Healing Tattoos Interview with Jennifer Moore by Carlos Rauld Hernandez
Back in February 2006 I received an inquiry from a man in Santiago de Chile named Carlos Rauld Hernandez who wanted to include me in an article he was working on about Tattooing as a Healing Art. Since healing tattoos are right up my alley I said yes. Here is interview. Happy Reading, I hope you enjoy!
Ever since I was a small child I have been drawn to the mysterious, magical and wonderous sides of life. I experienced my first prophetic dream when I was 9 years old and I knew that there was way more to life than could be explained by American childrens television and cans of chicken soup. I searched for answers in books of ghost stories, myths and fairy tales and through walks in the nearby woods.
As I grew I was very fortunate to encounter other seekers along the way who gave me vital pieces of information. In 1981 I received my first Tarot deck and soon I began working as a psychic while I was still in art school. Over time I found that the deep and personal questions people brought to their readings led me to integrate more healing modalities into my psychic practice. Through an ever deepening conversation with Spirit I was guided to learn about Reiki and breathwork, and then onward to study with Sylvia Braillier at The School for Body Centered Spiritual Healing and to earn a masters degree in psychology and religion from Andover Newton Theological School.
2.- Tell me how you began with tattoo art
Ever since I was a little girl I have loved to decorate everything, including myself. By the age of 11, I was painting faces at school fairs, and soon I was behind the scenes of the school plays doing makeup and set design. As a student in art school, I began using makeup and body painting in my photography and film making. In 1986 I earned a B. F. A. in visual art from the Boston Museum School and Tufts University. During this time I experimented with hand tooling some tattoos on myself and a few close friends, though I was not satisfied with the quality of those images, I was instantly hooked by the energy and intensity of the process. I knew then that tattooing was something that had great spiritual potential.
In 1986 I briefly explored tattooing professionally but I quickly became overwhelmed by the lack of accessible information, the closely guarded secrets and the less than friendly attitudes I encountered as a young woman fresh out of art school, so I put the idea on the back burner and turned the focus on developing myself emotionally and spiritually. In the summer of 1997 the opportunity for an apprenticeship arose, and recognizing tattooing as a powerful means for healing and spiritual growth, I leapt at the chance and I began my formal training with Jon Devries of Dramatic Pawz Tattoos in Cobbleskill NY. I have been very blessed to receive additional training during a nearly year long apprenticeship with Juli Moon at her studio then located in Seabrook New Hampshire. I also benefited from the talent and wisdom of artists Chris Dingwell, Cory Kruger and Tim Wallace. In August 1999 Chris Dingwell and I decided to open Sanctuary Tattoo in Portland, Maine. Today Sanctuary is home to Wilhelm Scherer, Ryan Fleming, Scott Bruns, Aaron Burns and Jeff Clark we have created a wonderful space where creativity and healing can thrive.
3.- What, for you, is the connection between Healing and Tattoos?
Tattooing has been used as a means for protection and healing since ancient times. People of many different indigenous traditions have put sacred marks on their bodies to relieve chronic pain, to invoke the power of specific plant and animal spirits for their skills and strength, to summon spirit guides and helpers, to remain connected to their beloved dead and their ancient ancestors, to affirm social rank and status, and to be recognized in the after life. To this day tattoos are still used for rites of passage and initiation. As a modern tattoo artist I draw from these traditions where people have been placing sacred marks upon their bodies since earliest history and I offer my clients a way to put their own prayers on their skin and to let their truth and beauty surface.
4.- How can a Tattoo be a Healing Tattoo? What is a Healing Tattoo?
There are so many ways that a tattoo can be a healing tattoo. Every person comes to their tattoo with a different story and a different need. A person might choose a to get a tattoo as a conscious part of their healing process or might simply feel an urge to decorate their body. The reasons people choose to get tattooed is as varied as the human experience, they could be physical, mental, emotional and/or spiritual in nature. Tattoos have the power to help: to beautify, to remember, to celebrate, to transform, to honor, to affirm, to express, to heal and to restore, to list but a few.
I believe that a tattoo can be healing because it helps us to change our perceptions of ourselves as it also changes how we are perceived. By its very nature, the presence of a tattoo reveals an act of courage by its wearer. Anyone who receives that first tattoo must move beyond initial anxiety and anticipation of pain to a place of willingness.
