Tricky Ink

For someone who was utterly oblivious to Loki’s claim on me, I sure have collected a lot of tattoos with him in mind over the years. As I’ve written before, my very first tattoo, a design I’d wanted since I was 6 years old, is what I’ve always called my Loki-fox. And the other foxes I’ve had inked on my flesh are all nods to Loki, always have been. Even the placement of my valknut tattoo is always described as having been selected thanks to a dark streak of Lokian humor. I may not have given him credit for being my main man all these years, but I’ve certainly dedicated a lot of skin to permanent tributes to Himself.

Let’s delve into a topic my mom isn’t too thrilled about: my collection of ink.

This ought to be interesting. I’ve no idea if my mom even reads this blog so this will be a surefire way to find out. She knows about almost all of my tattoos. Let’s see if I get any angry texts from her after I write about the one she doesn’t know about yet. Mwahaha. Haha. Heh.

I’ve always had a love affair with tattoos. I’m a very visual person, the kind whose journals are half writing, half pasted pictures. There are certain images that are repeated in every journal I keep, and these images are usually the ones I get inked. It’s a way of keeping those images with me at all times. They’re important to me. I often joke that one of these days I’m going to get something that’s just a pretty design so that I don’t launch into a whole big story about why I got it. Granted, my Ghostbusters tattoo is pretty self explanatory. Which I’m sure is a relief to folks since it’s the only one that’s visible when I’m clothed. It’s on my right deltoid, the logo placed like the patch on the boys’ jumpsuits. So I can’t go anywhere in the summer without someone commenting on it, which I love because it makes a lot of people smile and shout “Who you gonna call?” I’ve even been serenaded with the theme song, which has inspired more than one impromptu dance party in the middle of the grocery store. I geek out from the joy such a silly bit of ink brings people. My mom’s still not stoked about the tattoo, but she’s seen how happy it makes people, and how much it makes me smile.

One of my favorite moments with that tattoo happened at work, when I was wearing a short sleeved shirt. One of my colleagues was talking to a client, and the client had a young son, maybe 5 or 6. He saw the Ecto-1 wallpaper on my computer and started trying to get his mom’s attention, he was so excited about the Ghostbusters car. I caught his eye, put my finger to my lips like I was going to let him in on a secret, and lifted my sleeve. His eyes damn near popped out of his head, his face shining. Then he really lost his mind. “Mom! MOM! That lady’s a GHOSTBUSTER!” I winked at him and scuttled away, giddy that the next generation of Ghostgeeks was already strong.

So we all know about the OG piece, my Loki-fox. The one from the title page of “Norwegian Folktales,” when I had my first tattoo fight with my mom as a child. Mom doesn’t hate tattoos, she really likes the ones my friends have, but she doesn’t like the idea of my skin being all marked up. She was none too thrilled to see that Loki-fox smirking at her from my back on a visit home from college. “NO MORE TATTOOS,” she said. Mmkay.

I waited until I was 30 before I got another one. I’d been working with Freyja and Odhinn since I was 18, and I started wearing a valknut when I was 21. There’s a bit of superstition regarding the knot of the slain; historically, it’s a symbol that marked sacrifices to Odhinn. Wearing a valknut is essentially saying “today is a good day to die.” To have one tattooed on you? That’s just taunting the valkyries, goading them to “insert spear here.” So yes, I took my time with Odhinn before I’d even consider wearing his pendant. I waited even longer to get it tattooed. Nine years, to be exact. An appropriate number, no? On my 30th birthday, I had it inked on my abdomen (and cue jokes for the abdominal issues I’ve had the last few years). Its placement is very precise, which is where the Lokian humor comes into play: 2 inches to the left and 3 inches above my navel. The exact spot an embalmer inserts the trocar for cavity aspiration and cavity treatment. The trocar is a long metal tube with an incredibly sharp tip and it’s sometimes referred to as “the embalmer’s sword.” I, however, think it looks more like a spear.

Get it? Insert spear here? I have a valknut as a trocar target! I crack myself up.

“No more tattoos!”

“‘Kay.”

Next up is my beloved plague doctor, accompanied by crows and a gorgeous fox that my beloved artist freehanded. My artist is one of my best friends, and he’s the one responsible for all of my ink. My mom adores him, except when I come by with a new bit of work done. So I trust him fully to work on me without a stencil, and I’ve never been disappointed. My plague doc and his tricky fox friend are on my left side, extending from the bra band area down onto my hip, with the crows curling around towards my back. On the right ribs, the same height as my beaked beauty, stands Anubis. He’s the anomaly of my collection, the only one that doesn’t have some Lokian flair. He’s the patron god of embalmbers, which is why I keep him at my side.

