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Orthodox Christians and Tattoos

Is it proper for an Orthodox Christian to get a tattoo?

  • It's fine, nothing wrong with it.

    Votes: 55 24.6%
  • They can if they want, but I wouldn't.

    Votes: 32 14.3%
  • Only in some circumstances.

    Votes: 32 14.3%
  • I don't think it's proper, no.

    Votes: 41 18.3%
  • It is absolutely, positively sinful!

    Votes: 17 7.6%
  • I'm not sure.

    Votes: 43 19.2%
  • None of the above.

    Votes: 4 1.8%

  • Total voters
    224

Nazarene

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Tattoos are definitely forbidden in Judaism based on this verse:

An incision for a (dead) person you are not to make in your flesh;
Writing of skin-etching you are not to place on yourselves;
I am YHWH! (Leviticus 19:28, The Five Books of Moses, Dr. Everett Fox)

And you shall not make cuttings in your body for a [dead] body, and you shall not inscribe on yourselves any marks. I am the Lord your God. (Leviticus 19:28, LXX)

Nor make a cutting for the dead in thy flesh; nor imprint signatures upon you: I am the Lord. (Leviticus 19:28, Targum Onkelos)

Perhaps there are some Patristic quotes on this verse?
 

BoredMeeting

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augustin717 said:
99% of the Orthodox folks I've known-in a very culturally Orthodox environment-would never bother their clergy with this sort of questions, not even with weightier "spiritual" questions.
Fortunately for me, the Orthodox priests that I've know welcome questions from their spiritual children, regardless of their 'weight'.
 

Asteriktos

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ChristusDominus said:
I have a few that I got long ago. I'll share this one, hope it isn't too blurry or faded. I used my cell phone to capture the image.

I really like this!  :)
 
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I have not heard anyone bring up the whole concept of an icon tattoo as an icon.

According to the 7Th council, we should not put icons in a lavatory or any place profaned. Well, that's exactly what's going on every time you walk it with an icon of the Theotokos or anyone else. You are there, peeing and pooping, keeping them with you; an act of piety that would make any iconoclast proud. Or Muslim or Talmudist for that matter.

“We must treat the things of God as they are worthy of God,” someone once told me. I completely agree and as one who has a difficult enough time wearing a crucifix in the bedroom (if you know what I mean) I can't relate to the certainty that this is an OK practice.
Holy icons go where we can pray to them, burn incense before them, and venerate them; they are not pop art, decor, or fashion. The whole idea of using the beauty of the Church, –her gifts to redeem our senses– as vanity just seems absurd and I wonder where from this piety really stems.  I can see why one would get a cross = we wear crosses… However, an icon of Christ or a Saint just seems like “baptized” rebelliousness and at very least a practice ignorant of the wisdom and ruling of the Church and Holy Fathers of the 7Th council who suffered to keep icons as holy parts of the life in the Church.

Can you picture the Theotokos sitting under the needle for 12 hours to get a tattoo of St. Simeon? Or a mural of her Son on her back; she lies there topless as the old biker wipes her holy blood off on a rag? This scenario is not coherent with true Christian practice and certainly not an expression of humility or beauty or piety.

If you can imagine this and you are OK with it... –well– good luck.

From the 7Th Council:

"Moreover, that the images of Christ, of the Virgin Mother of God and of the other Saints, are to be had and retained particularly in temples, and that due honour and veneration are to be awarded them; not that any divinity or virtue is believed to be in them, on account of which they are to be worshipped; or that anything is to be asked of them; or that confidence is to be reposed in images, as was of old done by Gentiles, who placed their hope in idols; but because the honour which is shown unto them is referred to the prototypes which they represent; in such wise that by the images which we kiss, and before which we uncover the head, and prostrate ourselves, we adore Christ, and venerate the Saints, whose similitude they bear."

"In the invocation of saints, the veneration of relics, and the sacred use of images, every superstition shall be removed, all filthy lucre be abolished, finally, all lasciviousness be avoided; in such wise that figures shall not be painted or adorned with a wantonness of beauty: nor shall men also pervert the celebration of the saints, and the visitation of relics, into revellings and drunkenness; as if festivals are celebrated to the honour of the saints by luxury and wantonness.  Finally, let so great care and diligence be used by bishops touching these matters, as that there appear nothing disorderly, or unbecomingly or confusedly arranged, nothing profane, nothing indecorous; since holiness becometh the house of God."​

I believe misuse or abuse of icons would fit right into that criteria and in my opinion, tattooing icons on one's person is just that.
 

ialmisry

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RoryChristopher said:
I have not heard anyone bring up the whole concept of an icon tattoo as an icon.