5.- In your bio on your website you say: ” I believe that well chosen images have the power to transform, empower and heal a person who chooses to wear them”. Please, expand on this statement. What do you think about badly chosen tattoos? How do you think bad tattoos might affect and/or afflict a person?
When a person contemplates a tattoo, considers their intention and seeks to express their vision through images both representational and symbolic to their goal, the tattoo becomes an integral part of their body which will enrich and affirm what is important to them. Conversely a tattoo chosen randomly with little to no significance to the wearers life often quickly loses its value and remains a long standing reminder for one moment of impulse. In the time I have been tattooing, I have repaired and covered up many of these impulsive kinds of tattoos. Usually the person chose an image in haste and sometimes got tattooed simply because other friends were doing it at the same time. Instead of proudly wearing an image which reflects an important aspect of themselves, s/he regretfully regards this kind of tattoo as an unattractive mark that feels separate from their body. I would equate the well chosen versus impulsive tattoos to the difference between a nourishing home cooked whole foods meal, and calorie laden but nutritionally vacant junk food quickly purchased at a fast food place. Even though the junk food, or impulsive tattoo might have been initially enjoyable, rarely are the rewards sustained. Unfortunately unlike a burger and fries which will be eliminated from the body rather quickly, a poorly chosen tattoo will have lasting impact on a persons self image.
This is such a huge question! I believe that the healing of human beings and the evolution of their souls, starts with each individuals choice to claim personal responsibility in their process to heal and grow. Tattooing can serve to reflect and reinforce those choices. For some the choice to be tattooed is very deliberate and conscious, for others it is more an unspoken feeling or hunch. The tattoo serves as a steady visual and physical reminder to its wearer of the work they are here to do. One of the things I especially love about tattooing is how versatile and flexible it can be. Every person comes to their tattoo with their own story and each tattoo has the capacity to address those specific needs. I believe there is great power in the idea that the meaning and significance of each tattoo is ultimately defined by the one who wears it.
7.- To be involved with Healing is to be in light. What is the connection between lightness and Tattoos for you? Could a light Tattoo also be a Healing Tattoo?
In my opinion light work can be a very important aspect of healing. I think that there are many ways that light can be part of a healing tattoo. The way that the tattoo is executed and the image itself can reflect light. Using Reiki and other energy healing I can channel light while I am tattooing. Also a person can reinforce light through the tattoo image that they choose, thereby creating a permanent medium for the light to flow through.
If we consider that our bodies are mostly water, then we can recognize that by marking our vessel with specific messages we can define the water. With each tattoo I receive personally, I feel as if I am bringing more and more of myself into focus. Every tattoo I wear reflects my choice to commit irrevocably to something that is important to me. As time passes my relationship with my tattoos evolves and transforms to reflect my growth. For me my tattoos arise from either a significant event or an aspect of personal growth I have been working on. I have used my tattoos to heal and support my energy body by tattooing images for most of the chakras on my body. I have used tattoos for protection. I have used tattoos for connection to my loved ones and to remember dear ones who have passed over.
Yes, absolutely. Each client is different, so I tailor each session to their specific needs, some people will want to keep it simple, some people will want all the bells and whistles. I bring Reiki,energy work, breathing techniques, intuitive counseling, ritual and prayer to my tattooing sessions. Because I am blessed with an extensive background and training in both art and healing, I can integrate my skills to provide something that is even stronger through its synergy. I consider tattooing one of the deepest forms of healing I can offer.
10.- Do you offer Reiki with your tattoo work? Before, during, after?
In a word, yes. I guess you could say that Reiki is the default setting for my personal operating system. Like a radio that is always on and tuned into a favorite station, I have the energy of Reiki flowing through me all the time.?In addition to this I will sometimes turn up the volume and place my hands on someone for even more focused Reiki. Often I will pause during the actual tattooing process for a few moments of Reiki alone, and then after the tattoo is completed I will usually do some more Reiki to help promote easier healing.
11.- What do you think about cover up techniques as a means of Healing? Also to cover a scar with a beautiful tattoo can be very healing for a person: what do you think about this? How do your clients come to your studio emotionally with a bad tattoom and how they respond after their tattoo has been transformed? How do you feel about this?
