views updated May 21 2018



A tattoo is a design that is permanently etched in the skin using needles and ink. The word tattoo is derived from the Tahitian term "tatua," which means "to mark." Tattoos have been displayed by people of all cultures for centuries, but they have only recently gained social acceptance in the United States.


Adding decorative illustrations to skin has been a popular practice since ancient times. Clay dolls have been found that indicate the Egyptians used tattoos as early as 4000 b.c. Over the centuries, different forms of tattoo art have been practiced by many different world cultures. For example, around 500 b.c., the Japanese began tattooing for both cosmetic and religious purposes. They even used tattoos to brand known criminals as part of their punishment. The Japanese method involved puncturing the skin with fine metal needles to create multicolor designs. Eskimos tribes developed their own technique using bone needles to pull soot-covered thread through the skin.

In the 1700s, Captain James Cook traveled to Tahitia and observed the natives' skin marking customs. In his book The Voyage in H.M. Bark Endeavor, Cook wrote, "they stain their bodies by indentings, or pricking the skin with small instruments made of bone, cut into short teeth; which indentings they fill up with dark-blue or black mixture prepared from the smoke of an oily nut. This operation, which is called by the natives 'tatua' leaves an indelible mark on the skin." In the years after Cook's voyages, sailors visiting the Polynesian islands spread the Tahitian ritual around the Pacific.

The popularity of tattoos continued to grow over the last 200 years. In the nineteenth century, tattoos became popular in England among the upper-class. For example, Lady Randolph Churchill, Winston Churchill's mother, had a snake tattooed around her wrist. In the United States, tattoos have been historically associated with sailors, motorcyclists, and prison inmates because tattoo shops were considered dangerous and socially unacceptable. However, since the 1980s this mindset has changed considerably and tattoos are becoming increasingly popular among men and women of all ages.


A tattoo design is called "flash" and it can consist of any sort of artwork from simple symbols or letters to detailed sketches or caricature. Flash can be composed of one color or many. Tattoo parlors display a large assortment of flash on their walls with the larger ones having as many as 10,000 to choose from. In addition, clients may bring in their own design or they may work with the artist to develop custom flash.

When selecting a design it is important to consult with the artist to establish an appropriate size and location for the tattoo. The artist can also help decide on color schemes that will determine the price of the final art. Care should also be taken to identify a reputable tattoo parlor that follows the guidelines set forth by the Association of Professional Tattooists (APT). According to the APT, the tattooists should follow these precautionary measures: have the client fill out consent forms before beginning the procedure; wash and dry their hands immediately before and after working on the customer; wear latex gloves at all times; only use instruments that have been sterilized in an autoclave; clean all surfaces with a disinfectant or biocidal cleanser; and dispose of used tissues and other waste material in a special leak-proof container to limit the transmittal of blood borne diseases.

Raw Materials and


The flash, or tattoo design, is simply a sketch or a piece of line art that can be used to create a tattoo. Flash may be shown in color or in black and white and they are displayed in the tattoo parlor either in books or along the walls.


A stencil is a copy of a flash that is made on a special copying machine. The stencil allows the inked outline of the design to be transferred to the skin so it can be traced by the artist.


Tattoo supply houses sell special inks that are used to create tattoos. They are available in a variety of colors and are typically packaged in 4 oz plastic squeeze bottles so they are easily dispensed. These inks are liquid dispersions of pigments that, in the United States, are approved by the Food and Drug Administration. The ink consists of dyes derived from metal components. For this reason, allergic reactions to the type of ink used is possible.

Tattoo Machine

The machine consists of a hand held needle gun connected to a power unit that provides pressure to move the needles. The needles may be of different sizes and shapes and are bundled together on a needle bar in different patterns depending on the requirements of the artwork. The unit is attached to a power supply that is activated by depressing a foot pedal on the floor beside the work station. When the pedal is depressed the tattoo needle bar moves up and down very quickly like the needle on a tiny sewing machine. It penetrates the skin to inject the dye 3,000 times per minute.