According to the 7Th council, we should not put icons in a lavatory or any place profaned. Well, that's exactly what's going on every time you walk it with an icon of the Theotokos or anyone else. You are there, peeing and pooping, keeping them with you; an act of piety that would make any iconoclast proud. Or Muslim or Talmudist for that matter.

“We must treat the things of God as they are worthy of God,” someone once told me. I completely agree and as one who has a difficult enough time wearing a crucifix in the bedroom (if you know what I mean) I can't relate to the certainty that this is an OK practice.
Holy icons go where we can pray to them, burn incense before them, and venerate them; they are not pop art, decor, or fashion. The whole idea of using the beauty of the Church, –her gifts to redeem our senses– as vanity just seems absurd and I wonder where from this piety really stems.  I can see why one would get a cross = we wear crosses… However, an icon of Christ or a Saint just seems like “baptized” rebelliousness and at very least a practice ignorant of the wisdom and ruling of the Church and Holy Fathers of the 7Th council who suffered to keep icons as holy parts of the life in the Church.

Can you picture the Theotokos sitting under the needle for 12 hours to get a tattoo of St. Simeon? Or a mural of her Son on her back; she lies there topless as the old biker wipes her holy blood off on a rag? This scenario is not coherent with true Christian practice and certainly not an expression of humility or beauty or piety.

If you can imagine this and you are OK with it... –well– good luck.

From the 7Th Council:

"Moreover, that the images of Christ, of the Virgin Mother of God and of the other Saints, are to be had and retained particularly in temples, and that due honour and veneration are to be awarded them; not that any divinity or virtue is believed to be in them, on account of which they are to be worshipped; or that anything is to be asked of them; or that confidence is to be reposed in images, as was of old done by Gentiles, who placed their hope in idols; but because the honour which is shown unto them is referred to the prototypes which they represent; in such wise that by the images which we kiss, and before which we uncover the head, and prostrate ourselves, we adore Christ, and venerate the Saints, whose similitude they bear."

"In the invocation of saints, the veneration of relics, and the sacred use of images, every superstition shall be removed, all filthy lucre be abolished, finally, all lasciviousness be avoided; in such wise that figures shall not be painted or adorned with a wantonness of beauty: nor shall men also pervert the celebration of the saints, and the visitation of relics, into revellings and drunkenness; as if festivals are celebrated to the honour of the saints by luxury and wantonness.  Finally, let so great care and diligence be used by bishops touching these matters, as that there appear nothing disorderly, or unbecomingly or confusedly arranged, nothing profane, nothing indecorous; since holiness becometh the house of God."​

I believe misuse or abuse of icons would fit right into that criteria and in my opinion, tattooing icons on one's person is just that.
I don't recall in Greece the hooks at the bathroom door on which to hang your baptismal cross before "peeing and pooping."

You are worried about the bedroom: do you sleep in a marital bed?  If not, you have more serious problems.

And you're the one imagining the Theotokos topless.
 

Jibrail Almuhajir

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augustin717 said:
99% of the Orthodox folks I've known-in a very culturally Orthodox environment-would never bother their clergy with this sort of questions, not even with weightier "spiritual" questions.
A priest is good to go to confess to, ask him for various religious services such as baptisms and burials-but he is not an oracle. Neither is our faith regulated in every minor aspect.
This seems to be a very prevalent attitude in Romanians that I have known over the years.  And not to pick on Romanians, I have heard Greeks say something similar as well.  But in my limited exposure, "convert" mind, I seem to recall that our spiritual fathers are, far from being oracles, to help us navigate through life's trials, tribulations and even celebrations.  Sure there are questions one wouldn't want to pester your priest with, such as what to have for supper and the like, but if something is troubling you, or you're simply curious about the Ekklesia's view on a subject, why not ask one's priest/spiritual father?
 
