Every once in a while, I write about a character with a tattoo (they're usually a minor character or the antagonist). I know tattoos are becoming more popular, and some of them are gorgeous works of art. So I decided to do a bit of research on the tattoo, to find out more before I make one of my protagonists want one.
This is what I found out:
Tattoos have been around since at least 6,000 BC and possibly as far back as 12,000 BC. Primitive man used the skin for a canvas for art. It also showed the person's standing in the tribe. It was believed that a tattoo of an animal would bring protection of an attack from that very same animal.
In both ancient and modern times, tattoos were thought to be a way for spirits to ensure passage into the spirit world. Some people believe it would ward off evil and ensure positive occupation in the spirit world.
Other groups use tattooing for religious practices, or to connect with a deceased loved one or family member. They were also used to indicate a person's trade or skill.
Even so, some cultures use it as a brand. In the first millennium AD, Japan adopted what the Chinese did and branded wrongdoers. Some cultures even used it to brand their slaves. Others used it to indicate the criminal's crime, branding it on their foreheads. Eventually, those tattooed with a mark of guilt or punishment began to be proud of their tattoos. They're still a mark of honor among criminals today.
In Tahiti, tattoos were given when a person reached adulthood, telling the history of the person's life. In other cultures, they're used for physical health, good luck, clan indicators, and even love charms. Today, in the United States, they've become more commonplace, to indicate a work of art.
But tattoos were not always accepted or commonplace. In the early 1900s, the cultural view of tattooing was so poor that tattooing went underground. Tattooists worked in the sleazier sections of town, or were only known by word of mouth. People who were tattooed traveled with circuses and freak shows.
In 1961, there was an outbreak of hepatitis and tattooing was pretty much gone. Tattoo parlors were considered dirty, and were held in disrepute. Because of health code violations, tattoo shops in NY were shut down.
During WWII, the Nazis tattooed the prisoners at Auschwitz with tattoos, permanent reminders of a horrible experience. Only those prisoners selected for work were tattooed. The ones sent immediately to death had no tattoos.
Further atrocities occurred in Nazi concentration camps with tattoos. Ilse Koch was married to the first commandant of the concentration camp in Buchenwald. She would choose prisoners with tattoos, so she could make leather lamp shades for her home. She would stroll through the camp, looking over the prisoners in a provocative way. It's also believed they also made soap from human fat at that site.
The Bible has
Wow. I know a bunch of people with tattoos and have told them about what the Nazis did. But they seem to turn a blind ear and eye to all of it.
So my protagonist finds out about what happened in the concentration camps and immediately wants the tattoo removed, so he/she isn't the first to die. But the thing never completely goes away, and he/she is reminded daily of what could come if history repeats itself.
Since I also write Christian romances, I decided to consult what the Bible says. There are direct passages that warn against any type of adornment, all summed up in this article: What does the Bible say about tattoos / body piercings?
Hmmm...the makings of a plot? It kind of reminds me of Shakespeare's character MacBeth that wanted to wash away the blood from his hands. No matter how much he washes, the stain remains, forever a brand for what they've done. And, if it's a Christian romance, they'll be even more ashamed. Hunh...gotta love conflict when writing a book!
Have a great day!
A Brief History of Tattoos
The Origin of Ink: Tattoos Through Time
History of Tattooing
The History of Tattoos
TATTOOS AND NUMBERS: THE SYSTEM OF IDENTIFYING PRISONERS AT AUSCHWITZ
Buchenwald Concentration Camp Atrocities
What does the Bible say about tattoos / body piercings?
What does the Bible say about tattoos?
Piercings And Tattoos
What does the Bible say about body piercing and tattoos?