Henna & Tattooing

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Posted by Kree/Gilded Lilies on May 24, 2001 at 14:15:46:

Tattoo comes from a polynesian word which I've seen spelled "tautau"
and "tattau."
Besides the technical details of tattooing (whether its a tattoo if
it pierces the skin or not), it would be interesting to contrast the
SOCIAL purposes of each craft. Separating henna from tattooing is
not meant to trash tattooists, among whom are some of the finest
artists I know. Its partially to counteract the attitude that I
received from a tattooist of "oh, you're doing FAKE tattoos." Which
is a pretty common misconception on the part of the AMERICAN public
(this type of misconception is non-existent in cultures who use and
understand henna traditions). That's one of the reasons black henna
is so popular.
I believe that henna PROCESS of bonding between the giver and
receiver and the social and ritual functions of henna in middle and
far eastern countries is totally unique to henna. I would like to
see more henna artists doing their homework and studying/interviewing
how people in other countries FEEL about henna. It is a
deeplyintuitive craft when practiced traditionally. Tattooing has its
own rituals, but I believe they are very different, and not very
comparable to henna ritual.
To me the transitory nature of henna contributes to its sacredness -
like a tankha or sand painting. This is especially obvious to me
doing grief work and assisting at the letting go process. But it is
also true for other ritual work, including making marks that
commemorate a special event requiring effort and courage - like
running a marathon, doing a dissertation, etc. You may not want to
commemorate such an event with a permanent mark.
Henna is not a tattoo, and a tattoo is not henna. I am slowly
eliminating all references to tattooing in my lectures and
literature. This is not to dis tattooing - which I think is a
fabulous and worthy art deserving of utmost respect. It's just not
what I do!


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