Tattoos have had a bad rap. However, tattoos are becoming slowly more common and therefore more accepted. According to a 2017 survey in the United States, 4 out of 10 Americans have at least one tattoo. Personally, I believe we can reclaim the spiritual and soulful qualities of this art with more intention and awareness.
In contrast to today’s lingering taboos about tattooing, ancient tattoo traditions had more spiritual and perhaps even magickal significance. The ancient Egyptians believed that tattoos protected the bearers from disease. Many ancient cultures and tribal societies throughout history and all over the world had traditions of tattooing, that signified social status, success in battle, protection, or even for pure aesthetic beauty. As we moved into modern society and away from our connection to nature, spirit, and tradition, tattoos became more associated with sin, crime, and the underworld than anything magickal or spiritual.
I have hope that we can change this association. For me, my experience with tattoos has been extremely intentional and spiritual. My parents are from the Philippines. Knowing that I have a tattoo tradition in my bloodline brings me a sense of pride. There is a rich and vibrant tattoo tradition in ancient tribal Filipino culture.
It’s believed in the Filipino tattoo tradition that your tattoos are the only thing that you bring with you into the afterlife—that tattoos not only mark your body, but your soul, and in some tribes, the belief was that your tattoos granted you passage into the afterlife.
My first tattoo was a full sleeve of the Goddess Kuan Yin riding on a dragon. I was all in, go big or go home. At the time I had just started my first journey ascending the tree of life in the Universal Kabbalah and for me this tattoo represented the sphere of Chesed. I became very aware of how judgemental and hard on myself I had been, and I was working on having more compassion and love for myself so that I could better have compassion for others. Kuan Yin was the perfect reminder for me and still is to this day. My relationship with her has grown and continues to deepen.
When I look around at my spiritual community and family across the world, I see so much beauty and expression in the tattoos of my colleagues.
I was curious about their stories and what their tattoos meant to them, so I caught up with several spiritual leaders and healers from The Modern Mystery School about their tattoos and their individual journeys.
A Road Map of My Spiritual Journey
Genie Markwell, Seattle, Washington
Through my ages and stages of life when I was exploring my own spirituality and learning about different cultures and religions and practices, a lot of the tattoos I have represent different periods of that exploration, what I was learning. What I was resonating with at that period of time are all marked on my body. It’s almost like a road map of my own spiritual journey. I love being able to look back at the different pieces and remember what I was thinking and where I was at at those periods of time, and seeing the evolution of how that’s changed over the years. But all of my tattoos have significant meaning to me. I have different aspects of exploring Buddhism, and metaphysics, and Christianity, Native American culture, different things that all have meaning, which all have played a part in my spiritual growth and development. I love all of them!
I have the four elements done in a very linear fashion, with a strong meaning, maintaining balance and focusing on all of the aspects of all of the elements and how to wield them in my life.
I have the Star of David which represents the perfected human, being in that place of power. In our lineage, we use this powerful symbol. I find that one I am invoking this symbol, I feel so much more in tune and able to be sensitive and receptive.
I learned a long time ago in Native American culture, that when you place a symbol on your body, you have to be ready to walk with and utilize the power of that symbol always. It never goes away. You can’t put it down. You’re affirming to the universe that you walk with that symbol. So I gave a lot of thought into whether I wanted to put these symbols on my body, and I’m glad that I did.
Genie Markwell is a mother, chiropractor, Healer, Teacher, and Guide
Follow her on Instagram @drgenie05
Expressing My Soul’s Desire
Jakzam Kaiser, Florianopolis, Brazil
My first tattoo is an elephant that I got when I was 40 years old. At that time I was recovering from a car accident. I had a scar on my shoulder and I wanted to cover up the scar.
It was like expressing something of my soul’s desire. The designs came from my intuition.
The design on my arms are sacred geometry. I have a dragon, a sun, and 2 other suns on my chest. On my back, I have an eagle. On my neck I have an Ankh symbol. I have an Eye of Horus on my chest.
