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Tattoo History – An Overview


There are several evidences to prove that the ancient world widely practiced tattooing, and in many of the cultures that existed at the time were associated with highly skilled artistic endeavor. There are similarities found between the imageries of the ancient and the present world. Through-out history, tattoos have always formed a greater part in body decorations relating to sensual, erotic, and emotional aspects of the psyche. While the Inca tattoos are marked by abstract patterns that resemble contemporary tribal tattoo designs, the Pazyryk tattoos depict animals, and these images of the animals have been the ones most frequently used.

In many of the known cultures, tattoos traditionally exist as magic and totems, and the person wearing a tattoo would desire to be identified with the image of the animal, inviting its spirit within him. Tattooing has much significance with the universal psychic origins, and the ancient tattoos have many similarities with the tattoos we have in the present days.

Overview - The Tribal Tattoos:

There were three major factors which influenced the practice of tribal tattooing, transforming it from the realm of art into that of the spiritual one, and these factors were "Pain, Permanence and Loss of the Life Source (blood)". These three factors elevated the simple form of art into something which drew the people into a relationship with God, magical powers, a trance, or a vision state.

In the spiritual world, the body and the soul were generally thought to be identical to one another. With this thought the tattoos existed in two planes, the physical and the spiritual realms. People in Borneo believed that tattoos do not only serve the purpose to reach them to the spiritual world, but also it offered them with special qualifications for advantageous occupation.

Most, if not all, primitive tribes used some form of body marking, be it called tattoos, scarification, or use of plain body paints. This practice was in vogue worldwide till the arrival of civilization when tattooing fell for a temporary loss of popularity.



Religious Tattoo Overview:

Tattooing came practically to a temporary end in Europe and Middle East in the early Christian and Moslem era. The wordings in the Old Testament prohibited any cut in your flesh for the dead, and print of any kind of marking on the skin. Religious competition cropped up and while the Palestinians had used tattoos as trademarks, the Jews tried to ban the practice of tattooing which affected greatly the Arabs and the Christians alike. This in effect crippled the art for two millennia. But eventually tattooing crept back into Europe and Middle East. Christians would visit the Holy Land on pilgrimages and the only way to prove that the people had been actually there was to return with tattoo markings from the Coptic priests.



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