05 July 2011

Tattoo + Firebird

Леонид Кошевой, Жар-птица
Finally, as promised, here is the explanation (and pictures at the end) of my new tattoo:

The word I chose to imprint permanently on my foot, Bellatrix, is—like my first tattoo—in Latin. It means "warrior," specifically a female warrior, as Latin is a gendered language (as opposed to English, in which apart from words like waiter versus waitress, most words only have one form regardless of the gender of the person they describe). Underneath and behind the text is an arrow, which is a symbol of long-distance (and especially cross country) running. As some of you may know, running is about the only sport I'm decent at, and I devoted all four years of my high school career to competitive cross country and track. However, the arrow in my tattoo has a dual purpose. It is also evocative of the hunt, and as one of my matron deities is Diana (Roman goddess of the hunt and moon), archery is also an activity I hold in the highest respect, and one I've dabbled in over the years. As an Army girl, I do tend to shoot rifles a bit more often than bows, but arrows are infinitely more elegant than bullets, in my humble opinion.

If you look closely, you'll notice the arrow head isn't quite a normal arrowhead. While the arrow itself—if it were real, and not a picture on my foot—would not pierce anything designed such as it is, the arrow head conceals a tiny crescent moon, which is another small, cryptic tribute to my spiritual beliefs. The tail of the arrow is also unusual (again, intentionally so), and while it would not help the arrow fly, it is a silent tribute to my choice of scholarship. The feather is shaped like a peacock feather, but the color of flames. As some of you may also know, one of my majors in college was Russian. I wrote my honors thesis in Russian on a specific topic of Russian mythology (Baba-Yaga); However, while feeding my mythological obsession, I also read and researched many tales concerning another persona from Russian myth: the firebird. Thus, my tattoo bears a firebird feather in the arrow's tail.

The firebird is a beautiful, mysterious symbol of femininity and freedom in Russian myth. She sings with a woman's voice and sometimes wears a woman's face, although she is a bird fashioned from flames. She guards a golden egg, which is both her perpetually unhatched offspring and the end-goal of many a hero's journey. Sometimes the firebird herself is the goal. Many heroes seek her, some even manage to find her, falling in love with her sad, beautiful song and then following her forever after, completely entranced. Fewer still manage to briefly capture the firebird, although she never remains caught for long. That is the defining characteristic of the firebird (often mistranslated as a phoenix): her eternal freedom. She cannot be caught, nor tamed, nor caged. No man can ever possess her heart, even though she leaves a trail of broken hearts her wake.

So that's what it all means to me. Warrior, Huntress, Runner, Amazon, Firebird, Pagan. All the things I believe in, all the parts of my identity, the roles I play and the banners I wear. And now, all of that meaning is artfully and proudly contained within a small tattoo on the top of my right foot.

Enjoy the pictures!

For more basic information about the firebird, go here.

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