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Personal symbols and tattoos - Portrait of a Young Man as The Artist
abmann
abmann
Personal symbols and tattoos
Painted man

I grew up essentially without religion. I used to go to church with my friends on occasion in an attempt to understand the point of religion. I attended Roman Catholic, Methodist and Lutheran services and each time was left with a resounding…. Blah? Nothing felt either useful or right.


When my parents divorced in 1993 my mother began exploring her own spirituality and included me in her exploration. I think she knew that I was curious and that, as stated, none of the organized religions really did it form me. She started taking me to drumming circles, meditating circles, journeying circles, reiki healing circles… and other such [action verb] circles in what I think was an attempt to instigate a modicum of spiritual development in me. After all, if you believe that some sort of God exists, you’re never alone. (Especially in the bathroom.)


I remember a moment when my mother asked me if I wanted to find my spirit animal. Ad had been attending discussions and journeying circles in an attempt t find hers, an attempt to reclaim her spirituality. She was eager to take me, a lonely little kid, and create a sense of supra-personal companionship- sense of Belonging in the universe.


“uh… How do we do that?”

“I’ll guide you through a meditation.”

“What will it be about?”

“I’ll take you to a deep place in yourself where your spirit guide will be waiting. They will greet you… or attack you.”

“Attack me?”

“well… Probably not but it is usually a sign of protection or that there is sickness inside you they want to rid you of.”

“oh. Ok…”

She started some melodic drum music in the background as I lay down on the couch. She started guiding me through the visualization exercises.

When I closed my eyes, I was standing in a field near my house. The sky clouded over and cracked open in rain. The earth beneath me loosened and I sank in, dissolved into it.

I re-emerged in a glowing rust-colored tunnel. I could see the roots of trees and flowers above. I started walking east towards a faint point of light. As I walked, I heard a growl. In a gap in the wall stared blue wolf eyes. It stepped out and eyed me and shook its head. I was not here for him and continued on. As I stepped by him, it pounced and attacked my eyes. Gnashing teeth and hot breath and it ran off.

I stood up, confused and continued on. I suppose there was something amiss with my eyes or my unconscious was a little obsessed with my mom’s previous statement. As I neared the end of the tunnel, the earth gave way to nothingness. They just ended and I stepped out into endless dark broken only by a crystalline Mesa. At the top I could see a fire and some large shape sitting near it. I climbed and climbed and climbed and climbed.

At the top, under a starry sky, I saw a brown bear with a small raccoon mask on. He offered me a stick with a marshmallow stuck to it and pulled up a log chair for me. We had much to discuss.

Much of the reason I got this tattoo is to remember the result of that guided meditation. Bears symbolize introspection and dreaming, two things that have been increasingly important to me of late. Each of these are ways of self discovery and personal empowerment and as I head into my 3rd decade of life, I want to remember this part of my life and the meaning i took from it. Putting it in my skin as a reminder of this part of me, of my mother and that summer before she moved to Arizona, is the best way to do that.


Now, I just worry that one tattoo becomes seven.

Because I have… Ideas.

Originally published at Portrait of the Young Man as an Artist. You can comment here or there.

24 comments or Leave a comment
Comments
lunachickk From: lunachickk Date: June 3rd, 2012 10:10 pm (UTC) (Link)
This is a very cool story. Thank you for sharing it (and the link to it). I like the tattoo and the reason for getting it.

The bear is my spirit animal too. A Native American friend of mine shared this with me when we first met. We had been introduced and he sort of said out of the blue that I was wearing a bear. I looked at him oddly and he explained that the bear was my spirit animal and that it was quite literally following me around and it was quite strong. Needless to say, we had quite a long discussion about this. I really wasn't surprised to hear this but it was pretty interesting.

abmann From: abmann Date: June 3rd, 2012 10:43 pm (UTC) (Link)
Nifty! Have you done anything further with the thought?

And are you sure he just didn't want you to shave more?
lunachickk From: lunachickk Date: June 4th, 2012 01:29 am (UTC) (Link)
No tattoos yet but I have thought about it. I do have a collection of bear fetishes and bear paw jewelry.

LOL. No, at first I thought it was some sort of strange come-on line actually but once we got talking he told me more about it and it was pretty interesting. We became pretty good friends later.
abmann From: abmann Date: June 4th, 2012 02:28 am (UTC) (Link)
What were you doing that lead to meeting this guy? Just a random encounter or something in particular?
lunachickk From: lunachickk Date: June 4th, 2012 01:36 pm (UTC) (Link)
It was a get-together with a bunch of friends when I was in college.
lex_of_green From: lex_of_green Date: June 3rd, 2012 10:20 pm (UTC) (Link)
I really enjoyed reading this. And I like the look of your tattoo. Thank you for sharing the story.
abmann From: abmann Date: June 3rd, 2012 10:42 pm (UTC) (Link)
Have you gotten tattoos yet? I think I remember you considering one or a dozen.
hawksley From: hawksley Date: June 3rd, 2012 10:58 pm (UTC) (Link)
tattoos are ridiculously addictive. terrible terrible wonderful habit...
abmann From: abmann Date: June 3rd, 2012 11:15 pm (UTC) (Link)
DO you have a plan for yours? I think mine is eventually going to become a dream catcher with feathers and leather straps wrapping around my forearm and wrist.