Miscellaneous supplies

During the course of the procedure the artist may use a variety of additional supplies including skin disinfectants, disposable razors, bandages, petroleum jelly, and biocidal cleaning supplies.

The Manufacturing

  1. Before the process can begin, the artist should have the client sign a waiver that indicates they are over 18, understand the procedure is permanent, and realize it will create an open wound or abrasion. After the waiver is signed, the tattooist inspects the skin to ensure it is free from cuts and scrapes. He or she then sprays the skin with an antiseptic to kill germs and reduce the possibility of infection. The artist then shaves the area and disposes of the razor immediately afterward.
  2. When the skin is ready, the artist prepares the design to be copied onto the skin. This is done using a copy machine to make a color copy of the flash that is the proper size. The copier uses a special carbon-type paper that allows the design to be transferred to skin. The client exposes the target area and the artist peels the design off the backing paper and applies it to the proper location. This creates an ink outline of the design on the skin that is used to guide the artist in creating the actual tattoo. The client must be careful not to touch the outline or to otherwise disturb the skin because the stencil can be accidentally smeared. At this point, the client can look at the design (in a mirror if necessary) to confirm it is correct. If there is something wrong with the stencil it can be washed off and applied again. Once the stencil is completed, the tattooist spreads a thin layer of ointment, such as petroleum jelly, over the area to be tattooed.
  3. The artist directs the client to sit or lay in 3 a position that exposes the skin to be tattooed. The client may recline in a dentist-type chair that can lay flat to aid in exposing the back or buttocks. The position must be comfortable for the client but must also provide a comfortable working position for the artist who typically sits on a stool next to the client's chair.
  4. Next, the artist prepares the tattoo inks on a pallet, which is a plastic tray with a series of divots to hold the ink. The artist fills several of these wells with ink; black is typically used for the outline color. He or she then attaches a needle bar with three to five needles to the tattoo machine. The needles are dipped into the ink well to suck up the colorant and the artist then activates the needle gun with the foot pedal and begins to trace the stencil. Because the needles are breaking the skin for the first time in this step, it is a very painful process. The needles deposit the dye in the second layer of the skin which is about 0.64-0.16 in (1.6-0.4 cm) deep. This process may take five minutes to an hour depending on the size and complexity of the design. The skin may be slightly numb by the time outlining is complete.
  5. After the stencil is outlined the artist fills the ink wells with the colors to be used to finish the tattoo. He or she then connects a shader needle bar to the tattoo machine. This shader bar may contain five to thirteen flat needles or five to seven round needles. It is designed to apply color over a larger area to fill in the outline. The tattooist guides the tattooing machine over the skin coloring in all sections of the outline. He or she frequently stops the needle to wipe the blood and ink off the skin. The amount of bleeding caused by the needle penetration and the degree of pain experienced varies from person to person. The shading operation may take an hour or several hours depending on the complexity and size of the design. Shading is complete when the entire surface of the tattoo has colored in.

Quality Control

The key to ensuring a successful tattoo is taking care of it properly in the first few hours and days. Immediately after the tattoo is finished, the area is washed with a mild soap solution and then covered with an antibiotic ointment and a gauze bandage. After allowing the area to heal for about two hours, a bandage should be removed so dried blood can be washed away. For the first week, apply a vitamin lotion to the area daily. After that, apply a regular, mild skin lotion to keep the tattooed area moist until the wound has finished healing. The affected area should be kept out of hot tubs, swimming pools, and hot baths until the skin has healed fully. Submersion in water too soon can ruin the tattoo.

In general, taking care of the tattoo is like treating a minor burn. It must be kept clean and moist, and will experience the same sort of scabbing and crusting. The initial healing process usually takes about two weeks.

Tattoo Removal

It is not uncommon for someone to change their mind after a period of time and to want to have their tattoo removed. Tattoo removal is possible but the process is difficult, expensive, and not fully successful. In the past, a wire brush was used to sand the skin and destroy the first and second layers where the ink resided. Salt solutions were also used to leach out the ink or acid was used to burn the skin away.

