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In two sessions I assume?
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We would really appreciate that! And now it’s time for me to ask some questions, so and we have today a new guest, Alyona, welcome! So this is your first time.
So can you tell our listeners a little bit about yourself? Who are you? What you like?
Oh sure, of course. My name is Alyona, I am local and…
What you like or dislike maybe doing?
I love reading a lot. In English, in Russian. And I’m a fan of science fiction and fantasy.
Oh we wish, I really wish you were here when we had an episode about fantasy and universes.
Do you have a favorite universe?
Star Wars maybe, The Lord of the Rings.
Okay, officially accepted, welcome!
Alright. And how long have you been teaching English?
Well, now I think it’s about 7 years.
Okay. Cool! Cool-cool-cool.
Wow, that’s quite a lot actually.
What about you, wait, Natalie? I think it’s about the same.
6 years I think. Just like you I think, right?
Yeah we graduated 7 years ago you know.
Wait, come on. 2014. Yeah it’s been 7 years oh my god! Okay, okay.
The realization of this, you know.
Yeah exactly. Like a small person already.
Usually when you look back to the graduation times or something like that it’s like oh my goodness! I graduated guys about 15 years ago.
Just better now think what… How long it’s been since you left school or since you went to school.
Let’s not think about that. Really. Oh my god, really.
I think if Gary was here he would just laugh at us, you know. This wise smile of a man, like, come on, come on. Alright, so and we are here today to talk about quite a rebellious topic maybe. So we are here to talk about tattoos and piercings and in general body modification. So and I, of course, the first question that pops up in my mind is do you have any tattoos or piercings? What’s your experience?
Unfortunately I don’t. There are so many…
You have your ears pierced, I can see that.
I mean yeah, I have my ears pierced, that is like the only thing that I have. And it’s pretty typical, I mean everybody has it.
According to some researches women’s ear’s pierced are not considered to be as piercings.
Exactly, exactly, it’s just kind of typical thing.
It’s not a piercing. Exactly, yeah. But I’ve wanted to, I don’t know, pierce my eyebrow, I don’t know, to get a tattoo for so long, but I never did. I don’t know why really. Because I think it’s a huge responsibility I think if you do something to your body.
You can take it off and just forget about it.
But there still will be like a hole.
Oh no, you can get rid of that too if you have one.
So there are certain procedures that, you know, help you forget about any kind of a…
Okay, after the podcast I’m gonna just go and pierce everything that I can.
If actually piercing procedure was correct there won’t be any scars or keloids something like that.
Okay, so here we have a specialist I think.
So and have you ever thought about getting a tattoo?
Of course, so many times, really. But again, huge responsibility. So, you change your body somehow and it’s forever. I mean, you can how do you call it? Like, there is laser procedures.
Yeah. You can remove it. But it’s…
But there will be scars still I think.
I’m not sure about scars to be honest, but I know that it’s hell painful and hell expensive.
Yeah, I’ve heard about it.
Like, that’s for sure, yeah.
If I did something, I think it would be something, you know, like, small, I don’t know, like really minimalistic.
Maybe no. The opposite actually. But definitely minimalistic and, like, really, you know. I kinda like all these, you know, sleeves, yeah, when people just tattoo all their bodies. For example the singer of Bring Me Horizon, have you seen him? He has like all his body tattooed.
Neck, I mean, arms, everything. So but I think it’s beautiful but I wouldn’t like that to myself.
So minimalistic, something tiny and cute/non-cute, but minimalistic for sure.
I would… I think we should record the podcast on the same topic in about like a year, two years.
Yeah and Natalie’s all tattooed, you know. Okay, yeah.
So yeah, you’re still thinking.
Yeah. Again, maybe after this podcast I’ll just go and get a tattoo and a piercing.
I would advise you to put a little bit more thought into it, you know. But I think that everybody who has tattoos will agree that you always get the first one and you say oh, I’m just gonna get one, just one. I’m not gonna get 2-3 or whatever. Never works like that.
I don’t know how it works. I have five tattoos now.
Yeah, tell us about your experience.
Tell us, tell us, tell us.
The first one I actually I imagines and created when I was 15 years old and I had it done when I was 25. So it took me 10 years to...
To get mentally prepared.
Yes, to get mentally prepared and so on. And then I was thinking about my parents approval and maybe the society and so on, but then I got rebellious and I…
And just went and had my first tattoo. And then, so, I think it took me about 2 years till the second one.
Can you tell us what they are? If I may ask?
Yes, sure. The one, the first one is two butterflies on my leg, on my thigh actually. And the second one it’s a really big tattoo of a bird and a sakura and other things on the side of the body. And there are three more tattoos and one of them is actually spoiled if we talk about the good tattooists and masters. So that wasn’t good, so you…
Are you going to cover it with another tattoo?
