Religion NewsToday

What Ötzi the prehistoric iceman can train us about the usage of tattoos in ceremonial therapeutic or spiritual rites

(The Dialog) — Ötzi the Iceman remained hidden to the world for millennia until two German tourists discovered it 30 years ago in a glacier in the Italian Alps.

Tattoos on the mother of Ötzi the Iceman.
©South Tyrol Museum of Archaeology/Eurac/Samadelli/Staschitz

This 5,300-year-old mummy will not be solely maybe Europe’s most well-known mummy, but in addition one of the vital finds for many who examine the worldwide historical past of tattoos.

Ötzi was adorned with 61 tattoos that had been extremely preserved by the glacial local weather.

The that means of these tattoos has been debated ever since his discovery by the 2 hikers. A lot of Ötzi’s tattoos had been discovered to be strains drawn alongside areas such because the decrease again, knees, wrists and ankles, areas the place folks most frequently expertise ongoing pain as they age. Some researchers consider these tattoos to be an historical treatment for pain. Varied herbs identified to have medicinal properties had been present in shut proximity to Ötzi’s resting place, lending additional credence to this idea.

Nevertheless, not all of Ötzi’s tattoos had been on locations normally affected by the damage and tear of on a regular basis life on joints. Ötzi additionally sported tattoos on his chest. Theories of the aim behind this set of tattoos, which were discovered using new imaging techniques in 2015, vary from early acupuncture or ceremonial healing rituals to being a part of a system of ritual or religious beliefs.

In fact, the concept Ötzi’s tattoos might have held deep cultural or spiritual that means for him and his folks will not be past cause. As a tattoo historian and scholar, I’ve seen how tattoos have traditionally been used for ceremonial healing, religious rites and to point out belonging to each cultural and religious groups all through the traditional world and main all the way in which as much as trendy occasions.

Historic tattoos

The mummified stays of women in Egypt exhibits tattoos courting again to 2000 B.C. As well as, engraved and painted figures in tomb reliefs and small carved collectible figurines depicting ladies with tattoos date again to 4000-3500 B.C.

In each instances, the tattoos had been a collection of dots, typically utilized like a protecting web throughout a lady’s stomach. There have been additionally tattoos of the Egyptian Goddess Bes, seen because the protector of girls in labor, on a lady’s higher thigh. In each instances, these historical tattoos had been considered a type of talisman of safety for girls who had been about to provide beginning.

The early Greek historian Herodotus mentioned how runaway slaves at Canopus voluntarily tattooed themselves as each a technique to cowl up the branding carried out on them by their masters and out of spiritual devotion.

These new marks had been typically used to represent that these women and men now not served their earthly slave masters, however as an alternative had been now in service to a sure god or goddess.

Tattoos throughout many religions

The early Christian Apostle Paul is recorded within the Bible in Galatians 6:17 as saying, “From henceforth let no man hassle me: for I bear in my physique the marks of the Lord Jesus.” The unique phrase used for “marks” was the phrase “stigmata,” which was typically seen, hailing again to Herodotus, because the time period used to explain tattooing practices.

A number of students consider Paul’s tattoos were meant to point out his devotion to Christ. The tattoos would additionally assist different Christians, who confronted persecution from the Roman empire, determine him as a believer.

Sketch of a Māori chief

The Māori folks of New Zealand have lengthy been practising tattoo artwork.
Sydney Parkinson – Alexander Turnbull Library via Wikimedia Commons

The Māori folks of New Zealand have been practising the tattoo artwork of Tā Moko for hundreds of years. These tattoos, that are nonetheless practiced right this moment, maintain a deep cultural that means and historical past. The tattoos not solely convey social standing, household identification and an individual’s personal life accomplishments, but in addition maintain religious that means with designs that include protecting talismans and appeals to spirits to guard the wearer.

A number of Native American and First Nations tribes in North America have a long history of wearing sacred tattoos. In 1878, the early anthropologist James Swan wrote multiple essays on the Haida folks he encountered round Port Townsend, Washington.

In one essay he detailed that the tattoos had been greater than decorative, with every design having a sacred objective. He additionally detailed that those who carried out the tattoos had been seen as religious leaders or holy individuals.

The traditional Aztec god of solar, wind, studying and air, Quetzalcoatl, is commonly depicted as having tattoos in ancient reliefs. The Aztec folks themselves practiced spiritual tattooing, with their monks typically in control of varied types of physique artwork and modification. West African nations comparable to Togo and Burkina Faso have used, and proceed to make use of, tattoos and ritual physique modification as sacred rites of passage.

In trendy occasions, one can nonetheless see folks world wide carrying sacred tattoos with spiritual significance.

A woman making a traditional mambabatok tattoo using a mallet and needles in the Philippines.

The oldest identified residing tattoo artist, Whang-Od Oggay within the Kalinga province of the Philippines, makes a conventional tattoo.
Mawg64 via Wikimedia Commons, CC BY-SA

Whether or not it’s a member of the Kalinga province of the Philippines receiving a mambabatok tattoo, a sample of conventional designs completed with a single needle, from the oldest identified residing tattoo artist, 102-year-old Whang-Od Oggay, to the numerous crosses, Bible verses, and other symbols of Christianity that may be seen within the U.S., tattoos can nonetheless maintain deep spiritual and religious that means.

What the tattoos adorning Ötzi the Iceman’s mummified physique meant to him will almost certainly stay not less than partially a thriller.

However Ötzi is a vital reminder that tattoos have been, and proceed to be, a sacred a part of many cultures worldwide.

(Allison Hawn, Educational School in Communication, Arizona State College. The views expressed on this commentary don’t essentially mirror these of Faith Information Service.)

The Conversation

Related Articles

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

Back to top button