Tattoos, Religion, and Spirituality

Tattoo is a term derived from the Polynesian words; ta-tau, tatao, tatu, or tattoo. The term “Tattoo” as we presently know it is attributed to Captain Cook who is said to have first introduced it to England, following his expeditions in Tahiti. Basically, “Tattoo” means to mark or tap into something.

The art of tattoo has been in practice since the dawn of time with many cultures adopting it for various reasons. In spirituality however, the use and practice of this art has been somehow controversial with some religions fully embracing it, and others strictly forbidding it.

Abrahamic Religions (Judaism, Christianity, and Islam) strictly prohibit tattoos and tattooing through their respective teachings and scriptures. In Islam, restriction of tattoos and tattooing is not expressly covered in any specific verse of the religion’s holy book, The Quran; scholars and adherents however consider it haram (forbidden) by virtue that it corrupts the purification ritual known in Islam as wudu. In Judaism, having a tattoo is expressly forbidden through its authoritative scriptures, more specifically the book of Leviticus which is part of the Torah (Torah means the first five sections of the Jewish bible considered to be the most important document in Judaism). Chapter 19:28 of Leviticus states that an individual shall not mutilate the flesh in any way or make any other markings particularly tattooing on any part of their body. This therefore denies any practicing Jew direct authority to make any impression, mutilation, or marks on their bodies. The same restriction for tattoos on Jews applies to Christianity since the Christian faith borrows heavily from Judaism from whence a large portion of its teachings is based upon. The book of Leviticus is part of the old testament of the Christian bible, an authoritative book of the Christian faith.

Oriental beliefs however, are more welcome to the concept of tattoos and tattooing. In Hinduism, the art and practice of tattoo and tattooing is allowed, in-fact, aboriginal groups of India like the Gonds, seem to have adopted tattooing as a spiritual means of protecting the body against real and perceived spiritual harm. In Buddhism and other practices like the Zen, getting a tattoo is considered more of a personal choice or preference and has nothing to do with spirituality. If anything, there are even monks living in monasteries with markings or tattoos on their bodies. As long as it is not harming anyone; either the individual or a third party, it is considered irrelevant or indifferent, almost dismissive on matters spirituality.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *