Guillermo del Toro is a Mexican filmmaker, author, and actor who has also worked in special effects makeup. While he has an extensive portfolio, his two most well-known films are Pan’s Labyrinth and The Shape of Water, both of which have won numerous awards.
Though he is well known for a specific style of darker film making, he has worked in various genres, from Pacific Rim, to Hellboy, Scary Stories to Tell in the Dark, and even cartoons like Trollhunters.
Guillermo is heavily influenced by horror such as Nosferatu, Frankenstein, and most notably, Creature From the Black Lagoon, which inspired The Shape of Water.
He is passionate about fairy tales and monsters, and the way he talks about them is quite beautiful. “In fairy tales, monsters exist to be a manifestation of something that we need to understand, not only a problem we need to overcome, but also they need to represent, much like angels represent the beautiful, pure, eternal side of the human spirit, monsters need to represent a more tangible, more mortal side of being human: aging, decay, darkness and so forth. And I believe that monsters originally, when we were cavemen and you know, sitting around a fire, we needed to explain the birth of the sun and the death of the moon and the phases of the moon and rain and thunder. And we invented creatures that made sense of the world: a serpent that ate the sun, a creature that ate the moon, a man in the moon living there, things like that. And as we became more and more sophisticated and created sort of a social structure, the real enigmas started not to be outside. The rain and the thunder were logical now. But the real enigmas became social. All those impulses that we were repressing: cannibalism, murder, these things needed an explanation. The sex drive, the need to hunt, the need to kill, these things then became personified in monsters. Werewolves, vampires, ogres, this and that. I feel that monsters are here in our world to help us understand it. They are an essential part of a fable.” -Guillermo del Toro
As tattoos, the most popular of his characters come from Pans Labyrinth and The Shape of Water (though people have of course gotten others as well). They are mainly done in a realistic style to portray the details that go into making them, but can also be seen as more old school or neo traditional designs.
Aliens have long been a subject of much fascination for many people; from those who believe they have been abducted, seen UFO’s, or those who just love aliens in pop culture.
Some favourite pop culture aliens include E.T, xenomorphs from the Alein franchise, Roger the alien from American Dad, little green men from Mars Attacks, and many more.
Alien films are often seen as more “nerdy” fitting the sci-fi mould well, but they also mix well with horror and/or comedy.
Many people believe that Area 51, located in Southern Nevada houses aliens that are being experimented on by the American government. Much of this conspiracy comes from the secrecy shrouding the are as civilians aren’t allowed to enter, and even the airspace cannot be entered without permission. One of the most popular alien theories involves a UFO crashing in Roswell, New Mexico. Many believe that the remains of the said UFO were brought to Area 51 for reverse engineering.
Snake ladies have been around for centuries, and we’re still fascinated with their beauty and danger. We know they exist as towering Greek statues, paintings on Japanese woodblock carvings, medieval paintings in France and throughout Europe, words and paintings in ancient Chinese texts, and of course, as beautiful tattoos. The four snake ladies we’re going to take a look at today are Medusa, Nure-Onna, Bái Sùzhēn, and Mélusine, though more cultures have their own as well. For many modern feminists, snake lady tattoos have become a common motif, which is not surprising given their subject matter. These mythological snake ladies all have their own beauty, and danger, and that danger is aimed towards those who would harm them.
According to research by Max Plank, humans have an automatic fear of snakes, dating back to our cavemen ancestors for pretty obvious reasons. Stay away from things that bite you! But snakes in the myths of many cultures are not just evil creatures, they are also symbols of fertility, hence why we have so many snake “ladies” throughout history. Granted many snake ladies are also described as twisted and horrible monsters, but they are almost always wronged by men in some way, and are just trying to live their best lives, even if it means killing and/or eating the occasional man (relatable though, right?). Even the Christians jumped on the snake lady bandwagon when Michelangelo depicted Satan not as a man in his painting “Fall and Expulsion of Adam and Eve” in the Sistine Chapel in the 1500’s, but as a snake with the torso of a woman. So why do people keep getting these snake lady tattoos if they’re often depicted negatively?
