The Scarlet Letter
The initial concept for my tattoo was for it to be a symbolic representation of Liber V vel Reguli, the Ritual of the Mark of the Beast. It is an expression of the ultimate unity, and thereby nullity, of existence in its three phases of birth, life, and death. Its placement upon my skin proclaims my identity with this process; its complexity, resolvable into simplicity, declares my intention to resolve the manifold aspects of my self into their underlying formlessness.
The Second Gesture of Liber V, the Enchantment, climaxes with the words:
These phrases became the translation pivot whereby I created visual art from ritual. The four quarters (the LAs and ALs) are directly expressed in Hebrew lettering in the arms of the crosses; the inner symbol is a less obvious representation of ShT as a flaming (Shin) serpent (Teth). I have left a small space in the very center of these conjoined symbols for future elaboration; for now, its emptiness serves as an indicator of the ineffable to which I aspire.
Although gematria was not a consideration in the design of my tattoo, I was pleased afterwards to find correspondences between the symbols therein and my newest magickal motto, Perduramo. Spelled Peh-Heh-Resh-Daleth-Vau-Resh-Mem-Ayin, the total value is 605, which I consider another expression of the 2=0 formula (the microcosmic five and the macrocosmic six flank the zero which represents the product of their union). 605 can be further factored to 11 * 11 * 5, which ties it in to my tattoo and Liber V, which is “an incantation (11) proper to invoke the Energies of the Aeon of Horus (5), adapted for the daily use of the Magician (11) of whatever grade.” Consideration of the distinct symbols within my tattoo maps quite well to consideration of my motto in parts, such as subdivision by consonants and vowels. I will not here illustrate the depth of the correspondences, as a full analysis would warrant an essay of its own.
The primary function of the tattoo within my psyche is as a reminder of the many oaths I have taken over the years to my self, to my brothers and sisters, and to the Order which I serve. It is a beacon on the shores of enlightenment, guiding my progress towards perfection. It reminds me, when confronted with difficulty, to consider the complex situation within the context of my oaths. Doing so, in most cases, provides me with a clear course of action, or at least with a destination towards which to plot my course. Hardly a day goes by that I do not glimpse my tattoo in a mirror and reflect upon my place in the universe which is my playground, and upon the true nature of my self and its relation to the stars with whom it shares Space.
My tattoo is the Chinese character zhi. Zhi means Will and includes two facets of Will. In the most superficial sense, zhi means Will in regard to effort, intention, and resolution; it has the quality of force and arduous effort; it is the most dynamic assertive aspect of a person, the “ultimate fire.” This is Yang Will. Zhi also includes Yin Will which is an irreducible mystery; Yin Will is an encounter with the inevitable, a connecting with our ultimate and inexorable destiny. Yang Will can not exceed the constraints of Yin Will and any imbalance between the two will produce dysfunction. Zhi also means wisdom — not certainty or knowledge, but a recognition of the deeper mysteries which infuse all life. In order to obtain this wisdom, the two aspects of Will must balance and intertwine. Zhi represents the combined Yin and Yang Will as well as the wisdom which arises from their union.
It fascinates and impresses me that the Chinese do not separate mind, body and spirit. Zhi is not only a state of mind but a very real energetic component of our anatomy. They believe that zhi is stored in the kidneys and that disharmonies of Yin and Yang Will may be manifested in various combinations of physical syndromes and emotional disturbances which can be treated with acupuncture and Chinese herbs.
I chose the character zhi to invoke strength (Yang Will) and union with my true will (Yin Will). I must align the force of my Yang Will with the desire to recognize my Yin Will to achieve balance and wisdom. I got it to remind myself to stand up to the challenges I manifest in my life and that these challenges and everything I encounter will influence my process of uniting conscious mind with True Will which I believe to be the basic drive of all humanity.
I must be aware of the relationships between my psychological orientation (the way I handle things), my environment, and my physical habits, for all things I choose to bring into my world will affect the subtle energies coursing through my meridians. I want to realize every grain of potential that resides within me, and to achieve that I must consider every bit of my universe—down to the tiniest thought or the art I hang in my home—and how it all resonates with and influences the Qi of Argenta. I have no doubt that this tattoo will aid me in achieving my goals because of the psychological ramifications of tattooing with such intent as well as the magical/energetic effects of permanently inscribing this sigil on my body.
I love my flaming sun tattoo! I went through all kinds of crazy stuff getting it; it seems that all sorts of obstacles occurred when it came time to get it. I got frustrated, and changed artists, and instantly, all the problems dissipated.
Getting it done was a ritual in itself. Endorphins kicking in. Breathe. Meditate.
