Now that I’ve let everybody in on one of my most intimate eccentricities, I don’t imagine that the rest of them would shock you. So I’ll leave those disclosures for another time. Instead, I’ll save you the trouble of reminding me and do a rant right now from my un-inked perspective about tattoos, relying largely on my spa experience.
Besides the physical exercise, going to the gym in the daytime (as well as out dancing at night), provides many eyefuls of the tattooed and otherwise ornamented bodies of young folk. Sadly, I usually can’t discern details of the vast (and idiosyncratic) patterns or appreciate the artistic statements, since staring isn’t polite.
(As a sociological observation, I’ve been noting now at the EDM sessions of the local twenty-somethings that they don’t seem to be quite as taken with tattoos and piercings as are their elders. I’m even seeing more “kids” nowadays at the Spa without a mark on their bods.)
Certainly some folks of my vintage have tats, but I think I’ll make do with my cockadoodle. What I can’t quite grasp is the frame of mind somebody must be in to post some of the weird things I see as tattoos. Of course, chacun á son weird. Personally, I like more of the ornamental design stuff than the pictorial or narrative. (One guy has a fox chasing a rabbit across his belly.)
By me there’s something classy about the patterned armband or ankle-band, but for some reason I find those maniacal Maori shoulders and orientally intricate sleeves personally disturbing. But some of the full-back tableaus are impressive. Aesthetically, I’d prefer more cohesive patterns, something more of an overall design.
In my historical wanderings, I’ve run across lots of tattoos amongst Native Americans. There were some spectacular full-body tattoos amongst the extinct Timucua people in northern Florida. They were painted by the artist Jacques le Moyne (around 1565) while at the ill-fated French settlement of Fort Caroline. The best I can do for an illustration is a detail from an engraving of one of his lost paintings.
Full-body patterns like that are probably more than most folks could put up with, I suppose. But I do wonder why facial tattoos are so neglected. They would be a sure way to (modestly) get people look at your body art. While enthralled long ago by the Indian mounds, I ran across some great line-art engraved on shell from the Mississippian site called Spiro Mounds in Oklahoma, some of which can be seen re-drawn in my Gallery of Pre-Columbian Artifacts. My favorite is the head of a warrior with the so called “forked-eye” tattoo and a remarkable hairdo and headdress.
In my Aztec obsession I’ve run across any number of facial tattoos. Frequently faces were sectioned in different solid colors, and they used eye embellishments. It would seem that such designs were the identifying “signatures” or “trademarks” of specific individuals. Talk about having an unmistakable identity. Here are four I’ve drawn on authority of the marvelous Codex Nuttall which is admittedly of Mixtec origin, but what the hay! Don’t miss the other details including the (real) beards.
Native American tattooing traditions continued long after European contact and the colonies. In the late 18th century a young Creek gentleman named merely John combined ink and jewelry in an elegant fashion statement. Here’s my rendition of a 1790 drawing of John by the early American artist John Trumbull.
By the way, I have a superb suggestion for truly personalizing tattoos. Considering the Aztec picture-writing of dates in their ceremonial calendar, folks could very easily sport their personal Aztec birthday-names as identity-tattoos. All you’d need to do is consult the tonalpohualli to find out your number-day name, grab one of my day-signs, slap the appropriate number of dots in whatever arrangement around it, and there you go. Here’s one for someone born on the day Five Flower (which is also the day-name of their god of games and parties).
Not to belabor the subject, though I will, I rather think that some of my Aztec deities would love to ride on somebody’s bare back. Take for instance, Itzpapalotl, The Obsidian Butterfly (or Clawed Butterfly), the goddess of the night and stars.
Go for it—the colors are entirely up to you.