I also have on my chest a symbol of my astrology signs, a Centaur for Sagittarius, with the horns of a ram for Aries, and the Scorpion, which represents my sun, moon, and rising signs.
I like my tattoos, they are part of me!
Jakzam is a Healer and Guide based in Florianopolis, Brazil.
Visit him at Imhotep Luz
My Own Magickal Wings
Emily Michelle Berry, Austin, Texas
The cycle the caterpillar goes through to become this stunning, beautiful, free creature is one of patience, destruction, and complete transformation; which has always felt like an analogy for life. The more structured shapes of the butterfly are like a gorgeous stained-glass window you’d find in a church, which now adds to “your body is a temple” in deeper ways.
Everything in life is formed with three simple yet complex shapes and reminds me that there is no “random meaninglessness” in creation – we were all made in the eyes of an artistic, loving creator.
And of course, the hidden Yoni symbol is a reminder of my own feminine power, in all my softness and strengths. The butterfly was placed on my back as if they were my own magickal wings, helping me embody her whimsical and bold powers.
An initiate from the Modern Mystery School community in Austin is a tattoo artist and his beautiful works had always captured my eyes. Knowing his artistic skills, I came to him with the vague idea of tattooing a butterfly on my back with geometric shapes and a Yoni symbol. He created a beautiful outline of the tattoo and I encouraged him to freely color it in during our session, giving him full artistic expression. The sessions took place in a crystal gridded studio (done by one of our Resident Team Members at Activate Austin), and he has such clean energy, so it felt like it’s own special ritual in an amplified, magickal setting… very unlike other places and people I’ve received work from.
A Strictly Intuitive Thing
Sarah Hauch, Winnipeg, Canada
I always wanted to get tattoos since I was 12! It’s funny, the first tattoo I ever wanted to get was a sun around my hara chakra area. My dad said to me, “Aren’t you glad I never let you get that?” But I ended up working closely with the archetype of a sun goddess, so sometimes I think, “That would be kinda cool!”
Every tattoo that I have has been a strictly intuitive thing.
So I see something, I see a symbol, or words, and I instantly know that I have to get it tattooed and I get it tattooed on me THAT DAY. I don’t think about it, I don’t plan it out.
I have “Lead a Sacred Rebellion”, which my roommate had tagged me in a post on Instagram and instantly I walked to the tattoo shop and had it tattooed because it touched me so much. I’m Icelandic, and I have an Icelandic cross on my back and I also have an Om.
I really believe in Dr. Emoto and his work.
I really believe that the words and the symbols we put on our body are important for our own energy.
So every tattoo that I have, even if someone asked me to explain what it is, or why I have it, I couldn’t. I just know that I am supposed to have them.
Spirit Embodied in Flesh
Aaron Zeigler, Austin, Texas
With all the tattoos I have, I had to really think out what I wanted and I waited until I was 38 for my first tattoo. The first piece I started is still in progress. Each piece means something to me. I would never get a tattoo that doesn’t mean something to me. It’s like taking that energy and having it made manifest in the physical. Also as a reminder of something.
Each piece is bringing something into my physical body and it reminds me of who I am.
The first tattoo I’ve started is a sleeve. It’s a tiger and I was born in the year of the tiger in Chinese astrology with the element of wood. So I also wanted a tree and the four elements of earth, water, air and fire. I came with this idea and the artist has been adding to that concept every session. It’s a classical Asian style of tattoo and I really like it.
I also have a pentagram and that is an energy I resonate with that I use and wear. I had a gold pentagram that I wore all the time, it was quite expensive and I lost it. So I decided to get it tattooed on me so I wouldn’t ever lose it. I feel like I’m taking that energy in and being it because I have it on my flesh, because it’s embodied in my flesh. It’s spirit in the physical.
“The Kingdom of Spirit is Embodied in My Flesh” — I feel that wholly when I get tattoos.