I have a bindrune for “fox” branded on my right hip, surrounded by a tattoo of the Helm of Awe. Fox fox fox. Never enough foxes for me. I think this is a good part of why my friends all assumed I’ve been a long time Lokian. I guess I was. I just didn’t realize it.

“Seriously, stop with the tattoos. You have enough.”

“Sure.”

There’s a heart stabbed through with 3 swords on my left thigh, reminiscent of the 3 of Swords in tarot, because I’ve faced a lot of tribulation and chaos in life, but my heart’s still beating strong. People have tried to cut me down time and time again, but I still have a lot of fight left in me. So there.

There’s a tiny green line on my lower abdomen, just below my navel. That one’s a bit of Lokian humor: you know how rescue groups tattoo a little green line on animals that have been spayed? I had a hysterectomy last year. So I got a tattoo to match the one my cats have: we’ve all been spayed, and we all have matching ink to commemorate it. My mom doesn’t think it’s funny, but my cats’ vet thinks it’s hysterical.

“NO MORE, STOP! YOU’RE DONE!”

“Debatable.”

Now. This is the part that’s going to get me in trouble with Mom if she reads this blog. We’re planning a trip to Iceland next year, so she’s going to find out anyway since, you know, swimsuits in the geothermal spas. This is one I won’t be able to hide. It’s also one of my favorites, and good god is there a bit of trickery involved with this one. This story, it’s hilarious.

It’s Loki Himself. He’s doubled over in laughter on my right thigh, his cloak morphing into a fox’s face, with another fox at his feet.

To recap: my artist, B, is one of my favorite people in the world. He’s brilliant and funny and talented and just all around awesome. First session of the Loki tattoo was normal, an enjoyable afternoon spent with good friends friends and good music. Round 2…well, that’s where some fuckery happened. B works himself too hard, never rests, and he was a bit out of it the day I went to get some color done. At some point in the afternoon, he kind of went quiet and zoned out while working. I was chatting with other people in the shop, so I wasn’t paying too much attention. So Loki, that perverted little twerp, saw his opportunity to jump in for few minutes. He was quick, he was subtle, and he was gone before anyone noticed what was going on. B started talking again, joined back in the conversation, and all was good.

Later that night, when I was washing the tattoo, I paused. Squinted. Took a picture so I could see it right side up, to verify that the angle wasn’t playing tricks on me. And then I started laughing so hard I was wheezing. I texted the pic to B and asked him if the added detail in the belt was intentional. He panicked because he’d never fuck with me. That just made me laugh even harder. I only wish I had filmed his reaction when he got to see it in person. I’ve never seen him look so confused and freaked out. “What the hell?” he said as he leaned closer to examine the belt. “How did he that even happen? You know I’d never do that.”

“I know, you didn’t. This is pure Loki, dude. You zoned out, he took his chance, and voila.”

“I’ll fix it!”

“Don’t! It’s hilarious. It’s his contribution, we’re not fixing anything!”

The belt isn’t a plain belt. It’s… oddly shaped. With extra lines that aren’t in the source art. It’s subtle. I’ve shown it to lots of people, and most people don’t see anything weird, they just see a belt. But people who are familiar with Loki… they see it. To trickster types, well, the belt is pretty damn phallic. Unmistakably so.

Thanks, Loki. Freaking twerp. At least now I know why he’s doubled over in laughter! Poor B, I think he’s a little traumatized about it. His attention to detail is extraordinary, so the idea that such a strange alteration would suddenly appear in a tattoo he worked on has got to be beyond unnerving. Or maybe he’s just freaked out that he was jumped when his guard was down. I feel bad that he was so weirded out, but it just makes the tattoo all the more awesome to me. The Mischief Maker just had to have some input, as it were.

So that’s my art collection. My tattoos tell a story, and then some. I’m a walking journal, covered in the images that matter most to me (with a few bits of humor thrown in for good measure). I love the way I look with my tattoos, they make me love my body and give me confidence. As an embalmer, I always loved seeing the tattoos people had, wondering at the history and stories behind them. And someday, some far away day, my embalmer will look at mine and wonder the same. They’ll be the last witness to my story spelled out in ink. And they’ll take their spear, and they’ll take careful aim, and they’ll pierce the valknut.

I love my mother dearly, but I just can’t promise that I’m done getting tattoos. As long as I’m alive and having adventures, those experiences will be commemorated so I can keep them close always. This journal has a lot of blank pages. I can’t wait to see what fills them.

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