Friday, July 30, 2010

The Use of Numbers in Tattoos

(from "Alphabets and Scripts Tattoo Design Directory - The Essential Reference for Body Art" by Vince Hemingson)

"Numbers are the universal language offered by the deity to humans as confirmation of the truth." - Saint Augstine of Hippo (CE 354-430)

Each numeral has specific meanings that can be attributed to it. People use numbers in their tattoos quite frequently in order to convey some of these meanings. While the symbols are unencumbered by historical meaning beyond their numerical value, various traditions have since cloaked the numerals with esoteric significance. From Pythagoras to pure hokum, our numbers have been alchemized into concepts to either fear or revere. Divers meanings have been ascribed to our basic numbers by various traditions, from numerology to the tarot, to sheer superstition.

1 - The beginning and the end, the alpha and omega. Pure potential. Or, it can mean total failure. Yang energy. Positivity and free will. Number one is often used to denote oneself, as in, "I'm taking care of number one." One is the first, the best, and the only. It has no divisors, no factors, no components. It stands for independence and the individual, or God.

2 - Yin energy. Balance and union. Duality and opposition. Two gets complicated because it beckons us to choose. If one is the essence, then two is the existence. In Cantonese numerology, this number means "easy." In pokier, the lowly deuce is sometimes wild, sometimes king.

3 - Neutrality. Mystery and initiation. Two is linear, three is geometric. Three dimensions creat the solid contents of life. Aspects of life and spirituality seem to come in threes: the Holy Trinities in many religions; the past, present, and future; though, word, and deed; animal, vegetable, mineral; me, myself, and I; and, perhaps most importantly, God is omniscient, omnipresent, and omnipotent.

4 - Creation, stability, simplicity, and practicality. Think achievement and humility. Four speaks of being calm and grounded. The center of the cyclone. Four is square and natural, solid and whole. The four seasons, four cardinal directions, four elements in nature. At the core of Buddhist teaching are the Four Noble Truths (life is suffering; it has a cause; an end t o suffering is possible; the way out is the Noble Eightfold Path). In Chinese numerology four is unlucky, being a homonym with the word for death.

5 - Five fingers, five toes, five senses - the number five is physical. Action and adventure. Restlessness, passion, and unpredictability. To the Chinese, it symbolizes myself, or the concept of never. The psychologist Carl Jung saw five as the union of the first mail and female numbers, hence the symbol of creative life and erotic love.

6 - The Chinese number six means "easy and smooth all the way." Things unfolding as they should. Natural reactions and responsibilities. Protective and dependable, the number six is a caring number, a number that encourages us to accept what is inevitable, giving rise to compassion and forgiveness. The theory of six degrees of separation says that no one lies outside the number six.

7 - Lucky seven. The seven deadly sins. Seven is said to represent the focused search for esoteric meaning, and is concerned with mysticism and healing. In therapeutic circles it implies thought, awareness, and imagination in the service of manifesting what we want. The word Sabbath comes from the Hebrew root word for seven, meaning "to be complete or full." The Cantonese word for seven is considered vulgar.

8 - Infinity. Sudden fortune, prosperity. Sacrifice and power. Opportunity. In Chinese culture, where the spoken eight sounds like "prosper," it's considered a lucky number. It represents the totality of the universe. The Summer Olympics in Beijing commenced at 8:08pm on August 8, 2008. Buddha taught his Noble Eightfold Path. And finally, "He that is eight days old shall be circumcised among you..."

9 - Symbolic of completeness because no other single digit has a higher value. Nine also symbolizes vision, intellectual power, attainment, and seeing the big picture. Nine months mark the human gestation period. Dante's Inferno speaks of nine circles of Hell and nine spheres of Heaven. The Chinese Netherworld is described as having nine rivers. In Norse mythology, secrets are revealed to Odin after hanging on the World Tree for nine nights.