Let’s have a look at our first snake lady Medusa, and why people might get snake lady tattoos of her. Medusa is immediately recognizable and is seen in all kinds of pop culture. At a glance, Medusa looks like a terrifying monster, but her character is much more complicated than that. According to Ovin’s Metamorphoses, Medusa wasn’t always the monster that she’s usually seen as. Medusa, one of the three Gorgon sisters, and the only mortal one, was extremely beautiful. So beautiful in fact, that she caught the eye of the god of sea, earthquakes, and horses, Poseidon. Turns out Poseidon was a real scum bag and actually raped Medusa in the temple of Athena. When Athena found out what had happened in her temple, she got angry at the wrong person and cursed Medusa for desecrating her holy space.
This curse turned Medusa’s hair into snakes, making her so horrible to look at that any who did would be instantly turned to stone. Medusa went from being written about like this, “Medusa once had charms; to gain her love. A rival crowd of envious lovers strove. They, who have seen her, own, they ne’er did trace. More moving features in a sweeter face. Yet above all, her length of hair, they own, in golden ringlets wav’d, and graceful shone.” To this, “In the middle is the Gorgon Medusa, an enormous monster about whom snaky locks twist their hissing mouths; her eyes stare malevolently, and under the base of her chin the tail-ends of serpents have tied knots.” So Medusa was forever transformed into a monster, one that could even get a hero some street cred if they were to slay her. Enter, Perseus. Perseus was the son of Danae, a mortal princess, and Zeus, mightiest of the gods. When Perseus grew up he was sent on a quest by King Polydectes, to bring him the head of Medusa. This was a trick though, as old King Poly really just wanted to sleep with Perseus’ mother, and was expecting Perseus to be killed by Medusa. But Perseus is the son of a god, so of course he’s not going to fight a monster empty handed and without a few tricks up his toga. He was given an invisibility cap from his uncle Hades, a pair of winged sandals from Hermes, a reflective bronze shield from Athena, and a new sword from Hephaestus. Our story of the poor cursed Medusa ends here, as Perseus was triumphant and snuck up on her while she was sleeping and chopped her head off.
For many people, Medusa is a relatable character, so it’s no surprise that when you search for snake lady tattoos, she’s going to be one of the first examples you see. Medusa was wronged by someone more powerful than her, but was then given the power in the form of a curse to keep people from hurting her (unless you’re Perseus). Medusa tattoos can be seen as a kind of armour, as Medusa turned people to stone with her gaze. If you rock a Medusa tattoo, she can handle glaring at that weirdo on the bus for you.
Our second snake lady and corresponding snake lady tattoos, Nure-Onna, comes from Japan. The name Nure-Onna means, “wet woman.” As such, I’ll give you three guesses as to where she lives, and the first two don’t count. Quite simply, the water; coasts, rivers, and lakes. Really any body of natural water that can fit a giant snake lady. Traditionally she is native to Kyushu, Japan’s south-westernmost of the main island’s. But she can also be found as far north as Niigata and farther east in infamous Fukushima. Now unlike Medusa, Nure-Onna was never human, she’s pure creature, though not necessarily “evil.” She’s described as being large enough to flatten trees with her tail, strong enough to overpower men and eat them, and is quite a fast swimmer. In some legends she has arms like a human, and in others the only human thing about her is her head, plopped on top of a snakes body. Though all legends describe her face as quite snake-like, forked tongue and all. According to some legends, she really just wants to be left alone as she’s quite solitary and goal oriented. Usually coming ashore to wash her hair and eat. Her diet consists of both blood and entrails (delicious), but not specifically human blood and entrails, though don’t piss her off and test that. Now even though she’s way stronger than you or me, she doesn’t like to rely on brute strength when she is in the mood for some man meat. She’s smart and tricky. Nure-Onna uses magic to disguise herself as a distressed woman carrying a crying baby. She herself cries out for help from passing fishermen, sailors, or anyone unlucky enough to be passing by. If someone does stop to help her, she convinces them to take the baby, just for a moment, to let her rest. If she gets that far, the fake baby magically becomes extremely heavy, and she changes back into a snake lady, drains their blood, and eats their guts.
