Justina Prenatt - Sacred Tattoo Ceremony
My tattoos all hold great meaning for me. Only one tattoo, though, has illuminated my spiritual life with new energy and promise.
I am a magical person, and I believe in many Great Mysteries. Yet in my day-to-day life I am deeply, deeply grounded. I am concrete, process oriented, organized. I am detail focused, literal, wowed by scientific reason, logic, and evidence. It takes great force to budge my stoic soul to experience anything unusual or ethereal.
Concurrently, I am surrounded by, essentially, wizards and witches who easily feel the influence of the moon and planets in the sky, have prophetic visions, talk with ghosts, commune with ancestors, and are positively susceptible to the power of prayer. I have longed to be vulnerable and increasingly receptive to these subtler and more mystical occupations of the human experience. As I was approaching the 20th anniversary of receiving my first tattoo and wanted to notably mark the many changes in my life since that time and the desires I have moving forward, I sought an improved connection with the divine through ceremonial tattoo work.
I initiated this plan by sharing my intentions with Kitty Love. I wrote about my desire for an enhanced experience of magic in my life, brainstormed ideas for the basic design of my tattoo, sifted through images that carried the energy I wanted to call in to this process and for the actual tattoo art and offered all these things to Kitty. With surprise I found that soon after setting my intention in writing I began to feel the sacred world responding to my request. Magical opportunities, powerful dreams, and religious revelations came to me quickly!
Soon we met in person to deepen the discussion about my intention. Kitty wanted to fully understand the energy and experience I was trying to invoke and how the tattoo ceremony and the artwork connected to my vision. Through attentive listening and thoughtful questions, Kitty helped me gain greater clarity on my own desire for the outcome of this ritual process and also guided me on personal work to do in the days prior to the actual tattoo and ceremony. Though I had only shared snippets of ideas for the tattoo design, I told Kitty I wanted ethereal animal totems on my arm, she channeled artwork that I knew to be inspired and perfect, incorporating animals that I love plus healing plants and herbs and ancient iconography. I felt I was on an unchartered journey, not knowing what to expect, nervous, excited, anticipatory. Preparing for the ceremony became like preparing for a birth - the day of the ceremony, the act of receiving the tattoo would be important and altering, yet merely one day in my experience. The important work would come after the act, living the rest of my life a changed person, born through this portal of ceremony and intention etched into my skin.
I requested a specific date for the ceremonial tattoo, eager to move forward with the work. The date had personal significance to me, and I felt attached to doing the tattoo precisely then. Kitty was clear with me that sometimes the ritual tattoo process takes on a life of its own, and that plans sometimes must shift accordingly. She was right. I think she knew all along. Due to complications in both our schedules and lack of preparation for the ceremony itself, we postponed to a later date. I felt trust in Kitty and in the process. I was right to trust.
Changing the tattoo date gave me more time to engage fully in my personal work calling in and preparing for the changes I sought. The work was and continues to be incredibly meaningful to me, allowing me to root into practices that serve my magical intentions and to expand out into the ethers of mystical experience (even as I write this tale I am being visited by delicate hummingbirds stopping momentarily to perch on the tree nearest me, as if to say, “Yes! We are all connected in the beauty of your magical life!”). I could not have imagined when I initiated the ceremonial tattoo process the many riveting and lasting ways it would impact me.
The day of the ceremony I asked Kitty to first join me at a community ecstatic dance, which she graciously agreed to. Longing to raise energy prior to the work, I danced, mourned, cried, laughed, exalted. Again, I felt the portal of my intention had already opened, and my dance and connections I made that day were more synchronistic and powerful due to my already growing access to greater magical experience. We made a few more preparations then retreated to the chosen temple space to begin ceremony.
Every action was charged with intention and energy as Kitty and I readied the space, cleansing, consecrating, building altars, preparing her tattoo tools. Then the moment was upon us to cast the circle, ritually dedicating the room we were in as sacred space where we would be met by supportive energies to keep us safe and enhance the work we were doing. All felt aligned. We moved through the ceremony we prepared, which included honoring the directions and elements of Fire, Water, Earth, and Air, each of us speaking specific blessings or writings that we had prepared in the weeks prior, honoring specific deities, entities, and energies, and finally, the crafting and receiving of the tattoo itself. There were moments that felt trancelike, sublime. I barely noticed any pain during the tattooing. In truth, I feel indelibly marked not just by the tattoo art blazoned on my skin but more so by the powerful realization of my intentions and by becoming a markedly new being. This beautiful, remarkable, personal artwork upon my flesh welcomes the new incarnation of myself each day.
24 April 2019
It has now been over two years since I originally engaged in the ceremonial tattoo process. As I read my earlier assessment of this work, it that speaks to the powerful change that I experienced in response to my ceremonial tattoo work, I find myself in some ways not even recognizing the older aspects of myself because I have changed so much since this process began.
