‘Why the Sun Boat?’, was the question Karen made me yesterday when we talked about the changes I’ve made to the blog. I answered by turning my back to her and showing this tattoo which I got almost nine years ago. It’s a helleristing which is a petroglyph from the Nordic Bronze Age. Most people, even Danes, when seeing the tattoo for the first time take it for a viking ship but the vikings were as distant from the Bronze Age culture as modern day Danes are from the vikings. I first saw this kind of tattoos when I was 16 or 17 doing voluntary work at a museum. At an activity day one of the more interesting persons was Erik Reime who has specialized in making tattoos based on prehistoric art. This was in the days of Grunge and body piercings, tattoos and Doc Martens were definitely it for the cool kids in high school and these tattoos were cool. Luckily it’s against the law to do tattoos on minors in Denmark so I didn’t do anything impulsive that day. Instead I remembered the name of the artist and five years later when I moved to Copenhagen to study I decided it was time to get one.
I have many stories I tell about this tattoo. Originally getting a tattoo had a lot to do with being cool and hip (which I’ve never really been able to be and with the wisdom of age I’ve stopped trying) but my choice of motive has always been personal. When I was a kid I wanted to be an archaeologist and it was my goal right until the end of high school when a trip to Rome made me fall completely in love with Italy. This interest in archeology and history has always been part of me and for that reason I stuck with the helleristning motive. Now I also like to tell that it’s a general symbol of my curiosity about the doings of human beings and how the past and the present are connected.
I also like to tell I chose this particular symbol from the many helleristning symbols because the voyage of the sun to me represent the circle of life. Not just the daily circle of night and day but also the change of the seasons and human generations. I’m not particularly religious or spiritual but I like to think about life as a never-ending circle where things continuously resurface in new forms. We’ll never know for sure how the Bronze Age people viewed these symbols but preserving them and giving them our own meanings is to me a way to show respect to those who came before me.
The last story I like to tell is how the tattoo is connected to my name. Lone is the short form of Abelone and Magdelone and the first name is the Danish variant of Appolonia which is derived from the Greek god Apollo. Apollo isn’t strictly speaking the sun god in Greek mythology but he is associated with light and that is good enough for me. Also, recent research seem to suggest that the different European Bronze Age cultures are more strongly connected than we thought and I like having a name and a tattoo that are connected in such a subtle manner.
Even though this is not a private blog, I want it to be personal and I want a name to reflect that. I also wanted a name that would indicate my curious disposition but that is really hard to find if you want to be the only one with that name. In the end I gave up finding a name that was a pun on curiosity or reflection, mostly because the obvious ones all seem to be in use, but also because I realized most of them are cliches and not very personal. Choosing the name ‘The Sun Boat’ at least has a personal meaning to myself and after this post hopefully to you as well.