We at InspiringTattoos.com have compiled 6 quick and amazing tattoo facts that made us go, “Whaaaaat?” From secret tattooed messages to even Winston Churchill’s mama gettin’ inked, we bet that you’ll love these tatty tidbits!
The Origins of “Tattoo”
The word “tattoo” is derived from the Tahitian word “tatau”, or “to mark”. On his expedition to the Pacific, Captain Cook & Joseph Banks encountered the Tahitian practice of tattooing. Intrigued, they brought a tattooed Tahitian man, Omai, back to England with them in 1774. Omai was paraded around the country, introduced to King George III, and exhibited as a curiosity for the elite class. Later, both men and women of the wealthy British classes would embrace tattoos as popular body decoration.
High Society Tattoos
Sir Winston Churchill’s mother, Lady Randolph Churchill, had a snake tattooed on her wrist. Once a very expensive practice, the wealthy classes, both men and women, loved tattoos. As tattooing became less expensive, the lower classes began inking themselves and the rich lost interest in the art form.
Secret Message Tattoos
In 5th century Greece, Histiaeus, who was being held prisoner by King Darius of Susa, tricked his slave into having a secret message tattooed on his scalp. The slave believe it would cure his failing eyesight. After his hair had grown back enough to hide the tattoo, the slave hastened to Histiaeus’ son-in-law, Aristagoras. Aristagoras shaved the slave’s head to reveal the secret plea to begin a rebellion.
Tattoos: A Sailor’s Friend
Historically, sailors believed that a pig tattooed on one foot and a rooster tattooed on the other would protect them from drowning. Neither pigs nor roosters can swim. The hope was that the animals would help guide stricken sailors to land or safety. Similarly, “Hold” tattooed on one hand and “Fast” on the other was thought to allow a sailor to grip the rigging better.
Christianity & Tattoos
In modern times, it’s largely believed by the Christian faith that tattoos prohibit a person from entering the kingdom of God after death. Historically, early Christians often tattooed a cross on their arms or face to display their undying devotion. Around AD 325, Emperor Constantine outlawed the practice as he believed man’s face was created in the image of God and tattooing the skin would be considered a sin. In AD 787 a council of churches renounced all types of tattooing– a judgement which is still strongly held today.
Old School Tattoos
Ancient tools, believed to be for tattooing, have been discovered by archaeologists in Portugal, France, and Scandinavia. The tools are at least 12,000 years old or from around the last Ice Age. Most scholars believe that tattoos were often employed in ancient times as a means to cure ailments, such as arthritis, by tattooing the painful area or nearby pressure points. This makes tattooing one of the oldest forms of medicine.