A good cover-up can significantly change a persons perception of them self, and restore what has been damaged to balance again. People choose cover-ups for all kinds of reasons: they out grow an old tattoo so that it no longer suits them; the tattoo was executed poorly and needs to be improved upon visually and technically; the tattoo was never what the person wanted as a result of misunderstanding between the tattoo artist and the client or deliberate disregard for the clients needs. I have heard many stories from clients who had serious doubts about getting tattooed in a particular situation, and how despite their reservations they went ahead and got the tattoo anyway. Sometimes it was because they were anxious about upsetting the artist, sometimes it was because they didnt want to forfeit money, sometimes it was because the artist told them what they needed to hear and then did something different anyway. When someone has experienced the violation of trusting an artist to execute what they have requested but then instead receives something which greatly misses the mark, I think they are especially guarded and anxious about trusting another person to repair the damage. Even taking the first step of trusting another artist to help them when their trust was so disrespected before is very healing. Then to actually restore a tattoo to something desirable, this is profound.
Covering scars with beautiful tattoos can definitely bring healing. A once traumatic reminder is replaced with an affirmation of life. Noticeable scars which drew attention and invasive questions can be transformed into images which create a new context for attention. A question like: What happened to you? becomes a comment like Wow that is beautiful.
12.- Do you have cover-up tattoos on your own skin? Please, talk to me about it.
I am very fortunate to have only one small cover-up on my own body. I have always chosen the artists I work with very carefully, and often spend anywhere between months to years thinking about my tattoos before I commit them to my own flesh, so I have no pieces that I regret. The only cover-up I do have is more a repair of one of my first attempts to tattoo myself. It was not that I didnt like the tattoo itself as much as it needed some help technically.
13.- Please, tell me about your own damaging Tattoo experiences, or stories you know.
As I noted in the previous question, I am very fortunate to have only positive personal tattoo experiences. I have however repaired many damaging tattoos. As I mentioned in the question about cover-ups I have restored some very violating tattoos. I can think of some pieces where my clients thought that they were going to have one thing and then when they got up to look at their finished tattoo, it was not at all what they had expected or negotiated. In these cases not only did they walk away with a lousy tattoo, but also with psychic wounds caused by enduring hours of intense pain and the bad attitude of a rude and surly artist who had no respect for them as a person. I think that it is so important to remember that tattooing is a service as much as a creative art. As a tattoo artist I believe that our clients needs must always come first. Sadly there are people in this profession who have no regard this basic concept.
14.- May be the Tattoo is a Kind of karma. What do you think about this?
Well, if karma is something we carry from one life to another, and tattoos are carried beyond the physical form into the afterlife as some indigenous cultures (like the Maori for example) believe, then you might surmise that tattoos can at least affect our karma. I suspect that tattoos are more reflections of our karma as opposed to karma itself. We are all drawn to particular images that we seek to place on our bodies. Certainly events and experiences help to define our beliefs and preferences, and these in turn define our choices including our tattoos. Consequently our tattoos refine our identity both for ourselves and for others perceiving us. In this way tattoos not only reflect our past karma, but inform how our futures might unfold, thus reinforcing or transforming our karma. From my experience I also believe that tattoos can alter the Akashic records by rewriting the story. For example I recently completed a piece for a woman who recalls a previous life as a Minoan bull jumper on the ancient island of Crete. During that life she was gored by a bulls horn through her abdomen. In this current incarnation she has suffered from a lot of pain in the area where she was wounded in that earlier life. We created a tattoo of bull horns and specific healing flowers for her lower back with the intention to bring reconciliation and karmic integration.
15.- If the main objective of Healing its to improve the quality of life for human beings, can Tattoo Art help to make life better? How?
Certainly! Deliberately chosen tattoos have the capacity to support healthier choices for our lives and express our deepest dreams, wishes and desires. For example I have done tattoos to reinforce peoples decisions to: quit smoking; remain clean and sober; leave a relationship; and stop eating sugar; to name but a few. I also believe that when a tattoo is placed with consideration to the flow and form of a body a tattoo can affirm and beautify the shape and curves of a persons body. I think that tattoos can help to release a person from the constraints of conventional beauty standards. Tattoos can replace shame and self loathing with delight and pride for parts of the body that someone was previously uncomfortable with. Problem areas such as stretch marks, scars, skin discoloration, and/or excess weight can be transformed by a tattoo to affirm and reflect the unique beauty of each body. Tattoos can also be used to strengthen and protect areas of chronic pain. For example I once did a tattoo of a spiral as a memorial piece over an area where my client had been experiencing chronic pain for years since her friend had died. She has not had any pain in that part of her body since we did the tattoo years ago. In my opinion, tattoos can work to shift and restore the energy body. For example someone might experience a blockage or depletion around a particular chakra in their energy body, by placing a tattoo near or over a chakra point the area can adjust and heal.
16.- Do you think that your Guides help with your work? Do you think that maybe you are channeling your Guides and Divine Inspiration as you are creating and while you are working?
Not only do my own Guides help me to work, frequently I experience information and guidance from my clients Guides and helpers. There are definitely times when it has felt like something greater than myself was doing this work with me and through me. With every tattoo I try to offer myself willingly in service for the highest and greatest good. I pray to be a channel for healing that I may be healed and I may be a healer. I pray that everything that comes through me come through good and clean. By tuning into Spirit I often feel filled with light and Universal Love this experience guides my process as a healer and an artist.
17.- Art is a form of Healing. This Healing process includes drawing, painting or any art form. What do you think about this? To tattoo and to paint, is it healing for you? Does Tattooing and painting help to Heal your soul?
To create art is to reflect the soul. When I create art I spend time in dialogue with my Higher Self. I learn more about my world and what I believe. In those moments of quiet and reflection I am often blessed with epiphanies and understanding. This deep stillness, these times of revelation bring me to greater balance, wholeness and a sense that the universe is unfolding exactly as it should. When I tattoo I am healed as I learn from my clients experience and come to understand my own experience more clearly. Anytime we encounter the Sacred, anytime we feel wonder, anytime we behold Grace; all of us are touched by these experiences, and each of us are healed.
18.- I always say Tattooing is a form of therapy. When I am tattooing me, I forget all the problems, all the fears, all the pains of my soul. I connect my mind with the sound of the tattoo machine, the piece of art, the colors, the blood and the pain in my skin, I go inside to an altered state of conscience, for me it is a kind of trip. After a while, I can see clearly and find solutions for my life. What do you think about this?
I certainly agree with what you say as I have had very similar experiences while being tattooed. I also believe that different people have very different experiences with being tattooed depending on many factors. While for some of us being tattooed is an immediate transcendent experience, I also know people who really struggle with the process. I feel very very fortunate to be a person who naturally enjoys being tattooed. I think for others this kind of spiritual bliss must be learned and developed. I have worked with a number of people who found it quite difficult to sit when I first began to work with them. Often they were only able to sit for a short period of time. Then as they later returned to expand upon their tattoos, they would find their way to greater and greater ease. Each successive time their experience would improve and they became able to sit for longer and longer sessions. As a tattooist I have noticed that attitude has a lot to do with how easily a person can sit for a tattoo. If a person is anxious and tends to be fussy with discomfort, then they are likely to focus on the pain and whine through their whole experience. If a person can surrender to being tattooed and remain open to the sensation without labeling it as pain, then they are likely to reach a state beyond the ordinary in which deep healing and revelation can occur. I have also noticed that our bodies store memories of both our wounds and our joys. Tattooing often evokes these experiences in the forms of emotion, thought and sensation. Through surrender we can allow these energies to flow and be released.
19.- How do people react after you finish a Tattoo for them? How do you feel about their reactions?
The ordeal of sitting through the whole tattooing process can be a quite a bonding experience for me and my clients. At the end of their session most of my clients react with delight and relief. I have sometimes even heard some variation of the comment Wow, this tattoo is even better than I had imagined it would be. When my clients are satisfied with their tattoo, I feel deep gratitude, relief and fulfillment. It is always a wonderful feeling to know that I was able to understand and meet my clients needs.
20.- Seeing beautiful things can be a way to help to the soul´s evolution. When you have a beautiful Tattoo on your skin: a tattoo that makes you happy; a tattoo that makes you feel proud of it and proud of who you are; a tattoo that fills your soul: this can be a very important part of Healing. Do you think that it is your mission on this planet to help human beings with their souls evolution through your art? What do you think about this?
As like attracts like, beauty begets beauty. Yes, I create beauty, and for this I am profoundly grateful. True beauty evokes harmony. True beauty evokes peace. True beauty evokes healing as it evokes balance. A beautiful tattoo reflects a beauty that is already within its wearer. A beautiful tattoo reminds both the wearer and all who see her/him of their innate grace and beauty. When I reflect the inner beauty by creating its outer manifestation in the form of tattoos, I do believe I can help a human being in their souls evolution. What a glorious mission to serve!
21.- Tell me what a tattoo session is like with you. Do you teach some breathing exercises, lead a meditation and/or give healing? How do you help your client to relax? What is the initial process before a tattoo session with you? What you do if you think the client is making a bad choice? How do you help them?
