Nowadays, tattooing has become an increasingly popular way to express ourselves, our emotions, our experiences and our story. For many women it also has a special meaning, behind which may be a great love, an unforgettable vacation or a good luck talisman. However, the history of tattooing goes back much further, and it has a unique socio-cultural significance. Then the drawing on the skin ceases to be just an ornament and becomes a special mark, which some people still find difficult to live with today.

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Where did the name “tattoo” come from?

The name of the tattoo is derived from the Tahitian language. The word “tatau” meant “sign.” Over hundreds of years, however, the name has been modified. So you can find hieroglyph, signum, piguage or tattow, among others. It was disseminated in 1769 by traveler James Cook , who brought a tattooed Polynesian to London from one of his travels. Then the form “tattow” began to be used, which in time took the form “tattoo.” It was then that the fashion for tattooing emerged and slowly spread throughout Europe.

Tattoo artist has not always been an artist

Today, people who create extraordinary drawings on the skin are undoubtedly considered artists, but this was not always the case. For thousands of years, tattoos were made only by doctors and shamans who believed in their magical power to heal or protect against evil. The first tattoo artists whose job was strictly to decorate the body appeared with the popularization of the trend in Europe. Mostly they were sailors who learned this unusual technique from peoples living in, among other places. The aforementioned Polynesia or Japan.

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History of tattooing

Studies conducted for hundreds of years prove that people have always tried to beautify their bodies by putting drawings on them. The first tattoos were created as early as prehistoric times, as evidenced by a body found under a glacier possibly dating back 5,300 years ago. Scientists have discovered paintings on it made with natural dye. So man has wanted to wear drawings on his skin for a very long time. However, tatoo served more than just an aesthetic function.

Healing effects of tattooing

It was suspected that they were made for medicinal purposes, and were performed by doctors. This is because many tribes living before our era believed that marking their bodies with special drawings would protect them from the effects of evil spirits. Thus, Ainu women decorated the skin around their mouths because they believed that it was through the mouth that spirits entered their bodies. Sources say that such tattoos performed as early as 6-year-old girls. Back then, tatoo was a kind of talisman and was brought to earth by the “ancestral mother” Ajnu, the younger sister of the Creator God.

However, the therapeutic effects of tattoos can also be sought in later years. In Sudan, they were used as vaccines. Along with the ink, special mixtures of herbs were introduced under the skin to protect children from viruses. They were supposed to naturally increase their immunity . In the Berber peoples, on the other hand, scars, tumors and moles were specially marked. It was believed that this would prevent them from getting further, and the disease would be stopped. In others, however, tattoos were made in areas considered to be acupuncture points.

The meaning of a tattoo

Not only the composition of the ink, but also the symbol used was meant to protect its owner. One of the oldest drawings on leather depicted the image of the Sun God and the It was discovered on a mummy dating back 4,000 years. Most likely, the needle with which it was applied to the skin was made of sharp ivory. Researchers suspect that not all Egyptians could afford such a talisman, only selected women were tattooed. Most were Egyptian women who earned their living with their bodies: dancers or prostitutes. TM was designed to emphasize their sexuality. So a tattoo with the likeness of the God Bes on their thighs often appeared to protect them from sexually transmitted diseases .

Among other civilizations, signs located on the face have also become very popular. A small tatoo on the temples protected against migraines, and circles near the mouth prevented drowning. That’s why people wanted to wear these drawings on their skin, because not only were they aesthetically pleasing, but they also helped in daily life.

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Drawing to suit the princess

Tattoos were also meant to emphasize social status. In later civilizations, it was very common to mark the best warriors or princesses in this way. It was a sign to set them apart from the people. Nearly 30 years ago, Russian archaeologist Natalia Polosmak made an incredible discovery in a mountain range in the Altai region of Siberia. A perfectly preserved mummy of a woman was found in a high tomb, which was named “Princess Ukok.” There would be nothing strange about this, if not for the fact that her body was covered with numerous tattoos. On both hands were tattoos depicting hybrids of various animals. The “Princess Ukok” tattoos are no exception. Since the dawn of time, social strata in tribes around the world have been distinguished in this way. Every respectable chief had to wear tattoos on his skin to distinguish him from the rest of the population.

The new face of tattooing

Much about tattooing changed when Christianity took hold in Europe. At the time, it was forbidden to place any drawings on the body, as this was considered to be defying God and an act worthy of condemnation. Only in the Middle Ages did this change. The tattoos that appeared at the time referred to religious symbolism and were meant to be a direct reference to the person of Christ. They also made it possible to identify the corpse and thus ensure a proper Christian burial.

A form of rebellion and an element of subculture

Over the past hundred years, tatoo has staggered in much wider circles. It became a manifestation of rebellion. The youngsters were eager to tattoo their arms and chest. There were references to favorite rock bands, confessions of love or an indication of gang affiliation. 1980s. brought young, tattooed people onto the street to loudly rebel against the conservative views that had been pervasive until then.

Those days were also the glory years of the punk subculture. A bald-shaven head, studs and a body covered with numerous tattoos was their trademark. In this way they manifested their distinctiveness and marked their place on the map of history. If one wanted to belong to them, he had to wear the appropriate tattoos on his skin. So having a knit has become a necessity in some subcultures.

