How much do I love the feeling of a new tattoo – and new ink on Friday the 13th has just got to be the best thing ever! It is a tradition, apparently, for tattoo parlours around the world to offer special deals on this most auspicious day – most commonly, the “13″ tattoo for $13. How cool is that! Nothing like a bit of spontaneous action to get the adrenaline pumping, so my friend Megan (a psychiatric nurse who had just come off night shift and was buzzing from no sleep and too much coffee) and I rocked up at Third Eye Tattoos in Brunswick this morning and were first in line for the needle. Neither of us were even sure about where we were going to get it – or even what form the “13″ would take. As it turns out, there was a variety of skulls, daggers, roses and other designs to choose from. Sitting on the couch as a horde of black-clad excited teenagers swamped the front room, I got that rush you get just before you go in, and I decided that the back of my neck was where I wanted this one to go. One design grabbed me immediately, and I didn’t have time to hesitate. No Regrets.
So I guess the swastika is kind of a hardcore choice, no matter which way you look at it, right? Most people in Western culture associate it with Nazi Germany without realizing that it is actually an ancient symbol that has been used in Hinduism, Buddhism and Jainism for far longer than the very recent hijacking of it by the Nazi Party during World War 2. Some of the earliest archeological evidence of the swastika on ornaments dates back to the Indus Valley Civilization of Ancient India. I remember walking around temples in Vietnam and seeing them lined with colourful flags and lanterns with swastikas on them and feeling a sense of connection to the peace, power and order of the design, how differently it appeared in this context. So, having just had my neck permanently inscribed with this controversial symbol, I came home and did a bit more research on it. Turns out my instinct is well tuned once more, leading me along that rainbow to gold… Wikipedia offered this:
The word swastika came from the Sanskrit word svastika, meaning any lucky or auspicious object, and in particular a mark made on persons and things to denote good luck. It is composed of su- meaning “good, well” and asti “to be” svasti thus means “well-being.” The suffix -ka either forms a diminutive or intensifies the verbal meaning, and svastika might thus be translated literally as “that which is associated with well-being,” corresponding to “lucky charm” or “thing that is auspicious.”
Hellooooooooo Lucky 13! I guess I’m just always going to tend towards the exact opposite of what the mainstream would have us suck up as the truth. They say Friday the 13th is unlucky. Really? Well I wonder whether that might have anything to do with the fact that Friday has always been associated with wild, free Goddesses of Love, such as Frigg, the Norse goddess after whom the day was named? We witches work our love spells on Fridays as the most auspicious day, blessed by Aphrodite and Venus. Sure the Church would have loved that. Black cats – the witch’s familiar – are meant to be unlucky too. Funny, that. Then you have the number 13 – the traditional number of witches in a coven. There are all sorts of philosophies that go into 12 being this perfect number – and I’m sure it has it’s merits – the 12 disciples of Christ (my guess is Mary Magdalene was the 13th!) – but 13 was always a renegade number, difficult to work with, mathematically. Nothing fits into it neatly. It’s odd. Outcast. Even in faerytales it’s the 13th witch that wasn’t invited to the Christening that curses the baby as a result – the hag, the Crone, the old woman with powers that are not easily understood and therefore feared.
To me Thirteen is the sacred number of those who don’t fit into the conventional scheme of things. The artists (especially street artists), philosophers, free-thinkers, rock’n'rollers, any minority group, those without power or privelege. Those who must go underground to survive, the keepers of secrets, those who hold an ideal of a better world and don’t endorse the power-structures that oppress and destroy. Or those who just have their mojo, who are stylin’ it on the streets with their cooooooool tattoos. I guess it’s about reclaiming the symbols that we love, the representations of who we are, and having the courage to do so despite entrenched and unquestioned beliefs. Marks of identification.