Of plum blossoms and body ink

Several years ago when I finished writing my first novel I started a tradition: each time I finished a book, I would get a tattoo. Blue moon tattooThe first tattoo was my blue moon. This was for my novel Blood Maiden, and represents a carving on a dagger that one of the characters carried (though hers had a blood moon instead of a blue), as well as representing the (erroneous) popular definition of a blue moon as the second full moon in a calendar month.

In addition, it represents my connection with my mother, who died when I was 14. In college I chose "Blue Moon" as one of my performance pieces for voice class, and when I went out for dinner with my father for my 21st birthday, I happened to mention it as I was ordering my first-ever alcoholic beverage with Dad, my new favorite: a rum screwdriver. My father stared at me for a moment and said, "that was your mom's favorite drink," and then when I mentioned the song, "your mom sang that in college." Ever since then, the image of a blue moon made me feel connected to her, so the tattoo seemed fitting. I don't drink too many rum screwdrivers anymore, but the tattoo is forever. ;)

Isis knot tattooMy second novel was Anamnesis, and for reasons too complicated to explain, Isis and Kali became symbols of the divine feminine for me during the emotional upheaval of writing that manuscript. So for Anamnesis, I created my own version of a tyet or "Isis knot."

The two Sanskrit characters framing it represent the bija "seed sound" mantras for Agni (fire): hum, and Kali: krim. With these three symbols together, I was invoking the ultimate in kick-ass goddess protection. After a thwarted assault by a stranger while I was walking home from the BART station one day after work, I felt I was in need of it. It has stood me in good stead ever since.

In 2005, I finished my first draft of The Devil's Garden. At the time, I thought a matching tattoo for the tyet would be appropriate: the djed. These are the two symbols carved on the pillars of pharaohs' tombs. I came up with a design for it, but was never happy with it. I even received tattoo gift money for my birthday from two dear friends who insisted I go and get it. But I just couldn't seem to get motivated to rework the design until I was happy with it, and it languished in a folder of "things to do."

After finishing up the final line edits for TDG last night, I decided to do an image search for Belphagor from the Arkhangel'sk books to go along with the Vasily images I found recently. While browsing tattooed models, I came across a tattoo of plum blossoms, and suddenly it hit me: the plum blossom sprig is the perfect symbol for TDG. It's the symbolic proof of the divine that Ume (whose name means "plum" in Japanese) receives from the Meer—and not just a plum blossom sprig, but one covered in snow. Like the symbols in Anamnesis that I later discovered were common in Middle Eastern mythology and religion, this detail was something I thought I'd invented, and yet while searching for plum blossom imagery, I discovered the blossoms often do indeed bloom while still covered in snow.

While I work on the design for my new tattoo, I've been looking at pictures of plum blossoms on the Web. Here are a few of my favorites:

[gallery link="file" orderby="ID"]

Hmm. The WP gallery insists on including the two tattoo pictures in this display. When I take them out here it deletes them from above as well. Ah, well.