On Sunday, January 8th, 2012 I drove out to Fergus, Ontario, to get inked.
I’ve wanted a tattoo since my early 20s. At the time, I was in University and studying German language and literature. I had fallen in love with the Middle Ages; not only with the poetry of Minnesang and the epic stories of the Nibelungenlied, but also with the art of the period. One image in particular spoke to me; it was the image of a lion, the symbol of Saint Mark from the Book of Kells. As much as I wanted the tattoo, I was scared and conflicted. I thought others might think I was born under the star sign of Leo. At the same time I wanted it for the “sexy” factor. I saw the lion jump up from the side of my body onto my chest.
The desire for a tattoo never waned. In the meantime, I bought art to hang on my walls. I also knew that someday I would have art permanently inked into my skin. I’ve always been drawn to uniqueness and things that are one-of-a-kind.
For about the last five years I’ve had a different image in mind. I’ve always been fascinated by world mythologies and what they have to say about a people and their view of the world. I’ve had some interesting spiritual experiences through deep meditations; animals have also played a role. I had been exploring animal totems in Native mythology and the wolf totem resonated with me so intensely, it felt like an epiphany. The wolf totem is associated with intuition, learning and spirit. I found this description years ago, but I failed to note the source
This totem brings faithfulness, inner strength and intuition when he enters our lives. But he also brings learning to live with one’s self.
The wolf teaches us to learn about our inner self and to find our inner power and strength. But to achieve this, we must take risks and face our deepest fears.
A wolf totem demands sincerity. This totem demands a lot of us but gives us much in return; a spirit helper that is always there to help and gives us extraordinary powers of endurance.
He reminds us to listen to our inner thoughts and trust our insights. They remind us not to waste resources and to learn how to avoid trouble and confrontations.
People with Wolf totems have the capacity to make quick and firm emotional attachments. Trust your insights about these attachments. Wolf will guide you.
I began searching for Native-influenced images of the wolf and found various Haida images, both beautiful and expressive. The Haida method of ‘outlining’ the animal felt similar to the framing used in the Celtic image of St Mark in the Book of Kells.
I found an image of a wolf by a Haida artist that I fell in love with. I didn’t want a copy, but it would be a springboard to design something entirely unique. The entire process was coming together because I had decided on the tattoo artist many years ago, Daemon, from Urban Primitive. I knew that the look I wanted and the images I was using as a framework would be a perfect fit with his unique style. In the summer of 2011, I contacted the artist. In November I finally put down a deposit to book my tattoo.
Also, in the summer, I was starting to date my, now, boyfriend. He has four tattoos. One is the word fag tattooed below his armpit on his right side. The first time I saw him with his shirt off I melted. I was turned-on by his brazenness and courage. I was envious, wishing I had been so fearless to have done something similar. That is branding and commitment to a word that empowers, upsets and hurts. But by inking fag into his skin he owns the label. We both find tattoos crazy-sexy so getting my first tattoo had the added benefit of the sex appeal I mentioned earlier, but now it was intensified. We would both be inked.
A friend asked me, “What does it mean to you now that you have it?”
It has definitely been a rite of passage. There’s also an aspect of being branded, of being inked. I’m not quite sure how to describe it, but to have a unique piece of art on my body forever is incredibly meaningful. It was not a random event. It’s been a process of self-discovery and of putting that meaning into a symbol and giving it form. The tattoo needed to be crafted by both the artist and myself. I needed to be in love with the artist’s work to allow him the freedom to create on my skin. I needed complete trust in the artist and in the process of having something permanent branded onto my skin.
My tattoo sits below my skin between its layers. It is forever and permanent. It is a part of me and also an extension of who I am. It’s an expression and interpretation of my own self-identification. This identification may change as the years pass, but it has been important enough to me to permanently make a mark on my physical body to remember.
© 2012 Darren Stehle. All Rights Reserved.