Tattoo magick: Body art for magicians

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Tattoo machine, ink, and small skull, photo by diegoservelion

Tattoos are more than body art, they can be powerful magical tools. Tattoo magick can grant protection, enhance fertility, and more.

Tattoos have been a part of human history for thousands of years. However, like so many things, over time tattoos have lost some of their magick, and they are often used simply as an exquisite exterior.

Don’t get me wrong, a tattoo crafted simply to decorate one’s body can be magnificent — the star and moon mural on my left thigh was done simply because I think it makes my leg look pretty.

But tattoos have the potential to be so much more than mere decoration. A tattoo can symbolize dedication to a deity, or person, or even a fictional character — just ask the glasses and lightning bolt on my left leg and the golden snitch on my right.

Anathema Publishing - Pillars (red)

The feathers on my left hand, however, serve a purpose more powerful than dedication. They are magical in that they carry out my intended will. The ogham tattoos on my right hand are magical as well. The ancients used tattoos not only for beauty, but also for the purposes I just listed.

Won’t you join me on a little stroll down history lane, where we can marvel at the history of tattoos?

RelatedSacred tattoos: Temporary skin, permanent mark, by Xenia

Ice shadow, photo by Dan Zen

Ancient art form

The earliest tattoo patterns discovered were those belonging to Otzi the Iceman, who was found in a glacier in 1991. Otzi is estimated to have lived around 3250 BCE.

He had 61 tattoos that ranged from his lower legs to his upper back and on his left wrist. Talk about a human canvas! Experts believe that he didn’t see it this way; they believe that the tattoos served a therapeutic purpose, perhaps put onto his body to help cure an ailment he might have had. Otzi was found in the Austrian-Italian border. Though his culture was not the only early one to use tattoos.

Tattoos served many purposes in ancient Egypt, as far back as the Middle Kingdom (2040 – 1782 BCE). What is interesting is that only female mummified remains have been found to have tattoos. The Egyptians knew how to work powerful magick, and they knew the power of marking the body with a symbol.

Their tattoos offered protection, symbolized the cycle of life, death, and rebirth, encouraged fertility and afforded protection. There is one woman who was found with intricate tattoos over her belly from the navel down, and experts discovered that if that woman’s belly were to swell from pregnancy, those tattoos would look like a net of protection.

Last, and certainly not least, tattoos were used to indicate servitude as well as devotion to a god or goddess.1

RelatedCultural appropriation and tattoos, by Donyae Coles

Lotus graffiti, photo by seethruu55

Make your magick stick, literally

Just as the magical techniques of the ancient societies have trickled down through history, so have the purpose of tattoos. Personally, I have tattoos that both serve to carry out an intention (in other words they serve as a sigil on my skin), declare my devotion to a goddess, as well as love for my son and my brother, and have therapeutic intentions to help me maintain a healthy mind and soul.

Tattoo magick is an exciting venture, but it must be carried out with patience and care. The moment you conceive the idea for a magical working, every thought you think about it adds to the energy that brings that intention to pass. That means that all the hours you spend over a span of weeks, months even, are working towards realizing your will.

Create your tattoo based on shapes, symbols and signs that reflect your intent. Be sure to note what you associate with the initial shapes or symbols you choose. While many symbols have traditional meanings, what matters most is the meaning you attribute to them.

Before I give myself a stick and poke tattoo, I will draw the tattoo I’m considering on my skin with a permanent marker. This way I can try it out for a week or so to make sure I like it, and to make sure that whenever I look at it I think about my goal for the tattoo. For example, if I decide to put a lotus flower on my body to symbolize my growth, I want to make sure I think about that, instead of thinking about the flower itself.

RelatedSigil magick: Down and dirty, by Donyae Coles

RelatedSigils, servitors and godforms: Part I, by Marik

RelatedFireclown’s sigilization basics for the confused, by Fireclown

Tattoo ink and accessories, photo by Delton Childs

Casting as you craft

Magick tattoos are unique in that you don’t need herbs or candles, you don’t even need to go to your altar to activate them. As you craft your tattoo, as you perfect every line, every shadow, and decide on the precise degree to which it is angled on your body, you are casting the spell.

The application of the tattoo can be thought of as the final step, the activation if you will. I prefer to do them myself, because my concentration, my pain, my time, and energy all help me feel the power behind the tattoo.