Nure-Onna snake lady tattoos are another design that can be worn as a kind of armour, as we now know Nure-Onna is a force to be reckoned with! She’s also more creepy looking than Medusa, so for horror aficionados she’s a cool choice. For those who also enjoy Japanese tattooing, Nure-Onna can be paired with Japanese flowers, and background such as waves or clouds as she is a creature from the sea.
Our third snake lady and her tattooed form is more of a romantic one than our first two. Bái Sùzhēn is a snake spirit from The Legend of the White Snake, one of Four Classic Folktales from China. These are old written works of historic and literary significance. Bái Sùzhēn was born as a magical sea snake that, after practicing Daoist magic, learned how to transform herself into a human. So, still a snake lady. This story takes place in beautiful Hangzhou, and begins with a boy named Xǔ Xiān, who accidentally purchases immortality pills that make him sick. He’s so sick that he throws up the pills into the lake. Bái Sùzhēn just happens to be swimming in the lake and swallows the immortality pills, but because she’s a spirit, she’s able to digest them. She is so happy and gracious that she immediately falls in love with Xǔ Xiān.
Bái Sùzhēn acquires a sidekick of sorts while traveling in human form. She sees a green snake being hurt by a man, and saves her by transforming her into a human as well. The green snake, now named, Xiǎo Qīng, swears to follow Bái Sùzhēn until the end of time. By huge coincidence, the two snake ladies come across Xǔ Xiān again, and shortly after their chance encounter, they get married. Years after their marriage, a jealous turtle spirit also turned human named Fa Hai, sabotages the marriage by telling Xǔ Xiān that his wife should try realgar wine during a festival. This wine repels spirits and and harmful creatures, and as soon as she drinks it, she is transformed back into a giant snake, giving her husband a heart attack that leads to his death. Loyal as ever, Xiǎo Qīng helps Bái Sùzhēn take Xǔ Xiān’s body to a sacred place to revive him. So happy to be revived he declares his love for his wife again, not caring that she’s a snake lady. Fa Hai of course finds out that his plan didn’t work, and he ends up, after various unsuccessful attempts to capture or kill the trio, manages to trap Bái Sùzhēn in the Leifeng Pagoda after her and Xǔ Xiān’s son Xǔ Mèngjiāo is born. Many years later, Xǔ Mèngjiāo passes the extremely difficult and competitive imperial exams with flying colours. He returns home with the title of top scholar, and is now a pious Confucian. He visits the Pagoda where his mother is trapped, to pay his respects. The heavens are so touched with his filial devotion that they finally free Bái Sùzhēn and allow the family to reunite. Another story featuring a bunch of men trying to bring a snake lady down.
Snake lady tattoos aren’t just for those who love the gritty and gruesome stories, they can also be for romantics. Though Bái Sùzhēn is a snake lady, she’s also a true romantic, falling in love Disney style (ridiculously fast), and fighting for her family. If you’re wanting a snake lady tattoo with a bit of a romantic flair, but still has a strong fighting spirit, you can’t go wrong with her.
Our fourth and final snake lady is another familiar one to all, though you may not know it. Her name is Mélusine, and while she is often described as a snake lady, she’s also sometimes more like a mermaid, but with two tails. If you’re starting to get an image in your mind, you might think of one of the most well-known coffee logos in the world. Starbucks uses the effigy of Mélusine on their cups, a smiling two tailed mermaid, or snake lady. In some myths she is described as a witch, but in many she’s more of a fairy. Mélusine was a French mythological creature coming out of the late 1300’s in France. She is the daughter of the fairy Pressyne and King Elynas of Albany.
