Spiritual Skin: Magical Tattoos and Scarification (Lars Krutak, 2012)


Spiritual Skin: MAGICAL TATTOOS AND SCARIFICATION. Wisdom. Healing. Shamanic Power.
Protection is a photographic masterwork in two parts exploring the secret world of magical tattooing
and scarification across the tribal world. Based on one decade of tattoo anthropologist Dr. Lars Krutak's
fieldwork among animistic and shamanic societies of Asia, Africa, the Americas, and Melanesia, Spiritual
Skin: MAGICAL TATTOOS AND SCARIFICATION journeys into highly sacred territory to reveal how
people utilize ritual body modification to enhance their access to the supernatural.

The first part delves into the ancient art of Thai tattooing or sak yant that is administered by holy monks
who harness the energy and power of the Buddha himself. Emblazoned with numerous images of
dramatically tattooed bodies, this chapter provides tattoo enthusiasts with a passport into the esoteric
world of sak yank symbols and their meanings. Also included is an in-depth study into the tattooing
worlds of the Amerindians. From Woodlands warriors to Amazonian shamans, tattoos were worn as
enchanted symbols embodied with tutelary and protective spirit power. The discussion of talismanic
tattooing is concluded with a detailed look at the individuals who created magical tattoos and the
various techniques they used. Krutak writes about many tribal tattoo designs permeated with various
forms of power and explains what these marks mean for the people who wear them.
Part two of Spiritual Skin: MAGICAL TATTOOS AND SCARIFICATION is an absolute must-read-and-
see for anyone seeking knowledge about the religious meanings of tribal scarification. The rituals,
techniques, and spiritual iconography of scarmasters in Benin (Bétamarribé), Papua New Guinea
(Kaningara), and Ethiopia (Hamar) expose a relatively undocumented world of permanent body
symbolism created through painful and bloody rites of self-sacrifice and restraint. Text in English & German.


Tattoo: Bodies, Art, and Exchange in the Pacific and the West - History of Tatooing (Eds. Thomas, Nicholas Cole, Anna Douglas, Bronwen; 2005)


The history of tattooing is shrouded in controversy. Citing the Polynesian derivation of the word “tattoo,” many scholars and tattoo enthusiasts have believed that the modern practice of tattooing originated in the Pacific, and specifically in the contacts between Captain Cook’s seamen and the Tahitians. Tattoodemonstrates that while the history of tattooing is far more complex than this, Pacific body arts have provided powerful stimuli to the West intermittently from the eighteenth century to the present day. The essays collected here document the extraordinary, intertwined histories of processes of cultural exchange and Pacific tattoo practices. Art historians, anthropologists, and scholars of Oceania provide a transcultural history of tattooing in and beyond the Pacific.

The contributors examine the contexts in which Pacific tattoos were “discovered” by Europeans, track the history of the tattooing of Europeans visiting the region, and look at how Pacific tattooing was absorbed, revalued, and often suppressed by agents of European colonization. They consider how European art has incorporated tattooing, and they explore contemporary manifestations of Pacific tattoo art, paying particular attention to the different trajectories of Samoan, Tahitian, and Maori tattooing and to the meaning of present-day appropriations of tribal tattoos. New research has uncovered a fascinating visual archive of centuries-old tattoo images, and this richly illustrated volume includes a number of those—many published here for the first time—alongside images of contemporary tattooing in Polynesia and Europe. Tattoo offers a tantalizing glimpse into the plethora of stories and cross-cultural encounters that lie between the blood on a sailor’s backside in the eighteenth century and the hammering of a Samoan tattoo tool in the twenty-first.

Contributors. Peter Brunt, Anna Cole, Anne D’Alleva, Bronwen Douglas, Elena Govor, Makiko Kuwahara, Sean Mallon, Linda Waimarie Nikora, Mohi Rua, Cyril Siorat, Ngahuia Te Awekotuku, Nicholas Thomas, Joanna White