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ialmisry said:
I don't recall in Greece the hooks at the bathroom door on which to hang your baptismal cross before "peeing and pooping."

You are worried about the bedroom: do you sleep in a marital bed?  If not, you have more serious problems.

And you're the one imagining the Theotokos topless.
The whole conceptual image I tried to portray should have been appauling.
No hooks, you're right... it's a necessities thing. But your comment did not address any of the real issues I posted; rather, you just accused me of a couple things. That's called mud slinging; you did that AND you built a strawman at the same time. You're well on your way to being an brick maker.

And FYI the only woman I have been with was my wife and that was after the crowning.
 

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I'm honestly surprised by the number of negative votes :)
 

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SolEX01 said:
Asteriktos said:
I'm honestly surprised by the number of negative votes :)
19 negative votes out of 58 isn't exactly a resounding majority.   :)
True. I suppose I just was focusing on a negative answer having the most votes of all the options.
 

Seafra

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hahaha well from the responses i read about self mutilation  i will probably be shunned but i grew up an Army brat and was around many pacific islanders from 4-8 yr old. I saw a lot of scarification and decided i wanted to get a cross when i was older. Not for fashion or vanity partially for self mutilation but as a reminder, though nothing in the slightest bit comparable, of the pain Christ endured for me. but as for tattoos i never was interested in them...


However i have been considering the coptic tradition of getting two small cross tattoos on my wrists...
 

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Seafra

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BoredMeeting said:
Seafra said:
hahaha well from the responses i read about self mutilation  i will probably be shunned...
I've seen quite a few tattooed people in Orthodox Church and never saw any of them being "shunned."
well thats not a "tattoo" its a cutting... through the process of skin removal a design is cut into the skin
 

Monk Cyprian

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IIRC, there is a canon prohibiting self-mutilation.  My apologies for not being able to reference it off the top of my head (contrary to popular opinion, most monks don't sleep with copies of The Rudder under their pillows).  The trick is:  figuring out what exactly that is.  Is a tattoo mutilation, or enhancement?  That's the entire crux.  If a tattoo is mutilation, then it's out.  If it's not, then it's not prohibited.

Considering how many matushka's have pierced ears, and I wouldn't dare accuse them of mutilating their bodies (especially if you've ever had to deal with a fiesty matushka!), there seems to be some room for interpretation on what is mutilation and what isn't.  And it is a common, historical and (IMO) venerable practice amongst the Coptics and Ethiopians.

That being said, amongst Russians there seems to be an assumption that a tattoo marks one as a member of organized crime (the vor v zakone), or at least seriously anti-social like some sort of skin-head gang, so they tend to be less sympathetic towards it.

There was also some scant evidence that the early Celtic Christians continued the practice of tattooing themselves, just with Christian symbols rather than pagan ones, IIRC.  But, I don't think the scholarship is entirely conclusive about that one.  But that's why they were called "Picts"; because they were the "pictured" men, or men with "pictures" on them.

I'm pleasantly surprised that no one has brought up the Old Testament prohibitions against tattoos.  I always cringe when people do that, to be frank.  It betrays a serious lack of understanding of how the Old Testament laws are fulfilled in Christ and frankly don't apply to Christians.  You can't just "cherry pick" OT laws that you like (usually for other people to follow!).  You either follow all of the Law (and be Jewish BTW), or none of it.  If you want to prohibit tattoos based on Leviticus 19:28, then you also have to have fringes on your clothing, a parapet around your roof, keep kosher, keep the Saturday Sabbath and can't shave the sides of your head, amongst other things.  The Law is an all or nothing kind of thing.  It's either all 613 laws, or none.

Now, I personally think one should probably get the blessing of one's spiritual father before getting a tattoo.  If one already has them, well what's done is done, and unless one is rather wealthy, can't be removed.  But, I wouldn't get anymore (I have two) without my spiritual father's blessing, and they would also have to be deeply symbolic and meaningful, rather than just a "pretty picture".

Just my thoughts though.  Your mileage may vary.
 

ialmisry

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Riyadh forbids tattoos of Christ
Last year, the Romanian player Mirel Radoi, from the club Al-Hilal (the crescent) kissed the cross tattoo on his arm after scoring a goal. The episode scandalised Muslims.
Go Romania!
http://vaticaninsider.lastampa.it/en/homepage/blog-san-pietro-e-dintorni-en/detail/articolo/8909/
 

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Greetings in that Divine and Most Precious Name of Our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ!

