Sunday, February 27, 2011

I met Mark in Penn Station on Friday, as I was passing through the New Jersey Transit waiting area. It was a rainy, unseasonably warm day, so I spotted his tattoos easily, as he sat in a short sleeve shirt waiting for his train.

Mark has six tattoos in all, and he shared this one on his left forearm:


There's a lot going on here, in this tattoo which was completed in two sittings.

In essence, this is a religious tattoo, which Mark considers an expression of his Christian faith.

The base of the tattoo may look familiar, as it resembles the caduceus, which is now a symbol of the medical profession.

However, Mark explained that this symbol was originally attributed to the cult of Mithraism that existed in Rome in the first to fourth centuries, before the city became the center of Christianity. The caduceus was originally attributed to the Roman god Mercury, and the symbol also important to the god Mithras. The Vatican in Rome is built over the remnants of Mithraism and Mark bears this symbol that represents that which Christianity replaced.

At the base of the tattoo are the letters "XIVI". This is the Roman numeral for "17". Again, there is more to this than meets the eye. Many may think that the number 17 in Roman numerals is written differently, as XVII. However, Mark explained that this reversal of letters is intentional. According to wikipedia, "In Italian culture, the number 17 is considered unlucky. When viewed as the Roman numeral, XVII, it is then changed anagramatically to VIXI, which in the Latin language it translates to "I have lived", the perfect implying "My life is over." (c.f. "Vixerunt", Cicero's famous announcement of an execution.)". It is this "I have lived" phrase that resonates most with Mark, who told me that the "XIVI" number is often seen on gravestones. 

And finally, the word "SINNER," which runs vertically down the caduceus, is the belief that "we are all sinners". Again, this ties in deeply to Mark's faith.
The piece was tattooed by Matt Pope at Another Tat2 Shop in South Amboy, New Jersey.

Thanks to Mark for sharing this cool tattoo with us here on Tattoosday!

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