All of these methods are painful and not very effective. Even if the tattoo can be removed, the affected area may lose its ability to produce normal skin pigment and some scarring may occur. Recently, lasers have been used to remove tattoos because they can destroy most of the ink pigments and cause very little scarring. Still, the process is expensive and the skin may never produce its normal pigmentation again.

The Future

Tattoos continue to grow in popularity as a method of self expression. It is also anticipated that tattoos will be used increasingly for medical and non-medical cosmetic applications. For example, tattoos can be used to obscure the reddish purple birthmarks known as "port-wine" stains. They may also be used to improve the skin color of patients with vitaligo, a disorder that causes the melanocytes in the skin to shut down and stop producing normal skin color. Tattooing is also being used to create permanent makeup, such as eye liner or blush, for burned or disfigured victims.

Where to Learn More


Graves, Bonnie. Tattooing and Body Piercing. Capstone Press, 2000.

Wilkonson, Beth. The Dangers of Tattooing, Body Piercing, and Branding. Rosen Publishing Group, 1998.

Other Web Page. December 2001. <>.



views updated May 29 2018

tattooing The tattoo — an indelible coloured image on the skin, is historically the most commonly practised form of permanent body decoration. Tattooing is thought to have diffused from Egypt about four thousand years ago; it has been found since then in most cultures of the world, though among dark-skinned peoples incised decoration (scarification, cicatrization) is a more common form of permanent alteration. Carved figures suggestive of tattooing survive in Egypt from 6000 bce but the physical evidence of mummified bodies dates from Middle Kingdom Egypt (c.2000 bce). Widespread archaeological and literary evidence of tattooing since the seventh century bce exists for many parts of Eurasia, and ethnographic evidence for these and other parts of the world, including the Americas, Africa, Polynesia, and New Zealand, has been collected since the sixteenth century.

The technique involves puncturing the dermis with a needle or other sharp instrument to a depth of 0.25–0.5 cm and simultaneously applying a dark pigment. The pigment rests in linear strata in the dermis; the fading and blurring of older tattoos is due to local dispersal of pigment through the lymphatic system. Small-scale needle tattoos are relatively painless, unless on sensitive areas of the body, but elaborate or semi-incised designs are a more severe ordeal. Temporary local inflammation may occur; more serious medical complications may develop where hygienic standards are poor (for example, from cross-infections through contaminated needles, or from use of harmful pigments), though more rarely than might be expected. Tattoos can be removed by various means, including dermabrasion, excision and suturing, and laser surgery, though usually with some residual scarring.

In pre-literate societies where tattooing is culturally embedded, the practice is normally highly ritualized, and alongside its decorative value it carries information about status and identity, as well as religious, therapeutic, or prophylactic significance. Designs are enormously varied in imagery and location, from the elaborate geometrical designs across arms, legs, and abdomen of Burma or the Marquesas; to the miniature stylized images of Gujarati tattooing; the elaborate curvilinear form of New Zealand moko tattooing on men, which combined incision and pigmentation to produce individually unique facial designs; or the vivid figurative images of Japanese irezumi, derived from eighteenth-century wood-block illustrations and patterned onto the body like ornate clothing. The English term ‘tattoo’ (from the Polynesian tatu/tatau — mark, strike), versions of which were adopted into other European languages, testifies to the profound significance of the eighteenth-century encounter with the Pacific cultures for the spread of tattooing in modern Europe. Alternative and older European words, carrying connotations of marking or piercing (e.g. English ‘pounce’, Dutch ‘prickschilderen’, French ‘piqûre’), suggest that tattooing must have been known in Europe before its eighteenth-century reimportation and renaming, but the extent of its survival from the Scythian, Celtic, and Germanic customs documented in classical sources (e.g. Herodotus, Tacitus) is unclear. Greeks and Romans disdained the practice as barbarian; in the Roman empire it was used only on criminals, slaves/indentured labourers, and soldiers. This outcast association was strengthened when the medieval western Church picked up and repeated the biblical proscription of body-marking (cf. Lev. 19:28). There is thus little reference to tattooing in medieval and early modern Europe — but there is scattered evidence of its popular survival within Europe or on its margins. Tattoos were certainly acquired by European crusaders and pilgrims in Jerusalem, as also by pilgrims to the medieval Italian shrine of Loreto and by Coptic Christians and Bosnian Catholics. However, decorative tattooing was largely effaced from European cultural memory before the eighteenth century, and its recurrence was marked by the absorption of a new and diverse repertoire of secular images from popular culture, many of which remain familiar today. (A similar process of cultural forgetting and marginalization seems to have occurred in Japan, where a revival of highly skilled tattoo artistry coexisted with more strenuous official attempts to suppress it in the nineteenth century.)

