Birthday Celebrations, Rites of Passage and Tattoos

Today is my birthday and I am celebrating! Celebrating in a way I never thought I would do. I'm getting a tattoo.

The idea of tattoos had crossed my mind upon occasion, but mostly in the sense of 'why would anyone want to do that?'.

I must admit as I was growing up, the only discussion about tattoos in the household were covert references as to how only those people got tattoos - you know, sailors, bikers and people in the circus. Those people. When I wanted to get my ears pierced, there were ambiguous ramblings about the body being a holy temple which was not to be desecrated or altered, idolatry, pagans, and the most holy of all ramparts in my household, the all-powerful 'what will the neighbors think?'.

Yet two events led me to consciously breaking with childhood restrictions and taboos and deciding to get a tattoo.

The first one was when my horse Shiloh transitioned, leaving me behind. Bereft of his physical presence, his essence and companionship, I was devastated. If you're not already familiar with our story, you can read it here.

Intuitive Art Ame Jo Hughes Phoenix Rising Shiloh

Intuitive Art Ame Jo Hughes Phoenix Rising Shiloh

Shortly after Shiloh passed, I asked Intuitive Artist Ame Jo Hughes to paint a portrait of him. Both of us expected Shiloh to present himself as Shiloh, a red quarter horse. Instead, Shiloh presented himself as Phoenix Rising. How unexpected yet totally appropriate and in character with the way Shiloh would show himself! So much color, vibrancy and vitality!

The idea of having Shiloh as Phoenix Rising tattooed somewhere on my body began to slowly develop in my mind.

Tattoos and Spirituality

Historically, many cultures have utilized tattoos as a symbol of their spirituality, a rite of passage or as a way to mark criminals and slaves. Photographer Chris Ranier, who has enhanced the understanding of the culture of tattoos in his documentary "Tattoo Odyssey" claims tattoos in all cultures arise from “that basic human desire to belong, to be appreciated, and to go through some initiation process that gains an altered state of mind that says, ‘I am who I am.’”

After Shiloh passed, I began the first year of a two year intensive study program in Shamanism with Modern Shaman Kelley Harrell. I remember Kelley telling me at the time that the program would change me and once started, there was no turning back. This was the second event that led to the decision to get the tattoo.

I finished my first year in the intensive this past December, exactly one year after Shiloh's passing. The convergence of those two red letter events signified a rite of passage to me. It felt both appropriate and necessary to honor them with a life long commitment, wedding them into an initiatory rite. By doing this I was giving notice, so to speak, of the changed person I had become, my own "I am".

The Process of Getting The Tattoo

I'm finding the process of getting the tattoo has taken on a life of it's own, so much so that I have pretty much just been going along for the ride. All kinds of decisions have needed to be made: interviewing various artists, deciding who could best do the work and with whom I felt comfortable, scheduling, how many sittings to schedule, etc. I finally settled on tattoo artist Melissa Thompson with Blaque Owl Tattoo.

I needed to screw up my courage to take this step. Not only because I had heard from various sources that it's painful, but by doing this I have consciously transformed the 'Janet' I've know all my life into a new 'Janet'. Not leaving the old 'Janet' behind, but encouraging her and allowing her to take on new possibilities, responsibilities and dimensions of being.

The tattoo has changed me both outwardly and inwardly. It's not just a pretty picture on my arm - even though it is that! My perception of how I have always known and experienced myself is changed. Seeing the tattoo on my arm is a daily reminder of the commitments and vows I have made and the passages I have been through in the past year. This tattoo seals the relationship Shiloh and I have between and beyond worlds, forever and ever, past death and mortality.

I now belong to the cult of those with tattoos, those who have chosen, for whatever reason, to use their body to display a symbol, a work of art. This is a different community from what I am used to; this community chooses to visibly wear energetic imprints on their being, and I can't help but think that by simply making that choice to do so, we are connected on some level of being.

Many people have born witness to this decision and supported me in this time of transition - for this I am grateful!

Here's To New Beginnings,