Monday, 24 April 2017

T = Tattoos

You may need a magnifying glass to read the print on this screenshot,
or you could just take my word for it. But the Wellcome Image website
home page actually has a link to take you directly to 'Tattoo designs".
It's the one with the image on the right.
Awesome, yes? Told you this was not your average museum.
I once read a really cool article about tattoos  prepared for by an archaeologist, so it totally has street cred. 
It suggests that tattoos pretty much began as a female thing in ancient Egypt. Women had constellation-like tattoos on their stomachs as protection from evil. The pattern would expand with their bellies during pregnancy, encircling the unborn child, keeping it safe. I love that idea. That article created an image that has stayed with me. 
Not so much that I would ever let anyone imprint a constellation on my person with a needle and ink though. 

Historical tattoos can be seen in the Wellcome Collection. Yes, actual pieces of human skin that bear drawings. Not photos of the tattoos, the tattoos. Diembodied. 
The museum entry about them explains: 
The tattooed skin was purchased by one of Henry Wellcome’s collecting agents, Captain Johnston-Saint, in June 1929 from Dr Villette, a Parisian surgeon. Villette worked in military hospitals and collected and preserved hundreds of samples from the autopsies of French soldiers. In the late 1800s, tattoos were often seen as markers of criminal tendencies, or ‘primitiveness’. Medical men tried to interpret common images and symbols. Tattoos were also used as a tool for identification, a practice that continues today.

What do you think we can surmise about a soldier who chose
to have a sailor and a flower tattooed on his bicep?
That bothers me. 
What Dr Villette did bothers me. 
Surely, these soldiers chose tattoos that represented something of significance to them, something that formed part of their sense of self, something that became integral to their identity. Didn't they?
Then, after they died, Dr Villette saw fit to cut those images from their bodies and send his patients off to the afterlife with patches of exposed flesh where their tattoos should have been. Stripped of identity.
Or am I being over-sensitive? 
Are tattoos just permanent jewellery?

Back at letter S, I mentioned that Michael C Hall (the actor who plays Dexter) has a tattoo. Long story short, I was sitting in the front row at a recent performance of Lazarus (in which he stars as the aged Man Who Fell To Earth) and Michael C had bare feet for much of the production. 
The play is suitably mind-bendingly-David-Bowie-esque. With fab songs. But I found myself fixated on Michael C's foot. More specifically, on the tattoo on Michael C's instep. It's sort of like an Egyptian eye and a pyramid. 
I even did a crappy drawing of it in the notebook I carry everywhere in case I run into a celebrity with a tattoo I need to draw.
What is that thing?

At the time, unravelling the mystery of the symbolism of Michael C's Egyptian-looking sun and pyramid tattoo didn't detract from the enigmatic show, it seemed a sort of bonus conundrum. 
But now it's bugging the shit out of me.
What IS that thing?
And why would Michael C Hall have it tattooed on his foot?

During the month of April, I am participating in the Blogging from A–Z Challenge.


  1. Love the idea of the Egyptian mother tattoos.

    Her Grace, Heidi from Romance Spinners

  2. It's a charming idea... but I'm too much of a sook to have ever had it done.
    Thanks for visiting. I hope you're enjoying A to Z.

  3. I had a tattoo just before I turned 40 and then another a couple of years after turning 50. They are a very personal decision and I agree about those poor soldiers who had their's cut off by some nutty surgeon - it's like the Nazis using Jewish skin for lamp covers - just not cool.
    Leanne | cresting the hill

    1. Agreed...not cool. I have never had a tattoo, but I'm sure if I chose to have one, it would be a very specific image for a very particular reason.

  4. No, you're not being overly sensitive. Those people chose those tattoos for a reason, and should not have had someone cutting them off of them. For all he knew, those soldiers' religious beliefs might have stated they needed those to enter the afterlife. I know I didn't articulate that right---I mean once you get something on your body like a tattoo it becomes a part of you, and in some belief systems you need to remain intact to enter the afterlife so cut a part of you off and you can't enter the afterlife---it's one thing to lose a limb due to accident or whatever, that can't be helped, and the ancient Egyptians removed a person's vital organs and placed them in canopic jars, but those jars were still entombed with the body so the person would still have them in the afterlife---but to remove a piece of someone like that would not have even been considered, because it would have been vital to keep the body as intact as possible, since they believed they would be using the same body in the afterlife. Now it's entirely possible that none of those soldiers held such beliefs, but this surgeon neither knew that nor cared,and that's just beyond callous. He was desecrating their bodies for his own personal gain, and that is way beyond not cool.

