Wednesday, March 4, 2009

Religious Tattoos : Celtic Cross Tattoos to Sacred Hearts

Religious tattoos have been around for thousands of years but they haven't always been accepted as they are nowadays. During the Roman Empire the practice of tattooing was almost eradicated in so called civilized culture. Barbarians were the only ones that had tattoos, and to be seen with a tattoo was an offence punishable by death.

The Romans believed that the body was to remain in its purest form and tattoos had no place in this belief. Roman soldiers came across many tattooed barbarians in the expansion of the Roman Empire and as a result soldiers began bringing tattoos back into the civilised world.

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As Christianity emerged it brought with it the secrecy of an underground religion in a Roman state of intolerance. Christians began tattooing crosses on the underside of their forearms as a secret sign to other Christians. This was a bold statement of their faith, although secret, a Christian caught with a cross tattoo would be killed immediately.

Throughtout history it has become commonplace for tattooed individuals to be set apart or outside society. But times have changed. There is a new breed of modified bodies who call themselves evangelical Christians. More than a millennium after church authorities condemned tattooing as a sin, evangelical Christians are inking their bodies with images of crosses, sacred hearts and angels.

Religious Tattoos - From Celtic Cross tattoos to Sacred Heart tattoos. Picture shows religious images on arm of Tracey.

For a small but growing subculture within evangelical Christianity, religious tattooing is becoming more and more a form of expression of individuality, identity and faith. Abiding by the principle that the body is the temple of the Holy Spirit, conservative Christian churches have often set limits on bodily expressions. As far as tattoos go, the Bible has different decrees open to different interpretation.

For example Leviticus says:

Ye shall not make any cuttings in your flesh for the dead,
nor print any marks upon you: I am the LORD.

In his Letter to the Galatians, Apostle Paul says,

Let no one cause me trouble,
because I bear on my body the marks of Jesus

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Other biblical passages from Exodus to Revelation describe divine symbols being placed on the bodies of believers. Since the Emperor Constantine banned the practice in the third century because it violated God's teachings, attempts by religious authorities to prohibit tattooing have met with limited success.

Fast foward to modern times and witness the surge in people getting religious tattoos. Instead of worshipping religious representations displayed on stained glass windows of the local church, people find meaning in inscribing images on their own private temple of the Holy Spirit.

A lot of Christians and non Christians are getting tattooed for both personal and spiritual reasons from getting angel tattoos, Celtic cross tattoos to Mexican gang tattoos or prison style tattoos with the image of the Virgin Mary or praying hands. Or even religous imagery used in the new school style of tattoos that shows the Sacred Heart or other religious representations. There is no doubt that religious style tattoos are here to stay.

Placement of Religious Tattoos

Most people get religous tattoos such as the Virgin Mary or Sacred Heart on their upper arms or chest for both males and females. Another popular style is a Celtic Cross tattoo either on the chest or on the back.

Religious Tattoos - From Celtic Cross tattoos to Sacred Heart tattoos. Picture shows religious images on arm of Tracey.

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