I’ve wanted to get a tattoo for years. (Yeah. I know. Who hasn’t at this point?) I am not an early adopter of anything cultural or technological. I wait and ponder and wait and ponder some more. This means I am always years behind the “cool curve”. It also means that when I finally do something new, I love it.

(No, I don’t think a tattoo is something I am going to regret when I’m older. Nor do I think it is going to prevent me from getting a good job.)

When I told Daughter #1 what I finally decided on for my ink, she thought it was such a good idea, she wanted to get a matching one. We went to Phoenix Rising in North Syracuse together on Saturday, where Kim (whom I adore) did the honors.

Sorry the picture is a little unclear. Remember, this is only a couple of days old so it is still raw looking. It is done in shades of brown. I’ll post another photo in a month when it is healed.

And now you are asking yourself, what the hell does that mean? Why would someone tattoo Hwæt into their right wrist?

It is a word from Old English, aka Anglo-Saxon, which was spoken from roughly the mid 400s- 1200s. (Although scholars disagree about this a little. Scholars never seem to agree on anything, do they?) The first letter is an H. The second letter is not a P. It is a Wynn. That is a letter in Anglo-Saxon that we don’t have in modern English. It makes a sound like a W. The next letter looks like an A and an E smushed together. And the last letter is T.

It is pronounced “hwet”. And I think it is a very, very important word.

Hwæt is the first word of the oldest piece of Anglo-Saxon poetry we have, Beowulf. Scholars argue about this too, but most would say the story was probably first told around the year 600 and written down around the year 1000. Hwaet is the bard calling to the audience to listen to him/her. The storyteller, with this word, is basically saying “Yo. Have a seat. Lend me your ears. ” Here is the rest of the poem.

To me, it means everything. It connects me to the roots of my language and to my calling as a storyteller. Hi, my name is Laurie and I’ll be your bard this evening. Would you like to look at our mead list?

The daughter attached to the wrist on the left, Stef, is a word geek, too. This is her fifth tattoo…. they are all composed of words. The first one was the alphabet. Yes, i was very proud.

So that is the story of my ink. It has nothing to do with any of my books and everything to do with all of my writing.

Do you tattoo too?

68 Replies to “Ink”

  1. Very nice! I have five tattoos, none of which have prevented me from getting a good job. Only one involves writing, however: an armband which reads “All the lies that are my life”, the title of a Harlan Ellison short story about two writers which meant a great deal to me at the time (23) and inspires not a drop of regret now (36).

  2. Alas, I am a big weenie when it comes to pain (and not without reason – there are 6 years of braces-tightening in my past) and I am also horrible at making up my mind. So the whole “permanent” thing wouldn’t work out too well for me.

    My friend, though, has a unicorn encircled by Celtic knots covering a good portion of her back, and that describes her perfectly.

  3. Well, sixteen is a bit young to get tatoo’d, but I will when I’m eighteen. Definitely my kids names- I have cool designs for that already!- and some other awesome things.

    I am so glad that you got a tatoo in another language that you actually understand! It irks me when people get like a chinese symbol tattoo and think they know what it means, but really they have no idea. It will be like the wrong symbol and they think it means “harmony” or “love”. I really admire the fact that you obviously put time and effort into your tattoo and picked out something you actually know about and understand. And getting it with your kid? Extra bonus here! So awesome!

  4. Have no tattoos. Though by coincidence, my wife and I were just talking about them the other night. You know, should we some day, what would they be, that kind of thing. It feels as though we would, in the right circumstances.

    Yours, BTW, is really cool. What a great idea.

  5. I don’t tattoo, but Hwæt is sublime. If I ever become published, I hope I can come up with something equally meaningful to celebrate the accomplishment.

    (Although I fear I may just steal your idea, but forge it into a charm necklace laced in leather. And then I’d have to tell everyone your tattoo story…)

  6. I am a librarian with a tattoo. It is a small daisy design (see above name) that I designed when I was a teen. I waited until I was twenty-one to get inked and have never regretted my decision (it’s on my upper back).

    I’d like to get another, one that represents my love of books, reading and all things wordy. But I have yet to find a design that truly “speaks” to me.

