Hamsa Tattoos:

The Hamsa has gone by many other names including the eye of Fatima, the hand of Fatima, and the hand of Miriam to name a few. In terms of visual appearance the Hamsa is an open hand with an eye in the middle. The Hamsa is usually worn as protection, specifically against the Evil Eye.

Floral Hamsa flash by Joey Ramona at Under My Thumb Tattoo in Toronto
Micro Hamsa by EQ Tattoo in Seoul, Korea

Today this design is mainly seen as an important Jewish symbol but it has been interpreted by many scholars as Jewish, Christian, Islamic, and even as a pagan symbol of fertility.

Neo-traditional Hamsa by Ceci at Trenton Point Tattoo
Micro Hamsa by Camilo Leal Tattoo in Bogotá Columbia

Two of the Hamsa’s other names (referencing Fatima or Miriam) link this ancient symbol closely to Judaism and Islam. Fatima is the daughter of Mohammed, and Miriam is the sister of Moses.

Geometric Hamsa by Jutta Carter at Martins Custom Tattooing
Geometric/dot work Hamsa by Meg Evans in Shrewsbury UK

One of the oldest depictions of the Hamsa comes from a 14th-century Islamic fortress in southern Spain, on the Puerta Judiciaria, or, “Gate of Judgement.” There are also those who believe the Hamsa has its roots in Christianity through the virgin Mary whose hands are often seen in a “fig” pose. Then there are historians and professors who believe the Hamsa doesn’t come from religion at all, because there are Palaeolithic caves in France, Spain, Argentina, Algeria, and Australia with paintings of the hand.

Hamsa, flowers, and gems by Sarah Thirteen at Black Lodge Tattoo Studio in Bournemouth, UK
A more old school Hamsa by Cari at True Blue Electric Tattoo in Knoxville, TN

As a tattoo the Hamsa is often done in a black and grey or fine line, but neo-traditional and geometric patters thrown into the mix are also popular. Many people wonder if it’s ok for them to wear a Hamsa, whether it’s a tattoo, on a necklace, or a t-shirt, and the short answer is yes. It can be culturally insensitive to wear it without understanding what it means, but as so many religions and cultures have ties to it, it really can be for anyone, as protection is a universal theme.

Micro Hamsa and other work by Marjolein Evens at Garden of Eden Studios in Hasselt, Belgium
Geometric/dot work Hamsa by Ozz Tat in Mexico

Do you have a Hamsa tattoo?

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Sacred Heart Tattoos:

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).

Neo-traditional sacred heart and flowers by Luan Roots
Black work ornamental sacred heart by Miss Sita at One O Nine Tattoo in Barcelona

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. 

Old school Immaculate Heart of Mary by Alvin Aldridge at Rose Land Tattoo
Old school Sacred Heart and flowers by Basile Maurizio at Inked Soul Tattoo Studio

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. 

Neo-traditional take on the Sacred Heart by Ashleigh MacIsaac-Bruno
Black and grey Sacred Heart by stillink.tattoo in Italy

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. 

Black and grey Immaculate Heart of Mary by Tom Cox
Old school Sacred Heart and lady head by Duan Tattoo at Sick Rose Tattoo Parlour in Shanghai

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. 

Black and grey Immaculate Heart of Mary by Bram Adey at Main Street Tattoo Collective in Winnipeg
Wall flash by Jake Cordál at Kilburn Tattoo in London

Edited by Harrison R.

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Winnipeg Artist 8: Dave Lao

Dave Lao is a black and grey artist working out of his private studio, Lone Wolf Studios in Winnipeg, Manitoba.

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Dark religious piece.
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Realistic Greek god/monster back piece.
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Crazy surf tattoo with shark.
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Centaur and flowers.
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Game of Thrones’ Daenerys.

Dave works in realism and sketch work styles. Much of his work is portraiture, such as characters from shows and movies, and lots of animals.