When I sought to increase my experience of magic in my life, a part of me made the request almost tongue-in-cheek, somewhat doubting that what I asked for was even possible. That part of me, the materialist, scientific, evidence-hounding part based in my logical brain, is almost unrecognizable to me today. That is not to say that I do not believe in or value scientifically determined data or that I have eschewed logic - my husband would assure you that I still tend to be intensely overly logical and analytical much of the time, much to his dismay! Simultaneously I have come to experience magic, messages, synchronicity, surprising events, portends, manifestations, and communication with other-than-human beings so much now that those experiences themselves now seem like data, supporting my earlier theory that more magic was possible in my life. I know it was, because now I experience it!
I have lived through so many “uncanny experiences” (these are code words for magic used by people who don’t believe in magic) since my magic-intending tattoo, that I can no longer deny the strong presence of magic in my life. The tattoo itself is a moving example. When planning the tattoo, as mentioned above, I named some of the animals that were strong influences in my life. I named numerous animals, and Kitty settled on a design that included a bear and a wolf (as you can see). I did not direct her toward that, she trusted how she was led to create the design. When the tattoo was applied to my arm, we could not help but notice the uncanny resemblance those two creatures had to two of my dogs, a rottweiler and a husky. This was not intended. Yet, both my dogs’ health began to decline significantly around the time we started the work. Stanley, my rottweiler, died in the spring close to the date the tattoo was applied to my skin. Though neither of us intended this correlation, when seeing the tattoo people who knew of Stanley’s passing assumed that it was a tattoo of him, a memorial. And so it was. It had not been intended be. Six months later Aleksie, my husky, also died.
Some might find it grim to think that my ceremonial tattoo became an impromptu and unintended memorial for my beloved pets. For me the unexpected synchronicity was shocking in a positive way. The understanding that somehow between us Kitty and I channeled knowing that these animals’ earthly transitions were so near was powerful. It reinforced the value of this work.
I did not envision that bringing more magic into my life would necessarily impact my professional work. I am a therapist, and while I have valued the role of ceremony in therapeutic work, I had never considered doing ceremony in the context of therapy magical in nature, simply a way to engage the deeper aspects of psyche. Within the first year of going through the ceremonial tattoo process my professional life took an unexpected turn. Numerous sources, my own clients, books I was reading, a friend and fellow therapist, all nudged me to learn more about a therapeutic modality that I had previously not given much consideration. It’s called Eye Movement Desensitization and Reprogramming, better known as EMDR. I invited my community to support me in affording the training, which they did. I created a personal fundraiser to cover my expenses, and my friends, family, and even strangers quickly and generously donated all I needed to pay for the training, travel, and other expenses. Magic? Maybe so! In January 2018 I underwent the training to practice EMDR and began using it in my work immediately.
EMDR is a well documented in evidence-based research literature as an effective therapy. It stands up to the test of scientific scrutiny very well. Interestingly, despite that, we genuinely don’t know exactly why or how EMDR works. The origin of EMDR therapy is also a little mysterious. The progenitor of the modality was a therapist and researcher who just happened to have a sudden and unexplainable relief in symptoms one day after noticing the play of light in trees above her, which caused her to rapidly move the focus of her eyes back and forth. (Sounds like magic, right?) She decided to investigate this through rigorous research standards. Her work eventually became EMDR as practiced today.
How is this relevant to my intention to have more magic in my life? Because bringing EMDR into my work has had magical results! In a short period of time the people working with me for therapy began having rapid and sometimes revolutionary improvements in symptoms, self-worth and self-concept, successful change in lifestyle, and even world view. While these are the kinds of outcomes that are concurrent with expectations for EMDR therapy, there is no way for the research literature to capture the magic of watching, before my own eyes, people release years of pain from trauma, make invaluable connections in their own minds about limiting beliefs and quickly be able to amend them to more supportive beliefs, and to find peace that was previously inaccessible to them. Magic, in many ways, is about transformation, which my work with EMDR now regularly puts right before my eyes. This development in my life fulfills my longing to experience more magic.
I can’t recount every wish asked for and granted, every insightful or prophetic dream (I have them with remarkable frequency now), every thunderous synchronicity so unlikely and benevolent that I cannot relegate them to the realm of coincidence. I can simply tell you that that is how my life is now, and prior to intending to bring more magic into my life, using the ceremonial tattoo as the ritual vehicle by which to make it happen, it was not. In fact, I could not have imagined it being like this prior to this work and the tattoo.
I am grateful at a soul level to Kitty Love for facilitating and executing this powerful work with me. Not only do I have a unique and lovely tattoo that often incites appreciation from those who see it, I also have a life changed in ways that I felt nervous even to dare to hope for.