    There are lots of sites that show different symbols and their meanings (not always accurate, but they're out there), all you have to do is start typing in your search engine and hopefully you'll find the one you're looking for. Don't be surprised if you don't, however, as most of these sites tend to be repeats of each other---by that I mean you could go to any one of them and find pretty much the same symbols or variations of symbols. I've been looking for a particular symbol for years and can't find anyone who has it. It kind of looks like that symbol I've seen on a particular brand of clothing (whose name I don't know), a kind of weird curved X. The symbol is on a pendant I have, and it's the only one I can't identify out of all the symbols on it (there are like seven or eight), although there's one that because it's so small I can't tell if it's supposed to be the symbol of Taurus (the circle with the horns) or the symbol of either Hathor or Isis (both had horns, one set was just way longer than the other, and like I said with it being so tiny that could have necessitated making the horns small enough to fit), but I'm happy with being able to interpret that one more than one way, at least I know all the possible meanings of that one. The mystery one I can't even begin to figure out.

    So far the only tattoo I have is of interlocking hearts on my back with my family members' names in them, surrounding a central heart with my name. I have a few more names I want to add eventually, along with color and like vines or something to wrap around them. There are a few more I want, but money is definitely an object (as in I have none :P). If anyone even thinks about cutting my ink off of me after I'm gone, I will come back and haunt them the rest of their lives, and I will not be nice about it (people think I'm a vindictive b@#$% now, just wait). :P

  5. I wonder if that surgeon WAS haunted by the soldiers whose bodies he desecrated. It appalls me that he would not have had permission to do what he did... in the name of science or not. And then the tattoos must have been sold. Wrong wrong wrong.
    Thank you so much for visiting and leaving me such a mega-response, Christine. I'm wowed by your generosity.

  6. A notebook to sketch celebrity tattoos? Wow! I bow in awe of your preparedness. Because I can be seen rummaging for receipts when I need to make notes. You know I'm kidding with that 'preparedness' remark, right? Sounds witty in my head, so typing it:)
    I've come across some extremely intricate tattoos adorned by the Rabadis, who live in the Kutchch region of India.
    Personally, I'm a wuss.
    T is for Tavaa Toast

    1. LOL rummaging for receipts is so often accompanied by finally locating the pen that leaked in the pocket of your bag and no longer works, right!?!

  7. Oh that is awful chunking bits of tattooed flesh off of people when they died! As you say, Wendy it is stripping them of their identity.
    As for displaying them as well, that is hideous!!!

    1. It is a bit creepy to see them in the case on display, and I was interested to know if my feelings were shared.

  8. Michael C. Hall's tattoo reminds me more of Aztec or Incan imagery. Pyramids and the sun figure a lot in their art but heck if I know. I guess it really on matters what it means to Mr. Hall in the end. As for saving tattoos on dried skin... the Addams family part of me is kind of intrigued but only with consent. (Checking in from the A to Z Challenge)

    1. Yes, it could indeed be Aztec. Magazines have claimed it to be 'Alien' in nature but I'm not having that.
      Thanks for dropping by my blog.

  9. I can't answer your questions, but I think the expanding belly tattoo is great...I might get one for myself (ha ha).

    1. LOL...I never considered the possibility of decorating a beer belly. Brilliant.

  10. I'm totally intrigued by the Egyptian belly tattoos as well. I haven't had the urge to get a tattoo before, and yet, now, for some unknown reason, I'm seriously thinking about it. How fun to find your post today.

    1. Welcome, Deborah. My month of weird world of Wellcome is almost at an end, but I'm glad you stumbled upon my post.

  11. tattoos are such a personal thing. I have a hummingbird on my shoulder - my totem, and soon I will have Prince's symbol on my foot.
    My advice? Ask Michael C Hall what it's all about. On twitter, he surely has a twitter account.

  12. I hadn't thought of just asking him. I'm pretty crap at tweeting. I get lost amidst all the random symbols and signs

  13. Actually your drawing looks quite pretty. I am sure I wouldn't mind sporting that.. for a while. Thank heavens for peel off tattoos! I so long to get a tattoo but am afraid my skin's sensitive and might break out and never heal. Sigh. There are "sleeves" available though and I am thinking of buying one of those. They come in sets of two, and my young 12-year old friend has promised to share one with me.

    Collecting real skin.. so creepy. And quite disrespectful. No, you are not overreacting. I can't imagine someone ripping off a portion of my skin for a collection.

  14. Oh, please post pics of you both with the sleeves.
    I'm not even game for a peel on/off tattoo because of my saggy baggy old lady skin.