Even after its eighteenth-century reimportation, via European sailors, from Polynesia and New Zealand, and a brief period as an exotic novelty, tattooing retained its association with disreputability, though to differing degrees. In continental Europe, it was regarded as the habit of common soldiers, sailors, labourers, and criminals, or was displayed by fairground and freak-show entertainers. In Britain, by contrast, tattoo images were widely sported by naval and military officers, despite the fact that tattoos were also used as penal marks in the army until the 1870s; little social stigma attached to the practice, and its adoption by aristocrats and royalty helped spark a tattooing craze around the turn of the century that spread throughout Europe and the US. Britain and the US also saw the first professionalization of tattooing, the invention (1891) of an electrical tattooing machine, and the improvement of techniques and inks. This period of popularity was short-lived, however, and the 1920s–50s saw the social and aesthetic decline of tattooing in Western culture. However, since the 1960s successive periods of reinvention and expansion have given it an unprecedented prominence and visibility, and women have entered this previously largely male domain. The tattoo is currently enjoying a cultural renaissance, alongside and perhaps by contrast with other body-altering practices of scarifying, branding, and extensive piercing, which have entered modern Western culture for the first time.

Medical interest in the tattoo since the nineteenth century has included research into its anatomy and pathology, its applications in cosmetic surgery, and means of its removal. In modern scholarship, tattooing has been the province of anthropology for pre-literate societies, and of criminology, sociology, and psychology for non-tribal societies. Thus in the West it has been largely pathologized as the expression of a marginal subculture of resistance, associated especially with communities of male confinement and group identification. Only recently has this perspective shifted, and the history, ethnography, and aesthetics of tattooing in the West become more serious subjects of study.

Jane Caplan


Caplan, J. (ed.) (2000). Writen on the Body. The Tattoo in European and American History. Reaktion Books, London and Princeton University Press, Princeton, NJ.
DeMello, M. (2000). A Cultural History of the Modern Tattoo Community. Duke University Press, Durham and London.
Gell, A. (1993). Wrapping in images. Tattooing in Polynesia. Clarendon Press, Oxford.
Rubin, A. (ed.) (1988). Marks of civilization. Artistic transformations of the human body. Museum of Cultural History, Los Angeles.

See also body decoration; body mutilations and markings.


views updated Jun 11 2018


The Japanese have developed one of the most beautiful and intricate systems of tattooing in the entire world. Tattooing is thought to date to the earliest evidence of human life on the Japanese islands, in the Jomon period (c. 10,000300 b.c.e.). Clay figurines from this period reveal detailed patterns of lines and dots that were either tattoos or body painting. Small clay figurines from the Yayoi period (c. 300 b.c.e.300 c.e.) called haniwa also show people decorated with symmetrical patterns of what look like tattoos. Little is known about these early forms of body decoration, but they provide evidence that tattooing has been practiced on the Japanese islands for thousands of years.

