Promoted from the Ricochet Member Feed by Editors Created with Sketch. Death and the Devil in Body Art

 

shutterstock_196886444It was a gorgeous summer day in Colorado. We were looking for something to do before Chauvinist the Younger goes off to camp, so we took the kids to The Renaissance Festival in Larkspur. This “festival” is actually a summer season theme park for people who really like to dress up in “historical” garb. I mean, really, really like dressing up. Enough to invest. Heavily.

Most of the shops (and that’s mostly what’s there besides food vendors and a few stages for the various theatrical, comedy, magic, and acrobatic acts) sell costumes, footwear, jewelry, hats, and weaponry(!) somewhat loosely related to the Renaissance (whichever one that may be — let’s just say historical accuracy isn’t the imperative). Pirates are a favorite theme, as are knights. The women select costumes ranging from witches to royal ladies. Now, of course, cross-dressing shows up as well — as if gender bending was commonly seen on the streets and celebrated in 14th century Italy. Whatever.

All the dress-up playacting seems like a terrific excuse to show-off one’s tatts, too (heh). Surprisingly, I’ve had enough exposure to the body art culture (mostly at Walmart) that I’m not even terribly disturbed by it anymore, with one exception. Why do so many tattoos portray Satan or seem to celebrate death, with skulls, for example?

It’s a sincere question. If I had more courage, I’d ask one of the wearers: “Why did you choose to permanently mark yourself (otherwise beautiful young woman) with a depiction of Satan on your arm?”

Is there a historic connection (to sailors, for instance), or is this a new development in the culture of death? Just wondering.

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  1. Aaron Miller Member
    Aaron Miller Joined in the first year of Ricochet Ricochet Charter Member

    When I was a teenage boy, I used to draw skulls and the like. It was the culture of the music I listened to. Ozzy, Judas Priest, Testament, Danzig, and countless other rock bands (KISS, for you old fogies) turned Satan and death into affectations because they in turn were taught not to believe in the former and to not understand the latter. Though God gave them gifts with music, they in many instances misused those gifts because the libertine culture among entertainers encouraged them to mock all that is serious and especially that which is sacred. So their music is full of both beauty and corruption.

    It was a long time before I was finally willing to acknowledge the need to filter what entertainment I consume. It wasn’t a big problem when I younger because I generally didn’t consider lyrics even if I was singing along; my attention was on the melodies and rhythms. But now I can’t help but consider them (which, to be honest, is annoying because most bands I like have fools for lyricists). This is one of my vices. 

    That said, people have a wide variety of relationships with the concept of death. The demons are one thing, but the skulls? Think of all the monasteries and temples that are decorated with real skulls and mummies. It’s worth remembering that death is not the horror that it was before the Resurrection. It was a black hole, but now it can be a bright passageway. Death itself is nothing to fear or abhor.

    • #1
    • June 14, 2014, at 8:12 PM PDT
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  2. Aaron Miller Member
    Aaron Miller Joined in the first year of Ricochet Ricochet Charter Member

    Western Chauvinist: Is there a historic connection (to sailors, for instance), or is this a new development in the culture of death? Just wondering.

    Then again, you’re probably right about sailors and warriors long before rock culture and the like. Perhaps skulls and monsters are simply, indefinitely manly images because a major aspect of manhood is overcoming fear and being ready for battle. 

    On another note, while I will continue to miss coastal Alabama, one reason I’m glad to be back in Texas is because we’ve got a great Renaissance Festival in nearby Magnolia. Everything’s bigger in Texas! 

    • #2
    • June 14, 2014, at 8:23 PM PDT
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  3. Hammer, The Member

    I don’t know about those people you saw, but mine is a prison tat… long story.

    • #3
    • June 14, 2014, at 9:47 PM PDT
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  4. Randy Webster Member

    Years ago, my wife and I took a leisurely drive up the coast of NC and VA on our way to pick our son up from Marine infantry school. While we were fooling around in one of the beach towns, we decided we’d get henna tattoos for the effect on the kids. Lynda got something in the area where tramp stamps go, and I got barbed wire around my upper arm.

    We succeeded beyond our wildest dreams. Our daughter (25 or so at the time) came running up to me and said “Oh, my God, Oh, my God. Dad, mom got a tattoo.” So I just bared my arm. It was totally worth the cost.