When I first started attending Ethiopian services, one of my favorite and most delightful experiences was meeting wonderful elderly ladies who were in LA speak "tatted up" :)



Face tattoos, sleeves, hand tattoos, neck tattoos, the works.  In LA unfortunately a lot of folks are getting out of hand, and even in perfectly legitimate careers you find teachers, doctors, civil servants, secretaries, and all kinds of public figures who are tatted up.  Who have sleeves, or neck tattoos, still no face tats outside of jailbirds.  I don't have any ink (I had congo dreads for eight years, that was eclectic enough even for Los Angeles 8) ) but I have literally grown up hanging out with folks in tattoo parlors and getting inked up in people's living rooms.  Tattoos are perfectly normal to me, most of my family have them, and almost all of my friends, and several of my co-workers, and what I lament, many of my underage students ( :( )

The Ethiopian tattoos evolved from several different cultural and political circumstances.  Some folks get them out of purely spiritual and religious motivations, others evolved in the history of slavery and civil wars (the "lip disc" evolved among the Omo people for the same reasons to ward of slave raiders)..  Today it is perfectly acceptable in the Church setting for folks to have a variety of tattoos, for both cultural and spiritual reasons.  I'm not sure if we have any canons specifically forbidding one tattoo design over another, perhaps sister Hiwot can better clarify on this for us.

I would advise for folks who get "Icon" tattoos to think responsibly.  Icons are rightfully kept in revered places, for specific times and settings.  When we put them on our skin, we just might be making our burden too much to carry sometimes, even priests would feel unworthy I imagine of these images on their skin.  On the flip side, for some folks icons on the skin might just keep them out of trouble, but then again, we all sin daily so its a toss up one way or the other..

stay blessed,
habte selassie
 

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HabteSelassie said:
I would advise for folks who get "Icon" tattoos to think responsibly.  Icons are rightfully kept in revered places, for specific times and settings.  When we put them on our skin, we just might be making our burden too much to carry sometimes, even priests would feel unworthy I imagine of these images on their skin.  On the flip side, for some folks icons on the skin might just keep them out of trouble, but then again, we all sin daily so its a toss up one way or the other.
It's not merely a question of reverence. Icons are devotional objects, and their purpose cannot be served on someone's arms, back, chest, etc.
 

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Icons should not be made into tattoos or put on shirts. We wear crosses, it might be okay to have writing or a cross or symbol of some sort, but icons are not appropriate.
 

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Greetings in that Divine and Most Precious Name of Our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ!

Orthodox11 said:
HabteSelassie said:
I would advise for folks who get "Icon" tattoos to think responsibly.  Icons are rightfully kept in revered places, for specific times and settings.  When we put them on our skin, we just might be making our burden too much to carry sometimes, even priests would feel unworthy I imagine of these images on their skin.  On the flip side, for some folks icons on the skin might just keep them out of trouble, but then again, we all sin daily so its a toss up one way or the other.
It's not merely a question of reverence. Icons are devotional objects, and their purpose cannot be served on someone's arms, back, chest, etc.
I agree completely, but on the same token, I can understand the appeal.  In reality is the Cross any different and yet it is a common thing in our lives, and is a common tattoo as well.  I personally do not feel folks should get tattoos of Iconography, and again, I can understand the Byzantine canons/Fathers prohibitions on these.  Further, I don't know a lot of Orthodox who have such, but I have met and know plenty of Catholics and unaffiliated folks who have tats of Jesus or Our Lady (sometimes you see more tattoos of Our Lady of Guadelupe in LA than you do murals and that is saying something!!), and lightening bolts haven't exactly struck them down yet :)

stay blessed,
habte selassie
 

peacenprayer

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I've got three. One on each arm, one on my chest. All from before I was Orthodox so I don't really want them anymore. Removal is as painful as it is expensive, and getting them covered would be considerably cheaper, but likely to be frowned upon. Sucky conundrum, that.
 

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choy said:
Can I get a tatoo of ICXC?
Based on the assumption that tattoos are okay, which is questionable, I don't see why ICXC would be inappropriate.