I have a tattoo of the holy name of god on my chest. I saw The Fool Card in Tarot and the pathways of Universal Kabbalah as I was studying these things. I really liked the idea of always being the fool, having all the knowledge and learning how to apply that knowledge. The Fool has this on his chest. So I got this tattoo to remind myself of always being the fool and always learning and to never stop learning. It was quite a powerful experience to receive that tattoo. It was extremely physically painful but also energetically powerful. It’s a reminder everyday and I see it because it’s in the middle of my chest.
I have an Isis tattoo on my leg. I really love the goddess Isis and her embodiment of the feminine. I love bringing that reminder to me in my life. I wouldn’t say she’s always soft, rather a tough kind of loving, and pure. That energy comes through. It’s the most painful tattoo I’ve received. It took several layers and several sessions because some of the color wouldn’t stay. It was like I really had to want it, she tested me to see if I really wanted that tattoo. It really is an amazing thing to have this energy brought into my life. I felt it balancing in a profound way within me.
Reminders from the Goddess
Casey O’Connell, Austin, Texas
The other I have is of the Assyrian Goddess Atargatis. She is a huge influence in my life and I work with her quite a bit. When I began working with her, it allowed me to open up pieces of myself that I always saw but could never reach: her passion, her sense of justice, her protective nature, her light, her purity, her ability to hold a container for humans to find themselves.
My essence is very much embodied by this Goddess and all that she represents. I chose to receive the Ostrich feather when it came to me in a meditation. I then searched the internet for a photo and its meaning and came to find the one that I used as my template. It took me a bit of time to finally choose to receive this but true to my nature, decided to one day on a whim. I decided to visit my dear friend in Providence, RI and booked a tattoo artist there that day. We went together and she sat with me the whole time. It was interesting, because she was able to witness the side of me that can endure so much even with a smile on my face.
Goddess Atargatis came to me strongly when I moved down to Austin during a huge transition and told me that I needed to receive this tattoo. Sounds crazy right? She said that it would unlock a part of myself that I had long hidden and help me to embody my true nature here on Earth and
Photo: Vanessa Nova
Then magickally, some money I wasn’t expecting came into my life and I was able to finish the piece in a couple of sittings. The process was incredible. I felt the Angels and Goddess Atargatis working through him and it felt as though the sittings were each huge pieces of coming to connect with myself as Goddess. I felt pain. I felt fear. I felt awkward. But I felt stronger than I ever have. And I’m so glad that I went through it all to receive her!
She will eventually become a part of a bigger sleeve piece that I can’t wait to get started on. Both of these tattoos mean so much to me. They have met me at times in my life when I needed them most and were both inspired by such strong, unique and powerful Goddesses.
My Ostrich Feather reminds me to stay calm, balanced and hold the line with myself as I continue my journey. My Goddess Atargatis reminds me to love myself and the being that I am, always.
Maps to Infinite Treasure
Osiris Indriya, Bothell, Washington
Early in my formal training as an initiate in the Lineage of King Salomon, I went to see Victor Policheri of VIP Tattoo and asked him to freehand designs on my arms based on essential tools I wanted to have with me always.
First was the Kabbalistic Tree of Life (my right arm). This is the path that manifestation travels from inspiration to realization (idea to result). I was making my arm a wand of manifestation so I could use the same tools the gods use to create as I remade my own reality in my image.
Next was the Alchemical process of purification (my left arm). In order to generate output, I needed input. So I made the choice that everything I took in to create with would be purified to its purest form, to its true essence, so that my manifestations would be imbued with that potency.
I am grateful to my younger self for making sure that these maps to infinite treasure are always handy.
About the Author
CEO + Co-Founder, Activate Austin | Guide, Healer, Teacher with the Modern Mystery School
With 20+ years experience in the field of energy healing, spirituality, wellness and 10 years in the lineage of King Salomon, Vanessa offers a variety of healing modalities and classes to support your empowerment and growth. She specializes in women’s wellness and divine feminine empowerment and enjoys working with leaders & entrepreneurs.
She currently has 3 tattoos and plans to receive many more!
Follow her in Instagram @vanessanova