Edited at 2012-06-04 02:25 am (UTC)
hawksley From: hawksley Date: June 6th, 2012 12:49 pm (UTC) (Link)
i have two models of the universe on my forearms (heliocentric model and the tychonic model), the platonic solids on my right arm, and the construction of an icosahedron in five steps on my left. a simple equilateral triangle on the back of my neck.

the next two i'm getting are two specific trails particles leave behind in hydrogen bubble chambers.

i typically get tattoos in pairs, and they always have to do with math or science...

i'm currently working out a chest piece too. oi. expensive....
abmann From: abmann Date: June 6th, 2012 12:56 pm (UTC) (Link)
Do you have pictures of all of them? alyska has been wanting similarly-themed tattoos and she may appreciate the inspiration. :) She's thinking about using the CERN collision maps as a background for images like the golden rectangle or the da Vinci-inspired images of the Large Hadron Collider.

I saw the photos for the universe models. They are neat!
hawksley From: hawksley Date: June 7th, 2012 11:16 pm (UTC) (Link)
thanks! they felt wonderful. concentric circles are tough but my tattooist(s) are lovely. i'm 'the math girl' to them... :)

http://sphotos.xx.fbcdn.net/hphotos-prn1/23782_430810895557_663060557_5459163_1478288_n.jpg first tattoo, the platonic solids.

http://a6.sphotos.ak.fbcdn.net/hphotos-ak-ash3/171278_10150164157415558_4795971_o.jpg construction of an icosahedron in five steps with a straight edge and ruler. second tattoo.

http://sphotos.xx.fbcdn.net/hphotos-ash4/307429_10150467991810558_2065777499_n.jpg third... not me, my best friend. we have the same one. :)

http://a6.sphotos.ak.fbcdn.net/hphotos-ak-snc7/341302_10150447016545558_663060557_11014206_497314021_o.jpg fourth and fifth

-s
abmann From: abmann Date: June 7th, 2012 11:23 pm (UTC) (Link)
Oh man, I love the solids. So nifty.
shiningstar55 From: shiningstar55 Date: June 4th, 2012 01:28 am (UTC) (Link)
Just read this after seeing your most recent post in selfportraits. Very cool story.
abmann From: abmann Date: June 4th, 2012 02:24 am (UTC) (Link)
Thanks! It was an interesting few months.
lady_fox From: lady_fox Date: June 4th, 2012 04:04 am (UTC) (Link)
Good picture. </p>

Glad you shared.

abmann From: abmann Date: June 4th, 2012 01:24 pm (UTC) (Link)
I am Mr. Monochrome.

I have yet to find a good iPad app that allows for touch ups like removing that dang light switch!
I shoulda moved the piano. :)
annan_dum From: annan_dum Date: June 4th, 2012 04:29 am (UTC) (Link)
I never knew the brown bear was your totem. How completely and utterly appropriate.
I also like the marshmallow...seriously awesome detail, that one...my totems never bring me food...
abmann From: abmann Date: June 4th, 2012 01:27 pm (UTC) (Link)
I thought the marshmallow odd too but I think that's one of the few outdoorsy activies I equate with comfort and "home."

You think it is appropriate? How so?

Does your totem wear a top hat?
annan_dum From: annan_dum Date: June 5th, 2012 02:42 am (UTC) (Link)
No hat...my primary totem has a habit of eating carcasses. Not in a morbid way, more of in a "circle of life," "respect all aspects of the journey" kind of way...but it's still not very appetizing.

Appropriate because I have a friend at my work (nickname: Archangel) who has often reminded me of you, and HIS totem is a brown bear. He says the aspects of it that ring the most true for him are the fierce and protective loyalty to loved-ones (most notably family), the sometimes moody temper, the introspective nature, the quickness and powerful that rises in choice circumstances, and the nesting instinct.
mysterysquid From: mysterysquid Date: June 4th, 2012 12:40 pm (UTC) (Link)
Yeah, that's how it goes apparently. ;)

Great story. All the good tattoos have one.
abmann From: abmann Date: June 4th, 2012 01:28 pm (UTC) (Link)
How what goes? 1 tattoo becomes a million?
mysterysquid From: mysterysquid Date: June 5th, 2012 12:43 pm (UTC) (Link)
Yeah, they're addictive, I hear.

Yet to get my first, but I know what it'll be.
abmann From: abmann Date: June 5th, 2012 12:56 pm (UTC) (Link)
What's stopping you?
24 comments or Leave a comment