Holley Hyler

A r t i s t

The Deeper Meaning Behind Tattoos: Past Lives, Shamans, and Energy, Oh My!

July 27, 2018
Holley

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A few months ago, my cousin told me about a book called Conscious Ink by Lisa Barretta. This was shortly after I had my first tattoo done in February of this year. I have always been drawn to tattoos, but I hesitated to get one, because the idea of something being on my body for the rest of my life has always spooked me. (The idea of people looking at me in my coffin with images I had gotten in my 20s made me feel weird, to say the least. But I don’t think anyone will ever have the chance to look at me in a coffin, since cremation seems the way to go. But I digress…) I wanted to make sure that what I got would be timeless, tasteful, and keep well (or be simple to touch up). There is something to be said for enduring the pain of the experience and the feelings of badassery that one can experience afterward, and it’s fun to show off your ink, but ultimately, your tattoo is for you. People may care for a second or two, perhaps longer if you’re very lucky, but you’re going to be the one who looks at it every day. Your tattoo will embody a certain energy, and depending on where it is, it can draw a lot of attention (wanted or not) to you. Since Barretta’s book explored the belief that a tattoo is more than something pretty (scary, bold, badass, insert adjective here) that you ink on your skin, I was 100% behind it.

Both my tattoos are sun-themed. The one on my wrist (that most people mistake for Harry Potter’s lightning-bolt scar) is the sun rune, Sowilo. In a rune spread, Sowilo has no negative interpretation. (You can read more about its meaning here.) I have connected with the Aztecs in one instance, as I was doing a Reiki healing, and they were known to worship the sun. I feel a deep past life connection with the sun and believe I may have been one who considered the sun a deity. In Conscious Ink, Barretta also states that your tattoos can connect you with your past lives or energy from a past life that you are meant to bring into your current one, especially for transmutation.

Tattoos can display the side of you that you hide from most others. They can represent your deepest wishes, fears, and dreams. They can make you feel differently about yourself.

How could that not be magic?

My tattoo artist seemed to think of a tattoo as just a tattoo. She asked me what I do for work, and she had not heard of Reiki before. As I was explaining it to her, admittedly I felt a little out of place. That feeling of, “Why am I talking about this here?” crept in. Most people might think that my feelings about tattoos are superstitious, bordering on silly. I didn’t fully understand that I felt so much about them until I read Barretta’s book. Everything in it felt like a reminder, more so than anything new. I also learned (or remembered) that indigenous cultures practiced tattooing, not for aesthetic reasons, but because they believed tattoos had magical and healing powers.

I don’t believe in coincidences, and the fact that my appointment was scheduled around the time of the longest total lunar eclipse of the 21st century means something as well. What, exactly? Well, I don’t know… as I was sharing with my cousin, “This whole thing feels much bigger than me.” How could I hope to understand, from my narrow human scope of things? Maybe the answer will be revealed through meditation or healing.

But, perhaps my most human, down-to-earth reason for getting my latest tattoo was to remember my mother. The sun seemed the most appropriate symbol to represent her. The sun gives life, as mothers do. When I lived in Los Angeles, I wrote letters to her. Talking on the phone was hard because of our different time zones – true, it was just three hours, but it can make a big difference when you live in a family of people who prefer not to disturb each other at late hours of the night. Back then, I was a night owl. My mom often complained about the Virginia winters and how cold she was, so I started signing off on my letters by saying I was sending her some LA sun, and I drew suns at the bottom and in the margins of the paper. One of my last gifts to her was a handmade wooden music box that played “Here Comes the Sun.” If my mother were still in human form, I don’t think she would be too enthused about the idea of me getting a tattoo. But I hope that her spirit is smiling in the knowing that I want to keep her close to my heart forever, quite literally.

So here’s to you, Mom. I love you, and I miss you like hell.

If I had to do it all over again, there are two things I would change:

  1. I would go to an artist who believes in tattooing as a more Shamanic, healing experience. (And maybe someone a little less cocky… my artist was cool, but I was a little afraid of her.)
  2. I would ask what chemicals are in the ink and request vegan ink be used, if possible.

My sun is in an area where it’s definitely going to draw attention, and I do feel a heightened sexual energy from it too. When I got home from my appointment and looked in the mirror, I could Not. Stop. Staring.

I’m very attracted to myself. I’m making choices that feel true to myself, despite my fears that some people will dislike the real me.

But loving myself, at the “expense” of people who don’t really love me?

That feels perfect.

One Comment

  1. All of this is so YAS! And the tattoo is simply beautiful!

    Liked by 1 person

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