The rise of the Christian and Islamic religions brought a halt to tattooing in the Europe in the Middle East. In the Old Testament of the Bible, the book of Leviticus states, "Ye shall not make any cuttings in your flesh for the dead, nor print any marks upon you: I am the Lord." This crede against tattooing caused the practice to disappear for about two thousand years as both the Christians and the Moslems revere the Old Testament.
Still despite the widespread popularity of this religious belief, pilgrims in the Middle Ages still got tattoos once they reached the Holy Land to prove to the folks back home that they had actually made the journey. The Coptic priests who sat outside the walls of Jerusalem waiting for tourists practiced this kind of tattooing. Usually these tattoos were just a simple cross, but some pilgrims opted for more elaborate symbols of their trip such as images of the Pieta or St. George slaying the Dragon.
Moslem pilgrims visiting Mecca and Medina also returned from their trips boasting commemorative tattoos. These Moslem pilgrims believed that, by being cremated at death, they would be purified by fire, before entering paradise and thus are forgiven for transgressing Levictus's proclamation.
A reproduction of a Pilgrim tattoo done in the "woodblock style". Courtesy of Rueben
"Rue" Kayden www.tattoorue.com
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