Can you give the gift of ink?

Witch tattoo by Alex Rhodes.

Witch tattoo by Alex Rhodes.

I’m currently working on a half-sleeve of my mum. It’s traditional in style, with a pagan witch as the focus, and it will have a tarot card on the underarm when finished. She turned 60 this year and so I wanted to give her, as one of her birthday presents, a tattoo of her on my body.

She’s been a pagan witch for 40 years and it’s a central part of her life and identity. Many of the life lessons I have picked up from her over the last 27 years are associated with her love of all things magical.

Photo by JustJodie Photography

Photo by JustJodie Photography

Photo by JustJodie Photography

Photo by JustJodie Photography

I was brought up to always believe in myself, believe in what I wanted to achieve, love my surroundings and those around me. The views of your parents definitely rub off on you and affect the rest of your life… they’ve got to be worth being the subject of a pretty awesome tattoo.

I’d mentioned to someone that as well as buying my mum lots of other birthday presents, the tattoo of her was her gift too. They just couldn’t get their head around the fact that I’d called it a ‘gift’. It’s on my body, so surely it’s for me?

It got me thinking, can we tattoo ourselves as a present for loved ones, or is it just a lame excuse to justify spending money on new tattoos?

The Queen of Pentacles

The Queen of Pentacles

I considered this further by imagining how I would feel in her situation. How would I react if a friend decided to dedicate one of their limbs to things that reminded them about me? Actually, I think I’d be pretty stoked. But I’d also be quite gutted to not see it as much as I would if it was on my own skin. So it can’t really be a present for me, can it?

When we’re in the tattooed world and we get tattooed frequently we can forget what a big deal the whole thing is. The pain, the money, the time. But we still go through it all, because we’re attracted to the whole process of what we’re putting ourselves through physically, emotionally and mentally. I realised these were the “gifts” I was trying to communicate, rather than the final physical image.

I seem to have been all about gifts recently, and recently wrote about my gratitude after taking away something very special from a tattoo convention. It wasn’t so much the physical present I was handed, but the feeling of strength and self-empowerment that had since aroused from my experience there.

The tattoo of my mum obviously wasn’t just for her – it was just as much for me. I can look at that image of her forever and that gives me some sort of happiness.

Maybe the gift can be for both of us. Maybe not all gifts need to be from one person, to one other. And maybe not all gifts are wrapped in a bow.

Mum 60 2

Words: Beccy Rimmer

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