The early Christian and Moslem era brought a temporary halt to widespread tattooing in Europe and the Middle East. In the Old Testament of the Bible, the book of Leviticus states, “Ye shall not make any cuttings in your flesh for the dead, nor print any marks upon you: I am the Lord.” The problem, it seems, was one of religious competition. The rites of tattooing were a trade mark of the earlier religions in Palestine. When the early Jews tried to ban the marks of their religious competitors (the Arabs and Christians) they crippled the art of tattooing through two millennia. The edict against tattooing gained the favor of Rome and the power of Islam, because the old Testament is revered by both the Christians and the Moslems.
As might be expected this powerful ban could not completely eradicate tattooing from either Europe or the Middle East. Tattooing worked its way back into these religions, by way of their holy pilgrims. In the Middle Ages, people would leave their European villages on pilgrimages to the Holy Land. The only way to prove that you had actually been to the Holy Land was to return with a tattoo from the Coptic priests. They practiced their tattoo art outside the city walls of Jerusalem. Most pilgrims got a simple cross tattoo, but some of the more adventurous ones returned with images of St. George’s victory over the dragon, the Virgin Mary with the infant Jesus, or Peter and the crowing cock. The tattoo designs were kept on woodblocks and the work was rough, but it was the only proof available, that a pilgrim had actually visited the Holy Land.
Early cultures often inscribed themselves with animal images and totems, probably in an effort to evoke the power of the animal spirits, possibly for success in the hunt, but also for protection. Even today, in one of the remotest parts of the planet, the Kayan tribesman in Borneo receives a pair of hand-tapped tattoos on both shoulders to guarantee his safe passage, as a departed soul, across the River of the Dead. These are tattoos with roots back to a time when the meaning was much more than skin deep and beyond simple decoration.
Cross tattoosIn more modern times, the Crusaders tattooed a small cross on their hand to ensure a Christian burial in the event they were killed in battle in foreign lands. Around the world, believers in different faiths have tattooed symbols of their religion on their bodies to ensure a proper burial. And today, in a tattoo culture where much of the artistry is for decorative purposes only, the resurgence of religious tattoos is once again bringing the faithful into the tattoo studio.
Customs Of Religious Tattoos In Various Parts Of World:
One of the earliest examples of religious tattoos has been found in Egypt. Women in the Egyptian civilization used to wear tattoos of their goddess of fertility. They use to get this tattoo engraved near their waist.
The Ramnaamis are a sect of people considered to be untouchables in India. They are scattered across the states of Bihar and Madhya Pradesh in India. These are a staunch devout of Lord Rama and they get his name engraved on their body in Sanskrit. They get Ram’s name engraved on almost all the practically possible corner of their skin even on their tongues and inside their lips.
Tattoos of Hindu deities are a very popular fashion amongst Hindus. Gods like Shiva, Ganesha and Kali or sacred symbols like “Om” are not only a craze amongst religious people but also amongst young people.
The residents of Ribari tribe of Kutch located in North-east India wear tattoos as the physical symbols of their strong character and concern with faith and existence.
Religious Tattoos are common in Hawaii. They believe in tattoo god and they also have tattoo priest. People here believe that when you should get a tattoo, the tattoo god will himself tell you the time. They go for different kind of religious tattoos that they consider protect them from evils.
Even in many tribal areas of the world, there is a trend to engrave religious tattoo on their hand as a symbol of being the devout of the presiding deity of that particular sect or tribe.
Even the Native American and Buddhist community have a prevalent tradition of getting religious tattoos done on their body.
Despite there is a controversy on tattooing in Christianity (many people say that it is considered a sin as per Bible) many people of this community get Jesus’ name or cross engraved on their body.