“Stigma” is actually the Greek word for “tattoo,” which means, “the marking of the snake.”
The Roman Army tattooed their recruits with the emblem of their particular unit, and also used branding as a way to tattoo, by dying the burned area of the skin with a blue sap.
Throughout Christian European history, fish and crosses were tattooed on exorcism patients.
Captain James Cook was the inventor of the word tattoo. He spelled it “tattow” and it was derived from the Tahitian word “tautau.” Cook brought home portraits of people known as Omai and Tupaia, who were tattooed Tahitians, to spread the word about this body art. Around the same time, European sailors began getting tattooed whilst off at sea, and high society became intrigued with Japanese traditional tattoos.
In China and Japan if you were covered in tattoos you were most likely part of the Mafia, the “Yakuza.”
The “Wa” people of Asia tattooed their bodies to ward off evil dragons, and also used tattoos as punishment. For instance, if a man committed multiple adulteries his forehead was tattooed.
The Story of the Pheasant and the Crow
The Indonesian story, The Pheasant and the Crow, claims that the crow tattooed the pheasant and that’s why it bares such gorgeous markings on its feathers. But when the pheasant tried to tattoo the crow, she messed up big time, and they had to cover his entire body with black ink in order to cover the mistakes.
In the Middle East tattoos were also used to enhance the allure (lil-hila) of a girl, and are still popular and common among nomadic tribes. The Bedouins people mastered the art of tattoo and took it to the road, spreading the tradition around the area. This is where the Henna tradition began. Surprisingly, mostly women get tattooed now, and are most frequently tattooed on the forehead.
When Saddam Hussein was in power he used tattoos much as Hitler did in the holocaust, and frequently as punishment.
Palm trees are popular tattoos among the African Berber tribe and are used as symbols of fertility.
Mummies have been found with dots tattooed on them that are interpreted as fertility symbols.
In Egypt, lovers used to tattoo one another by pricking their skin with a needle and rubbing sap from herbs into their skin.
In the Oceania, tattooing is performed extensively, and is an ancient custom. In the past it was referred to as a “pricked painting,” and was done by using a stick with a bone (either human, bird, or fish) attached, and a sharpened tooth at the end. While the artist was tattooing, he would also sing to maintain his rhythm.
In Latin America, “Zemis” were figures such as tortoises, alligators, toads, snakes and humans that were seen as idols. They were cut into the skin with a blade and then charcoal was rubbed in the wounds.
In North America the Quapaw Tribe burned straw, then mixed the ash with water, and used needles to tattoo the skin. In many Tribes, tattoos were used to entice the opposite sex, and chin tattoos were very common. Warriors and chiefs were tattooed with lines that symbolized the men they had conquered, and the men in the tribes often had totems tattooed on their chests.
In the Arctic, Eskimos were tattooed as puberty approached, and Inuit Eskimos were also pierced. In order to tattoo, the Eskimos took a greased black thread, sewed it into the skin, or used a fishbone as a needle. As spirituality became less prevalent in the Arctic, so did tattooing.
In most recent history, American Traditional style tattoo began with well-known artists such as Percy Waters and Sailor Jerry. Tattooing was common in circuses and with sailors, but started to move into higher society with influences such as Ed Hardy, who brought tattoo into the fashion world. Now tattoos are extremely common in many parts of the world aren’t considered as “taboo” as they once were. Since the beginning of man and throughout different periods of history, tattooing has been a part of tradition, religion, and culture. It has been used for war, love, and politics.