I have been wanting to write about my Sidhehound tattoo for some time, but I felt awkward about it because it is so heavily tied up in shamanic practitioner training I no longer stand by. In that context, please enjoy this report on it from November 2020. The tattoo was part of a personal ceremony representing a transitional point in my life, though at the time I didn’t realise how big the transition would be!
My original intention for this ceremony was to mark my completion of our two-year course in my own way – with a tattoo. It was supposed to be a celebration! Of course, the spirits give you what you need rather than what you want. Instead this ceremony became a time of deep personal reflection, and for making some decisions about my future as a shamanic practitioner.
The ceremony was originally planned for June, but due to Covid-19 it was postponed twice. In that time things had changed for me, which will be covered in the transformation part of the ceremony.
To outsiders, my separation may have appeared non-existent. Internally, there was a lot going on. I took a long bath, both to cleanse and because it will be some weeks before I would be healed enough to soak in a bath. I quietly prayed, and gave thanks. I thanked Twobirds for facilitating our training, the Clan for their friendship and solidarity, and Standing Stone for gifting me my name, Hound of the Sidhe.
I then had to travel, safely, to the tattoo studio. This is the first time I physically separated myself as I spiritually separated. This was a new, and highly recommended, studio to me. As I entered the space, the separation was further heightened. The reception was fantasy themed, mostly around the film “The Dark Crystal”. I used to work with pop culture magic, so having Aughra (the voice of Thra, the world) watching over the proceedings was a magnificent surprise.
This was possibly one of the most powerful transformations I underwent, as it touched my mind, body and soul simultaneously. All of my tattoos have spiritual significance, but there were so many changes between planning and execution with this one.
As my tattooist, Gillian, inked me, I told her my story.
I began with my spiritual experiences, my mental health diagnoses, my struggles at art school before a classmate pointed me in the direction of the spiritual section of the local bookshop. Discovering shamanism, working alone, in a group, then alone again. Encountering a shamanic practitioner as a client, and then being pointed towards Twobirds and Anam Cara. How each step helped me understand who I am, little by little.
I told her about my design, much of which came from our first gathering. How I was gifted a name that resonated with me deeply. How when I was out to journey on the land, I chose to sit beneath an oak tree (a tree I associate with my mother, whose death allowed me to take the course). How after the journey, a ladybird (my mother’s favourite animal) was climbing on my drum arm. How at that moment, everything felt right.
I then told her about my doubts. About my struggles with being part of a spiritual community, about my doubts about my ability, about my conflict between my practice and my mental health, and about how I wasn’t sure if I even want to be a shamanic practitioner anymore.
One thing I was certain about was the tattoo though. The pain was excruciating, even with pain relief. It helped me focus. No matter where my path goes, that moment beneath the oak, with ladybird, and embodying my new name was perfect. I will always be a Hound of the Sidhe, no matter what track I follow.
Aftercare is an important part of both shamanic work and getting a tattoo.
I took a moment of silence to let some relief wash over me. The physical and emotional pain had stopped. Time had too. Aughra’s eye was on me and I felt safe.
Gillian and I shared some sugary drinks and snacks as she brought me back to Earth with her aftercare routine. After a clean up, I looked down at my tattoo and smiled. Moments can’t really be captured, but they can be memorialised.
I am journaling a lot to clarify some things that came up during my eight hours of inking. My attachment to the result (qualifying as a shamanic practitioner) isn’t there any more. I will be delighted if I can catch up on all of the work, but I will be okay if I can’t. It doesn’t change who I am, it just changes the avenues in which I can express it.
Each time I care for my tattoo (which is several times a day), I have a moment of prayer and reflection. I feel inspired to practice again, something I have not been doing for several months.
Reading over this now, I can see that I knew then I wouldn’t be completing the course. I just didn’t want to admit it, because of the money I had invested in the training. But I did eventually trust my intuition.
Tattoo artist: Gillian Turner at Aughra’s Eye Tattoo & Piercing