49 Degrees: Canadian Pagan Perspectives

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Sacred Ink

On the weekend of Vancouver Pagan Pride, one of my tradition sisters offered to touch up my new sacred tattoo that I had received about six weeks prior.  "It's really great for someone who was new, and her lines are excellent," she said, "but it's fading a little already and I want to dress it up a little, if that's okay with you."

My spirit-sister Jennica had done the tattoo - a triple moon with a blue pentagram in the center of the full one - in a cast circle as part of sacred ceremony.  It was my first tattoo ever and that meant a lot to me.  I had insisted upon this because I had been told the story of how my initiator Lord Redleaf had received the Green Man tattoo on his chest as part of ritual in a cast circle and it moved me.  I told my trad sister Amity Loyce this and let her know that it was very important to me that it remain sacred, and still done in a cast circle and empowered.  "Sure, that's fine," she said with a nod.  "I don't have any problems doing that!  I always wanted to tattoo in a cast circle . . ."

The next thing we knew, we had a tattoo party planned for the following evening.  Amity and her partner Mick would come over to the place I was staying at and we would cast circle and do the tattoo as part of ritual.  Furthermore, my husband and Priest Erin Righ, and my lover and Priest Redleaf, decided that they would get matching tattoos representing their 3rd Degree in our tradition, Star Sapphire Wicca, representing the degree and the Horned God.  Redleaf's wife and Priestess Dolphanie would conduct the ceremony on our behalf.

By the following evening through Facebook messages the gentlemen had decided on their tattoo; a stylized tribal stag, with the 3rd Degree pentacle in blue.  And I had decided to fill out some color on my Triple Moons and add the triangles for the Four Elements.  They even called the other currently-active 3rd Degree Priest in our tradition, Lord Lunarwolf, and told him that getting the tattoo was going to be a requirement of our 3rd Degree Priests.  He was actually quite enthusiastic about it.


Lady Dolphanie, in the full glory of her many years as a High Priestess of the Star, directed us as to the organization of the altar, the set up of what Amity would need for her work station, and how we would proceed with the rite.  It was a very neat experience to once again be taking directions from someone in a circle rather than giving them.  It was decided that I would go first because even though mine was technically a touch-up, mine was also the most complicated in terms of color and procedure.  The altar was set in the north and a chair for the one receiving the tattoo was set in the center of the circle, with the work station nearby.  We fasted before the ritual to prepare our bodies and receive the full effect of the changing of our consciousness.

Lady Dolphanie cast the circle and called the Quarters.  We evoked deity through chanting.  She blessed and consecrated the workspace, the tattoo gun, and all the inks. I placed my Moon Crown upon my head and the work began.  While the inks were being prepared we chanted "Earth My Body."  While the Earth Triangle was being tattooed we chanted "The Earth is Our Mother."  I found this to be considerably more painful than my first experience with being tattooed (I was told because the needle was probably deeper) and concentrating on the chanting while the gun was working was probably among the more difficult challenges of magickal focus that I have faced.  It doubled again when the Air Triangle was drawn because that was almost right over my right shoulder blade and there's very little meat there.  I led the chant of "Spirit of the Wind" through gritted teeth.  When the Fire Triangle was drawn we chanted "Rise with the Fire," and when the Water Triangle was made we chanted "We All Come from the Goddess" as a water-based chant.

Returning then, appropriately, to the center and the Triple Moons, we sang the "Triple Goddess Chant," also known as "Silver Shining Wheel" while the three moons were being gone over.  When the pentacle was recast, we sang, "Circle Gate."  And when the two moons on the sides were colored with purple and some white spirals were added to the full moon, we sang "Nisa Nisa," which is one of the songs of our tradition.

All the while I focused on the intent of the tattoo, empowering each bit with the magick and energy that was symbolized, and my dedication to the Goddess, my tradition and the Craft.

When it was done, I left the chair buzzing with energy.  We took a short break while Amity set up for the tattoos for the gentlemen.

Redleaf (Jamie Field) went next because he had to work the following day.  I put a leather mask on him of Herne that I had acquired from Pagan Pride Day as a way of letting my husband wear a Horned Crown when horns would be awkward.  Then we proceeded to chant and sing every Herne song we knew as the tattoo was drawn, including one of our tradition chants and Tamarra James' famous piece.  Things got quite intense and at one point we were deer-calling "HEEERRRRNNNNNEEEE!" while Redleaf grunted, "Herne, Herne" repeatedly in his deep baritone.  When it was finished, Erin took his place on the chair with the mask, and we repeated the process.

By this time it was well past eleven and we were toning things down a bit for the apartment building, chanting and singing and shaking rattles rather than drumming loudly and intensely.  But I believe the energy we built was suited to the sacred task, and we finished the ceremony triumphantly.  There was no need for offering; we had already made the offering of our bodies.  There was no need for Great Rite; we had already done something intensely physical by way of ritual.  Lady Dolphanie (Sherryl Verge) opened the circle and we inhaled what food we could, exhausted by the fast, the pain, and the expenditure of magickal and physical energy.

All in all, we had been working and chanting for four and a half hours.  We complimented Amity's stamina, but she said that unlike usual, she had hardly noticed the time and the effort.  Rather, she felt a little like she was flying.  I took this as a sign of good ritual and magick properly channeled, and we said goodbye with our slightly-hoarse voices, pleased with the night's work and the achievement of the goal.

Last week I was in a Taco-time drive-thru and the lady at the till remarked on the beauty of my tattoo.  "Are you a Pagan?" I asked.  And she was.  So I told her when Okanagan Pagan Pride would be and gave her my card, so that I could connect another isolated group of Pagans looking for community.  And that's a part of what the tattoo is for.

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Sable Aradia (Diane Morrison) has been a traditional witch most of her life, and she is a licensed Wiccan minister and a Third Degree initiate in the Star Sapphire and Pagans for Peace traditions. Author of "The Witch's Eight Paths of Power" (Red Wheel/Weiser 2014) and contributor to "Pagan Consent Culture" and "The Pagan Leadership Anthology," she also writes "Between the Shadows" at Patheos' Pagan channel and contributes to Gods & Radicals. Sable is just breaking out as a speculative fiction writer under her legal name, and a new serial, the Wyrd West Chronicles, will be released on the Spring Equinox this year. Like most writers, she does a lot of other things to help pay the bills, including music, Etsy crafts, and working part time at a bookstore. She lives in Vernon, BC, Canada with her two life partners and her furbabies in a cabin on the edge of the woods.


  • Rebecca Buchanan
    Rebecca Buchanan Wednesday, 21 August 2013

    *This* is awesome. Sacred tattoos done during ritual are a wonderful idea. :) I'll have to keep this in mind for my next tattoo in honor of Hermes. :)

  • Jamie
    Jamie Thursday, 22 August 2013

    They're very nicely done! Thanks for sharing.

  • Gwion Raven
    Gwion Raven Wednesday, 28 January 2015

    Hello Sable,

    A lovely piece on sacred tattooing. As you've mentioned, you and I have a lot of similarities. I'm looking forward to learning more about you and your practices thrugh your writing(s).

    Best to you -


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