Friday, July 16, 2010

How do you choose a Tattoo Artist/Studio? Part 2

(Excerpts and info from "Tattoo Sourcebook", by the editors at

This is a continuation of the June 18 blog on the things you should consider in choosing who tattoos you. Here's a recap of #'s 1-5:

1 - Word of Mouth
2 - Look Closely at Portfolios
3 - Some Artists only work in certain Styles
4 - Cleanliness is next to Godliness
5 - Your Health is a Primary Concern

Let's move on and talk about the next 5 tips.

- Be Comfortable in the Hands of your Tattoo Artists - This is your tattoo experience. Needles alone are uncomfortable, so being tattooed by an artist you are not comfortable with is only added stress. You are going to be spending a lot of time together. As with a hairstylist, doctor, or therapist, the tattoo artist is connecting with you in an intimate way. Your tattoo experience is a memory that will last forever, so invest in the time and energy to make it a good one. As Guy Aitchison explains, "The personal connection must be there. There is an 'invisible part of the tattoo' and that is the relationship between the tattooed and the tattooist. You don't want bad tattoo mojo."

- Understand what your Tattoo Artist guarantees - Some shops guarantee their work for life. Some shops will guarantee their work for a certain period of time, such as six months or one year. Some shops abide by a "one pass, first-class policy," meaning if there is a problem with the tattoo, they believe it is due to incorrect healing by the tattoo recipient, and they will therefore charge for a touch-up. Regardless, you should know the policy ahead of time.

- Apprenticeships and Training - Tattooing is a trade - a craft consisting of specific knowledge and skills. Like most trades, tattooing is generally learned through an apprenticeship; one tattooist (the master) teaching a student the craft. Some "tattoo schools" exist today, but there is definite resistance to these from within the industry. Generally, a reputable tattooist has gone through some type of apprenticeship. Talk to your tattoo artist about their training experience, including education on health precautions and practices.

- Make sure you and your Tattoo Artist share the same Vision - Avoid tattoo artists who are less focused on your vision and more on their own. If you compromise on this point, you may leave with a tattoo that the tattoo artist wanted to create, but not the one you want to wear forever.

- Communicate Special Needs and Considerations - If you want to cover a scar, if your complexion is darker, or if you have a condition that might affect how well the ink takes to the skin or how well you heal, you need to include these factors when deciding on who tattoos you. Make sure you are working with a tattooist who has experience in dealing with these conditions or circumstances. Ask for evidence that they know what they are taking about through photos, stories or both.

So when you are thinking about getting a tattoo, take these tips into consideration to make sure you have the best experience possible! Have fun!

Friday, July 2, 2010

These Colors Don't Run

Okay, I know I said that I would do Part 2 of the How To Choose A Tattoo Artist/Studio... But in light of the 4th of July holiday, that's going to wait until next time. Today, I'm dedicating this post to Patriotism and Tattoos. Pictured below are examples of some of the patriotic tattoos that Pat has done in the past.

Tattoos with a patriotic theme tend to include the American Flag, Statue of Liberty, the Bald Eagle, popular bridges and buildings in the USA, military tattoos, and common patriotic slogans. The number of people getting these types of tattoos spiked in the months following September 11th, 2001. They also seem more prevalent in times of war, but what better way to portray your patriotism for all to see than with a permanent work of art on your skin.

Below is Steve's work in progress of the Constitution over his bald eagle on his chest. The eagle was done by Pat about 15 years ago, and the new Constitution lettering was done by Bryan. Eventually there will also be an American Flag flying up over his shoulder.

"You have to love a nation that celebrates its independence every July 4, not with a parade of guns, tanks, and soldiers who file by the White House in a show of strength and muscle, but with family picnics where kids throw Frisbees, the potato salad gets iffy, and the flies die from happiness. You may think you have overeaten, but it is patriotism." ~Erma Bombeck - Take a look at this article about a man who wears the American Flag proudly on his face.

So, however you may choose to, go out this weekend and display your Patriotism!

Happy Independence Day!