How I Ink It…

Rai's back tattoo

Always meant to ask if you chose that order of symbols specifically, what the order means or did it just look artistically best to you in that order, if you got them at once or “add-a-charm” …? Q

As several others have asked similar questions about my sole tattoo– thought I’d answer you all here.

Actually, it started from the middle out.  I sort of placed them in the order in which I learned of them. I was raised Christian, so it is first in my life and thus above the peace sign. Judaism was the second religion I learned, placed right below the peace sign as a balance. While I eventually heard of several other faiths, Christianity and Judaism were the only two faiths that I was surrounded by and had any “working knowledge” of until high school.  Before then with my very limited worldview, Muslims were who the Jews were fighting in Israel and that’s pretty much it. I realize now, that it was something of a subconscious thing to put the Crescent closer to Magen David as opposed to the cross as Muslims were more their (Israeli) problem, than ours (Americans) as I was growing up.  Who knew? Buddhism, Hinduism and Taoism were foreign concepts. Seriously, some mention of such in martial arts films would be the closest thing to understanding about The Way as I would come for years.  I was not associating with followers of those faiths to ask and learn, so my knowledge was spotty to say the very least.

Entering the workforce brought my first one-on-one interactions with Muslims and learning of the Koran.  Eventually Taoists, Hindus, Buddhists came into my rapidly expanding world view.  I came to know more people and as a result their respective faiths.  Books and now the internet also help flesh out of my still woefully lacking knowledge.

Though I had known of Greek, Roman and Norse mythologies since grade school, it was the resurgence of African culture in the late ‘70’s – early ‘80s that I first learned of African mythology.  The concept of Black deities, other than the age-old argument of the ethnicity of Christ in some churches, blew my mind. I knew if I got a tattoo an Ankh would have to be a part of it.   I placed it at the bottom because I knew I was Black before I knew I was Christian, so for me it’s the base of everything (including civilization depending on who you ask). The Om and the Taijitu as the last of the major faiths I learn were placed above the Cross simply to balance out the design.

Though some will claim that the Taijitu (the Yin Yang symbol), covers it, leaving out Paganism (generally represented by a Star Pentagram or Pentacle) was an oversight on my part, one I plan correct eventually for fairness. So I guess I get to “add-a-charm” after all, Q.

The design as I originally conceived it had each belief in red within a black circle, with the peace symbol in reverse colors.  Red drops (blood) emanate from the peace symbol piercing the black circle of each belief, turning each symbol red in turn. Unfortunately, I let the tattoo artist convince me that the red really wouldn’t show up well with my complexion and did the entire thing in black.  If I ever go back to have Paganism added, I plan to have red drops swirl around the black circles and through the peace sign. I chose it to run down my spine from the base of my neck (feeding the brain where I think) to just about the bottom of my rib cage (protecting the heart where I feel).  As our spine are to our bodies, our faiths, beliefs are to our souls.

Essentially, no matter what belief system surrounds us, at our cores we are still all one blood, it is the backbone of being human and we should all be able to live together in peace. It’s as complex and as simple as that.

There you have it – Religion according to Raivenne. (Queue John Lennon’s Imagine, except I’m leaving the faith in.)

Congregation dismissed.


Theme Thursdays | Complexities

12 thoughts on “How I Ink It…

  1. Interesting. I’ve never given any thought to the order of the symbols. I simply assumed it stood for unity, as you mentioned.

    • At the core, yes it’s all about unity. But, I as had actually put some thought into it other than it was visually appealing, I wanted to acknowledge that aspect of the design.

  2. Your shadows of the night is a great portfolio of life unfolding in the wee hours and the form heightens the level of intrigue…I like the tattoos on the spine that protects the heart.. an adventurous and curious person you are 😉

  3. Thank you! I know for many, tattoos are very carefully considered, and often have deeper meanings than the casual viewer might expect. I assumed that would be your camp- I know it would/will be mine. I think the simplicity is lovely now, but I think adding the swirl will look good. I’m certainly no tattoo artist, but I can’t help but think that even if the red doesn’t read scarlet, it will still be a contrast to the rest. I appreciate and enjoy hearing of the process.

    • Q, you and I are hardly the types to do anything that will leave such a permanent impression without giving it some serious thought. Especially with our own bodies. I have since seen many people with complexions similar to mine who have tattoos with red in it. Yes, it is does not show as vividly as it would with someone of a fairer complexion, but it does show enough. I really regret not listening to my own voice in that regard, but that can and will be remedied. Thanks Q.

  4. Very interesting about how your thought processes worked when you had each symbol tattooed on your spine. It gives you a very nice way to talk about your beliefs and the things you have learned about different groups of religion. I know I could never get a tattoo because just the thought of giving my body more pain is more than I can handle. I have had enough physical pain in my life and will have even more than I have now. Otherwise I would have more piercings in my ears.

    Thanks for sharing such a wonderful story about your tattoos for this weeks Theme Thursday. Hope you are having a peaceful, relaxing week.

    God bless.

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