The Ainu people from the island of Hokkaido practice a distinctive form of tattooing. The Ainu are an ancient people who have retained many of their traditional ways, much like Native Americans in North America and Aborigines in Australia. The most striking element of Ainu tattooing was the mouth tattoo, which was worn only by women once they married to show their role in society. Over a period of years, a tattoo specialist would make cuts around the woman's mouth and dye them blue-black with powdered charcoal. At the end of the tattooing period the woman would have what looked like a large, black pair of lips that extended to a point on either cheek. Their eyebrows were also decorated with wavy lines, and some women would receive tattoos over their entire body. These ancient practices were ended by the Japanese government in the twentieth century, but they continue in traditional ceremonies with paint instead of tattoos.

As early as the sixth century c.e., tattooing was used as a form of punishment in Japan and China. Criminals received tattoos on their foreheads and arms so that they could be easily recognized by others in society.

Modern tattooing customs started in Japan in about the seventeenth or eighteenth centuries among the lower classes. Prostitutes wore tattoos on the insides of their thighs, and grave-diggers and laborers also wore tattoos. Soon, however, members of the lower classes began to get more elaborate tattoos as a sign of fellowship with their fellow workers. These tattoos might cover the entire back, legs, and armsin fact, everything but the face, hands, and feet. The designs were very complex, often featuring dragons, demons, or mythological creatures sprawling across the flesh, with flowers and leaves providing surrounding decoration. The primary colors were blue-black, green, and red. For a time in the nineteenth century the Japanese government banned such tattoos because they were considered barbaric, but the ban had little effect and was soon lifted.

Today, full-body tattooing, or zenshin-bori, continues to be practiced in Japan. People have been known to have even their head tattooed. Getting a full-body tattoo can take as long as a year, with one session per week. Modern inks allow for the introduction of even more color to these tattoos. Japanese designs, especially dragons, became popular in the West during the 1990s.


Gröning, Karl. Body Decoration: A World Survey of Body Art. New York: Vendome Press, 1998.

Hewitt, Kim. Mutilating the Body: Identity in Blood and Ink. Bowling Green, OH: Bowling Green State University Press, 1997.

Sichel, Marion. Japan. New York: Chelsea House, 1987.

[See also Volume 5, 19802003: Tattooing ]


views updated Jun 11 2018


Tattooing is the art of decorating the body with permanent pictures or symbols by pushing ink under the skin with sharp implements. Tattoos have been used by many different cultures, and in each culture the tattooed art has its own meaning. The English word tattoo comes from the Polynesian word tatao, meaning "to tap," which describes the technique by which sharp spines filled with color were tapped into the skin to make tribal designs. People in the 1980s wore tattoos of specific symbols to identify themselves as part of a particular social group. Their tattoos set them apart from mainstream society but were also visible signs by which they could recognize each other.

Tattooing is an ancient and widespread practice. Tattoos have been found on the bodies of mummies thousands of years old, and certain tribes, such as Polynesians and the Maori of New Zealand, have used tattoos for centuries as a mark of membership in the tribe and a symbol of strength earned through pain. Modern tattooing began in 1900 when an American named Samuel O'Reilly invented the first electric tattoo machine. Most tattoo artists and their customers were outside the mainstream of society. However, many people who would never have dreamed of wearing a tattoo were fascinated with the art, and they lined up at carnivals and sideshows to gawk at elaborately tattooed men or women. Throughout most of the nineteenth and twentieth centuries, tattoos were considered low class and vulgar among Americans and Europeans, a common adornment for criminals and drunken sailors.

By the 1970s and 1980s tattoos had become part of fashion trends developed by small groups seeking to create distinctive looks to identify with their peers. Beginning in the 1970s many youth adopted a punk style, wearing outlandish clothing and hairstyles to announce the separation they felt from mainstream society. Much of the intent of the punk style was to shock, and tattoos and body piercings became a part of the shocking punk style. While some had colorful pictures that were personally meaningful placed on their bodies, many chose stark black tribal designs, such as Celtic knots, tattooed around the arm or ankle.