    • #4
    • June 15, 2014, at 6:15 AM PDT
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  5. raycon and lindacon Inactive

    To tattoo or not to tattoo is a cultural phenomenon. The subject of the tattoo, however, says as much about the individual as it does about the culture. Depictions of satan (always lower case) are generally more about ignorance of the person than fidelity to him.

    Christians who are educated in their faith take satan very seriously, while those who have a shallow understanding of the Scriptures tend to dismiss satan as a medieval fairytale, something from the brothers Grimm. Those who know their Bible, or their catechism, know that satan is a very real person. He is the enemy of God and of their souls. He seeks to kill and destroy, and to make that death a feature of your eternity. God seeks your life for eternity.

    This is where the culture part comes in. There have always been fools who ignorantly celebrate satan, and also his disciples. We can look at the prevalence of satan tat’s to tell us either the ratio of fools or satan worshipers in our midst.

    And by their works we shall now them.

    • #5
    • June 15, 2014, at 11:08 AM PDT
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  6. Arahant Member

    No, it has not always been so. No, it is not about sailors. Yes, sailors have long indulged in tattoos, but they were more likely to be anchors or curvacious women. This death/satan is a recent cultural phenomenon, starting with the Death Metal and related bands and accompanying culture. (Even Staph. can be a culture.)

    I used to play in a Renaissance band. Well, I’m talking recently, not just when it was contemporary music. We played at the Michigan Renaissance Festival for several years. There were some very odd and interesting characters out there.

    • #6
    • June 15, 2014, at 12:27 PM PDT
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  7. Profile Photo Member

    WC, maybe it’s an attempt to be ‘transgressive’, to poke a finger in the eye of what’s seen as ‘convention’, without real knowledge of/adherence to the subject matter?

    • #7
    • June 15, 2014, at 4:03 PM PDT
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  8. Fredösphere Member
    Fredösphere Joined in the first year of Ricochet Ricochet Charter Member

    raycon and lindacon:

    Those who know their Bible, or their catechism, know that satan is a very real person.

     . . .and therefore, his name should be capitalized. Or what am I missing?

    (I’ve always viewed the associated tendency to change “Hell” to “hell” as a sign of disbelief, so I’m not sure where you’re going with this “satan” business.)

    • #8
    • June 15, 2014, at 4:54 PM PDT
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  9. Sisyphus (hears Xi laughing) Coolidge
    Sisyphus (hears Xi laughing) Joined in the first year of Ricochet Ricochet Charter Member

    The use of skull, snake, and demon imagery far outdates the current fashion when it comes to military or biker tattoos. The intent there is more often to convey dangerousness and a permanent fellowship than to convey actual necromancy or demon worship. Don’t forget to cover the tat for church, dear.

    Not much different than being a Wake Forest Demon Deacon or a Duke Blue Devil.

    In choosing ones company, it is important to detect those who adopt a fuller, broader approach to the symbolism early, and treat them with appropriate care and distance. I have spent an awful lot of my life staying off the radar scope of the wrong people.

    • #9
    • June 15, 2014, at 6:50 PM PDT
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  10. Western Chauvinist Member
    Western Chauvinist Joined in the first year of Ricochet Ricochet Charter Member

    Ryan M:

    I don’t know about those people you saw, but mine is a prison tat… long story.

     Hasn’t stopped you before!

    /I tease, I tease. I really would like to hear the story. And I need to be educated on what a “prison tat” is. Or do I?

    • #10
    • June 15, 2014, at 7:01 PM PDT
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  11. Western Chauvinist Member
    Western Chauvinist Joined in the first year of Ricochet Ricochet Charter Member

    Nanda Panjandrum:

    WC, maybe it’s an attempt to be ‘transgressive’, to poke a finger in the eye of what’s seen as ‘convention’, without real knowledge of/adherence to the subject matter?

     One can hope.

    • #11
    • June 15, 2014, at 7:02 PM PDT
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  12. raycon and lindacon Inactive

    Fredösphere:

    raycon and lindacon:

    Those who know their Bible, or their catechism, know that satan is a very real person.

    . . .and therefore, his name should be capitalized. Or what am I missing?

    (I’ve always viewed the associated tendency to change “Hell” to “hell” as a sign of disbelief, so I’m not sure where you’re going with this “satan” business.)

