Tattooing the “Temple”

Tattoos.  Body art has become so common now that it’s pretty much pointless to debate the acceptability of it all (unless you’re tattooed and debating the acceptability of displaying tats in the conventional workplace–that’s still debated).  However, I’m not going to talk about social acceptance of tattooing, but whether tattooing fits into the realm of paganism or not.

Please no flaming or upset comments of “You don’t know what you’re talking about since you don’t have tats.”  I try to play devil’s advocate and reflect both sides of an issue, to the best of my ability.  If you have a problem with my argument or find holes, please point them out so I can try to fix them, but I don’t put up with personal attacks or insults.

Now, back to the point.  Tattoos acceptable in pagan culture, yea or nay?  There are those who extend the “harm none” rule to apply to their own bodies.  Under this rule, tattooing would then become unacceptable, since the ink of the tattoo would be considered a foreign element in the body, plus you’re intentionally inflicting pain on the skin, etc.  Not to mention the emotional turmoil if it’s something you eventually want removed.  There are also those who consider the body to be sacred, a temple, as it were, and tattooing is therefore a desecration of the temple (though if I recall correctly this falls more under Buddhism belief than it does most traditions of paganism, but I see no reason why individual pagan beliefs couldn’t incorporate this belief without necessarily being Buddhist).

On the other side, there are those who see no harm in tattooing.  I know many people who have tattoos, ranging from a lotus blossom to a cat to a zodiac symbol.  There is nothing wrong with body art as long as it’s something you can live with.

There are, of course, the dangers inherent in irresponsible tattoo practices, so finding a respectable tattoo parlor is a must, but as long as a person doesn’t hold the belief that the body is a temple and therefore sacred and doesn’t mind having body art on display in a society that is only half-way accepting of tattoos, then what is there to stop a person from getting a tattoo?  If you don’t stretch “harm none” to apply in all instances, getting a tattoo is perfectly acceptable.

Personally, I do not have tattoos, not because I don’t find them acceptable, but because I’m afraid of needles and don’t have a very high pain threshold.  I wouldn’t be able to sit still while the artist engraved permanent ink into my flesh.  I don’t care if other people have them, and some designs are truly beautiful.  My ex had a whole back tattoo, from his nape to the base of his spine and from side to side, and I didn’t care.  I thought it was a pretty tattoo, actually.  It’s up to other people if they’re going to get ink permanently stuck to their skin, and I’m not going to stop them just because I don’t want a tattoo (exceptions made for children up to the age of 18, of course).

Does tattooing fit into paganism?  I see no reason why it couldn’t, as long as there are responsible practices and true thought is put into what the tattoo will be before the procedure is done.  As long as a pagan doesn’t apply “harm none” to apply to their own body, or doesn’t qualify tattooing as harm, there doesn’t appear to be a problem.

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2 responses to “Tattooing the “Temple”

  1. Most people I know who do this work use tattoos for spiritual reasons, mostly. Their tattoo connects them to something. Think of the Native Americans who used tattoos as a part of their spiritual path.

    As far as getting a tattoo as harm to your body, I guess it is all about your perception. I’ve met pagans who were able to meditate throughout the whole process and didn’t really feel anything.

    If I ever get a tattoo, it will be something that truly means a whole lot to me–and is able to carry the energy of a symbol that I don’t necessarily have to wear around my neck. It would be a symbol I want to have with my the rest of my life.


  2. I feel like you left a lot out, especially the emphasis and meaning some cultures placed on tattoos, and the magical uses of such tattoos – imagine having the power of an amulet or sigil without having to actually carry it or worry about it being lost. Tattoos have a lot of power and potential and most importantly, a lot of history. I know that while I do seek designs which I find appealing, one of my ultimate goals for a tattoo is something useful magically and something magically meaningful. Tattoos are a permanent bond (with minor exception) and as such have a lot of use with magick.

    As to the acceptability debate in the work place, there’s always UV tattoos which are not only hidden but that look AWESOME.

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