A Sacred Tattoo and the Four Elements

Back in January 2020 I did something I’ve been planning for almost five years: I got my first tattoo

The Intention

On my 30th birthday I first decided I wanted a tattoo and, full of youthful ignorance, assumed I knew exactly what I wanted. I knew in my bones that having something inscribed on my skin would be a visceral and sacred expression of my lived experience. I needed a tattoo artist who would understand and uphold this for me.

A woman (Keli Tomlin) pressers her face to the branch of a tree, her eyes are closed, she is peaceful
© Althea de Carteret

Around the same time, I was cultivating a new friendship with a local woman who just happened to be a bespoke tattoo artist and (along with her husband) owned a cool, quirky tattoo studio near to home. I knew Mim would be the perfect person to tattoo me when I verbalised to her my dream of having a sacred tattoo and she didn’t look at me askance or with laughter in her eyes; in fact she thanked me for verbalising something she felt too.

 

Although she didn’t identify as a spiritual person, she fully recognised that her role as a tattoo artist and her relationship with her clients had a quality of the sacred about it. It is a process of transformation and manifestation that inspired deep connection,; regardless of whether you wore ink for fun, for meaning, or for pleasure.

 

Mim and I don’t share spiritual beliefs but her recognition and respect for the sacred space and quality of tattooing resonated strongly with the Wild Celebrant in me. I booked a meeting and excitedly shared my idea with her and that’s when she taught me that choosing a tattoo can also be a sacred lesson in patience.

 

 

 

The Journey

She asked lots of questions; aesthetic questions on style, colour, shape and size. As a writer these are aspects I often gloss over but Mim knew it was important for me to have a say in all the parts of the finished product.

 

Sominstead of being tattooed at age 30 I went away with plenty to consider. Then life happened! Time passed and the answers to the questions she’d posed just wouldn’t come. I came to accept that the image I had chosen just wasn’t the right fit.

 

It took five more years of wandering down many internal paths and design possibilities before I finally found what I was looking for. During that time I changed a lot as a person and honed the qualities of who and what I was and how I wanted to show up in the world; including becoming a professional Celebrant.

 

When I reached down to the very core of my self, my spirituality, and what inspired me the most I found one thing… or rather four thing.

 

A stone chalice filled with water stands on a mossy old bench, beside it is a heart shaped stone, a ceramic pendant with a swirl motif, a piece of quartz crystal and a small bunch of flowers. A small altar by Keli Tomlin
© Althea de Carteret

 

The Four Elements

The Four Elements – Earth, Air, Fire, and Water – have been part of my spiritual practise and life experience for as long as I can remember. Long before I started creating wild weddings or knew what paganism or ceremony were, I enjoyed dancing in the rain and walking barefoot through the woods. I clearly remember the joy I felt when I discovered Wicca in my late teens and the pleasure of finding deeper meaning in the very real presence of Nature.

 

Over the years my personal faith and spirituality has transformed a great deal. For years I’ve had no spiritual practise at all, at other times I was actively involved in group celebrations for the pagan community. Most of my life I have curated my own path, taking inspiration from the different people and possibilities that I intersected with. Today I refer to myself as green-spirited, a term I borrowed from my teacher Glennie Kindred, which resonates nicely with my lived experience.

 

At the heart of this journey the presence and importance of the Four Elements has never wavered. They are the touchstone I return to when my connection is wavering. They are a source of immense inspiration and extraordinary experience. They are my connection point to the greater mystery and wonder of the natural World and its incredible balances and cycles.

 

altar

 

The Core

If you choose me as your Celebrant the Four Elements come along with me. Sometimes they are proudly acknowledged on the altar or actively welcomed as part of the creation of space. Often they will be all around us, in Nature, and you may notice me giving a silent nod of respect to this tree, or that patch of wildflowers; if you want me to, I can encourage your guests to do the same. Sometimes you wouldn’t know the Elements are with me at all… at least that used to be the case.

Now thanks to the incredible Mim at Underwood Tattoos there will always be a visual and visceral expression of my deepest inspiration, on my skin, for all to see.

 

An inner arm tattoo with six symbols including one for each of the four elements - earth, air, fire, water - and a crescent moon. Behnd the arm is a tree covered in ivy.

 

It was a painful pleasure to have the work done and I am so very grateful for Mim’s patience and encouragement these past five years and during the inking itself. She didn’t flinch when I set up my small altar on the windowsill before the session; she welcomed my expression of faith and the sacred with an open mind and heart.

It felt wonderful to see this important part of myself be made visible. I wonder if this is how my clients feel when I bring their dream ceremony to life? I hope so. It was a wild and wonderful experience and one I won’t ever forget!

 

 

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