Religious tattoos are still very popular with many collectors today, and one of the most recognizable images that has been made popular in the tattoo community is found in that of the Christian community with the Sacred Heart (aka The Sacred Heart of Jesus).
This is an image that is particularly important in the Roman Catholic Church, and it represents Jesus Christ’s heart as his love for all humans. The earliest known devotions to the Sacred Heart occurred around the eleventh century and was brought about by Saint Bernard. In the 14th century Pope Innocent VI declared that the Sacred Heart should be idolized and worshipped. From there on it became a symbol of love and devotion.
There are three common depictions of the heart in its original form: the Heart with a crown of thorns like the crown that Jesus was forced to wear, the heart with a cross on top to represent the crucifixion, and finally, flame surrounding or coming out of it which represents divine light of love.
As a tattoo many people choose one of these three versions, or get it custom made with added flowers, decorative pieces, faces, colours, etc. The most common styles are American traditional, black and grey, and neo-traditional.
There is another version of the Sacred Heart that represents the Immaculate Heart of Mary (mother of Jesus), but this version is usually seen being pierced by a sword instead of a crown of thorns.
Joey strives to make a welcoming environment for all who wish to get tattooed, regardless of body type, skin tone, gender, etc. They are a fierce defender of Queer folks and also do their part to call out anti-Semitism, particularly in sub cultures of tattooing and alternative music. You can read an interview that features Joey and other Jewish artists here.
When you check out Joey’s instagram (linked above) you can expect to see lots of flowers, (Jewish) lady heads, and Hebrew script intermingled with classic old school tattoo designs.
Now (August 2020) Joey also makes face masks with other local Toronto artists, and has flash, shirts, tote bags, and more available on their Etsy.
Be sure to check them out if you live in Toronto or are passing through!
The Sun Dancer tattoo is an easily recognizable American traditional design, first painted by Bert Grimm, a pioneer of American traditional tattooing who worked from around 1916-1970. An important part of Indigenous history and culture, the Sun Dance is a spiritual ceremony that was and is still very important to different groups, primarily to those of the plains cultures in America and Canada.
The ceremony is a gruelling but important one, primarily (though not entirely) performed by males. The dancer fasts, going without both food and drink for days at a time, while dancing around a sacred fire and traditional pole meant to represent the sun. Others drum and sing prayers while the dancer dances until exhausted.
As part of the ceremony, piercing and suspension is also common. This involves a leader piercing rods into the chest or back of the dancer, while they drag a bison head until the skin rips. Other variations involve horses pulling at the rods, or the dancer being suspended from the pole by the rods in their skin. This inspired modern suspension.
Often times the dancer would become delirious and hallucinate both from the physical and mental exertion, topped with dehydration and extreme hunger. Unfortunately the ceremony was banned in Canada in 1885 under the Indian Act, but the ban was dropped in 1951, though Indigenous people continue(d) to be treated unfairly. Today the Sun Dance is still performed by some communities.
One of the first examples of this ceremony being painted is Bert Grimm’s Sun Dancer flash and tattoo. The original painting depicts a girl dancing with her left knee raised, right hand holding a spear, with a shield depicting a bald eagle in her left hand. A red sun and traditional roses make up the background.
As the design was first made by a pioneer of American traditional tattooing, it is mainly tattooed today in the same style. Though people do take artistic liberties, sometimes including animals or other flowers, and even changing the subject of the tattoo. It is often done as a back tattoo, but can also be seen on arms and legs, usually as still large pieces, though through adaptation artists have created smaller pieces as well.
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?
Baphomet today is regarded as a Satanic figure, but for a long time Baphomet was actually a word for the prophet Mohammed in Islam, and worshipping a Muslim god or prophet was seen as idolatry. The Knights of Templar were accused of worshipping Baphomet the false idol in Medieval France, and were tortured under King Philip.
Over the next 500 years, Baphomet changed from Mohammed the prophet, to a hermaphroditic stone figure borrowed from Egypt or the Gnostic Christian Ophites. This was after both scholars and mystics studied the Knights of Templar, writing that the Knights brought back ancient magical knowledge from the middle East and North Africa. The idol in question was called Baphomet in 1818, and were most likely just misidentified artifacts from other cultures and religions.
But the final Baphomet that we picture today was created in 1854 by occultist Eliphas Levi for his book “Dogme et Rituel de la Haute Magie” (“Dogmas and Rituals of High Magic“). Levi describes Baphomet in detail in his book.”The goat on the frontispiece carries the sign of the pentagram on the forehead, with one point at the top, a symbol of light, his two hands forming the sign of hermetism, the one pointing up to the white moon of Chesed, the other pointing down to the black one of Geburah. This sign expresses the perfect harmony of mercy with justice. His one arm is female, the other male like the ones of the androgyn of Khunrath, the attributes of which we had to unite with those of our goat because he is one and the same symbol. The flame of intelligence shining between his horns is the magic light of the universal balance, the image of the soul elevated above matter, as the flame, whilst being tied to matter, shines above it. The beast’s head expresses the horror of the sinner, whose materially acting, solely responsible part has to bear the punishment exclusively; because the soul is insensitive according to its nature and can only suffer when it materializes. The rod standing instead of genitals symbolizes eternal life, the body covered with scales the water, the semi-circle above it the atmosphere, the feathers following above the volatile. Humanity is represented by the two breasts and the androgyn arms of this sphinx of the occult sciences.”
As a tattoo, people often get the full bodied Baphomet, or a goats head, as goats are often also related to Satanism as well as witchcraft and paganism. Full bodied goats and goat heads are also popular in part thanks to the film The Witch, and the Satanic goat named Black philip. Generally these tattoos are done in blackwork or black and grey but also realism, neo traditional, and American traditional.
Anubis is the ancient Egyptian god/guardian of the dead. The name Anubis actually comes from the Greek, but the earliest Egyptian names for him include Anpu, or Inpu. Both have the same root word which means “royal child”, and “inp” which means “to decay”.
He is generally depicted as a black, jackal-dog-man hybrid, with the body of a man and head of a jackal/dog. The colour black was chosen for its symbolism of both decaying bodies, and the soil along the Nile river.
Anubis is first seen as the son of Ra and Hesat, before he is brought into the story of Osiris, and said to be his son.
Anubis is the earliest god depicted on tomb walls, usually presiding over the mummification process, or weighing of the soul. This is the process in which a persons soul is weighed against the feather of truth.
Anubis is both judge and guide of the dead. Making him an authoritative figure, as well as a protector. This makes him one of the most important gods in Egyptian history.
Later in history he was partially adopted into Greek mythology, associating him with Hermes.
As a tattoo, Anubis is often done in blackwork, black and grey, neo traditional, water colour, and realism styles.
Kali is a Hindu goddess often misconstrued as a goddess of death. While she does bring about the death of the ego and demons, she does not kill humans. She is the counterpart of the more violent deity Shiva the destroyer, both of whom are the destroyers of unreality. Kali is depicted as a woman with a garland of skulls or heads, and dismembered arms, because the ego arises out of identification with the body. She also is usually seen with black or dark blue skin, which symbolizes the womb of which all creation arises and into which all creation will eventually dissolve into. So she is often mistaken as a fearsome deity, she is actually a motherly figure.
As a tattoo Kali is often done in American traditional style, neo-traditional, black and grey, or realism.