Friday, October 1, 2010

The Ouroboros

Some may think that tattoos are just an outrage, a chance for a teen to rebel against authority. For some it might be a sudden out of the blue decisions or drunken mistake. For many it is a way of self- expression and a symbol that takes on a meaning for the owner. I have always admired body art, and myself looking into getting a couple tattoos. It is not an easy decision, just pile of sketches and maybe if the wrong one is chosen, just a mark for the rest of your life. Not one person knows in an instant what the best choice is. Tattoos are seen everywhere is this modern world. Most my friends, have at least one tattoo if not more. One that caught the most of my attention was the dragon on of my friend’s shoulder. As and art student I always admire even the smallest designs,  as I have always admired Nathaniel Harper’s for it’s amazing craft. His tattoo is an example of tradition as well as personal expression. Not until recent the true meaning behind it was revealed to me.
     At twenty years, Nate is an artsy individual living in a small town in central Massachusetts. To a common viewer, a dragon circles around Nate’s right shoulder. So what lies behind such a dramatic decision for a tattoo? “My family has a long history for getting tattoos, so for my eighteenth birthday my parents asked me if I had anything in mind. Not too long before the question was asked, I had been looking at a mythology book when I came across the Ouroboros. Right away something about this picture stood out to me and upon looking more into the legend behind this creature I was so interested by its meaning of eternity. Right and then, I decided that’s what I wanted. A symbol of eternal return, as if this tattoo was a reminder of keeping what I learned and who I met forever.” Following the passed tradition Nate got his Tattoo, but the meaning went into a much deeper sense.
Nate Harper's actual tattoo.

Outlined in a dark black line, with evil eyes, sharp claws and spiky tail; the so-called Ouroboros is what actually rests on Nate’s shoulder. For those you who don’t know of such a monstrosity (so didn’t I until two days ago) Ouroboros is an ancient symbol depicting a dragon or serpent eating its own tail. It can often symbolize cyclicality or self-reflexivity. According to an online source, not only is the dragon a symbolic meaning in religion and mythology, but alchemical illustrations. The dragon goes all the way back to 1600 BC in Egypt, the first drawings of such figure were found on hieroglyphs inside pyramids. According to Nate, the progression of Ouroboros is what intrigues him. The symbol passed on for years, meanings piling from all sorts of perspectives.
      No wonder why people sometimes perceive tattoos as just a body decoration or image. The meaning can’t simply be assumed through just the naked eye. Not until the owner releases his true meaning the tattoo comes to life. To my surprise at first I viewed Nate’s tattoo as just an intriguing drawing. After finding out more of Nate’s reasoning behind the tattoo and my own research, I began to appreciate the tattoo remotely more. Not only was it a form of tradition but a hidden meaning of eternity.  From that point not only do I pay attention to the design and color, but also the inner symbol anyone’s tattoo may posses.

Other examples of Ouroboros

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