karly Ryan

Body Art : Exploring Tattoos

karly Ryan
Body Art : Exploring Tattoos

In Samoan cultures, being tattooed shows that you are ready for life, for adulthood and to be of service to your community. It is a right of passage and talisman of your family, your culture, and the gifts you have to give to the world...

The word tattoo has two meanings... one is the ancient Samoan word  “tatau” meaning 'open wound'. The second is the British word "tattoo" meaning a rhythmic tapping or drumming to call soldiers back to their quarters.

Tattoos are both of these definitions. It is in fact, an open wound, piercing the skin and trapping ink below the epidermis layer, so that when a new layer of skin grows, it protects the fresh ink. Often these wounds are messages and memories we wish to remind our selves of....may it be a word of encouragement, a place we miss, a person we have lost, a moment we wish to have on our skin forever. Tattoos are ways to celebrate both the magnificent and the mundane. 

So too, tattoos can act as a cosmic drumming back to ourselves. Some tattoo techniques, such as stick-and-poke, are very rhythmic, and can feel almost like a sharp tickle. They are small reminders to dance to the beat of our own unique and authentic drum.

I often hear people say that the reason they don't have tattoos is because there is nothing that is so important to them that they would have it on their bodies forever. Before you get a tattoo, they seem to hold an almost unrealistic power....tattoos are simply reminders of who we were, who we are, and who we are becoming. 

My journey with my tattoos has been joyous and one of kismet surprises. Read more below on the story and meaning of each of my (8) tattoos! 

1st tattoo : Celtic Clover

I was 18, going with my friend to get her tattoo purely as moral support. She had a freak out moment and wouldn't go unless I went first...as the true Aries I am, I bravely and quickly sat in the tattoo chair, ready for my first ink. I have always loved my Irish heritage and wanted to get something to honor my ancestors. It has brought me much luck, abundance, and prosperity. 

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2nd tattoo: Satya - meaning "absolute truth" in Sanskirt

I came across the word Satya first when I went to Bali at the age of 23. Our guide for our trip was named Satya, and he helped me and my friend Kera, who were both in Bali healing broken hearts, to see the magic of love - through nature, family, and kindness and devotion. He held a special place in our hearts. It was not until 2 years later that the word "satya" surfaced again as I read a book on the yogic teachings of yamas. It is one of five yamas, the virtuous restraint from falsehood and distortion of reality in one's expressions and actions. I had struggled with speaking my truth for my whole life, and this idea of speaking and living by your authentic truth even and especially when it is painful or uncomfortable to share, struck me with such force. 

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3rd + 4th tattoos : Cresent Moon + Dots

I was in New York visiting friends. I spent one glorious day walking from cafe to cafe writing and dreaming and eating all the food. I have always loved the moon and the powerful presence She plays in my life. As I sat outside on the patio of a particularly adorable cafe, I was filled with the idea to get a tattoo, right then, on Thursday afternoon at 2pm. I googled tattoo parlor and the first one to pop up was "Half Moon Tattoo"....if that wasn't a sign, I don't know what is. I paid my bill and headed the short walk to the shop. On the way, and only a few doors down from the parlor, a girl standing outside was wearing a big crescent moon necklace, so large it hung almost down to her waist. I knew then the gods were in my favor. 

The three dots on my pinky represent my sister, brother, and I...always together in spirit if not in body. 

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5th tattoo: Savage

This tattoo is a warrior's war cry for me. It was a commitment to end old ways of thinking and acting and to remember that I am a savage in my own life...powerful, and in charge of my destiny. It is really a love letter to myself, that no one but myself shall decide what is best for my soul. I wrote "savage" in cursive facing me ( so it's upside down to others ) as a symbol of acknowledgment for my voice being the authentic compass in my life's journey...to trust my inner warrior.   


7th tattoo: Twin Flame dots

I got these two dots as an offering of absolute faith in my future soul partner. I knew I had to hold BIG space for a partner that matched me in every way...emotionally, spiritually, physically, cosmically, playfully. The two dots at the time represented me and my future mate, and wouldn't you know, he showed up shortly after, and, in his sweet and powerful intuitive way, asked me one day, as we laid on the grass at the farmer's market, if these dots were for me and my twin flame...and how right he was. 

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7th tattoo: Sunflower

A simple sunflower, tattooed on a whim on a beautiful sunny day, with my love. It is his favorite flower, and I am his..so he got a rose on his arm. We're becoming quite the little gardeners. 


8th tattoo: Deva - "Shining One" in Sanskrit

I came across this symbol and its meaning randomly one day. I later had a dream that my boyfriend got it tattooed on his back.  While in Brazil for his birthday, we got matching "shining one" symbols, to remember to always follow the light. 

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I'd love to hear from you!

Share below if you have tattoos or ones you wish to get in the future.