As in ancient traditions, tattoos can serve as our individual and spiritual marks.
Inking the skin with tattoos is an ancient cultural, religious, medical and spiritual practice. The earliest evidence of tattoos was found on humanoid sculptures dating to 40,000 years ago. Archaeological findings indicate the practice of marking the skin with tattoos has been around since Neolithic times. For example, the body of Otzi the Iceman (3370 BC) was covered in tattoos. The most famous tattooed mummies (2000 BC) were from Egypt; one was a Priestess of Hathor, and the other two were Hathor Temple dancers.
Across the ancient world, tattoos were and still are used to mark initiations into a tribe or into a spiritual tradition. They were inked as magical talismans, to heal an injury, to identify a pilgrimage, or to visibly identify the status or rank of different classes of people, including slaves, prisoners and exiles. Using tattoos for spiritual initiations caught my attention—and it evolved into this story of getting a tattoo.
1955—An Island in the Caribbean: The idea of anyone getting a tattoo was considered “a sure mark of criminal activity or thuggish behavior” as my British mother informed me when I asked her what she thought of them. Her opinions got lodged in my genetic memories. So, the idea of getting a tattoo was not even a remote consideration. Until it was.
2014—Ireland: Her name was Margaret Moose, a fascinating member of a small spiritual tour group to Ireland. Riding the bus, sitting in a field of megalithic stones, or relaxing on a Ferry, she was always writing or drawing in her journal. Margaret was an extraordinary tattoo artist from North Carolina, more notable because she was a woman in a field dominated by men. She regaled the group with her colorful “sleeves” and the vivid stories that went along with each inking. The stories always had a spiritual twist in the telling.
2017—Florida: Margaret showed up unannounced at a solstice ceremony in Southwest Florida, rekindling the friendship. She then returned for a weekend seminar in the fall that I taught with my partner, Patricia, on “Creating Your Reality.” At the end of the event, she said, “I’ll be back for your retreat in 2018.”
2018. Tattoos were still not on the radar, but a looming 70th birthday was. Some people go to Europe for a major birthday. Some throw a big party. Some choose to let the day slip by. Patricia said, “Let’s get a tattoo.” “Whaaaat?” said I, remembering my mother’s thugs and criminals warning. “Margaret’s coming to town, let’s do it!” I was shocked that I gave it a passing thought. “Do you know what you want for a tattoo?” I asked. She said, “No, but there’s time. Let’s meditate and see.” We did.
As a devotee of Green Tara, the Bodhisattva of Compassion, Patricia saw a symbol appear in meditation. Later research indicated it was the “seed syllable Tam” or the Tibetan symbol for Green Tara. She drew it and sent it to Margaret to familiarize herself. I, on the other hand, had no design for my tattoo, my mother’s thugs and criminals still prominent in my mind. The months slipped by to Margaret’s arrival—still no design. I called my daughter and said, “I’m getting a tattoo!” Her reply? “I hate tattoos! Gammie said only thugs and criminals get tattooed.” She must have asked my mother about them, too. She followed up with, “Did you do something I’m going to read about?” We hung up laughing.
Margaret brought all her inks and needles on her visit. The plan was to do the tattoos on Sunday when the retreat ended. My design was still somewhere in the etheric field. At exit 213 on I75, while staring out the window, I saw the OM symbol with a five-pointed star on top instead of the dot. The dot is the symbol for the ultimate state of consciousness. I heard the words, “Star-Sound.” OM is the sound of the eternal frequency of the stars. Three miles from Margaret’s needles, the tattoo symbol I’d been waiting for had come.
That afternoon, in the sanctity of our home, candles and incense were lit. With the Green Tara chant playing on a loop, Margaret Moose inked tattoos on the inside of our wrists. That location felt more personal as we were the only ones who would see the tattoos. She chose a soft green color in honor of Green Tara. The tattoos and the light green color blended into the veins running down the inside of the forearm, so one had to look carefully to see the symbols.
As in the ancient traditions, these tattoos are our individual spiritual marks. We were embarking on a new way of reaching and teaching. The tattoos marked that progress. It took 70 years for them to happen. They’re power symbols, reminding us to keep the momentum of the work still to be done. The tattoos “sound” the Green Tara Chant, and hold the eternal frequency of the OM vibration. They never fail to ignite an ancestral memory. Or a modern-day prod to “get on with it.”
My mother is on the other side now. I wonder if she sees me as a thug, or a daughter who re-subscribed to a long-lost spiritual practice. I’m hoping the latter.
Jo Mooy has studied with many spiritual traditions over the past 40 years. The wide diversity of this training allows her to develop spiritual seminars and retreats that explore inspirational concepts, give purpose and guidance to students, and present esoteric teachings in an understandable manner. Along with Patricia Cockerill, she has guided the Women’s Meditation Circle since January 2006 where it has been honored for five years in a row as the “Favorite Meditation” group in Sarasota, FL, by Natural Awakenings Magazine.Teaching and using Sound as a retreat healing practice, Jo was certified as a Sound Healer through Jonathan Goldman’s Sound Healing Association. She writes and publishes a monthly internationally distributed e-newsletter called Spiritual Connections and is a staff writer for Spirit of Maat magazine in Sedona. For more information go to www.starsoundings.com or email firstname.lastname@example.org.