I love it, the rosy tipped rays of the sun flaming at my center The knotted four petaled rose at the center. It looks like jewelry. It feels like an opening.
Frater Semper Lucem Quaero
I obtained this tattoo to mark a certain level of initiation in my ongoing journey of spiritual progress. The design is fairly simple, consisting of a shield upon which is emblazoned the sun. In the foreground, a snake winds about an equal-armed cross with a rose at its center.
The shield is placed directly over my heart, as a talisman of protection for this vital physical (and metaphysical) organ. It is colored blue, fading darker toward the edges furthest from the sun, suggesting the blue lids of the daughter of sunset. The sun itself represents the radiance of vital energy conveyed through my anahatta chakra, an essential function in fulfilling my role as a priest and initiator within the Order.
The cross upon the shield is in the form used by the Knights Templar, with whom I identify on a certain spiritual level. It alludes to the sun in the microcosm described in the Gnostic Mass and elsewhere. In combination with the circular form of the sun, it is a particular sign of the Order. Similarly, from the shapes of the rose, the cross, and the sun, one can derive the shapes of the letters “O.T.O.”
The rosy cross is an ancient symbol with very deep significance, most of which I cannot delve into here. But at one level it represents the union of male and female, and at another the union of human and divine, and at yet another the fundamental identity of these two concepts.
The snake entwined about the cross represents the kundalini rising up the spine, and the serpent of wisdom rising up the tree of life. A black viper in this form also features prominently in my family’s coat of arms (also represented by the shield).
The five separate elements (shield, sun, cross, rose, and serpent) inter-relate in various combinations to form a dynamic unity. For example, the sun and the shield of night-sky represent polarities in the macrocosm while the rose and cross represent polarities in the microcosm. But the cross also relates directly to the shield as a sign of the Templars, to the sun as a symbol of its vice-regent upon the earth, and to the kundalini snake as the spinal column.
Overall I sought to encompass in one symbol a balance of dynamic and static, extension and protection, macrocosm and microcosm, male and female, night and day, and many other complimentary principles. As a permanent part of my body, I also wanted to incorporate and commemorate the physical and spiritual heritage of my family, the O.T.O., the Rosicrucians, and the Templars. With this particular design I feel I have succeeded.
I’d always liked the basic black of tribal tattooing as well as pieces based on major works of art or trends in art, but I wanted something more obscure and original that the regular Klimt painting or tribal tattoos. When I saw Aubrey Beardsley’s illustrations for Le Morte de Arthur, I fell in love the wings of the harpies and peacocks he had designed. I did the first drawing of the piece and then I handed it to my friend and Sister Dora, who is more skilled in the visual arts. She did some basic drawing of my back and positioned the piece on my shoulders and arms. It was extremely important that these wings be functional rather than static. Most wing tattoos I’ve seen follow just lateral to the spine, making them look folded up and unready for action. We wanted mine to be always moving, and to flow with the movement of my shoulders and arms.
The tattoo has changed me in several ways. First and foremost, it’s a rather large tattoo. I hear the term “Blue Collar Commitment,” thrown about quite a bit and I guess that before tattoos were in fashion, this basically meant you couldn’t get a white-collar job if you had that much tattoo. Things are different nowadays but it is still a big commitment. So you’ve got this whole ‘me against society’ thing. I’m an outsider, a sexual outlaw and by nature of my personality, someone who sits on the fringes of society. My tattoo represents a commitment to that idea. I feel my role in society is just as important as that of the businessman and the housewife. I’m able to HAVE this tattoo and get away with it, due to the freedom of outsider status, but also the tattoo places me in that role just by the virtue of having it.
Ravens are a personal totem for me. They seem to be trickster spirits and have to do with life and death. I used to have dreams about transforming into a raven. I used to fly all over the neighborhood and into dark places, like huge expanses of blackness. I haven’t had one of these dreams since I got the tattoo, so perhaps I am flying all over the neighborhood and into dark places while awake instead.
As for unexpected effects, well for one thing a LOT of people ask, “Are those angel wings?” and I am like, “No, angels suck, these are raven’s wings.” Why would I get angel’s wings? Anyone who has talked to me for like a second would figure that one out, but oh well, you can’t control people’s reactions to you or your ink.
This tattoo of mine encompasses a certain period my life—a bit of that
time is frozen and taken with me. Tattoos contain such rich, titillating, painful
and wonderful stuff. You know, I’ve got a physical mark that says, “I
haven’t just followed all my life, I’ve lived!” Oscar Wilde
said, “Be a work of art or wear one!” Well, I do both!