Today, it's not strange to see a man or a woman with tattoos. They are a kind of rebellion against the norms of society or are considered a symbol against evil forces. But although most young people consider tattooing to be a fashion sign and a symbol of masculinity, it has deep roots. A tattoo is not just a pattern, a picture or an ornament, it is not even the spelling of a loved one's name. This is something that makes more sense.

 

Over the centuries, for some peoples, along with the tales of brave heroes and beautiful princesses or customs that hold a nation firmly to its roots, tattoos are another interesting way to preserve family memory. In the modern world, most people associate tattoos with prison gangs or one of the oldest mafia organizations in the world - Yakuza.

 

But if you think that tattoos are reserved for men, as a symbol of extravagance, think again! It's time to learn the history of жен Balkan women's tattoos.

 

As early as 4000 years ago, various ceramic figures depicting tattooed men and women have been preserved. The Greek philosopher Strabo, in his work "Geographica", tells the story of the Illyrian tribes that inhabit the Balkans and their tradition of tattooing.

 

And while in Europe most peoples have long since lost touch with this tradition, here in the Balkans, for peoples such as Montenegrins, Albanians and Bosnian Croats, this is part of the cultural wealth of their ancestors.

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The story begins with the onset of the Ottomans on the Balkan Peninsula. "Invited" by various Christian rulers as a mercenary force, in an attempt to succeed another Crown Prince on the throne of his opponent, Muslims have benefited from the separation of the Balkan states. Conquering nations one by one, they become an important geopolitical and military factor not only in the Balkans but also in Europe in the centuries to come.

 

As part of the tradition of the Ottoman rulers is the taking of a blood tax (Devshirme). This is the biggest nightmare for any Christian mother. That is why some clever women begin to draw different Christian symbols on their bodies of birth, because they know that the Sharia strictly forbids the writing of any symbols on the body of the believer.

 

The most common places for tattoos are the forehead, arms, forearms and chest, with the most common symbols being crosses, crucifixes and floral motifs. Although the cross is today perceived as part of the Christian religion, in the past it has been associated with the sun and is perceived as a powerful spiritual sign against evil forces.

 

There is a difference in tattooing among Catholics and Orthodox. The former show intricate ornaments and motifs in the drawings, while the Orthodox make modest tattoos that can be easily hidden under clothing.

 

Of course, at that time it was absurd to talk about using any kind of ink, as it is today in modern tattoos. Often, various natural materials such as milk, honey and ashes are applied, and the tattooing process is most often performed on major Christian holidays, such as Good Friday, Easter, and the Annunciation.

Various researchers of the history of the Balkan peoples, incl. Polish economist Leopold Gluck and Ciro Truchelka note that over time, the attitude of future generations of Montenegrins and Croats to this type of practice has changed. After the nineteenth century, tradition began to die out, though today it is possible to see a tattooed elderly woman in some remote parts of Montenegro and Croatia.

Next to Christian symbols, incl. and an image of Jesus, other interesting symbols such as the moon, stars, animals and plants can be seen around the tattoos themselves. We can interpret them not so much as pagan, even though they are from before the advent of the Christian faith, but as a way for people to pay their respects and reverence to Mother Earth and its fertile soil, which nourishes them without putting any specific symbolism in times when the pursuit of self-preservation and the survival of the family over religious and ethnic relations.

 

Perhaps this is what has helped so many generations, who grew up under Ottoman rule, to keep their faith and humanity in good, albeit at the cost of pagan custom. It is interesting to note that most nations do not have the exact name of the process of depicting motives on the body. In Bosnia, female Catholics give it the name Sikanj.

 

If you see someone with tattoos today, think about whether the person against you did not understand their history and did not invest any symbolism, feeling, personal experience, even the loss of a loved one when he did them, because not everything is as it seems at first look…

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