Simbolum is the latin word for symbol, a representation of an idea with an image of obvious meaning but also other connotations. They transmit the meaning of things in all cultures and the first complex ones were the egyptians who used them together with the asyrians and the hindus.
They represented the elements of nature and the mythological beings most of the times. Then the christians started using their symbols too and spread them in the civilised world after the second century. Since then francmasonery, tattooing, music, brands, etc…
Most of us have been attracted to some symbol at some point…they can be fascinating.. but how do they work in out minds? When I tattoo some kind of symbol I can see some different aspects for example the intellectual one, and this is the easy one cause we can learn it. As the first example on this series of blogs I will use the trident.
First we need to use as much bibliography as possible to understand about it.. the word comes from the latin trident which means three teeth. the symbology is very different in every culture: associated with Neptune i roman era, with Poseidon in the greek one, with Shiva in India, and so goes on and on… The more knowledge we have the more information we have to represent it more accurate and more details we can include in the tattoo.
The next important thing is connected to the one before and it’s about the emotion that we get when we see that tattoo.
Of course it’s very personal and subjective, but the more knowledge we have, it will affect our feelings, for example, imagine you love the design of a nice trident but then you find out it is used in India to show devotion for Shia but you had a very bad experience travelling to India and now you don’t want to get it tattooed cause it will remind you of that horrible moment in your life. Or maybe it will happen the oposite and it will remind you of a marvellous yoga retreat you had once in Kerala and will bring peace to your mind… We must align those emotions with the tattoo, cause if we try to do some kind of personal amulet with the tattoo and the customer is not completely confortable with the symbols, then we will never achieve the perfect result.
There is also the extra leap of faith in the intrinsic power of the symbol…even if we don’t believe in it, the symbols work! They work, cause they’ve been concentrating power through the hundreds and hundreds of years. So the older the symbol, the more charged it is with “energy”. And if we can connect the intellectual, the emotional and the ancient power of those designs, then the receiver of the tattoo will be more happy for sure and will understand all the effort that the tattooist used to create the design much better. This is something that tattooists appreciate and it makes the whole experience more real, more deep, more personal and maybe even ritualistic, which is something that would be nice to introduce again in tattooing.
I don’t want you to think of rare symbols only, because this applies to all of them, to the old school designs, all the japanese motifs, all kinds of tribal designs etc… and I have also realised that all my favourite tattooists use this ideas unconsciously on an every day basis, mostly because they care about the designs they do and they have the experience, the bibliography and some kind of responsability towards the customers.