I went back and forth about this for a long time. There’s a lot less stigma around tattoos these days, but I’d be lying if I told you that I wasn’t worried about my tattoos drawing judgement from strangers or preventing me from getting future jobs. And, a tattoo on the arm is–well–not that discrete. Especially in Texas where long sleeves are appropriate about 3 and a half weeks out of the year.
The thing is, though, what the heck am I doing if I’m prevented from doing something I really want to do because I’m worried about what other people will think or say? In fact, my boss of all people said it best. In response to the statement “I’m just worried about future jobs and stuff…” he said “Well, maybe you shouldn’t be working for the kind of people who won’t accept you with tattoos.”
I hope he meant it…because today I showed up with one big a** tattoo.
A beautiful one, though. And, one that I am completely and utterly in love with. I usually have “tattoo remorse” after I come back home with a pretty big piece. I stare at it constantly and analyze whether or not I’ll regret it when I’m 40 or 60. I wonder what my grandkids will think. This one? Not so. It really is a piece of art and I’m GLAD it’s not discrete.
I have Katja Ramirez at Perfection Tattoo here in Austin to thank for this one. I searched long and hard for an artist that I thought would really turn my pretty vague idea into something stunning, and by vague I mean I walked in and said “I need a deer, a wolf, and the cosmos.” She took it from there.
The deer and the wolf and two of my spirit animals, as I know them. I know, I know. I actually told that to an older gentleman today (he asked) and he called me a “fucking hippie.” In a nice way, if that’s possible. The whole concept of spirit animals is kind of…uncharted, I guess would be the word. There’s no definitive way of discovering what yours are; it’s mostly animals that you’ve had a strong connection with since childhood, or animals that show up frequently in your dreams, or there’s even a few psychics and clairvoyants who can read them for you. For me, it was a combination the first two. But, on top of having a spiritual connection with them, the deer and the wolf are powerful symbols on their own that both have a very special meaning to me.
Deer symbolize the powers in nature that are not easily subdued. They are native to every continent except Australia, thus they are able to adapt very well to many habitats. They represent instinctual energy, independence, and regeneration…This instinctual energy that deer represent tells us to trust our gut reactions, because those instincts will tell us when to fight or flee.
Deer also symbolizes the gentle, enticing lure of new adventures…But there is also a cautious element to deer. Their antlers grow behind the eyes and offer protection…
Deer has many sides—deer is powerful and feisty, cautious, adventurous, and protective. But deer has great individuality, calling for people to trust their instincts and trust themselves.
The deer, I feel is my “full-time” spirit animal. The animal that I am most like spiritually. Gentle, a symbol of unconditional love. They are a symbol, as mentioned above, of independence and the lure of new adventures, a lure that has had its hook in me since it was in my power to seek out adventure on my own. And, protective, looking out for those they love. I feel that I will always have that spirit of the deer in me.
[Wolves] are seen as teachers, instructing us in our daily lives and all the troubles that go with them. The lessons wolf teaches are not always easy to swallow, but nevertheless necessary. Wolf is a symbol of guardianship, ritual, loyalty, and spirit. Wolf has the ability to make quick and firm emotional attachments, and often need to trust their own instincts. Thus they teach us to do the same, to trust our hearts and minds, and have control over our own lives.
Unlike the deer, the wolf shows up in my life only sometimes. Mostly (and by mostly I mean exclusively) in dreams. Without fail I will dream of a wolf when I am having a hard time listening to my heart and intuition, often when I’m facing a difficult time or life-altering decision. Why, then, do I have one immortalized on my skin? A constant reminder. To listen to my heart and intuition at all times. It’s the one thing in life that I constantly struggle with, with the exception of my ongoing sugar addiction, but I’ve pretty much given up on curing that.
The placement is symbolic too. The deer appears on the front of my arm, always visible when I look at my reflection. The wolf is near the back, not readily visible to me but there when I need him.
The cosmos are the third symbol in the tattoo. They’re a simpler symbol to me, just symbolizing my growing interest and understanding of the universe as a whole and all the dimensions in it, including the spirit world. Like I said, I have a hard time trusting intuition, and therefore have a hard time giving myself completely to a belief in the spirit world at times. Though I’ve always known and believed that it exists, the extent and focus of my beliefs fluctuate dramatically. The cosmos are less of a reminder and ongoing lesson, and more of a marker of my mindset at this point in time.
If you’re interested in more information about spirit animals and symbolism, there are three really great books that I highly recommend: