Pagan Paths

It’s a common thing to hear that there’s a difference between our magical lives and our mundane lives. In reality, we have the ability to step into ritual and devotion each and every day.

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Tattooed Pagans - A ritual in ink

The time for preparation is over. I have eaten. I have stripped down and am bare from the waist up. I have been washed. I have been shaved. I have stepped into the circle I have cast and taken my seat. I've sent words to the gods that I' d like protection and ease and fortitude of mind and body. This ritual is a test. This is my journey to make alone.

Then the buzzing starts. "Are you ready?" I'm asked. I nod and I feel the first sting of the needle as it pierces my skin. Long strokes up and down my spine. The weight of another's arm on my back holding me in place. The concurrent thoughts of "What the hell am I doing?" and "Oh I've waited so long for this, I can't believe it's finally happening". 

There is pain, plenty of that. It's not terrible. I can deal with it. Some places are worse than others though. Mostly, it's just relentless. It doesn't subside. There's no easing to it. Just a constant scratching. I look at the floor. I'm seeing designs that might not really be there. The music is pounding in my ears. Drums, lots of drums. I am transported to a huge bonfire deep in the redwoods. I'm dancing. He's dancing with me. Many of us are dancing. This image is what I hold onto when the pain gets more intense. The needles feel like they are piercing me from the inside out and the buzzing never stops.

For almost six hours it is like this and then it is over. I've made it through the rite. I am changed from the inside out. I am marked for all to see...


That's how I remember getting my back tattooed. It wasn't my first tattoo. It wasn't my last. But it was the first one that I got in sacred space. My tattooer is an incredible artist of the ink and flesh and he understands what the power and consequences are of having a god tattooed into your flesh. He knows the magic I'm weaving. He's familiar with the songs I'm singing. He's walked his own road and I imagine he's met the old grey traveler a time or two himself.

Many Pagans I know are tattooed. It must have something to do with being an outcast or the willingness to mark oneself as permanently different. I hear phrases like "I consecrated myself to Thor" or "I'm dedicated to Brigid" or "I got this pentacle tattooed on me after I called myself a Witch for the first time". All tattoos have a story even if that story is "I said to my friend, we've finished the bottle of wine, we can either make out or get tattoos. Waddya think?"

I don't take my tattoos lightly. All of mine have some special meaning and I've had the pleasure and fortune to be tattooed by folks that understand the imagery and intention behind my tattoos. There's the Cernunnos type figure on my back. The goddess Ceridwen on my calf. Huginn and Muninn on my chest. Healing Buddha on my other calf. The homage to my Romany heritage and, my first tattoo, the dragon and the sword.

When possible, I've been tattooed by Pagans and Heathens or folks that will treat the session as the sacred act it is. Most good tattooers value that this art form has been practiced for many thousands of years. Excellent tattooers can tell you the history of their craft, both ancient and modern. The very best know that there's something deep, profound and Otherworldly about tattooing and being tattooed.


 (2500 year old Siberian tattoos)

I often ask for people to share their thoughts on the rituals I write about. I'd love to see pictures of your Pagan inspired tattoos and hear the stories of why you felt so compelled to wear that particular image on your body.

I appreciate great tattoos and great tattooers. Here are some places and artists I recommend being tattooed by - 

  • Adam Lunoe - Splendid Ink - World traveler currently in Sonoma


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I've been a practicing witch and ritualist within the Reclaiming Tradition since 2003. I love being in service with this community of witches and world changers.   My own practice, my own way of changing the world is through devotional practice. It's my belief that we can re-enchant our lives by re-framing the so-called "mundane" as sacred and divine. By imbuing the familiar with a sense of wonder and infusing daily life with acts of magic, we choose to consciously make all of life devotion. Whether we engage in large, public rituals or sink sumptuously into the pure ecstasy of eating a delicious meal by ourselves or meditating at sunrise, our daily rituals can draw us back into harmony with the world and each other.  


  • Peggy Frye
    Peggy Frye Wednesday, 19 November 2014

    I've several Celtic tattoos - crows and hounds (stylized) and now I have two half sleeves depicting The Morrigan and Cu Chulainn - I have always been drawn to The Morrigan and hounds. I got my first tattoo at 55 and now in my 60's just finished my sleeves. Every inking was a profound experience for me.

  • Gwion Raven
    Gwion Raven Wednesday, 19 November 2014

    Hello Peggy,

    Half sleeves depicting The Morrighan and Cu Chulainn - Now that's commitment! I'd love to see them!


  • Peggy Frye
    Peggy Frye Wednesday, 19 November 2014

    Any way to post a picture here?

  • David LeBarron
    David LeBarron Wednesday, 19 November 2014

    I just got an addition to an old tattoo. I added some sacred geometry, smoke and pentagrams. The best part was the tattooist is also a witch and we really bonded. He was free hand drawing the smoke rising and kept erasing it over and over so finally I took a deep breath and called up my magick and he smiled and opened himself up and trance like created an AWESOME design. I don't see how to put picture inhere but it's really cool. I love it.

  • Gwion Raven
    Gwion Raven Wednesday, 19 November 2014

    Hello David,

    Now that's a great story. I'd happily send you my email address if you'd like and you can email a picture to me. I'll post it in here if I'm able.


  • David LeBarron
    David LeBarron Wednesday, 19 November 2014


  • Gwion Raven
    Gwion Raven Wednesday, 19 November 2014 or you can post it over at the Witches and Pagans face book page if you like. There are now hundreds of tattoo pictures gracing the page!

  • Sable Aradia
    Sable Aradia Tuesday, 27 January 2015

    Hi there Gwion! Thanks for reading my Altars post. I read yours too (nice piece, btw,) and then I saw you had a link to a Tattoos post, so I checked that out too. Sounds like you and I might have a lot to chat about: seems we share similar opinions on devotional practices. I'll keep watching your writing now!

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