Giving yourself a stick and poke tattoo is a ritual in and of itself. It’s soothing to clean my work area, with everything arranged in the perfect position, so I can seamlessly go from ink to sticking to wiping away excess ink with a witch hazel soaked gauze pad, back to dipping and sticking.

Of course, there is more to stick and poke tattoos that just dipping a needle into ink and then stabbing your skin. The website that I found most helpful in DIY stick and poke tattoos is Stick and Poke Tattoo Kit.2 They offer stick and poke kits, which are pretty pricey. The priceless information is in their blog and FAQ sections.

You can create your own stick and poke hit for a fraction of the cost of theirs. A box of 100 prepackaged, sterilized 3RL tattoo needles are available on Amazon for less than $10 (US), and India ink cost about the same, if you purchase it from a big box craft store. Everything else you can get from a dollar store or local pharmacy.

I use an old first aid box to keep my kit together, which includes: gauze pads, iodine, witch hazel, antibacterial soap, sterile gloves, and A&D ointment, which contains petrolatum and lanolin, and protects the skin from bacteria and other irritants while sealing out moisture so the skin can heal. Any antibacterial ointment, like Bacitracin or Neosporin, or a restorative healing ointment, such as Aquaphor, should work, as long as it is not a petroleum jelly based ointment, because petroleum prevents oxygen from getting to the skin.

If you prefer to have your tattoo done professionally that is totally fine, your tattoo will be no less magical because of it. You are placing a lot of trust in another person to carry out your wishes, and having faith that they will apply the design in a way that not only serves the magical purpose, but is appealing to the eye too. Faith and trust are very powerful feelings, and that power serves to carry out your will.

RelatedDisentangling “will,” by Seth Harris

RelatedLove is the Law: Philios, True Will and the Great Work, by Kara Rae Garland

Tattooed Tarot

Final thoughts

I would like to leave you with one final piece of advice: creativity is a fascinating entity — it’s almost as though it has a life of its own. When it comes to something as important as designing a piece of art that will permanently be on your body for the rest of this life, you can get stuck on the creation process due to of all the pressure you are putting on yourself.

If you have a difficult time deciding on how to express the intent of your tattoo magick, meditate about what you want to accomplish. Talk to your friends, family, spirit guides or higher power.

You could also perform a ritual that encourages inspiration to enter your life, and if you sign up for Spiral Nature’s Premium Membership, you can check out the article I wrote that includes three inspiration rituals.

While our bodies are only with us during this lifetime, we want to make sure we enjoy ourselves. A bad tattoo can really put a damper on your day. So, take your time, and be open to creativity when it graces you with inspiration.

RelatedMeditation: Four techniques to get you started, by Mercury

Related: Tattooed Tarot, reviewed by Psyche

RelatedTarot del Fuego, reviewed by Donyae Coles

Image credits: diegoservelionDan Zenseethruu55Delton Childs

Footnotes:

  1. Joshua J. Mark, “Tattoos in Ancient Egypt,” Ancient History Encyclopedia, 9 January 2017. []
  2. Stick and Poke Tattoo Kit, stickandpoketattookit.com. []

2 COMMENTS

  1. Amanda – I do the SAME thing with trying it on with permanent marker for a week or so, to see how it feels. I’ve discovered that sometimes I feel like I only need that magic temporarily, and by the time the marker wears off, I’ve completed the task that made me feel I needed the tattoo in first place.

    All my tattoos however, are magical in nature, as well as just plain pretty!

  2. There’s something exhilarating about a new tattoo… it’s as though they double as a glamor spell too! And sometimes all we need is a temporary tattoo to help us over a hurtle. I’d love to know about the intentions behind your other tattoos! Do you get them done, or are they DIY stick and poke (all but one of mine are S&P)? I will be writing a follow up piece, looking at the ways in which people get tattoos – stick and poke, tattoo gun, carving, burning, etc.
    All but one of my tattoos are magical…the first one I got when I was 21 is a hummingbird, but I supposed it could be love and devotion magick -I got the tattoo because my grandmother has always wanted a hummingbird tattoo but couldn’t due to medical issues. My thigh sleeve wasn’t really a spell, but a declaration of my magical life. It’s a bunch of stars and moons-some of the stars are pentacles. My Harry Potter tattoos – a snitch and glasses with a lightening bold on my shins just below my knees, are another magical declaration/devotion. And as a tribute to Harry Potter lol. The others are to protect loved ones, to help with creativity, grounding, and as an offering for my Matron deity.

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