     A being of inestimable evil is unworthy of the capitalization given to God’s creatures. Satan, a unique class of being, in our estimation, is beneath humanity in his being.

    After all, we don’t capitalize dog, only it’s name.

    • #12
    • June 15, 2014, at 7:37 PM PDT
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  13. Aaron Miller Member
    Aaron Miller Joined in the first year of Ricochet Ricochet Charter Member

    Fredösphere:

    raycon and lindacon:

    Those who know their Bible, or their catechism, know that satan is a very real person.

    . . .and therefore, his name should be capitalized. Or what am I missing?

    (I’ve always viewed the associated tendency to change “Hell” to “hell” as a sign of disbelief, so I’m not sure where you’re going with this “satan” business.)

    I’m trying to break an old habit of using “hell” in a hundred ways that have nothing to do with the reality. Because our culture is rooted in Christianity, many of our casual utterances (curses especially) reference it. Sadly, this cheapens our relationship with those subjects rather than enriches them. 

    It’s worst when we use a Person’s name (“Jesus Christ!”) or even a person’s name (St Peter — “for Pete’s sake!”) without really thinking about him. Imagine someone using your own name as a curse or careless expression. But careless references also matter in regard to subjects like Heaven, Hell, and Satan because such habits make them seem unimportant after a while, as if we were talking about the weather. 

    • #13
    • June 15, 2014, at 8:03 PM PDT
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  14. Aaron Miller Member
    Aaron Miller Joined in the first year of Ricochet Ricochet Charter Member

    Arahant: I used to play in a Renaissance band. Well, I’m talking recently, not just when it was contemporary music. We played at the Michigan Renaissance Festival for several years. There were some very odd and interesting characters out there.

    Did you happen to play with Franco? He performs at Renaissance Festivals too. 

    I’m usually up and walking around at the Texas festival. But one of my fondest memories of it is sitting on a log, drunk from mead, chewing on a turkey leg while being serenaded by a gypsy-haired violinist. 

    Sometimes they sell fried gator and boudin there as well. You know all the kings of Europe would have eaten the same things if they could have!

    • #14
    • June 15, 2014, at 8:08 PM PDT
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  15. Arahant Member

    Did you ever run into “Owain Phyfe” when he was alive?

    • #15
    • June 15, 2014, at 8:19 PM PDT
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  16. Devereaux Inactive

    Sisyphus has the gist of it. Warrior cultures need to project power. The Turks made obelisks of Serb skulls as a warning. Pirates used the skull and crossbones to frighten their prey (remember the 4 basic psychologic states – fight, fright, posture, submission) into not resisting – they being in the business of looting, not dying, and strong active resistance would certainly lead to death among the crew.

    Warrior cultures have the same issues. Posturing is the most important as it will often lead to victory without killing. ?And who would be afraid of mocking birds or flowers. Look at the Yakusa tats – very colourful and artistic, but of dragons and the such. 

    As to satan, I cannot comment. Perhaps R&L have that correct.

    • #16
    • June 16, 2014, at 5:03 AM PDT
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  17. Aaron Miller Member
    Aaron Miller Joined in the first year of Ricochet Ricochet Charter Member

    Arahant:

    Did you ever run into “Owain Phyfe” when he was alive?

    Perhaps without realizing it. I’ve seen a variety of bands and solo musicians perform at the festival over the years, but always in passing. That violinist was the only one I ever sat down to listen to, because usually the people I’m roaming with keep on walking.

    • #17
    • June 16, 2014, at 7:39 AM PDT
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  18. Randy Weivoda Moderator
    Randy Weivoda Joined in the first year of Ricochet Ricochet Charter Member

    Hmm, makes me wonder does Satan have tattoos of bikers?

    • #18
    • June 16, 2014, at 9:18 AM PDT
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  19. Probable Cause Inactive

    Western Chauvinist:

    It’s a sincere question. If I had more courage, I’d ask one of the wearers: “Why did you choose to permanently mark yourself (otherwise beautiful young woman) with a depiction of Satan on your arm?”

    I have often thought the same thing.

    Now, stop being such a coward and ask them already. Then report back here. ‘Cause I’ll never ask.

    • #19
    • June 16, 2014, at 9:21 AM PDT
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  20. Hammer, The Member

    Western Chauvinist:

    Ryan M:

    I don’t know about those people you saw, but mine is a prison tat… long story.

    Hasn’t stopped you before!

