Talisman tattoos: Reclaiming a ritual of self-care as old as time

Guest post shared by Chloe.

Recently I was rifling through a book of photographs that showed talismans from all over the world.

There were pictures of ornate front doors and baby hats, embroidered sleeves, erotic paintings. Hair braids, bracelets, numbers and makeup and signposts. Pompoms on horsehair and colored motifs around windows.

If you ever doubted that everything made by a human hand has a magical purpose, there it was. Every object you could think of, singing :

“Protect my family.”
“Make my business flourish.“
“Bring me peace and really great sex.”

I love these songs. So I make talisman tattoos.

“I want a tattoo, but I don’t know what” is probably the sentence I hear most in my trade. People come to me with this burning need that their brain can’t yet define – something lurking on the edge of their vision. When you come seeking the needles, you have simply come for a song.

“I survived.”
“I have understood something important.”
“A door has just opened.”

You come to give yourself empathy. To tell an important moment of your story. What stains the skin can only hint at the deep transformation it witnesses underneath.

Today, it’s no secret: far and wide, wherever our ancestors have roamed, the tap-tap of tattoo sticks could always be heard. Like the sweat lodge, it is a part of our heritage. One of our sacred tools for healing and transmutation.

To honor this tradition, I invite the voices of the deep to play their part in the process.

I talk with my clients of what they’re going through, what images call to them and why. We usually ask the tarot cards for a second opinion. I then send them home, to call on the dreaming and daydreaming.

When you decide to engage with the tattoo realm, you are sending a call. Things come up to answer it – animals, flowers, trees suddenly manifest themselves in unusually loud ways. I find that control over the design casually slips out of both our hands. That’s when I know we’re on the right track. I perform the tattoo during a private ritual, and each design is tattooed only once.

A tattoo is a talisman, a vessel for a prayer. Welcome it into the temple of your body. Feed it with offerings of incense and oil. Ask it to walk with you in your dreams.

Wherever you are, you can reclaim this rite of passage as a sacred space.

A Columbian shaman once told me that he knew Westerners who prepared for six months for a single ayahuasca ritual. In that one night, they recovered from trauma, overcame smoking habits, depression, severe food allergies.

I have seen similar things happen with tattoos.

I have seen tattoo sessions drag people into fits of rage, helpless tears or plunge them into a deep, healing sleep. I have watched a tattoo close the door on sexual trauma, shake stagnant family dynamics and gently open the flower of feminine power.

The words you choose do not matter. It is how deep your prayer comes from. The practice you follow is not relevant, so much as the discipline, dedication and heart you pour into it.

The Western world has not lost its rituals – it has simply stopped paying them any respect.

The language of tattoos was once understood by the whole community – they marked us as grown men, widowed women, clanfolk, distinguished warriors. The scale has slid from the group to the individual. Today we hear the call in our own time, choose our symbols out of many or create our own. The patterns change, the core remains. The ritual is still as powerful a player in the building of our identity.

Make an offering of blood, and you’ll find old power flickers alive.

About the author

Chloé Lep (she/her) is a long-term solo traveler, holistic tattoo artist and tarot reader. She combines these interests to explore the healing power of intuitive ritual. She makes talisman tattoos, which focus on intention-setting, and honor tattoos as a rite of passage between two states of being. She works with dreams, plant spirits, women’s circles and sex magic.

She can usually be found painting cheerful fertility icons, researching plant medicines, and blogging about her travels. She is currently based in Somerset, UK. You can book a tattoo, a fertility icon, a reading through her blog chloelep.com, rifle through her travel blog, or follow her instagram.

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  1. Emma Morton says:

    This is lovely, Your work is very beautiful.

    I’ve found great healing from my tattoos (caring for my thigh pieces was a great step in loving my body), even ones I got on a whim, Sometimes their meaning will make itself known later.

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