    I love yours, and what it means to you. Great job! 🙂

  7. EEE! I was so excited what I saw what you got. I took Beowulf twice last year, once in translation and once in Old English (well, sections of it, anyway, not the whole thing). And then how it ties into literary, linguistic, and cultural history, as well as writing and storytelling. I don’t think you could have chosen better.

    No tattoos. I’m not really a tattoo or piercings sort of person – and I don’t like pain. But Hwaet is easily the coolest tattoo I’ve ever seen.

  8. Neat idea!

    I don’t have any tattoos because I know I would regret getting one. However, if I did get one it would be in a place that would only be visible to those who knew where to look, either behind my ear or on the back of my neck. Someday I just may do it, but I first need to find something that really represents me.

  9. I’ve wanted one for a long time, but I’ve decided that I have to want the SAME one for a few years before I’m allowed to go ahead with it, especially since everybody in my family including my husband thinks the whole thing is icky. I alternate between wanting the alphabet in lowercase in Garamond 10-point as an anklet — also a writer and teacher thing, but cheapened by my copying it off my very first poetry instructor — and wanting three tiny, freckle-sized black stars on my ankle, ’cause glitter is my favorite color. (:

  10. Very, very nice!! I’ve been thinking about getting a Celtic-designed phoenix … somewhere on my body (although I’m sure it’s been done 5893850932852 times) but I’m very indecisive and afraid I won’t like it enough. So I’m thinking long and hard about it first. I love your choice and what it represents! Although I have to say … really, really hated Beowulf. *headdesk*

  11. Yes, I have two. In my icon is the one on my lower back. I am a number and math geek more than a word geek, and as you look at it, you see three triangles being a part of a fourth larger triangle. My favorite number is 413, and this is four total triangles, all created from one and three triangles. There is lots of number symbols here. I could go on and on about one object being a trinity of objects, but I won’t here. 😉

    It’s really hard to see, but there are also three shades of purple in there, along with the color black. Here we get back into the four colors, with one being black and three purple…see where this ends up going? Two of my favorite colors are black and purple as well.

    I love my tattoo. I have never had problems with jobs from it.

    I also have one on my ankle of two dolphins and four waves, two of the waves are intertwined in an interesting way so it really looks like three waves. Again with the numbers…;)

  12. I have no tattoos, nor any great personal desire to change that currently. I am only sixteen, and can’t begin to comprehend what sort of symbol I would want to carry with me for the rest of my life (…not to be dramatic or anything).
    Your tattoo, however, is delightfully nerdy. I love it.

  13. Awesome and spectacular! 🙂 thanks for sharing!

    yes, I tattoo, too. My first one is my (Japanese) family crest on my mom’s side (shown here on my avatar). My second is the Japanese kanji/character for snake because I am the year of the Snake. My third is my dad’s (Japanese) family crest.

  14. I think that your tattoo is so creative! Very good choice!

    I don’t tattoo yet, but I will be as soon as I turn eighteen in a month! I’ve wanted one forever! My first one will probably be on my wrist, the last line of the Raymond Carver poem “Late Fragment”: To call myself beloved, to feel myself beloved on the earth. The second one is going to say “My thoughts swirling about in my heart” in Nushu.

  15. I tattoo too!

    I have 10 tattoos. No one believes me when I tell them that, as I appear very conservative and am, gasp!, a school librarian. I have a full back tattoo of the goddess Saraswati, the Hindu goddess of knowledge and learning. She is flanked by a peacock and a swan. I choose this tattoo because I felt that it really summed up my love for literature and learning.

  16. Does a henna one count?

    I can’t get a permanent tattoo because it’s against my religion. But I got this very groovy temporary henna one on my lower back when I was in Mexico two weeks ago. Unfortunately it’s faded now.

  17. I do– I got it 10 years ago and NEVER AGAIN. No one can see it (lower back) and it was way too much pain– 3 hours to get it done. Ugh. And I really don’t care for the design anymore .

  18. my sister works at a tattoo shop, so i’ve seen a LOT of bad tattoos….and many beautiful ones. i don’t have any tattoos myself (more into piercing!), but i do enjoy looking at people’s unique tattoos. yours definitely has a great deal of thought and meaning behind it. love it.