    /I tease, I tease. I really would like to hear the story. And I need to be educated on what a “prison tat” is. Or do I?

     :) It is just my amazingly silly (or as my wife would say “funny only to you”) sense of humor. I’ve never been to prison, and I do not have a Tat.

    • #20
    • June 16, 2014, at 9:35 AM PDT
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  21. Fredösphere Member
    Fredösphere Joined in the first year of Ricochet Ricochet Charter Member

    raycon and lindacon:

    After all, we don’t capitalize dog, only it’s name.

    I’m still not convinced. I view Satan as a name (that means “accuser” or “adversary”), while devil is the uncapitalized generic noun. I don’t see “Satan” as a title, such as president, or even a “unique class of being;” he’s simply the most powerful fallen angel who got a new, less flattering name at the time of his demotion. Or would you leave the capitals off Lucifer, Beelzebub, Old Scratch, too?

    • #21
    • June 16, 2014, at 10:10 AM PDT
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  22. Tom Meyer, Common Citizen Contributor

    Western Chauvinist: Why do so many tattoos portray Satan or seem to celebrate death, with skulls, for example?

    mitchell-and-webbFull sketch here.

    • #22
    • June 16, 2014, at 10:33 AM PDT
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  23. Fake John/Jane Galt Coolidge

    Satan, Death and the like are powerful entities. Drawing them or tatting them is a form of calling on an aspect of their powers. Sort of borrowing them to convey respect, fear, loathing, etc.

    • #23
    • June 16, 2014, at 11:21 AM PDT
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  24. RPD Member
    RPD Joined in the first year of Ricochet Ricochet Charter Member

    You see it a lot in custom auto paint too. Not a lot of thought is put into it, it’s just an attempt to look tough.

    • #24
    • June 16, 2014, at 12:38 PM PDT
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  25. neutral observer Thatcher
    neutral observer Joined in the first year of Ricochet Ricochet Charter Member

    Yes, my sweet young (okay, early 20s ) daughters wear skull-themed jewelry. I’ve given up trying to understand.

    • #25
    • June 16, 2014, at 1:35 PM PDT
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  26. Randy Weivoda Moderator
    Randy Weivoda Joined in the first year of Ricochet Ricochet Charter Member

    Along the same line of thought, are all of the people with tattoos of religious symbols religious people? Ask the next ten people you see with a crucifix tattoo (or jewelry) what church they attend or what their favorite bible verse is. I think some people just see a tattoo and think That’s cool, I want one like that.

    • #26
    • June 16, 2014, at 1:50 PM PDT
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  27. Western Chauvinist Member
    Western Chauvinist Joined in the first year of Ricochet Ricochet Charter Member

    Tom Meyer:

    Western Chauvinist: Why do so many tattoos portray Satan or seem to celebrate death, with skulls, for example?

    Full sketch here.

     Hilarious. Thanks Tom.

    • #27
    • June 16, 2014, at 2:20 PM PDT
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  28. The Mugwump Inactive

    The word tattoo is Polynesian by linguistic derivation, and brought to western Europe by the first sailors to visit the region. The Maori of New Zealand were particularly fond of the practice which included full facial tattoo for the warrior class.

    • #28
    • June 16, 2014, at 3:13 PM PDT
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  29. Arahant Member

    Fake John Galt:

    Satan, Death and the like are powerful entities. Drawing them or tatting them is a form of calling on an aspect of their powers. Sort of borrowing them to convey respect, fear, loathing, etc.

     I think I’ll get a 504 Gateway Error tattoo, then everyone will fear me . . . at least if I come to a Ricochet meetup.

    • #29
    • June 16, 2014, at 5:10 PM PDT
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  30. tabula rasa Member
    tabula rasa Joined in the first year of Ricochet Ricochet Charter Member

    I’m an old coot who finds tat culture (1) baffling and (2) troubling. 

    The WWII sailor with an anchor on his arm doesn’t bother me (I think they earned it). But the modern propensity to use one’s body as the canvas for elaborate images that portray evil boggles my mind (admittedly, it’s easily boggled).

    Totally aside from theological and moral issues, don’t these young people ever look at old folks, and observe what gravity does to our skin? I’m pretty certain there are going to be a lot of folks who will wish they could turn back the clock.

    • #30
    • June 16, 2014, at 7:00 PM PDT
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