Friday, June 13, 2008

tattoo me

From the Smithsonian Magazine: "This blue bowl (c. 1300 B.C.), housed in the Rijksmuseum van Oudheden in Leiden, Amsterdam, features a musician tattooed with an image of the household deity Bes on her thigh."

Okay, remember when I was going to get a tattoo? Well, I have yet to get the tattoo I wrote about before. That will be next -- now we've decided that my tattoo will be in Latin, and the tattoo of imperatrix pulcherrima Africae occidentalis will be in Arabic (her great-grandfather was an Arabic scholar).

In the meantime, something else happened. It was in April, and filius imperatricis pulcherrimae Africae occidentalis et privignus meus was up in Yonkers with the pope (and several thousand other people). IPAO called me when she got out of class at Fordham and informed me she was going to get a tattoo whether I wanted to come or not. She was right, we had been dragging our feet on this. I got on the subway, we went to the Village, and signed ourselves up for tattoos.

We had already been thinking about this. IPAO wanted to get the words "Africa, Mother of Life" on her back in Kpelle, a language spoken in Liberia that has its own script. I had planned on a verse from the Psalms that haunted me ever since I had first read it in Latin:
Ad vesperum demorabitur fletus et ad matutinum laetitia. [Psalm 29]

In the evening weeping shall have place, and in the morning gladness. [Douay-Rheims version]

Weeping may tarry for the night,
but joy comes with the morning. [RSV, Psalm 30]
(Two notes: 1) It's not actually from the Vulgate, but from the translation from the Greek Septuagint. Jerome's Vulgate psalms never caught on, since people were used to singing the other version. 2) The numbering of the Psalms is different in English and Latin -- that's why it's Psalm 30 in the RSV.)

I downloaded a font that was more or less based on the caroline script, printed up the quote from Psalm 29, and gave it to the people in the tattoo parlor. They turned it into a fake tattoo and then the artist just did the real one over it. Despite what people say, it was not that painful, though I did feel nervous trying to sit still, afraid that I might sneeze and end up with a black line all down my arm. It healed quickly and now I have finally got my tattoo -- my first tattoo. There is still the wedding tattoo for my other arm... and the Chi Rho for the shoulder... and the line from the beatitudes in Syriac I want for my lower leg... and... and...


Garpu said...

Very nice! I've toyed with the idea of getting a tattoo, but I'm not sure what I want. Do history departments not care about tattoos? I can't think of *anyone* in my department who has a tattoo.

Liam said...

The history department will not know about the tattoo. I have to wear a sleeveless shirt or no shirt for it to show.

I know of at least one other tattoed medieval history grad student in my department.

crystal said...

You did it! Very nice :) I'd like to get one too but don't know if I ever will now that I'm the recluse .... I could cover up my scar.

Meg said...

Not a huge fan of the whole idea of tattoos, but "joy comes in the morning" -- brilliant choice of text!

Definitely something you can live with forever. :)

Jeff said...

Nice choice Liam, and professionally done. What inspired the 29th Psalm?

cowboyangel said...

Only an academic would get a tattoo that was ALL TEXT! Geez. What about some pretty pictures?!

Your tattoo trumps my earring for cool. You're kind of like a medievalist Tom Waits now. I'm proud to be your friend.

crystal said...

Happy father's day, Liam :)

Liam said...

Thanks, everyone!

Jeff-- to tell it briefly, I found these two line to be a beautifully expressed message of hope -- joy after the long night of the soul, etc.

William -- you mean Tom Waits isn't a medievalist?

Crystal -- thank you!

Marcus Aurelius said...

If you keep this up you are going to be covered in ink in ten years! Better to write these things on your heart with meditation, than on your skin with ink. (I must confess that I have do suffer the occasional chi-rho ink temptation, though I've thus far resisted it). Cool choice anyway. Cheers, +B