BY CATHRINE FORMOE
Tattoos are more than just a passing fashion. Adorning the body this way has been a part of the Eurasian culture since the early Stone Age.
And archaeologists have found mummies from 200BC with large tattoos over their bodies.
The Native American Indians have a long tradition of tattoos. Indigenous people around the world seem to have had the custom of tattooing themselves for thousands of years, with the exception of a few groups such as Eskimos and Lapps. The indigenous people of New Zealand often have tattooed many parts of the body and face. Furthermore, it is believed that Japanese tattoos have been around for thousands of years ago.
Today, tattoos have become more common in the western world and more accepted in our modern society. Not only criminals, rockers and outsiders use tattoos in our industrialised society. Although in the 1970s and 1980s there was possibly a little more suspicion over tattoos, today it seems that most people know how to appreciate one of humanity’s oldest traditions.
The methods have of course varied. An ancient method of doing this was to create open wounds on the body, then put the ash in the wounds. Eventually needles improved the precision of the tattoo design. With current methods, there is far less pain associated with tattooing, but still it is far from painless.
What is the point?
Tattooing has been used, and is still used, for several purposes: rites of passage; marks of status and rank; symbols of religious and spiritual devotion; decorations for bravery; sexual lures and marks of fertility; pledges of love, punishment, amulets and talismans; protection; and as the marks of outcasts, slaves and convicts.
Sometimes people and animals have forcefully been tattooed. A well-known example is the identification system for Nazi concentration camp inmates during the Holocaust. Animals quite often get tattooed for identification reasons.
It has also become more and more common to tattoo permanent make-up. The most common method is filling in eyebrows with colour that will last a couple of years. Also a thin black line around the eyes, as well as a red or pink colour on the lips, is becoming normal in western societies.
Religion has been a reason for tattoos such as crosses and references to something of a spiritual nature. Yet tattoos are forbidden by Sunni Islam and Judaism.
You may regret it
What people decide to tattoo on their bodies is often inspired by trends.
What they choose to print into their skin with ink forever is something they need to consider carefully.
And if you have decided you want one, try to keep away from the trends. Linn Loly says she made the mistake of tattooing before thinking it through first.
“I was 16, on my first vacation without my parents and quite rebellious,” she recalls.
“I tattooed a frog on my shoulder and I have regretted it almost ever since.
“I am going to have it removed.”
It is possible to remove tattoos with laser treatment. But it is expensive and apparently a very painful procedure, much more excruciating than getting the tattoo. You might get quite a scar afterwards as well.
Differing from Miss Loly, some people really consider their tattoos to be meaningful to them.
“I thought about mine for over two years before I took it,” Joachim Gustrav Engelstad says.
His tattoo is of Charles Darwin’s theory of the human evolution. The tattoo is of how an ape becomes a human; the last person of the four evolving ape-humans is standing on a skateboard.
“For me, my tattoo represents my beliefs and my lifestyle,” Mr Engelstad continues.
Mona Alice Hansen says: “I took mine because I thought and still think they just look good.
“I think tattoos are pretty … and really meant something to me that I wanted to tattoo.”
On her back, she displays a tattoo of two large angel wings. Her leg shows a picture of an Indian woman.
The word, “tattoo”, is traced to the Tahitian “tatu” or “tatau”, meaning “to mark” or stroking, which alludes to the traditional way to affix the signature.
While some people regret their choice of tattoos, others forever love their meaning and for still more, it is just for fun.