Guest Post — TATTOOS – All You Never Needed to Know

by Sandra Masters

Sandra MastersNot sure why exactly, I became fascinated with tattoos and did an immense amount of research. I even thought of getting a tattoo myself, but felt at my age, I didn’t want the pain, so I opted for washable tattoos.  What fun! I appeared at a writers group with an Egyptian type tattoo just below my neck. It was a great conversation piece. Move over, Nefertiti.

My second book MY DIVINELY DECADENT DUKE, was released January 29th featuring the cover below. My duke originally did not have a tattoo, but as the hero in the book called to me, this author decided he would have a tattoo inked on him by a Barbados witch doctor to protect him from evil. He has a Lion Clan tattoo. Thanks to RJ at The Wild Rose Press and my graphic artist, Debbie Taylor, my cover is picture perfect.

Book CoverThe history of tattoos goes back centuries and is referred to in the bible. It was common around the world, especially in China, Japan, Asia and Polynesia. It spread throughout Europe like wildfire. It already held a place in Central America and Australia. In fact, some anthropologists claim that the history of tattoos may date back as long as 15,000 years. Certainly, we know that many of the ancient civilizations used tattooing techniques.

Throughout history, tattoos have been used as:

Signs of status and place in society
Magical amulets against evil (My novel’s reason)
Punishment
Reminders of a religious belief
Adornments for the sake of beauty
Gang members to establish identity

lionBetween 1766 and 1770, Captain James Cook made three voyages to the South Pacific. When Cook and his men returned home to Europe from their voyages, they told tales of the ‘tattooed savages’ they had seen. The word tattoo itself comes from the Tahitian tatau and was introduced into the English language by Cook’s expedition (though the word ‘tattoo’ or ‘tap-too’ , referring to a drumbeat, had existed in England since at least 1644.

It was in 1769 that Cook first noted his observations about the body modification and is the first recorded use of the word tattoo to refer to permanent marking of the skin. He recorded it in his Ship’s log book. This method is a painful operation and is performed but once in their lifetimes.

anchorCook’s Science Officer and Expedition Botanist, Sir Joseph Banks, returned to England with a tattoo. Banks was highly regarded as a member of the English aristocracy. Cook brought back a Tahitian Chief whom he presented to King George and the English Court. The talk of many in society was the tales of the “tattooed savages.” Many of Cook’s men, ordinary seamen and sailors, came back with tattoos, a tradition that would soon become associated with seamen and men of the sea in the public’s mind. In the process, sailors and seamen re-introduced the practice of tattooing in Europe and it spread rapidly to seaports around the globe.

In fact, many tattoo artists held permanent residences in the ports of England, Spain, France and Italy. It is claimed there was a tattoo artist in every major port city.

Some Popular Symbols:

  • swallowAnchor: Refers to a someone who has sailed across the Atlantic
  • Dragon: Refers to a sailor that has served in Asia
  • Fully rigged ship: Represents traversal of Cape Horn
  • Golden Dragon: Means a sailor has crossed the International Date Line
  • Harpoon: Refers to a member of the fishing fleet
  • Rope around the wrist “Hold Fast” across the knuckles” Represents a sailor who was a deckhand
  • Swallow: Obtained when first setting out to sea. It was considered good luck.

By the 19th century, tattooing had spread to British society but was still largely associated with sailors and the lower or even criminal class.

dragonIt is said that aristocratic and royal families of Europe may well have been the first celebrities to indulge in the taste for tattoos. The royal court was fascinated and the Tahitian Chief’s tattoos were admired. The Chief was presented to King George V and he himself got inked with the “Cross of Jerusalem” when he traveled to the Middle East in 1862. The Dukes of Clarence and the Duke of York were similarly tattooed in Japan while serving in the British Admiralty solidifying what would become a family tradition.

In later years, Lady Randolph, Winston Churchill’s mother, sported a snake tattoo around her wrist, and for formal occasions, had a specially made diamond bracelet to cover it when she was in society. Winston Churchill also had a tattoo!!

Hope you enjoyed knowing more than you’ll have to about tattoos worldwide.

SANDRA MASTERS

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