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Roman statue styled piece.
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Eyeball with a space theme.
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Beautiful elephant back piece.
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Angry polar bear.
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Virgin Mary portrait.

Dave has an impeccable attention to detail; with every line counting.

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Terrifying grim reaper.
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Greek/Roman surreal piece.
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Greek god Atlas.
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Portrait/ sketch work style lion.
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Surreal woman portrait and nature themed piece.

Most of his portfolio is made up of somewhat larger pieces, but he will also do smaller tattoos which are just as impressive.

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Nautical themed hand.
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Canadian army memorial piece.
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Realistic king piece.
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Small photo realistic swiss army knife.
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Gas mask and chopper.

Dave is a must see artist for black and grey work in Winnipeg.

Goddess Kali Tattoos:

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.

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Neo-traditional Kali by Aaron Riddle at Black Lotus Tattooers in Phoenix, Arizona.
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American traditional, less angry Kali by Andrew Strychnine at Redrum Tattoo Collective in Moscow.
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Unfinished black and grey Kali back piece by Dan Molloy in Perth, Australia.
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Mostly black Kali by Joe Ellis at Sacred Electric Custom Tattooing in Leeds, UK.
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Full colourful Kali back piece by Natalia Litvinenko.
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Dark American traditional Kali head by Philip Yarnell at Skynyard Tattoos, UK.
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Full bodied version of Kali by Steven Huie at Flyrite Tattoo.
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Another unfinished Kali back piece by Tom Caine at Holy mountain Tattoo, UK.
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Full rib panel Kali head by Andrew Fyfe at Main Street Tattoo Collective in Winnipeg, Manitoba.
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A much more motherly version of Kali by Lucy Pryor at Into You Tattoo & Piercing in London, UK.

Tattoo History 3: Native American Tattoo Traditions

Based on archaeological evidence found in plains all over North America, tattoos can be traced as far back as 1000-200 BCE.  Native American peoples were using tattoos for strength, religious and spiritual reasons, as well as combat and as a rite of passage.

As with many ancient cultures, supernatural being such as gods and deities in Native American mythology are adorned with body markings such as tattoos. The forms and styles of the tattoos done on people then function as a template that identifies the realm that these beings reside in.

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Tattooed chest.

Body modifications for ancient and modern Native American peoples can be put into three categories. The first is body decoration which is colorful paints used for rituals and war. The second, tattooing is permanent, which therefore marks that individual, linking them to a specific group, lineage, or kinship. Tattoos can also indicate honors and achievements in war or battle, as well as rituals and politics within the tribe. The third category is body piercing, which is used for hanging ornaments which is lineage or ritual specific. These piercings can also lead to scarification (also seen in many other cultures, particularly prominent in African culture), which can help identify which rituals occurred during the piercings.

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Earliest accounts of what these tattoos may have looked like come from drawings of Native American peoples done by European explorers from france and England. These artists were employed to draw the nature of the land, as well as the people, so we can assume that their depictions were fairly accurate.  Early settlers mainly noted the chiefs and their beautiful indigo, blueish ink, with their rich patterns of hieroglyphs representing animals, the sun, moon, and battle.

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To read more, read the book “Drawing with Great Needles: Ancient Tattoo Traditions of North America”.

Virgin Mary Tattoos:

In the Christian faith Mary is the mother of Jesus, also called mother of God.

In the story of Christmas Mary is visited by an angel and told she will give birth to the son of God.  Jesus is then born in a barn, amongst animals and wisemen. Throughout the bible Mary is constantly seen at her son’s side during his soteriological journey.

Images of Mary often show her praying, or mourning the death of Jesus, sometimes crying tears of blood. She is also often seen wearing blue, crown of 12 stars, pregnant, or surrounded by roses.

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Crying black and grey Mary and angel by david Drohan at Kingdom of Ink in the UK.

Artists such as Michelangelo and Botticelli, and now, tattoo artists all around the world.