  19. No tattoos here. I was 40 before I even had my ears pierced, so I’ll probably be 80 before I venture into the ink. Then my kids will declare me senile. What do your folks think?

  20. Soooo much love for your new ink! The symbolism is fantastic, and the tattoo is nicely executed. I’ve heard very good things about Kim at Phoenix Rising. Do you totally love it? Fair warning … tattoos are VERY addictive!

    I got my first tattoo – the one in my icon, about 3 or 4 years ago – it’s an Amy Brown faery perched on a stack of books, on my left shoulder blade. My second is an Art Nouveau-esque heart on the inside of my left wrist, done in Mardi Gras colors (purple, green, gold) with a fleur-de-lis in the center. My third is a black and grey work angel that reaches from my shoulder to my waist on the right side of my back. She was inspired by a sculpture from a cemetery in Milan, and the tattoo looks like stonework. Next appointment is at the end of May – I’m getting two roses on my shoulder, for my grandma and my daughter.

    The tattoo on my wrist is visible most of the time, but surprisingly, people don’t seem to notice it. If my ink impacts my ability to get a job (I just earned my MLS), then I don’t want to work for their uptight library anyway 😉

  21. Laurie- that is very cool-you’ll never regret it. You make me want to go back and read Beowulf! I don’t have any tattoos, but I know what mine would be if I had one: a triskele. I first became drawn to them while in the Bretagne region of France (the Celtic part). It’s a 3-spiral design with multiple meanings. I went on to have 3 kids, too- perfect. I wouldn’t regret getting one, but I am not compelled to have one yet either. Maybe one day.

  22. I have one. Not as well thought out, but I like it. I should however find the entry from my friend Christen, talking about the tattoo she wants to get. It’s pretty cool. Maybe I’ll just link her here and let her tell it.

  23. So awesome! That’s great that you and your daughter have matching tattoos. 😀

    I admit that the thought of getting a tattoo has crossed my mind. But never seriously. And I have no idea what design I’d get. Something to do with writing, more than likely. But my mom would FREAK. OUT.

  24. I do! I have 3 shamrocks on my hip– throwback to my Irish heritage. I want more, but they’re going to require more thought, I think. Are you familiar with Edward Gorey? I’d love to get The Doubtful Guest tattooed on my back or something.

    The wrist! Did it hurt? I felt the pain was tolerable, until the guy did the black ink on the bone. The wrist… Guhh, ouch.

  25. I have two-both from when I was too young to be able to afford good ones- and want to get my third- but I find the placement decision hard. How did you decide to have it facing you on your inner arm?
    BTW- While it is lovely, your tattoo bring back cold shudders of a semester of Old English- uufffff.

  26. Wow – what a wonderful story behind the ink!

    My tattoo is my icon, done by the wonderful Brett Zarro at the Indelible Ink in Oneonta, NY.

    Mine is sadly located on my back where it is not visible, since is quite large and well, wouldn’t reflect too well for my job.

  27. trying again

    My icon is my tattoo, done my the amazing Brett Zarro at Indelible Ink in Oneonta NY. It had to be placed in a non visible location (and its sorta big) so its on my back.

    I love yours, since it has such meaning behind it, but I suspect i had to hurt quite a bit!

  28. Congrats! Very cool ink.

    I’m a public library director with six tattoos (none visible in a business suit!) and another on the way, as my fiance and I have decided to add to our collections as our wedding present to each other.

  29. They don’t know yet…. I’m sure it will pop up as soon as the weather gets warm enough for tee-shirts, like in July.

    I suspect Mom will freak and Dad will chuckle.

    When you are 80, I will take you to the tattoo parlor if you want.

  30. Yeap, I love it. And I highly recommend Kim. She is booked two months in adavnce, though, so plan ahead.

    I love your descriptions.

  31. I suspect my mother will freak out, too. But then again, she is used to me doing things a little outside the box. She is a patient mother, thank heavens.

  32. I thought for a long time about where I wanted it. Came to the conclusion that I wanted to be able to see it all the time. Hence, the wrist.

