Tattoos, combs and circles

Discussion in 'Anthropology' started by Celtic Skogsra, 6 June 2016.

  1. Celtic Skogsra

    Celtic Skogsra Heroic Member

    I found a site with information about traditional tattooing in and near Europe.

    In other cases, a carding comb was tattooed on weavers to make them more efficient. Among the Kabyle, similar comb designs were tattooed on weavers since they were, as previously noted, considered to be purificatory fire symbols.​

    Similar symbolism existed among the Aryan Yezidis.

    Field remarked that the Yezidis tattooed most frequently a comb design, called misht or meshed, and a rayed circle or disc with a varying number of rays and sometimes a circular branded scar called kawi in the center. Westermark illustrates a related tattoo motif in Morocco which was called mechta, “comb,” very similar to the etymology of the Kurdish word misht, that resembles the carding comb tattoos of the Kabyle and Chaouian Berbers of Algeria. Cola Alberich reported that rayed crosses tattooed in Morocco were “expressions of the solar cult.” Thus, it seems that comb tattoos in Iraq were perhaps in some way related to solar motifs, because we know that iron carding combs and tattoos were used as fire symbols in North Africa.​

    The motif of a comb in connection with a solar motif is not unique to the Yezidis. This same comb-and-'mirror' combination also appears in Pictish art and likely is common Indo-European or even older, depending on how it arrived in North Africa. Would it be surprising if this motif is as old as weaving?

    Tattooing was magical and religious in the Mediterranean world, which may explain its prohibition in Leviticus. After the spread of Christianity & Islam the practice was widely denounced in Europe, but local survivals there and nearby might inform us what our ancestors inked and what meanings or uses they possessed. The sun (also the mirror!) and the comb are of course symbols of the weaving dawn goddess be she in Europe, India, Japan, the Caucasus or Egypt.
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  2. Raisin

    Raisin Senior Member Staff Member

    In a strange coincidence, I spent the afternoon today looking up the history of tattooing in Europe (Slow day at work, to say the least); Fucking psychic tentacles from some obscure egregore must be present.

    Possibly. It's certain that much of the "magical" tattooing was undertaken for medicinal purposes, - scrutiny of some tattoo'd mummies has revealed diseased or arthritic tissue below the sites of the markings; And physicians like Galen were entirely secular in their rationale on the matter. Medical tattooing, incidentally, did make a resurgence in more modern European medicine, which suggests a certain practicality for their historic use (in the same vein that putting silver down wells was vindicated, or honey for the sickly). Then again, the Talmud doesn't seem to view it in this utilitarian, secular sense, - e.g. as with the comments on Jesus being inscribed with Egyptian spells, in his role as a deceiving (but nonetheless magical) pseudo-prophet; So anti-idolatry may have driven its prohibition, as you indicate.

    The alternative to Leviticus viewing it as idolatrous is that they were simply trying to differentiate themselves from the surrounding peoples. The Roman gentry was similarly minded, viewing tattooing as the wont of the picti or the slave, - hence the use of tattooing as a punishment, in numerous cases. The Greeks, I understand, were likewise.

    The lack of tattooing seems to be more instinctual than it was explicitly denounced. Pope Hadrian is oft cited as having prohibited it, but all I could find from him directly was very general comments in the Second Council of Nicaea about "indulgence and adornment" of the body, giving the example of clothing and perfumes. It is possible that a missionary from Hadrian to Britain relayed the prohibition explicitly, but I have yet to find that; Likewise, I struggled to find a cited prohibition from the Emperor Constantine, - which would probably be in the form of an edict prohibiting punitive, mocking tattooing being forced onto Christians by Roman authorities. Nonetheless, that the Christians were not fans of tattooing is evident both by the scarcity of mentions of the practise (beyond sailors and the small marks received by pilgrims, or use as a sign of solidarity against forced conversion to Islam in Egypt and Bosnia), and by the curiosity and scorn of Mediaevals and Early Moderns when presented with tattooed Inuits or whatever. Such quasi-occult doodlings are alien to the humility of the perspective of Abrahamic purity and man as the imago dei.

