Sunday, January 29, 2012

i carry you with me...





i carry your heart with me(i carry it in
my heart)i am never without it(anywhere
i go you go,my dear...


here is the deepest secret nobody knows
(here is the root of the root and the bud of the bud
and the sky of the sky of a tree called life;which grows
higher than soul can hope or mind can hide)
and this is the wonder that's keeping the stars apart

i carry your heart(i carry it in my heart)
e.e. cummings


Tattoos as a form of ritual and meaning are not a recent phenomena. The art of tattooing occurred even 5000 years ago. It is said that during the Crusades, Christians tattooed a cross on their hand or arm to ensure they would receive a proper Christian burial.

Bereavement or memorial tattoos using concrete or metaphoric images have become widely popular in the past several decades as adaptive mourning rituals. Grief rituals contain symbolic elements, presence of emotions, presence of spirituality, meta-awareness of performing rituals remembrance, and chosen others to participate in the ritual” (Gowensmith, 2000).
I've had several regular readers ask me to post more information about my back tattoo. The reason for my own tattooing is very intimate. I do it mindfully so that I may mark those profound experiences of suffering, love, and transfiguration. And also, to furrow those enduring connections to my beloved Dead deep in my being.
The above photo was taken last week at Red Rock Crossing in Sedona, Arizona by Tim Condron, an amazingly talented photographer. It says:

The soul still sings in the darkness telling of the beauty she found there; and daring us not to think that because she passed through such tortures of anguish, doubt, dread, and horror, as has been said, she ran any the more danger of being lost in the night.
Nay, in the darkness did she, rather, find herself.

--St. John, Dark Night of the Soul

There are two alchemical symbols at the bottom of this verbiage, one for brass and one for gold. They represent something Sant Keshavadas once said which rendered me speechless:

Go ahead, light your candles, burn your incense, ring your bells, and call out to G*d, but look out. Because G*d will come and He will put you on his anvil and He will fire up his forge, and He will beat you and beat you until He turns brass to pure gold.

For me, there were no two more meaningful proclamations about the dark night of soul that so many traumatically bereaved endure. From formlessness into the kiln, and from the kiln into transformation.

The tattoo was done by a local artist, Siva Om, and they contain the ashes of my dead child.

To some, this may seem macabre.

To me, it is pure love born of the fire. And now, everywhere I go,
"i carry ^her^ with me"


*********************

If you have a memorial tattoo, what does it mean for you?



6 comments:

redmama said...

Dr. Jo,
Your tattoos are stunning, both their appearance and their meaning. I was never a tattoo person until Shelby was taken from me. Now I have 2. My first I wear on the inner part of my right arm...a shell and a bee...her name in pictures. It makes me smile through the tears of missing her. My other is a broken heart on my chest...symbolizing my broken heart.
The e.e. cummings poem...Shelby had to memorize it when we homeschooled. It is so special to me...enough that it could be tattoo number 3.

Dr. Joanne Cacciatore said...

Thank you so very much for sharing that with me... and your precious Shelby. <3

Dr. Joanne Cacciatore said...

BTW redmama, I said to someone today:
"There is nothing more complete than a heart that is broken."

Your tattoo moves me.

Melanie said...

I have a tattoo of my daughter, Lily's, footprint from the inked one the lovely nurse at the hospital did for me when she was stillborn at 37 weeks.

And, fittingly, I have a large heart on the inside of my left ankle that has a smaller heart inside in parentheses. My sister drew this pictorial of the e.e. cummings poem I love so much. My sisters and I all got this Tatto together because we carry each others hearts just as they carry Lily's with me.

Finally, I have a water scene on my lower back. It represents my family in picture. There is a water lily for my Lily, three lily pads for my living boys, two groups of reeds for my sisters and a koi for luck. My Jake says that I am the water.

All of my tattoos are reminders that Lily is always with me...never forgotten.

Cynthia said...

Dear Joanne,
Thank you for your wonderful insight, I am amazed at how you see into my heart. Some days I feel that I am totally insane, then I read your blog and know I am not alone in my insanity.
My tattoos came about through my grief.
My tattoo above my heart is an Elmo with Seth written below. Seth loved Elmo and like Elmo, Seth is a "redheaded forever 3 year old". On my left wrist is a winged broken heart with Seth's name on it (my daughter got the same), my right arm is a full sleeve phoenix (strength, healing and endurance to rise above), on my left calf I have a baby elephant with a Monarch butterfly (we release Monarchs every August) and I got my left arm full sleeve with dragonflies and butterflies. On my left shoulder area is a yin-yang with a dragon & tiger (my going to battle). And when my battle is won I will have a tattoo for my (Seth's) bittersweet victory.
It will be a transformation tattoo, a koi dragon emerging from the top of the waterfalls....

Dr. Joanne Cacciatore said...

How wonderful and beautiful and touching and sad. Thank you so for sharing!

Becoming...

""""""""""""""""""""""""""""""""""""""""""""""""""""""""""""""""
The soul still sings in the darkness telling of the beauty she found there; and daring us not to think that because she passed through such tortures of anguish, doubt, dread, and horror, as has been said, she ran any the more danger of being lost in the night. Nay, in the darkness did she, rather, find herself.

--St. John, Dark Night of the Soul


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