  33. I’m not sure. I’ve kind of run out of places to put them and right now there’s no design that I’m dying to have inked on me. Did it really hurt to get it on your wrist? I think my ankle one was most painful, but like childbirth, you kind of forget the intensity of it all soon after. LOL

  34. wow. i love the tattoo. to answer your ending blog question, no i don’t tattoo. i don’t do very well with pain. and that’s cool that you and stef got matching ones. i saw your website and i’m really excited to read twisted and to see you in may. it feels like forever since i saw you. good luck and have a safe trip! =) ♥

  35. I have one, but not as “intellectual” as yours or some of the others listed. I have the Blues Brothers on my right shoulder. I wanted that one since I first discovered them (age 12!), and I got it the day after my 18th birthday.

    Here are some pics, in case anyone is interested.

  36. My university (the University of Saskatchewan, in Canada) offers two half-classes in Old English. We learned the basics of grammar and translated prose in the first term and then moved on to verse in the second term. Six weeks of the second term was spent looking at Beowulf. I loved those two classes, so fun and interesting, and we had an excellent professor.

  37. Welcome to the ink club. It hurts like crazy but is insanely addictive. I love your ink.

    I have two tattoos currently: tribal art with a purple heart on my lower back and a pair of purple, tribal-esque wings on my back. Both a tribute to the glorious freedom of being 18. I plan to get at least two more in the next two years: a horned frog when I graduate from the coolest college ever, TCU, and the “Tree of Life” which is really just the Korean spelling of Taekwon-do when I get my black belt.

    Most people don’t realize I have ink, but it’s always a big deal when someone finds out. I’ve yet to figure that out. So far it hasn’t had an impact on getting a job, and I sincerely doubt it does.

  38. My tats

    Yes, this United Methodist minister has two… of course the livejournal world is sworn to secrecy or my sweet tuesday morning ladies group will heave their danish!

    My first was a strawberry in the small of my back. It has a private meaning for my hubbie and I. I like it except that I forget it is there…

    The second was only a few months ago and at this point is a major fiasco! It is/was a pink ribbon…one end trailing off and looping longer than the other. I got it to celebrate life in general but especially living cancer free. It is on the outside of my foot, just below where a nice conservative pair of loafers would be. DO NOT get a tat on your foot unless the artist expertly knows the special considerations that should be taken!! Mine is almost 1/2 worn off in only 2 months. Unsure of what to do for correction.

    Celebration interuptus!

  39. What a great story. What a great tattoo. Brava. Bravae.

    Girasole, who will never ever get a tattoo, but who read Seamus Heaney’s Beowulf aloud with her family a few winters ago.

  40. that is fantastic. woot for cool tattoos.

    i have 3 so far and two more planned. I have a celtic cross, a crown of thorns with hope and grace scripted around it, and “integrity” written in hebrew. i have planned a gargoyle and a shamrock with the letter M inside it for my mother and grandmother. Tattoos are awesome, and I am one of those weird people that doesn’t think that tattoos hurt.

    I have always been up front with my bosses about my tattoos and they have never prevented me from getting a job. But then I don’t think I’d enjoy working for someone who looked past who I was as an individual and only focused on my ink.

  41. So, I’m the Christen of this comment, and I will admit that I have a dorkalicious tattoo.

    It’s an open book with a pen in the middle of writing something. And underneath it says “(Write it!)” from the Elizabeth Bishop poem “One Art”.

    This is it. It’s on my the outside of my right lower calf.

    I’m a writer (albeit a much less successful one than you!) and this is my way of paying homage to that writer part of me that isn’t always pretty and isn’t always perfect, but is always real. I’ve loved that poem since sixth grade, and the command to (Write it!) has always been my little push to put everything on paper, no matter how hard it is for me to write.


  42. Re: Does a henna one count?

    i have a question about your henna tattoo. i just returned from isla mujeres, mexico and i also got a henna tattoo…have you had any complications from yours? i have read some things about “black henna” and they werent good things that i have read! it has sorta worried me! mine was with black ink, which yours seemed to be as well by looking at your picture that you posted.

  43. Finally someone that has a bit of background to their first tattoo

    I really admire people that doesn’t just pick a tattoo that has already gotten inked a million times, such as tribal tattoos (no offence to anyone carrying such a tat)

    I have 4 tattoos, one on my should, two on my right arm and one on my wrist. Do you plan on getting inked again?


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