A tattoo session with me is greatly influenced by the person who I am tattooing. Each time I incorporate elements that are appropriate for the specific appointment. While the process does vary for each session there are some basic elements that I incorporate into most sessions I do… Work with me begins when a person contacts me about getting a tattoo. I start with a conversation to determine what their intentions are and why they are seeking a tattoo. I also clarify that I approach tattooing as a healing art and ask them if this is something that they are seeking in their tattooing experience. Sometimes the interviewing process is straightforward and easy, sometimes it involves lots of questions and a few conversations before we are both clear. And yes, sometimes an initial tattoo concept may not sound like such a good idea. However, in my experience a bad choice is usually a wonderful choice that just hasnt been fully clarified. Not everyone has a diverse visual vocabulary, so they choose the images and symbols available to them. Often when I can draw out the intention behind a tattoo, I can help a client to express their vision more effectively, while still honoring their reasons for seeking that tattoo in the first place.
For the time between our consultation and the tattoo appointment I will frequently make suggestions about things a person might do to prepare for their tattoo. I have been using and working with flower essences for more than 18 years, so I often suggest particular essences as well as other kinds of ritual work, meditation and journaling. At the time of the appointment, I begin my process by meditating and preparing for the work by going over what we are about to do both visually and from a healing stand point. In the days leading up to a piece I collect images that I will need for my drawing and I begin to prepare the artwork as I think about my clients needs. Sometimes I will watch films or programs or listen to music that reflect the intention of the piece. For example: I watched the movie 8 Below (a survival adventure about 8 sled dogs stranded in the Antarctic) the evening before I started a memorial tattoo to honor a beloved dog who had recently died.
On the day of the appointment I often dress in colors which affirm the idea behind the tattoo. I usually include my clients in the drawing process, so I complete the drawing when they are present. We often engage in a conversation about the work while I work on the final design. I have discovered that this approach works best for me because I can really tailor each tattoo to the individual who wears it. I love the collaboration and often find that the synergy of both of our minds working together creates things which are more interesting than an image I might create in isolation. Once the drawing is complete to our mutual satisfaction, I finish preparing for the tattoo.
After filling out the necessary paperwork and taking a bathroom break, I invite my client to come over to the tattoo chair and settle in. I verbalize our intentions for the tattoo and I coach newcomers about what to expect. Sometimes I will lead us in a guided meditation to even further relax and clarify the intention, other times I will simply begin to tattoo. Often I encourage the use of breathing and I modulate my voice to sound calm and soothing. I coach people through difficult parts of a tattoo by instructing them to inhale deeply between the passes of my tattoo machine, and then to exhale slowly while I actually tattoo. I usually let Reiki energy flow through my hands during the entire process. I will also take moments to concentrate pure Reiki on an area before returning to tattoo. In the midst of this process I frequently will receive guidance and information for my client which I will share.
Sometimes I will get information about their body and their health. Sometimes I will get information about family, relationships or career. Sometimes I will get impressions from the past from this life or even previous ones. Sometimes I get glimpses of potential futures. Sometimes I receive messages from loved ones who have died. And sometimes it is just a really wonderful conversation. When I complete the tattoo I take a few moments to do Reiki on the fresh work before I photograph and bandage the tattoo. I go over the healing process, and follow up on the guidance I received during the session with concrete suggestions and resources for more information. After any final discussion and a goodbye hug, I send my client out into their world to let the healing process continue to unfold. My clients and I often remain in contact after an appointment, so we maintain an ongoing dialogue about their process until they are ready for more work.
22.- Healers are healers because they hold an intention and the wish to heal and to help others. After love, these are the most powerful things. They talk about the power of intention, the power of desire, the power of thought, and of course, the power of love, when a Tattoo artist has the intention to heal another with his/her work, the tattooist is a healer. What do you think about this? Why are you a Tattooist? What are you looking for? Are you a Tattoo Healer?
I am a tattoo artist and I am a healer, and I use tattooing as a vehicle for healing, so yes, I guess you could say I am a Tattoo Healer. I think that intention is a crucial aspect of any healing art. However, I also believe that intention alone does not have the power to transform in the way that a union of skill and intention does. Ultimately I believe that healing can only happen within the individual who seeks it. A healer facilitates the healing process s/he does not do the actual healing. For example a healer can set a broken bone, and then the body heals itself. As a tattoo artist I mirror a persons truth. I help to reveal and express what is already within someone, this happens because of the desire, the intention and the clarity they bring to the experience. Sometimes these things are right on the surface and all I need to do is reinforce what my client brings to me. Other times the true intention and desire needs more articulation before it is clear, then I help to draw out the essential truth by asking questions, and reflecting back what I see and hear until we both feel confident and clear about the work we will do together.
