Friday, September 28, 2007

Aslan Tattoo

"Who is Aslan?" asked Susan.
"Aslan?" said Mr Beaver. "Why, don't you know? He's the King. He's the Lord of the whole wood, but not often here, you understand. Never in my time or my father's time. But the word has reached us that he has come back. He is in Narnia at this moment...

I'll admit it, I've been putting off writing this post. Not because I'm ashamed (I'm not) but because I don't know what my parents will think. Some of you might pointedly ask me how old I am. (I'm 30) Some of you may even make jokes about a full grown adult still being afraid of his parents. But that's not it, not exactly. The thing is, I respect my parents and I care deeply about what my parents think, and this is one of the few places where I am forced to say that my thought probably differs from both my mother and my father. But honestly, they both brought me up to be a critical thinker and I know they still love and respect me even when I end up in a different place than they are.

Over a year ago, I wrote a post about how I was considering getting a tattoo of Aslan on my left shoulder. I'd been considering a tattoo for many years, since my early days of college, but I clearly remember my brother an I talking about tattoos in front of my mother. Mom's reaction to the idea was not favorable. I'm very close to my Mom, and her opinion matters.

However, after much soul searching, praying, and consideration, I decided to go through with it. My opinion concerning other people's tattoos has for a long time been that they should be absolutely sure that the image they choose is something they are willing to have on their body forever. I think something that's going to be perminant should have a great deal of meaning to you. And I think the placement of the tattoo be someplace appropriate to your profession. (For example, a lawyer probably shouldn't get a tattoo on their face. Circus performers can, if they really want to.)

I was inspired by the artwork on the cover of my copy of the collected Chronicles of Narnia, by C.S. Lewis. As most of you know, Lewis' classic work has deeply influenced me over the years. The titular Lion, Aslan, is a vibrant characterization of the Christ as He would appear if there were a world of talking animals such as is found in Beatrix Potter or Kenneth Grahame. Just like Potter and Grahame, Aslan is a part of my childhood. Aslan is a part of my first thundering epiphany ("You know those books are about the Gospel, right?"). Aslan represents my first struggles with anything resembling an organized theology. Aslan is tied up in one of my first projects in my first full time position as an ordained minister, and one that was very successful. Aslan is a concrete example of how popular culture and faith do not have to be separate, which has always been a mainstay of my personal theology.

Once I'd made my decision, I asked one of my parishioners where she got her tattoo done, and she referred me to the good folks at Sleepy Hallow Tattoo. I e-mailed them, explaining who I was and what I wanted done and included the picture you see at the top of this post. I was excited by the response, which showed me that they not only understood what I was looking for, but also that they knew who Aslan was in all his complexity! So I made the fateful appointment...

When my wife dropped me off the day I got it done, I found a framed page from a tattoo magazine on their wall that put into words something that I hadn't been able to yet. It was a quote from a famous tattoo artist called Spider Webb.
“Tattooing when understood in its entirety must be seen as a religious act. The human being brings forth images from the center of the self and communicates them to the world. Fantasy is embodied in reality and the person is made whole.”

Here, in plain English, was what I was feeling about the process as I was in the midst of it! I found the fact that the folk at Sleepy Hallow had it up on their wall very encouraging.

I was further encouraged by the drawing Brandon had done for the design of my tattoo.

I had the whole thing done in a single sitting, but it did go on for hours. Luckily they had a little DVD player for me to watch. I brought in the multidisk set of The Lion, The Witch, and The Wardrobe, of course. I got all the way through the movie and most of the way through a full length film of Lewis' life before we were done. Yes, it did hurt, but it wasn't unbearable. Some parts of my shoulder hurt more than others. Afterwords it felt very much like a bad sunburn.

But it looked like this!

I was sent home in a gauze bandage that carefully came off in the shower the next morning. I washed the tattoo and put on anti-bacterial ointment three to five times a day, and after a few days (I forgot to count, sorry!) the top layer or two of skin peeled, again, like a sunburn.

Click the picture to make it big enough to see how it looked like the tattoo was coming off! And it was really hard not to pick at it!

Eventually it stopped hurting and stopped pealing, just like a sunburn. Can you tell that I've been sunburned enough to know? Anyway, it's all healed up just fine now, and I think it looks pretty good!

So, Aslan stays perfectly hidden away, even under a short-sleaved shirt. He's not a secret, but he's not out where people could potentially be offended by him. And he's beautiful. And I'm happy to have him. And even though he's not what my parents would have wished for me, I hope that they can be happy for me, too.

Honor thy Father and Mother,
Rev. Josh


Bishop Anthony D. Kopka said...

Hey Josh, interesting reading!!
Was trying to find out what D&D
meant on blogs . . . ended up HERE!
Anthony (at St. Joseph's)

Rev. Josh said...

The only meaning I know for D&D is Dungeons & Dragons, the RPG (Role Playing Game).

I hope that helps!


Elizabeth said...

Go to Red Leggings and see the new video under "Dove Rocks".

You won't be disappointed!! :)


Ben Nuttall said...

Hey Josh. Really great read! I share your admiration of C.S. Lewis and I adore Aslan too. If I was going to get a tattoo (which I very much doubt) I would have to think long long long and hard and it would have to be something very very meaningful to me, something I wouldn't look back on ever and always be personally proud of.

Yours looks great! That photo where it looks like it's peeling off is scary lol


Rev. Josh said...

Thank you for your kind comment! I clicked on your profile and discovered that you're in the UK? However did you find my blog? Looking for tattoos?


Ben Nuttall said...

Hi Josh,

Thanks for the reply. Always nice to know that the person you leave a message for actually reads it. You never know whether blogs are left redundant or not.

I was looking for a good picture of Aslan to put as the opening picture in my latest parkour video (lol) and I think I came across someone else's blog, a post about an aslan tattoo which mentioned and linked to this post about your tattoo. I commented on both.

Check out the aforementioned video which starts with Aslan in my latest post on my blog!


Best wishes,


Ken said...

Wow, what a struggle. For me, the jury's still out about tattoos, but yours looks pretty cool.