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BellaOnline's Ethnic Beauty Editor

Tattoos - Pop-Culture or Ethnically Significant

So you've been thinking about getting a tattoo, or your child approached you because they want one and you told them you'd look into it. Well, let's look at the tattoo from an ethnic perspective. You already know that a tattoo inserts permanent ink or pigments into the skin. You know this is often done for decorative reasons, but did you know that tattoos did not start with pop culture? This type of body modification dates back centuries.

Arabic tribal peoples and others in the Philippines, Taiwan, Africa, South America, Japan, and Cambodia have long done so for cultural, religious and mystical reasons. These and other cultures have varied tattooing traditions. Some insert dye into the skin by hand-pricking it, while others have used animal bones, or hand-held needles or tools made of stone, steel, or bamboo to carve the face and body.

By etching designs into the skin and adding ink, tattoos were created, and used for identification purposes. Tattooing has also been used to make a statement without saying a word. Just look at how the Atayal tribe in Taiwan made use of facial tattoos. Theirs called Badasun express different things... such as the male wearer might be a protector. Others in the Philippines have used tattoos to readily state the wearer's rank, bravery, or achievements.

Tribes and ethnic peoples the world over have long believed that tattoos have spiritual as well as magical properties that protect or bring luck, and in some areas dots tattooed on one's spine were believed to have healing powers. It has also been documented that mummies discovered from ancient Egyptian times have borne tattoos that once served as a rite of passage. And this re-surging art form has long been used sexually, to lure or indicate fertility.

Yet were you aware that many people throughout the ages were tattooed against their will? Tattoos were used as an identification system during the Holocaust and during the era of slavery. Other people, like seamen received body modification so that if their ship went down, they could be identified. Today, pathologists also use tattoos for body recognition.

Nowadays people choose tattooing for a collage of previously unmentioned reasons, some of which happen to be cosmetic. Permanent makeup which includes eyeliner and lipstick -- among other things -- is available. Recently tattoos have also been used, cosmetically, to change or modify the color of the skin. They have sentimental and memorial uses as well. They aid people to ever be mindful of loved ones, and although tattoos are worn to tout different devotions, or to pledge undying love, they were once used to signify that one was an outcast or a slave.

In the current age, as in the past, do not forget that tattoos are yet used to represent one's identification with subcultural groups -- which can include gangs and organized crime. Thus, there has always been a stereotypical association with tattooing. In Christianity it has long been considered heathen, and Judaism prohibits modification that doesn't medically serve. In Sunni Islam it is frowned upon, but henna -- temporary tattoos are permissible in some Muslim nations.

Tattoos are so popular with non-religious sects that many artists have fine arts as well as technical training. The pigments used have also advanced, as has the equipment; all of which has elevated the quality of the tattoos produced. There are even copyrighted designs, these and others can be seen on flash sheets showcased in tattoo parlors everywhere, enabling a candidate to get an idea of the image they might like.

Therefore...armed with the knowledge that tattoos are ethnically significant as well as part of pop-culture, you can make the decision as to whether or not this art form is for you, or yours. Whatever you decide, be safe!

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