Scripta Manent

If you studied Latin at high school or if your teachers had a passion for Latin proverbs, I’m sure you’ve heard “Verba volant, scripta manent” (literally “spoken words fly away, written words remain”) many times. If you think about it, you’ll realize it’s still true: just imagine the huge number of new written information that appears on Internet every day. Even if our society is mostly focused on visual communication, the written code still has a key function – as a teacher, I know this is so very true.

Besides the written code of communication, the one that everybody uses, there’s another way to write things down in a permanent way – tattoos. One may argue that tattos are not a means of communication, but I don’t agree with it. People get tattoos for many different reasons (because it’s trendy, because their friends have them and so on), but some reasons can be deeper than others, especially when they refer to the desire (or urgency, it depends) to express something – a state of mind, a memento, a special moment of life. Many people don’t realize a tattoo is meant to be on your skin forever, which – I think – is the most fascinating part of the process. Written documents can be destroyed, while a tattoo can’t be easily erased and for this reason it’s something which perfectly exemplifies the Latin proverb in question.

As an enthusiastic Instagram user, today I posted a picture of one of my tattoos – portraying a swallow; after the first picture, I decided to post pics of all my tattoos. That is the origin of this post, a chance to speak about something that is very important to me. In the picture above, you can see my third tattoo: I got it last year and I love it so much. The story behind it is quite peculiar: a friend of mine got it some months before and I totally fell in love with it, so I decided to get the same, with some minor differences. At the time I couldn’t image the bird theme was destined to become recurring in my tattoos.

In the first picture, you can also see a tattoo on my left arm, depicting a swallow holding a chain with pendant on her beak. The locket has a B (the initial of my daughter’s name) in it. All my tattoos were done by a local tattoo artist: I love his style, but this time I think he surpassed himself – just think that even my sister and my mother (who don’t approve of my passion [1]) have been impressed by this one. I’m not fan of a specific tattoo style, but I love the fact that he came up with an old-school swallow.

I’ve always loved tattoos, but I got my first one only in 2006, when I was 32: it took me many years to figure out the reasons why I wanted one. Looking for the subject, deciding its position and raising the money for it was a long process, but I finally came up with  this. The quote “Fear is the mind-killer” is taken from the Bene Gesserit litany, one of the most symbolical parts of Dune, the visionary science-fiction novel by Frank Herbert. Dune is one of my favourite novels, but the litany in question has a meaning that goes beyond the simple literary appreciation: for a hypochondriac like me, it represents a way of life that eventually leads to peace of mind and (mental) health. I’d like to get another line of the same litany tattooed on my right leg, but probably I’ll opt for another (meaningful to me) quote about fear.

Last but not least, here is my fourth tattoo. I got it in 2009 and I think it’s the only one which doesn’t have a special meaning. This is a purely decorative tattoo: I like it because it’s perfect in its graphic simplicity. In this case, my source of inspiration was Stefano Pilati, the former YSL creative director, who has the same tattoo on the back of the neck.

When I got my first one, I had no idea I had just kicked off an obsession. It may sound banal but it’s true what they say about tattoos: after getting one, you’re already looking forward to getting another. Unfortunately, I’ve been able to get only one a year (they’re quite expensive), but if I could, I would get many more. At the moment I’m planning the quote tattoo on the right leg and another bird tattoo on my arm (I haven’t decided which arm yet). I’ve recently started to think about a quote tattoo on my chest, but that’s a very peculiar spot: I don’t want to get it done and then regret it. In any case, I don’t think I’ll stop thinking about new subjects (and eventually get them done) any time soon.

I know the decision of getting a tattoo done is totally subjective, but would you like to share your own experiences in the comments? I’d love to read them!

[1] My husband is not a tattoo lover either, but he has never complained about my tattoos. His favourite is the swallow with locket. On the other hand, B is just in love with them: she knows two are about her (and mother-daughter relation) and she’s very proud of it.

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