Though many people still consider tattoos to be self-destructive and offensive, many more have come to see them as beautiful body art. Throughout the 1980s, 1990s, and into the twenty-first century the popularity of tattoos has continued to increase, and many mainstream youth have begun to adorn their skin with tattoos. Other stylish youth have imitated the fashion introduced by the punks, and many stores now sell temporary tattoos, which offer the tattooed look for those who wish to avoid the pain and permanence of the needle.


Hewitt, Kim. Mutilating the Body: Identity in Blood and Ink. Bowling Green, OH: Bowling Green State University Press, 1997.

Rubin, Arnold. Marks of Civilization: Artistic Transformations of the Human Body. Los Angeles, CA: University of California Press, 1995.

Steward, Samuel M. Bad Boys and Tough Tattoos: A Social History of the Tattoo with Gangs, Sailors and Street-Corner Punks, 19501965. Binghamton, NY: Haworth Press, 1990.

[See also Volume 2, Early Asian Cultures: Tattooing ; Volume 2, Oceania: Tattooing ; Volume 2, Native American Cultures: Tattooing ]


views updated Jun 27 2018


The inhabitants of the Marquesas Islands appeared to be wearing lace outfits when Europeans first set eyes on them in 1595. On closer inspection, the lace outfits turned out to be tattoos. Practiced on both men and women, tattooing was especially significant to men. Tattooing was an important body decoration throughout Oceania, but especially in the eastern part of Polynesia and the Marquesas Islands. The Tahitian word tatau, meaning to inflict wounds, is the basis for the English word "tattoo."

Tattoos are permanent colorings inserted into the skin. In most of Oceania tattoos were applied by pricking the skin with bone or metal combs with sharp, needle-like teeth that had been dipped in dye. The sharp needles of the comb inserted the dye under the skin and left permanent designs. In New Zealand the Maori made distinctive swirl designs by using sharp chisels to carve deep grooves into the skin. Applied by a skilled master in small sections at significant moments throughout the course of a person's life, it took many decades to cover a person's entire body. Tattoos indicated sex, age, wealth, and social status. They had religious significance among some groups, but in other groups tattoos were purely ornamental, though extremely important. In Samoa, for example, men would be severely criticized and have a hard time finding a wife without tattoos covering his lower body.

All the boys of a social group received their first tattoo at the same time the chief's son received his first tattoo, usually between the ages of twelve and eighteen. Girls were tattooed at puberty. Tattoos were applied on almost every available body part, including the tops of hands and even the tongue. In general, grown men were more heavily tattooed than women. Some men could be completely covered in decoration whereas women had smaller designs mainly on their faces and limbs. Considering red lips ugly, Maori women tattooed their lips a blue color. Because tattooing was very expensive, only the upper classes in a social group could receive tattoos. Slaves were forbidden from wearing tattoos.

No two people wore tattoos of the same design. Among the Maoris, facial tattoos, called ta moko, were a man's emblem of his identity. Copies of their facial tattoos were used as their signatures during early exchanges with Europeans. By the early twentieth century, after years of contact between Europeans and the peoples of Oceania, tattoo designs were no longer limited to traditional designs but incorporated European patterns as well. Some tattoos even mimicked European clothing designs.


Gröning, Karl. Body Decoration: A World Survey of Body Art. New York: Vendome Press, 1998.

Lal, Brij V., and Kate Fortune, eds. The Pacific Islands: An Encyclopedia. Honolulu, HI: University of Hawaii Press, 2000.


views updated May 18 2018


Tattooing was practiced among members of Native American tribes for thousands of years. Native Americans tattooed themselves by cutting their skin with sharp objects and rubbing dye into the cuts. Cactus needles, fish bones, pine needles, bird bones, sharp stones, or other sharp objects pricked the skin and pigments such as charcoal, cedar-leaf ashes, or other materials were used to make red, blue, or green tattoos on the skin. People, especially men, would often tattoo themselves, though some, such as children, would be tattooed by someone else.