Now Mélusine was perfectly normal in appearance, despite being part fairy, except on Saturday’s. On these days she unwillingly transformed into, you guessed it, a snake lady, usually described with the two tails and a bit more fishy than strictly serpentine. One day Mélusine met a young man named Raymond in the forest nearby. As most fairytales go, they were married extremely quickly, in this instance, by morning. But Mélusine had one condition, Raymond was not to see her on Saturdays. The couple had many children, but each child was born with a different deformity, including mismatched eye colours, an ear larger than the other, only one eye, and even a son who was born with a lion’s foot growing out of his cheek and another with a great tooth. This was of course because of her fairy blood, but Raymond didn’t know that. One day Raymond’s brother visited, and made him suspicious of his wife’s lonely Saturday’s. So of course Raymond betrayed his wife’s trust and spied on her the next Saturday, and though he was horrified at seeing her in the bath with her two serpentine tails, he didn’t say anything. Until their one son with the great tooth attacked a monastery seemingly unprovoked, and killed one hundred monks. Raymond then accused Mélusine of passing on her serpentine blood to their children, and of course alerting her to the fact that he had betrayed her trust. So distraught, Mélusine turns into a 15 foot snake, circles the castle three times, wailing loudly, before flying away. She continued to visit her children, but only at night.
This story has something for everyone, as Mélusine is also a romantic, but her child is also a murderer, and she’s still a giant snake lady. As a snake lady tattoo, we can see she often looks more like a mermaid then a snake, but 3/4 of these stories feature water as a common theme, so that’s not too surprising. Mélusine also makes a great snake lady tattoo if you’re a fan of Starbucks, but you don’t want that classic “death before decaf” piece! She’s a bit more subtle than that, and only true Starbucks fans (and anyone who reads this) will know who she is.
While these snake ladies might seem like monsters, they’re really just women wronged by men, and stories of feminist power. So guys, don’t be assholes! And when in doubt, get yourself a snake lady tattoo. They look badass, and they might just protect you from unwanted advances if they’re scary enough.
Tsuchigumo is a Japanese yōkai, or demon. It’s a creepy crawly beast that according to legend can grow to a monstrous size, big enough to eat a person with no problems.
Tsuchigumo literally means “ground spider”, and is found in mountains, forests, and caves.
In legends, these beasts live in silk tubes in trees and caves, from which they trap their human or animal prey. Think Aragog from Harry Potter or Shelob in the Lord of the Rings.
Like a lot of Japanese yōkai, particularly snake and spider ones, Tsuchigumo relies on tricks and deceit to catch their smarter prey.
For example, one legend tells of a Tsuchigumo using an illusion to torun itself into a beautiful woman, with an army behind her, to attach Japan. Warrior Yorimitsu met army on the battlefield with his own force, and first attacked the woman general. When she was struck by a sword she transformed back into a creature, while her army disappeared as it had all been an illusion. she ran away back to her cave where she was sliced open. This led to thousands of babies spilling from her swollen abdomen, but each one was killed by the Japanese warriors.
Many more tales feature Tsuchigumo using illusions to trick their prey, leading to many people being eaten by the giant spider-beast.
As a tattoo, Tsuchigumo is usually done in a traditional Japanese style, as it comes from Japanese folklore. Though it can also be done with a more American traditional twist, Neo-traditional, or realistic style. It pairs well with Japanese warriors, or as fillers with webs, skulls, or flowers.
You’d better watch out, you’d better not cry… Krampus is coming and he’s much less forgiving than jolly old St. Nicholas.
Krampus is the demonic, German counterpart to St. Nicholas. St. Nicholas is the original Santa Claus; the patron saint of children. European cultures did (and to some degree still do) celebrate(d) St. Nicholas early in December every year. But equally fear(ed) Krampus; the Christmas demon who punishes children. He is usually seen as a massive beast, similar to a Greek satyr or faun, but much more menacing.
Krampus stands anywhere from six to eight feet tall, has dark fur with matching long dark hair, huge sharp horns, a long forked tongue, and large hooves.
Similar to Santa, Krampus also carries bells, lulling children into a false sense of security. He also carries a bundle of long birch sticks so he can beat children.
He saves the worst punishment for the naughtiest children though. Children who are particularly bad get dragged down into the underworld in his large sack to be tortured. Just a bit worse than a lump of coal!
Krampus arrives on December fifth, which is also known as Krampusnacht. The next day is when St. Nicholas arrives and rewards all the good children.
