scrawled on someone’s arm or leg. This often times leads to questions about what a tattoo means, why the owner of the tattoo got it done, and whether or not it’ll mean something in their old age.
Most tattoo collectors will remember the reasoning behind each and every piece that has been laid out on their skin, some may be more obvious than others such as names, dates, portraits, or even theme-specific tattoos, and some are a little bit more ambiguous to an outside glance.
For example, many tattooed parents will include a tattoo that celebrates the birth or life of their children in some way. While a person who may have experienced a deep loss may show the tale of pain through a memorial tattoo.
No matter the design, tattoos are a personal and permanent way to express how you were feeling at the moment, or an expression of a memory or situation which impacted your life. Tattoos can be a cathartic reminder of trials, turbulation, and a great deal of growth throughout their owner’s lives.
If you’re new to the tattooing process and are stumped on what you can live with for the rest of your life, some things to consider are:
1. Is there something that has happened in your life that you’d like to commemorate?
2. Does the tattoo have a deeply seeded meaning to you?
3. Does the design adequately express the story you want to tell through ink?
4. Do you want it to flow with your other tattoos?
Remember, the only person you have to please with your tattoos is yourself. If there is a meaning behind each and every piece; chances are, you’re not going to regret it. Especially if you have taken the time and effort to find the right artist for the job.
Tattoos are a significant form of expression that can be used to tell the story of your life from birth to the end of your days, ensuring that you remember each and every milestone along the way.
However, if you yourself cannot picture becoming a walking scrapbook of memories, it’s best to broach the subject of your curiosity of someone else’s tale tactfully. Not all people are going to want to explain each tattoo which may signify a deep loss or extremely personal meanings to the tattooed person. Open a dialog, but don’t be pushy about why their ink tells the story of their life.
Do your tattoos have a special meaning? Tell us more in the comments below!
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Unless otherwise noted, all photos are from True Artist