The Aleut people of the Arctic used soot to tattoo lines on their face and hands. Tattooing was common among Eskimo men and women, who marked their faces with short thick lines. Eskimo children were also tattooed. Boys were tattooed on their wrists after their first kill, and girls were tattooed after their first menstruation. Among the tribes of California and the Pacific Northwest, women tattooed their chins with at least three lines but sometimes included other lines at the corners of their mouth or on their nose, which served as a type of spiritual protection for them. The men of some tribes, such as the Seminole of the Southeast, covered their bodies in tattoos. Seminole boys received their first tattoo when they were given their first name and earned more tattoos as they learned the art of war. By the time a Seminole man reached old age, he could be covered from head to toe with tattoos. Members of tribes throughout the Great Basin (a desert region in the western United States that comprises parts of many western states), Northeast, Plains, Plateau, Southeast, and Southwest also tattooed themselves with a variety of designs all over their bodies. Even though the practice was widespread, tattooing faded from practice in the early nineteenth century.


Hofsinde, Robert. Indian Costumes. New York: William Morrow, 1968.

Hungry Wolf, Adolf. Traditional Dress: Knowledge and Methods of Old-Time Clothing. Summertown, TN: Book Publishing Co., 1990.

Paterek, Josephine. Encyclopedia of American Indian Costume. Santa Barbara, CA: ABC-CLIO, 1994.


views updated Jun 11 2018

tat·too1 / taˈtoō/ • n. (pl. -toos) an evening drum or bugle signal recalling soldiers to their quarters. ∎  an entertainment consisting of music, marching, and the performance of displays and exercises by military personnel. ∎  a rhythmic tapping or drumming.tat·too2 • v. (-toos, -tooed / -ˈtoōd/ ) [tr.] mark (a person or a part of the body) with an indelible design by inserting pigment into punctures in the skin: his cheek was tattooed with a winged fist. ∎  make (a design) in such a way: he has a heart tattooed on his left hand.• n. (pl. -toos) a design made in such a way.DERIVATIVES: tat·too·er n.tat·too·ist / taˈtoōist/ n.


views updated May 17 2018


TATTOO (Heb. ketovet ka'ka), a sign made by puncturing the skin and inserting pigment. A mark of slavery or of submission to a deity (Isa. 44:5, although tattooing is not explicitly mentioned) in the ancient Near East, Greece, and Rome, tattooing is prohibited in Leviticus 19:28. The anonymous Mishnah in Makkot (3:6) states that one is culpable of the transgression of tattooing only if it consists of writing and is done with indelible ink. However, R. Simeon b. Judah in the name of R. Simeon, in accepting this view, states that one is guilty only if he tattoos the name of an idol (according to the interpretation of the Talmud; Mak. 21a). In this way he explains the last words of Leviticus 19:28, "I am the Lord." Thehalakhah is in accordance with the anonymous Mishnah (Sh. Ar., yd 180:1). Maimonides agrees but adds that although all tattooing is forbidden, the origin of the prohibition is that it "was the custom of idolaters to inscribe themselves [by tattooing] to an idol, to indicate that they were bondslaves to it and devoted to its service" (Yad, Avodah Zarah 12:11).


views updated May 18 2018

Tattoo ★★ 1981 (R)

A model becomes the object of obsession for a crazy tattoo artist. He relentlessly pursues her, leaving behind all his other more illustrated clients. Starts out fine, but deteriorates rapidly. Controversial love scene between Dern and Adams. 103m/C VHS . Bruce Dern, Maud Adams, Leonard Frey, Rikke Borge, John Getz; D: Bob Brooks; W: Joyce Bunuel.


views updated May 23 2018

tattoo1 signal by beat of drum, etc., for soldiers to return to quarters XVII; military entertainment based on an elaboration of this XVIII. orig. tap-too, -tow — Du. taptoe, f., tap TAP1 + toe, for doe toe ‘do to’, shut; the primary application seems to have been to a signal for the turning off of the taps of barrels of drink.