Realizing the Ideal Self
n I was 11 years old, I read Ray Bradbury's "The Illustrated Man." On the cover of the paperback was a tattooed man, covered from collar to ankles and shoulder to wrist in brightly colored illustrations, watching over a post-Apocalyptic landscape. I decided immediately that I WAS that man. From that day forward I desired to have a full bodysuit.
Growing up Jewish, I had some heat and flack on the subject. When my older sister was 16 (and I was 15) Mom caught a glance in the bathroom of my sister's tattoo. Holly had a small, red and green holly branch on her hip. Mom FREAKED! It left a strong impression on me, the idea of Biblical commandments against tattooing... and against my true self!
I actually waited for Mom to pass away before even CONSIDERING getting tattooed. I waited through my first marriage and into the first days of my courtship with Jane, my second and forever wife. At 33, I plunged right into an inkwell.
My first "piece" is a religious shield over my heart. I borrowed a "Holy Ghost descending on a triangle" from the stained-glass window in our 100+year-old church. I decided to reflect my heritage, so I added points to make it a 3D Star of David with dove descending. The top is in flames, and I put a "Shin," a Hebrew letter sounding like "S" or "SH" on top. That stands for "(El) Shaddai," or "Dear Lord." The combination of Shin and Star is used on mezuzzot, religious amulets fixed to the door in Jewish homes for protection of its contents and blessings as you come and go. The dove has a small dark purple rose in its beak, symbolizing passion. I told Jane that it is putting it in my heart for her. I consider it "my soul." It took about 3-1/2 hours and was a transformative experience.
The process, being immersed in a world of brightly-colored flash and original artwork, sounds of world-beat and Mahavishnu Orchestra, Jazz, Blues and hardcore, of people-become-canvas, of the skin as ONE huge erotic zone, of intimate artist-to-artist relationship with tattooers and tattooees, of admiration, jealousy, determination and triumph in self... became ritualistic, symbolic and devotional. My bodsuit came to me to be the highest act of devotion I could give to my Creator. Was I "violating the temple?" NO! I'M DECORATING IT! I had asked God, in final prayer for 22 years of waiting and considering tattoos... "If I try to remove my other sins, if someday only the sin of tattooing remains, will You forgive me?" Finally, in my heart I heard the following answer, "Only if you dedicate the first one to Me." And so I did. And in dreams, visions, synchronicities and miracles, the images for my other tattoos, and of the ultimate personal bodysuit, began forming in my mind and in the flesh. The first piece, I knew before I ever got it, was just a starting-point, central figure and dedication for a piece that may be ever-expanding until my death or the end of the End Times. When asked how many tattoos I have to date, I'd have to say they APPEAR to be six large ones, but I think of the entire "finished" result as ONE tattoo in progress.
After the first piece I was back in a rush. In about 10 minutes I designed multi-colored flames for armbands, and had them put in place in two sessions of 3-1/2 hours each. They later required touch-ups totalling about 10 hours. I consider them to be "Pentacostal flames," and the "hem" for my quarter-sleeves.
I had a hole of "shattered glass" rendered next, in black-and-grey, around my chest-emblem, so it now symbolises my heart and soul within my chest. The background (or "inside" of my chest) is decorated with "Chinese whirlwind" patterns. I hope to expand the design with flying shards at a later time.
I put a lotus in flames on my left bicep next, to symbolize the search for the "Truth" hiding deep in the thousand petals of other "Realities," as well as the growth of the Christian from life in mud and filth to flowering in the sun. At this point I was fixed in my idea to use flames, smoke and air as the elements of my "suit." My right bicep received a "Sacred Heart (or YHVH,)" with an everseeing eye in it, a 7-pointed star inscribed on it, and 7 rays coming out of it. The "old age/Swiss cheese" texturing was my tattoist's idea. After some time, I started the outline on my back. In the top it reads "YHVH" in Hebrew, lettering which will be in flames when finished, burning in a cloud, behind which powerful all-directional sun-rays project. A thousand-colored phoenix is flying TOWARD the flames (something we don't see often." When finished, I will have one image on my back from collar to ankle... the phoenix's feathers are meant to go down each leg, and a middle feather, coiled over the base of my spine, will have a tree-frog (wearing wireframe glasses) sitting on it, taking a ride and bursting into flame. Some issues for the front of the "suit" haven't been solved yet.
So what does it mean to me? I consider my bodysuit, as it evolves, to be my Bible. In the mirror, looking down at myself, demonstrating to someone, I can point to an image and speak about spiritual issues as I see them. I consider this the "Christian armor" I put on each day, and I proudly wear God's name over my heart (where I can only see it properly in a mirror - the Shin is even reversed!)... and on my back as an emblem that only the Lord Himself can read.
Sometimes tats are for beautification, sometimes for ritual, sometimes to mark life-events, sometimes for physical transformation and sometimes for spiritual transformation.
For me it's all of the above. - Ken Segal, JKSegal@JKSegal.com
submitted by: Anonymous
on: 15 June 1999