It does not take a genius for one to realize that tattoos are becoming indelible in our society today. People from all walks of life are getting themselves inked for various reasons. For some, the reasons are merely skin-deep: to increase their “level of sexiness” up a few notches, to identify themselves with a group of tattooed individuals, or to exercise their freedom and be cool. But for some, it involves a deeper, religious meaning.
Religious tattoos are quite common nowadays. We see cross tattoos or religious symbols and images being sported by different individuals around. And, in all truthfulness, a few of these individuals do not fit into the bill of what a religious person should be. But one question remains: Is tattooing of religious symbols recognized as a religious act? It would depend on which religious sector you belong to, and on what your religious beliefs are.
The advent of religious tattoos dates back to the pre-biblical era when the art of tattooing was widely practiced by the pagans as a means of worship until it was forbidden when Constantine became the emperor of Rome. According to Leviticus 19:28: “You shall not make any cuttings in your flesh for the dead; neither shall you make in yourselves any figures or marks. I am the Lord.” This then became the basis for Christians to shun tattooing.
Islam tradition forbids any bodily alterations made as a way to enhance physical beauty, and this includes body tattoos. Generally, the Muslim culture also considers tattoos unacceptable; as well as traditional Jews. However, maybe due to the changing of the times, this body art is now slowly being accepted by these religious sectors, though not as a religious act.
But in some Asian cultures, having religious tattoos is traditional practice. It is common custom for Buddhist monks to wear tattoos that are believed to ward off bad luck and evil spirits, and therefore serve as an amulet. In Hindu religion, tattooing is also common practice as part of their culture. For the Egyptians, religious tattoos such as The Eye Of Horus also serves as protection from evil spirits, to bring good luck, and to gain entry into after-life.
In recent times, religious tattoos seem to be just that: a skin-deep image of a once-revered symbol. The Ankh, Ichthus, the Sacred Heart and the Crucifix of the Christians; the Star of David, Menorah, and Allah symbols of the Islams; the Eye of Horus, Yin Yang, Dharma, and other religious symbols for different religious sectors are seen worn by people who do not practice the religion.
But it is also fairly common for a person to show his devotion by having something of religious importance etched on his body even on this day and age. So the question of whether religious tattoos are taboo or not lies on the personal belief of the wearer. It is no longer dictated by society but by how one chose to show his spirituality. Tattoos, like religion, have become a personal thing.
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