Tattooing, by technical definition, is the process of skin marking through epidermal ink insertion
to change the pigmentation of the skin for aesthetic, decorative or other purposes. In some cultures,
tattooing is synonymous to branding. Practiced worldwide, tattooing is multicultural as crosses all
boundaries of beliefs and traditions.
Tattoos can be traced as far back as 10,000 BC, when Eurasians
still traveled between the great continents of Asia Major and Western Europe. Simple designs were then used,
such as lines and dots. Mummies of ancient Egypt also bear tattoos as symbols of cultural hierarchy. In
Japan, use of tattoos dates back to some ten thousand years ago.
These historical traditions symbolize tattoos for various
beliefs like rites of passage, religious and even magical reasons. In the Philippines, certain tribal groups
believe that tattoos have magical qualities and that they will protect them from evil elementals roaming the
earth. Maoris of New Zealand use modified tattoos to reflect social status called Ta Moko. Instead of
needles, chisels carve the skin to create grooves in the face instead of a smooth skin. The process is
extremely painful but the markings were also considered an attractive feature.
In modern times, tattoos are being used for cosmetic,
sentimental, religious and identification purposes. The Japanese Yakuza wear tattoos called irezumi to
symbolize loyalty. This process is very expensive and time consuming, sometimes taking years to complete a
body suit design. Nowadays, Japanese youngsters opt to veer from the traditional irezumi and follow western
Because of western influences, particularly fashion, tattoos
are gaining more and more popularity in terms of self-expression than as a cultural symbol. Celebrities sport
various tattoos in their bodies which in turn are typically emulated by their fans. Many modern day mothers
wear tattoos and sometimes even encourage their children to have tattoos also. Some business tycoons also
have tattoos and still earn much respect from the public. In other words, tattooing has evolved into
something more aesthetic and accepted in essence, rather than culturally symbolic. And more and more people
are having commemorative tattoos, tattoos that commemorate the life and death of a loved person or pet, or
simply an event or group they belong to. You could call a tattoo more than a skin-canvas; you could call it a
skin-scrapbook of your life and adventures and loves.