I am a tattooist because I absolutely adore tattoos. Since it has been said that our body is our temple to Spirit/God/dess, I love having the chance to help others decorate their temples. As you can see from my many responses I sincerely believe the power tattooing has to facilitate profound healing for people. I feel very grateful that as a healer I get to use tattooing as my medium. As a tattooist, above all else, I seek to reflect each persons truth with the greatest clarity, kindness, technical skill and visual accuracy that I can possibly express in any given moment. Tattooing is a challenging craft, it demands mindfulness, effective communication, constant focus, artistic ability and technical knowledge. Every day that I tattoo I learn something new, and every day I am humbled by knowing I have so much more to learn. May I forever seek deeper understanding of this amazing art, and may I be blessed with a beginners mind.
23.- What is the connection between love energy and tattoos?
In the best cases there is a strong connection between tattoos and love. Ideally a tattoo is created with love energy. First it is chosen to reflect love for someone, some thing, some time and/or some place that is very dear to the wearer. Then it is executed by the tattoo artist in a loving way. Finally it is worn to affirm and reinforce a connection to something very precious.
24.- Does there exist a tattoo energy? If so, what is tattoo energy and how does it work?
I am not sure if I would say that there is specifically a tattoo energy as much as tattooing can be a vehicle for transmitting energy. The energy a tattoo transmits can vary significantly depending on intention and circumstance. Every color has a precise vibration, therefore the colors used in a tattoo will echo a specific frequency. Also it is believed by many that stones and minerals resonate with particular vibrational frequencies, therefore since tattoo pigment is mostly made from different mineral powders, then one might imagine those energies will be imbued in the tattoo. Images and symbols reflect an energy specific to their form and meaning, therefore each tattoo will convey such energy. The body itself vibrates with energy so a tattoo can serve as a vortex which enhances and expresses the bodys energy.
Not only does the tattoo image have the ability to transmit energy, also a tattooist and a client can transmit energy either consciously or unconsciously. In my opinion, an artist can transmit their own energy and emotions while tattooing. An artist can work to cultivate intentional calm, focused and loving energy for their client to experience. However an artist can also leak thoughts and feelings such as anger, worry, distraction, etc if they are not mindful of the affect their energy has upon the person they are tattooing. In addition the artist or the client might invoke and even channel Divine Energy during the tattooing process. In my experience the energy that is put into a tattoo tends to remain long after the tattooing is completed. Thus, mindfulness is key, as the energy expressed always has the capacity to either hurt or heal.
25.- Another subject for Healing Tattoos is how since the beginning of humanity and the beginning of Tattoos, Tattooing is a form of ritual. For a lot of old tribes Tattooing was a main part of their lives, sometimes even the most important one. Once, all this got lost, but now I think it is being reborn. I would like to hear your approach on this subject.
Yes I absolutely agree! I think that in other times and cultures magic and ritual was so deeply woven into the very fabric of existence that it happened as naturally as breathing. Today in this modern world I think we often need to create deliberate ritual and intentionally think in a magical way. As a tattoo artist who is also initiated as a Priestess of the Goddess, I work to restore these precious and vital ancient traditions. Because I am living in a time and place which draws from many cultural and spiritual traditions, I tend to create experiences which reflect the individual who seeks a tattoo. Depending on the degree of ritual and magic a client desires, I incorporate more or less overt ceremony. However I believe that tattooing by its nature serves as a ritual; so, even with the most basic approach, tattooing can be a Rite of Passage. If ritual is unique because it steps beyond the ordinary, then for most people the tattoo experience itself serves to bring them beyond the mundane. I work in a place where people must be 18 or older to receive a tattoo, so here in Maine getting a tattoo signifies the coming of age. I like to think of the first tattoo as a kind of initiation: a person comes of age; they decide they want to mark the transition; they enter into the new and mysterious world of the Tattooist; they experience anticipation and often fear of the unknown as they await the actual tattoo; they walk beyond fear to sit and endure their tattoo experience; then by surviving their tattooing ordeal the new initiate bears a mark which will forever reinforce their courage and endurance.