Algerian Woman Links Tattoo Tradition and Song



Middle Eastern Tattoos: Then and Now 

Traditional Middle Eastern tattoos were done via a rudimentary method of pricking the skin and then rubbing in a mixture of smoke black or indigo. Mother's milk was used in the mixture, oftentimes, to give an esoteric benefit.

Designs were a combination of tribal identification and amulets to ward off evil or incur blessings. Similar motifs may be found in carpet designs. A vertical line marked along the chin signifies an engagement. When there was a mark on the tip of the nose, it may have signified either marriage or that a child had died and this was their way of protecting the spirit of that child.

Facial tattooing, especially, has gone out of favor in modern times. Usually only older women are seen with tattoos on their chin and forehead.

The reason? One source says, "body art markings, called lousham in Arabic or ahetjam in Tamazight, are no longer considered to be a pious Muslim practice and as a result very few younger women will carry these tattoos.

At one point, these tattoos were tribal markings of status and beauty, symbols that were borrowed from the complicated designs in the rugs; now most Amazigh women consider their tattoos to be a shameful reminder of a pagan practice." In past times in Iran, the upper class women would be tattooed with a beard-like pattern. This practice has passed away as well, but it is reported that "the demand for tattoos among Iranian and other middle eastern women has exploded.

Iranians who are tattooed, however, must keep them under wraps due to the authorities.

Despite the traditions of tattoos for certain tribal groups of Middle Eastern women, their religion, Islam, forbids tattooing. Non-permanent skin decoration in the Arab world in the form of henna decorations is very popular. Not all stories of the tattooed women are benign.

The sad history of the decimation and captivity of Armenians under their Muslim captors holds the story of stolen Armenian girls tattooed by their captors a story told in history and photos in the Genocide Museum.via

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