Tattoos: How, When, and Why?

September 7, 2006

Imagine you are walking through your local mall. You want to buy some new clothes for yourself, so you head towards the department store. While shopping, you notice a teenage girl leaning forward, exposing a small butterfly on the lower portion of her back. You finish your shopping and head to the music shop. There, you find yourself standing next to a big, burly man, and his shoulders are plastered with all kinds of gruff-looking artwork. You’re slightly intimidated, until he turns to you and asks your opinion on a new CD.    

Tattoos are everywhere. They have become very popular in this day and age, and amongst all ages. They may give you a certain impression on someone, but that doesn’t always hold to be true. But where do they come from? What exactly IS a tattoo? And what drives these people to inflict such painful practices on their bodies? This is what I will cover today.

To our knowledge, people started tattooing at least 5000 years ago; possibly more. Nobody knows who exactly started it, and not much of a record has been left behind. The tradition was passed on through the generations and remains popular to this day, perhaps more so than ever.

Tattoos are created when colored materials are inserted underneath the skin’s surface. Anybody who has a tattoo will tell you, it hurts like you wouldn’t believe. A needle is dipped in ink and drilled into your skin, over and over again. The outline of the tattoo comes first, and then the shading, if you desire. Afterwards, the skin begins to heal. It itches, often scabs over, and peels. Once all this is done with, you will see the final result of your tattoo and decide if a touch-up is needed.

Different techniques for this process have been used throughout time, but the basic elements are still the same. A needle, some ink, and possibly a rag to bite on.

The whole process sounds very painful, and it is. So why go through with it? People have always loved expressing themselves, and this is one of the most primitive ways of doing so. It is looked at as a form of art. It is a permanent way of showing society what you think of yourself, others, your beliefs, morals, or basically anything you wish.

In addition, some people will tell you that tattoos are addictive, and I would have to agree with that. The sensation of getting a tattoo is so unique that one could only understand it by having it done. Once it is finished (assuming it wasn’t a rash decision and one that turned out disastrous), the result is usually so pleasing and satisfying that a new tattoo is desired soon afterwards.

Below are some examples of extensive tattoo designs throughout history.

Samoan Tattoo

Samoan Tattoo

Maori Chiefs, 1910

Japanese Tattoos

Woman from a German Circus


4 Responses to “Tattoos: How, When, and Why?”

  1. love2fish said

    OUCH! While I believe that many tattoos are beautiful, I could NEVER subject myself to what I would consider the ultimate torture. My needle phobia would prevent me from ever considering body art.

    My phobia began when I was sixteen and experienced an extremely traumatic hospital stay. From that time needles, knives or blood of any kind leaves me nauseous and faint. The nurse has to strap my arm down to take blood because I involuntarily jerk away when I feel the stab. I’ve had two children without IV’s or drugs, because in my mind the pain of delivery is easier than the thought of getting a needle in my body.

    This irrational fear is unfortunate because I have type O Negative blood which is the universal donor. Anyone can take my blood, and I really should donate regularly. I feel guilty. Perhaps one day the guilt will overtake the fear.

  2. I agree tattoos are a form of expression and art. A person has every right to express what they believe. However I feel that they become distracting once they start to overcome the body.

  3. sladow said

    Why do you think we’re intimidated by people with multiple tatoos? I totally agree, I just wonder why it happens….

  4. kjamrozy said

    I have seen some tatoos that are beautiful and true works of art. I just can’t imagine what I would want to put on myself that I would still enjoy when I am in my 80’s. If gravity and aging were not in the mix, I would have no problem getting a tatoo myself.

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