Krampus is becoming more and more popular thanks to movies and tv episodes dedicated to the beastly Christmas character. People are always looking for a new way to celebrate Christmas, and for those who like the darker side of life, Krampus has become their own Santa Claus.
As a tattoo, Krampus is often done in blackwork style to emphasize how dark and menacing he is. Though American and Neo traditional styles are also quite popular. Krampus is also usually just depicted as a head, but is sometimes seen full-bodied and carrying children in his sack.
Who will you be hoping to see this Christmas season; Santa, or Krampus?
Jimmy Ho is a tattoo artist in Hong Kong. Jimmy has had his own shop since he was 14, and was tattooing before that, thanks to his father, James. His father opened Hong Kong’s first tattoo shop in 1946 called “The Rose Tattoo”, and by 1950 the shop was working non-stop to fill the demands of American soldiers getting tattooed. Jimmy has had his own shop since 1958.
Jimmy started tattooing sailors at night before he was 14, when his fathers shop was technically closed. He wanted to help out and make some money so he started doing them himself, and has been tattooing ever since.
During the Korean war he and the other artists at his father’s shop would tattoo 30-40 men per day due to the high demand. Jimmy would tattoo soldiers everyday from 11am until 4am, non stop.
Jimmy has his own style, modelled after his fathers. A mix of traditional Chinese and American traditional, but specializing in dragons.
Jimmy still tattoos, but most of the pictures on his Instagram are from the 70s-90s if you’re trying to find a portfolio.
There are some differences between Chinese and Japanese dragons, as you’ll see in Jimmy’s work. His dragons usually have 4 claws, which was used in ancient Chinese history for high ranking officials and nobility, while the 3 toed dragons were for common people, as well as the Japanese.
If you can’t make it all the way to Hong Kong for a tattoo you can always get some of Jimmy’s flash off of big cartel here. tattooflash.bigcartel.com
Susanne is a tattooer at Redwood Tattoo Studio in Manchester. She does fine linework, dotwork, and blackwork. All of her tattoos use only black ink, but her intricate dotwork make a great contrast to the heavy black.
Much of her work features popular characters or places from books, film, and tv.
She draws much inspiration from histories famous painters, and even does their portraits.
Her whimsical animal portraits are fantastical and heartwarming, such as space narwhales, dogs in space, dinosaurs in clothing, etc.
Susanne is a must see artist if you’re in Manchester!
According to Greek mythology, Medusa was born a beautiful woman, one of three sisters known as the Gorgons. When she was still human she was a priestess to the goddess Athena. Being a priestess she was sworn to celibacy.
So how did a beautiful maiden turn into the monster we’re all familiar with? Medusa was really a victim, and turning into a monster was not at all her fault, but the god of the sea, Poseidons. Poseidon met Medusa and was immediately infatuated. He tried over and over again to seduce Medusa, who refused each time. Finally Medusa sought refuge in Athena’s temple to get away from Poseidon. Poseidon didn’t care and went after her, following her into the temple of Athena, where he forced himself on her against her will.
To punish Medusa for having relations inside her temple, Athena turned Medusa into a monster. A woman with snakes for hair that could turn any who looked upon her directly into stone. Seeing herself as a hideous monster, Medusa fled, shunned by all, wandering alone. In her despair her character turned into the monster of her outward appearance.
Many warriors tried unsuccessfully to slay Medusa, but all were turned to stone, and her reputation grew with each kill. Until Perseus was sent to collect her head and bring it to the king Polydectes. Perseus was given quite a bit of help to complete this task, which the other warriors did not have. He was given a sword smithed by the god Hephaestus, Hades’ helmet of invisibility, winged sandals from Hermes, and a mirrored shield from Athena.
Perseus was able to slay Medusa by looking at her reflection in the mirrored shield so he could see her coming and not be turned to stone. He decapitated her, and in doing so freed her from Athena’s curse.
As a tattoo Medusa is often done in black and grey, neo traditional, realism, blackwork, and American traditional. She is most often tattooed as just her head, either visibly decapitated or portrait style.
Who is your favourite mythological Greek character?