Back to the tattoo shop. It was just getting dark when I arrived. I remember the last time I got a tattoo on a Saturday, my friend said, "Getting a tattoo...that's a pretty rock and roll thing to do on a Saturday night". Maybe so. The shop isn't busy...it's their slow time of the year, Miles (my tattoo artist) says. There's only a few people drifting in and waiting in the lobby with me. Miles calls me back, and it's time for the ritual to begin once again. Punk music plays on the stereo as Miles the Artist prepares his instruments and ink. Just the outline tonight, so black it is. There will be more black later, to be sure, plus other colors. I find strange comfort in knowing that there will be wings of darkness unfurled across my back soon. I take off my shirt...this is the first tattoo that has required me removing my shirt, and I'm a bit self-concious. I am in better shape of late, so I don't sweat it too much. The templates are placed, the area is cleaned and swabbed, and I sit down and get in position. The buzz of the needle is loud, but comforting in its familiarity. The needle bites down into my skin, bringing pain with art. Everything has its price...and it's appropriate, I think, considering the subject mater of my tattoo. The image being put into my skin is that of the Norse god Odin's ravens, Hugin and Munin. Odin was god of war, magic, poetry, and death. Odin was constantly searching for knowledge, and it always came with a price. He plucked out his own eye to gain wisdom from the enchanted well Mimir, and to learn the secret of the Runes, he impaled himself to Yggdrasil, the World Tree, with his own spear, Gungnir. He hung upside down for nine days and nights, without food or mead. He fell screaming into the darkness and seized the Runes, which gave him power and wisdom. His ravens flew out into the Nine Worlds each day to see what was happening, and would return each night and tell Odin what they saw. Their names mean Thought and Memory. As I sit and feel the pain of art, I think of the poem Grimnismal, where it is said:
Hugin and Munin, Thought and Memory,
fly over the world each day.
I fear for Thought, lest he come back not,
but I fear yet more for Memory.
I feel the same, Odin, I think to myself. Miles and I talk about the usual things as he works...music, horror movies, video games, etc. During times when the chat stops, I immerse myself in the process. It's alchemical and magical...the music, the smell of disinfectant, ink, and my blood, the buzz of the needle, the pain as the mystical images appear on my skin...a ritual I've done before and will do again. The pain is especially sharp up on my shoulders near my neck, as I suspected it woulld be, but it's not too bad...again, everything has a price. Eventually, the outline is done, and arrangements are made for the next session, where shading and coloring will take place, bringing the Ravens of Odin to life even more. I pay Miles his well-earned fee, and go out into the night. It's cold, and even though I'm wearing a tank top, I feel comfortable. It feels good, and appropriate. I listen to Manowar on the way back...again, appropriate. I roll the window down, the cold air, music, and stinging skin on my shoulders making their own alchemy as I drive through the night. I stop at Walgreens on the way home...lately, I seem to end up at Walgreens after a visit to the tattoo shop. While getting a tattoo may be a rock and roll way to spend a Saturday night, being at Walgreens doesn't feel so rock and roll. I consider stopping at a bar before going home, but change my mind. Besides, I have plenty to drink at home. I get what I need at Walgreens, and get home. I have some Captain Morgans and Diet Coke(hypogycemia's a bitch), and take another look at the beginning of my new artwork. My ravens may not go out and bring me back news and knowledge, but I feel good that they're there, watching my back.
"In the Hall of the Slain, Valkries and Heroes attend me,
Ravens and Wolves by my side, forever, they did befriend me"- Manowar