    An interesting possibility: Since the term tattoo is one derived from Colonial ventures, the Christians in question would have spoken of "marks" (or stigmas and whatnot), - to what extent, do we think, did the infamous "marks" of the Witch Hunts refer to tattooing?
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  3. Celtic Skogsra

    Celtic Skogsra Heroic Member

    Raisin, the presence of tattooing in Egypt is well known, but was there any evidence of comb-like markings, particularly connected to a solar symbol? A web search reveals nothing though tattoos there seem, when not medicinal, to have been primarily (entirely?) for women - as among the Berbers.
  4. Raisin

    Raisin Senior Member Staff Member

    I can't say I encountered any. I only glanced over Egypt briefly, since that wasn't pertinent to what I was looking for. But having said that: As you say, every tattoo seemed to be exclusively for women, - we've found no tattoo'd male body, to my knowledge, even if a few are depicted. The Egyptian style of tattooing was based around fertility and sexuality, in honour of Hathor and Bes. From my limited grasp of Egyptian mythology, I do not think the solar motif would be present much in those areas. The Berbers seem to have the female subject in mind for much the same reason: Themes of seeds and serpents are quite clearly symbols of fertility.
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  5. Boreas

    Boreas Senior Member Staff Member Sustaining Member

    Interesting, thanks for sharing those insights Vixen and Raisin for the good adds.

    In the years gone I have planned a few tattoos on myself but have never actually have them made in the last case, and I think I never will. The latest tattoos I was wondering were the aegishjalmur and the walknut together with the Uthark rune row, but in the end I don't want such powerful symbols mark my flesh in this quasi-magical way. It is also about money: I have no desire to spend hundreds of euros for such things, I've got better use for that money.

    Lately I've grown a little weary of tattoos on people. I have some old friends still who are almost completely tattooed, and one of them is a tattoo artist himself; haven't seen them in person for years though. An orthodox friend of mine who got interested of Orthodoxy by me has taken to his arms the words "Kenosis" and "Theosis", and he called them as ink-magic. I don't dislike a person automatically if he has tattoos, but they are a one sort of sign of a man's mentality.
    Last edited: 6 June 2016
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  6. Celtic Skogsra

    Celtic Skogsra Heroic Member

    Tattooing only became degenerate when it was reduced to self-expression. Tattoos that express identity or belief are different.
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  7. Raisin

    Raisin Senior Member Staff Member

    Put it this way: The golden age of European culture had next to no tattooing and accorded tattoos no or negative social significance (except for the minor, aforementioned religious tokens). It was commonly practised only by proletarian and lumpenproletarian elements, and even then mostly post-Medieval. This changed during the industrial age because of bourgeois sentiment (as cosmopolitan tokens of the exotic, inspired by colonial ventures; or as signs of conspicuous consumption, given the expense of decently made, coloured tattoos), and thereafter the sentiment of the pariahs (esp. of the Feminist variety, - tattooing as a revolt against beauty and standards of modesty has meant that today more women than men are tattoo'd); Until a reterritorialisation occurred, at which point the normalisation of tattooing meant that their significance was often either blasé whim or gushing sentimentality. That is to say, the vast bulk of the history of tattooing in Europe is a history of the lowest of people and the worst of motivations.

    Although it is interesting, that from the perspective of cultures which does have high or folk significance in tattooing, that dissolution and decadence could take the form of remaining untattooed, putting on a shirt and tie, and getting an office job.

    But really: If you want to scribble, get an Etch-a-Sketch instead.
  8. Celtic Skogsra

    Celtic Skogsra Heroic Member

    Raisin, some of see the Golden Age as pre-medieval. ;) The Celts were fond of tattoos, I'm sure you know.
  9. Raisin

    Raisin Senior Member Staff Member

    Some people need another Heathencaust. :heretic:
    • Funny Funny x 2
  10. Celtic Skogsra

    Celtic Skogsra Heroic Member

    “Recalling some of the most spectacular horrors of history - the burning of heretics and witches at the stake, the wholesale massacre of "heathens," and other no less repulsive manifestations of Christian civilization in Europe and elsewhere - modern man is filled with pride in the "progress" accomplished, in one line at least, since the end of the dark ages of religious fanaticism.” - Savitri Devi ;)
    Last edited: 7 June 2016
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