Tattoos today are a form of identity, an individual expression of style. People decide to get a tattoo to enhance their look or to keep an important memory close. The human body has become a canvas upon which the possibility of expression and design are endless. In the past, however, tattoos were deeply entangled with spiritualism. The process of making a tattoo was accompanied by magic rituals. The design itself had a protective function, it was a charm against an enemy or a bad force.
The oldest living tattoo artist, Whang-od born in 1917, is a professional from Buscalan, Kalinga in Philippines. Her father was also a talented tattoo artist and trained her in the profession. Consequently, Whang-od became the first widely accepted woman tattooist in the tribe. She started tattooing at the age of 15, which gives her 89 years of experience. Her first clients were the warriors who came back from battle holding the heads of their enemies. As she tattooed, Kaliga would sings chants to protect the warrior from any bad energy. If she sneezed whilst tattooing the session would be cancelled as it was believed to be a bad sign. The tattoos shaped the warrior’s confidence during conflict, as they signified prior personal victories.
Later, Whang-od started tattooing women, as according to the old myth, the tattoo would increase female fertility. The tattooist would transform young girls into women with her stunning designs. Their function here was also aesthetic, the tattoos highlighted the women’s shapes, focusing male attention on their silhouettes. The flash was inspired by nature, for example grass or rice plant leaves, which have magical properties. Whilst tattooing the artist would sing chants and tell her clients’ fortunes, she would put a bead on the wrist of the person being tattooed, a bribe for the evil spirit to ensure they would behave peacefully. The practise bears similarities to the healing rituals performed in the culture for
their sickly, one of which necessitated the sacrifice of an animal, the soaking of an orange leaf in their spilt blood and the sprinkling of this blood from the leaf to the patient’s arms and legs. The spiritual medic would pray and ask the demon to accept the sacrifice and leave the sick body. The orange leaves have the property of keeping the dead away from and so the tattooist would keep an orange thorn in her tattoo kit.
In Ethernaal we also believe that the art of tattooing is anchored in spiritualism. The idea of Ethernaal is based upon an esoteric vision of tattoos existing forever. Using recent developments in NFT’s and blockchains, tattoos can be bought and sold through Ethernaal and the artwork will live eternally as an NF2T. NF2T stands for Non-Fungible Tattoo Token, and it embodies the parameters of a NFT but is also redeemable for a tattoo it illustrates. It guarantees ownership for the client. The digital version can pass through generations and can exist in the online gallery through time.
References: https://www.larskrutak.com/the-last-kalinga-tattoo-artist-of-the-philippines/ https://uk.gestalten.com/blogs/journal/the-last-kalinga-tattoo-artist http://inkdsoul.com/whang-od-the-thorns-lady-of-the-philippines/
Similarly, while tattooing, the artist sang chants and did fortune-telling. Moreover, she put a bead on the wrist of the tattooing person. It was considered as an exchange gift for the evil spirit to behave peacefully. It was similar to the practice of healing a sick person. During the ritual, the animal was sacrificed and the leaf of the orange was soaked in the blood of the victim. After, the blood would be sprinkled over the legs and arms of a patient.