Prison tattoo

Until recently, it was mainly associated with the criminal world, and young people who took to it had to face the patch that was thus pinned on them. Despite appearances, prison tattoos appeared practically from the beginning of the very idea of tattooing. They were performed to prisoners as a lighter corporal punishment. The custom originated in the Far East. Until 1868, prisoners’ noses, ears and fingers were cut off as punishment. Tattooing has replaced this type of punishment. Instead, their heads or arms were tattooed. The criminal was thus stigmatized.

Today it is no longer a punishment, but an obligation. In prison circles, it has a very important function defining the hierarchy among inmates. Often inmates tattoo their right hand between the thumb and index finger. This place is important because then they present it during the welcome handshake. If they want to count in the prison hierarchy they not only should, but above all must, wear tattoos on their bodies. This is not usually an ornament. The custom of tattooing in prison in many cases allows inmates to survive there.

Marking of Jews during World War II

During World War II in the extermination camps, German soldiers used tattoos to mark prisoners. Each of them had special numbers tattooed on their forearms to identify them. Those who survived the concentration camps later said that it was the ultimate indignity, and they lost their identity and became just a number.

Royal drawing on the skin

Tattoos, however, have not always just been associated with prison. In the 19th century, rulers and representatives of the upper classes also became increasingly bold. This was due to the Prince of Wales, Edward VII, who tattooed a cross on himself during one of his trips to Jerusalem. Also his son, later King George V of England, was the owner of a unique tattoo. In 1881 in Japan, one of the most famous tattoo artists of the time, Hori Chiyo, created a blue and red dragon on his arm. It was then that it began to be associated in earnest as a body decoration and the phenomenon of artistic tattooing emerged. Other rulers followed suit, including King Haakon VII of Norway, who considered body adornment to be something special.

It wasn’t just men who wanted drawings on their bodies. Women were also increasingly daring to opt for it. Tatoo was like jewelry for them. Even Lady Randolph Churchill, Winston Churchill‘s mother, had a tattooed bracelet.

Motifs from the Far East

In the beginning, tattooing was mainly inspired by motifs from the Far East . Ideas were drawn from Japanese symbolism and mythology, so the image of a dragon or snake was very popular. It was also from there that the fashion for color tattoos was brought. Japanese Tatoo combines 5 colors: black, red, green, yellow and indigo.

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Over the centuries, they have ceased to be just a single drawing and have become large works on leather. They occupied an increasingly large area and merged into one coherent whole. Tattooing the entire body was very time-consuming and could take up to several years.

The first tattoo parlor

The first tattoo parlor was established more than a century later after James Cook brought the first Polynesian to London. In 1870, it was established by David W. Purdy in close proximity to Holloway Prison in London. Just two decades later, the first electric tattoo machine was also invented, making drawings on the body even more common and cheaper.

London then became the true European cradle of this art. Initially, Purdy mainly made knits alluding to the monarchy, but over time the business expanded and Englishmen could choose the designs they wanted. However, they hid them under a layer of clothing and few people knew about them. Those who were not ashamed of their drawings most often performed in circuses.

The difficult art of tattooing

Modern tattooing is a kind of art, and tattooists are called artists. Not only do various tattoo techniques such as steampunk, old school, ethno, gothic or oriental style dominate, but above all they are often artistic works that you can’t pass by indifferently.

Artistic tattoo conventions are held all over the world, where artists from all over the world come together to showcase their work live as well. This is a unique opportunity to see what their work looks like up close.

Facts and myths about tattooing

However, many myths have grown up around tattooing over the years. First of all, it was believed that their performance was linked to the spread of various STDs and HIV. This was closely related to the fact that in the 1980s. The tattoos were mostly borne by gay men. Today, tattoo studios are much more exclusive and care about sterility. Safe dyes and disposable tools are used for the work.

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However, there are still many people who are apprehensive about making a hole because of the inability to donate blood. Nothing could be further from the truth. Yes, blood donation is prohibited, but only for the first six months after it is done. Later, you can become an honorary donor without any obstacles.

Does the hole hurt?

Like the choice of style or design, pain is a completely individual matter. It all depends on the pain threshold we have. However, there are areas that are highly innervated or where the skin is very thin, and making a hole punch there can indeed be unpleasant. Specialists list the inside of the hands, the ribs or the neck among them.

The pain also depends on the size of the tattoo. To tattoo the entire arm and make the so-called “sleeve” often requires up to 3-4 sessions of several hours.

Personalized decoration on the skin

The art of tattooing is triumphant today and popular in every corner of the world. Through drawing on the body, we can express ourselves and communicate out loud who we are. It is no longer just an ornament, but above all something special that belongs only to us and is made just for us. A unique pattern on the body can remind us of an unusual event from the past or, as once believed, serve as a talisman and a driving force for action. It doesn’t matter how old you are, where you’re from or what design you choose. Tattooing is no longer stigmatized, and employers have stopped looking at it unfavorably. So if you’ve been thinking about getting a “tattoo” for a long time, don’t delay. Remember that today it is contemporary art.


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