WeldeMikael said:
As a non - Coptic, is it okay to have a small cross on the wrist ?
The Coptic practice is a direct result of their experience of persecution. I really wanted one for a long time, but I think those of us who do not come from that social context should ask ourselves if there really is any reason to get such a tattoo other than needless vanity. I've yet to find a good reason, so I've yet to get one. The late Pope Shenouda III did not have one, and I know many Coptic bishops discourage those living outside the Islamic world from getting them.
 

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personally, i am a big fan of cross tattoos.
i am also a fan of sterilisation of equipment!
:)
i have only once seen a coptic priest who did not have a tattoo, so the prohibition must have been somewhere else.
and i think it's fine for others to copy coptic tattoos, but i suggest u get it done by a Christian so it doesn't look weird.
i once asked for a cross henna 'tattoo' when i was having the henna from my friend's wedding.
i didn't realise the henna specialist was muslim (she wasn't hijabi or anything), i only found out after i asked when her cross looked wobbly.
i am glad it wasn't a permanent one!

so check sterility, check you tattooist and be sure you never want to go into a japanese spa
(they don't allow tattoos and you have to go in 100% naked, so u can't hide anything!)
i don't know of any orthodox churches that forbid them.
 

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I have seen small crosses in the face in photos of old women from some greek areas



http://www.vlahoi.net/multimedia/gallery.html

as they wrote there they make this tattoo in young girls because muslims took the girls for harems and wanted to abjuring this or wanted when the girls become older in harems to remember that they were christians


btw I just realize how problematic was the "nazi number tattoo" in the Jews


 

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This is super old. I just found this on google while searching for the church's opinion on tattoos! haha

I've been considering gettin the Petrine Cross. Do any of you think people would find this offensive, given the current context of what it's used for in modern death metal bands? :/
 

mabsoota

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what is the petrine cross?
sorry, have missed a few of the latest death metal bands due to prior commitments.
;)
 

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mabsoota said:
what is the petrine cross?
Upside down cross I would assume (they say Peter was crucified upside down)...

As for me, I plan on getting an upside down cross, but it will be more a mirror image of the Russian Orthodox Cross* I already have, not a design by itself. I wouldn't get an upside down cross as a centerpiece or by itself, any more than I would get a swastika in celebration of some noble/peaceful religious use. The symbols have just been too far corrupted IMO, and would cause too much confusion.


* For those who want to argue this-- that's right, there is such a thing as a Russian Orthodox cross. Sorry if you can't wrap your mind around that. Come at me bro.
 

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why would you want an upside down cross?
(sorry, i am ignorant, naive and almost middle aged...)
 

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mabsoota said:
why would you want an upside down cross?
(sorry, i am ignorant, naive and almost middle aged...)
I guess if St. Peter is your Patron Saint, seeing as how he was crucified upside down.
 

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The Petrine Cross is symbolically used to represent humility and inadequacy in comparison to Jesus Christ, the perfect sacrifice. :) Peter was hung upside down because he didn't believe he was worthy to die like Christ.

I have some particular emotional ties to the story and I'd love a reminder that Christ, though sinless, died in my sinful place.
 

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I've reached middle age without any ink on me, so it's highly unlikely that I'd decide to get something now... but if I did, a Brigid's cross would be the most suitable. Only I'd have to find an actual, physical cross to take to the artist to copy, because the flash designs I've seen are just tacky.
 

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arachne, you have 5 years to go in my flawless, well researched international definition of 'middle age' (it used to be '40' but the definition got older as i did!)
;)
also i agree it's important not to end up with a tacky design (see my 'reply 108' on this page)

android rewster (can i call u android for short?!),
maybe you could get a normal cross, plus a symbol of peter next to it.
then no one would confuse you with a death metal musician!
i wish u all the best in your tattoo hunt.
 

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Leviticus 19:28 Ye shall not make any cuttings in your flesh for the dead, nor print any marks upon you: I am Jehovah.

I'd take it up with God before you got a tattoo.  It's his temple.
 

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The Church very clearly condemns it, however, I think an exception could be made for the Copts who have to tattoo their children so that they'll remember their faith if the heathen Muslims kidnap them. I'd personally like to get the two Crosses tattooed on my wrists sort of as a way of paying respect to them.
 
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