Tattoos: Between the Tribal and the Universal
during the cleansing rituals.
The Curds in northern Iraq and south-eastern Turkey continue in a
practice of tattooing, whose origins are probably related to Balkan tattoos.
In Iraq, until the 1930s, both men and women tattooed themselves for
purposes of protection, healing, and decoration. The art of tattooing
was conducted mainly by women, and the ink was prepared by mixing
charcoal with breast milk. The design was simple and geometric and was
not confined to any specific part of the body.
In Iraq, the
religious leaders) would conduct ceremonies that combined prayers with
would sit with the tattoo artist, read verses from
the Quran, and turn the home of the person who received the tattoo into
a sacred space. It seems that this ceremony fashions a fabric of repeating
spiritual and corporeal patterns, which link the women, as the keepers
of tradition, with the dimension of sanctity. This intimate space, which
was fashioned from the link between the sacred words of the Quran, the
(blessing in Arabic) that the tattoo artist weaved into her work and
the complex designs and the colorful healing colors, created a spiritual
experience of praying and tattooing, speaking and creating.
Tattoos: Stigma, Oppression, Disgrace
Many cultures considered tattooing as a practice with a positive value,
while others used tattooing for negative purposes.
In ancient Greece and Rome tattoos were mostly associated with crime
and slavery. Slaves and criminals were marked so that they will not be able
to escape from their masters.
It is worth mentioning that the practice of
marking the Hebrew Slave in ancient Israel, by boring his ear through with
an awl (
), is not so different from the tattooed markings of
slaves in other cultures.
It has been postulated that since ancient times the banning and
stigmatization of tattoos and their use to oppress or take away the liberty of
others was a way for the monotheistic religions to distinguish themselves
from pagan ones.