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Neo traditional Mary in mourning by Jacob Gardner from Australia.

In tattoo form Mary is often done in black and grey realism, photo realism, American traditional, or neo traditional.

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Black traditional Mary on the back of a head, done by Chris Stuart at Ace Custom Tattoo.
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Full body black and grey Mary with roses and stars by James Armstrong at Holy Mountain Tattoo in the UK.
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Realistic black and grey praying Mary and Rosary by Seyer at Living Dreams Tattoo.
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Realistic black and grey Mary and dove by Tomas Sanchez Pineiro.
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Black and grey Mary with script on the scalp by Nene.
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American traditional Mary with rose by Kanye Sherwood at Flamin’ Eight in London.
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Dark traditional Mary with Sacred Heart by Philip Yarnell at Skynyard Tattoos, UK.
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Full American traditional back piece of Mary with Christ by Zach Nelligan in Austin, Texas.

Which is your favorite?

Rock of Ages Tattoo

The name Rock of Ages comes from a hymn written by Augustus Toplady in the mid to late 1700’s while he found refuge from a violent storm on a rock at sea. The first two lines of the hymn are “Rock of ages, cleft for me, Let me hide myself in thee.” Rock of ages then became a painting about 100 years later. In the 1860’s Johannes Oertel painted a picture that was first called “Saved, or an Emblematic Representation of Christian Faith” which was later widely reproduced and called “Rock of Ages”.

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Painting by Johannes Oertel

The image was perfect for tattooing, with its strong, dramatic nautical theme, beautiful woman, and religious symbolism. As a tattoo this piece often also features a sinking ship, multiple women on the rock, skulls, multiple crosses, etc. The image has been recreated as a tattoo for a long time now, and can be traced as a tattoo as far back as the late 19th Century when it was tattooed by Samuel O’Reilly.

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Back piece by Chris Marchetto at Redemption Tattoo in Cambridge, Massachusetts.

It is usually done in old school traditional style, but can also be done in black and grey or realism. The shape and diversity of the piece means it can be done well on many parts of the body. It is most popular on arms or as a full back piece.

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Black and grey back piece by Sterling Barck at White Lotus Tattoo in Laguna Hills.

The image can have many meanings, but most obvious is that your faith, whatever it is, will keep you safe during troubled times.

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Leg piece by Jake Miller at Cathedral Tattoo in Salt Lake City.
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Huge piece by Dave Halsey at Crying Heart Tattoo in Cincinnati.

What’s your favourite piece?

Jesus Tattoos

Tattoos of Jesus Christ are a very popular design, particularly scenes depicting him wearing the crown of thorns or him on the cross. Jesus tattoos are also often paired with his mother Mary, or angels.

Jesus tattoos can be done in many styles, but the most popular are American traditional, realism, and black and grey. Here are a few of the best!

Jacques Boyer
Black and grey chest and stomach piece by Jacques Boyer.
Benjamin Laukis
Great coloured realism piece by Benjamin Laukis at The Black Market Tattoo in Melbourne Australia.
Led Coult
Black and grey realism by Led Coult. Amazing sense of direction and depth in this piece!
Josh Mason Canonsburg, PA
Brilliant black and grey, American traditional back piece done by Josh Mason from Canonsburg, PA.
NikkoHurtado
Absolutely stunning colour chest piece of Jesus at the last supper done by the talented Nikko Hurtado out of Black Anchor Collective.
Niki Norberg
More black and grey realism, in an amazing full back piece done by Niki Norberg out of Konst & tatuering Art & tattoo.
Robert Ryan Asbury Park, NJ
Matching American traditional hand pieces of Christ and the virgin Mary, done by Robert Ryan out of Electric Tattoo in Asbury Park, NJ.
Tonez
Subtle, light black and grey piece by Tonez at Street City Tattoos.
Yomico Moreno
Muted colours in a detailed, realism piece by Yomico Moreno.

Which piece is your favourite?