Throughout history, tattoos have spoken about clan/tribe membership, manhood, remembrance, love, travel, pain, endurance and just silliness. They send messages to all who are able to interpret. And they are often misunderstood.
From prehistoric times, people tattooed themselves to show membership in a clan or family. Although ancient Chinese criminals were tattooed to warn people of their unworthy ways.
Ancient Egyptians used tattoos as decorative art and medical treatment.
Tattooing is an integral part of the Samoan culture and the word tattoo is thought to have evolved from the Samoan word ‘tatau’.
During Greek and Roman times tattooing was done to criminals, prisoners of war and slaves as a mark of their status. Also some soldiers tattooed themselves.
Tattoos were only common in the military and entertainment business during the 20th century. Many sailors had anchors as a sort of initiation right. A turtle would mean he had crossed the equator and a swallow meant a journey of 5000 miles.
Throughout the 1920’s cosmetic tattoos became more popular for women. Common makeup tattoos included eyebrow and lip liner. But mostly still remained common among so-called outcasts such as sailors, circus performers and criminals.
In the 1930’s, social security numbers appeared and everyone was told to memorize the number. Many resorted to tattooing the number on their body to have rapid access to it. But tattoos were still not socially not acceptable.
1940’s saw color added to tattoos. Tattoos were mostly patriotic, nautical and military during those years. The war years saw an increase in tattooing especially in women.
1950’s was the “bad boys” era of tattoos, which added to the negative stigma.
The 1960’s tattoo parlors were blamed, rightly or wrongly, for an increase in Hepatitis. However, there was an increase in tattooed celebrities.
1970’s saw the peace movement, symbols and messages in tattoos become very popular. Tattooing in general became more mainstream.
By the 21st century, tattooing was common with designs getting more colorful, bigger, smaller, more whimsical, more meaningful, on every part of the body.
I, for one, am fascinated by tattoos. I ask every waiter and waitress to tell me about their tattoos. The stories are amazing!
The majority are memorials to a family member or a dear friend. How many grandmothers are remembered in beautiful ink, I can’t even tell you. The tattoos speak of a love and a reverence in such a special way – and no words are necessary.
I’ve seen many love tattoos, some membership tattoos, several religious, a couple birthday but never any hateful or negative tattoos. I’ve never seen any threatening or troubling designs. I have seen skulls, swords and knives but never felt any danger from them or the person wearing the tattoo. It was all art and well done, I might add.
Yes, tattoos speak and they speak to me. They tell me of loves, memories, relationships, faith and joy. I’ve been looking at them and getting their stories for years and years. I’ve been studying and wondering for years and years. I’ve been envious and curious for years and years.
Finally, I’m ready.
Yes, my sweeties.
Granny is getting a tattoo!