I had it partially removed, yes, and I’m going to cover it and I’m still thinking on the design.
Oh that’s so cool. How much time, like, how long were the sessions?
The biggest tattoo I think all together took about 15 hours.
Oh, no, actually, four, the fourth one was after I think, half a year after I had….
I wish I had that, you know, I wish I had that.
Come on, you also have some big one…
No, I mean I wish I had several sessions. I had more brutal…
I mean, I have, as of now, I have three tattoos. The first one is Big Ben, it goes from the ankle, you know, from the base of my leg to the knee and it was one session, 11.5 hours. One day. I went to the studio at 10am, I left it around 2am the next day.
How did you survive 11 hours?
Well, you know, the first 5 hours were bearable, like, it was okay. Then the later it got, the more painful it became. And then by the end I was like can we just stop and not do, you know, the background? And my tattoo artist was like you’ve been for 9 hours, can’t you bear 2 more hours, like bitch please.
I’m like, okay-okay, I’m strong, I can do that. The next one was, which came first? Yeah I think the next one was the Tardis on my shoulder blade which, I don’t know, like 20cm, like 20 by 15. It took us 9 hours to do that.
And after that I swore to myself that I would never in my life get another tattoo on my back. Like, hell that was painful. Like, really, we had to stop every hour for like a couple of minutes. I was like can I just have some rest?
Yeah, like, I wanted to breathe, I wanted to have a break. And the third one – well, you can see, it’s a turtle with a Discworld, a commemoration of Terry Pratchett’s work. And it was like 3.5 hours.
I haven’t seen this one actually. Is it new?
Really? Well, last year, I think, last year. Oh my goodness! Oh we have a real Harry Potter fan here!
Okay, Alyona just showed me something. Tell me, tell them, tell the listeners what you’ve showed me.
So, that’s… I think that’s the last one that I had, and it was a present from my sister on my 30th birthday and that’s a tattoo from Harry Potter, like mudblood.
What does it mean actually?
Five tattoos, it might as well be mad blood.
I have a question. I have a question to Alyona. How did your parents react when you got tattoos and piercings?
The first tattoo was… Okay. I got them prepared by piercings actually. So I had my naval piercing, I had my ears pierced and my nose and so by that time I think they were a little prepared to me having a tattoo, first tattoo. So when I had it done, they all looked at the design and actually they approved of the design.
Just beautiful butterflies, yeah. And even my grandma, she was like oh, beautiful. But actually how would it look when you grow up, when you become adult, when you become like me in 80s.
And you’re like grandma, let’s be fair, you don’t look like a daisy right now.
Yes, yes. And actually that was the only thing that bothered her.
But I mean, everybody thinks about that how will I look when I’m 80 or something.
But the answer to that is awesome.
Yeah I mean you would still look like an 80 years old lady, but still.
Yeah, but with some tats.
Oh god, I have a story about my parents, it’s so fun. I mean, first of all, I got a piercing in like 2014. And I also have a story about that, cause I got a dermal piercing in the middle of my neck. And at that time I was working at a secondary school, so and the next day I got it…
First of all my mom was like is it an act of… A rebellious act against the system? Are you…? Do you want to show something with it? I’m like mom, chill, it’s, you know, it’s just beautiful, it’s a crystal. It looks like a necklace, just without a chain. So it looks lovely.
Actually yeah, I saw it, it’s really lovely.
But she was like something’s wrong? Are you okay? I’m like oh god, okay, okay. So the next day I was teaching and I was teaching like 11-12-year-olds at that time, 14 year-olds and they were like, what is that? What is that? I’m like a crystal.
They’re like how does it hold to the body? I’m like glue. Well, you know, I’m a teacher, I should not be saying to kids like oh yeah, it’s piercing, you can get it over there. So but the thing is that a week after they came to me and they said something like we googled it, it’s not glued!
You lied to us! I’m like you shush, please. But the funniest moment was when 2 months later a 14-year-old, so a 9th-grader came to the lesson with the same piercing. And she’s like it looks so beautiful I decided to get the same one. I’m like don’t you dare tell your parents where you got the idea. You hear me? Like do not.
I wish they learned English, you know the same way they got their piercings.
Actually, yeah, it’s interesting idea, why the society is so, you know… Again, you just said act of rebellion, but why is it considered like that? Is it after all these rock stars who actually done it?
But who are the rock stars? They are rebels.
Yeah, but I mean why? So, I mean you pierce your body – why is it considered an act of rebellion? What is so rebellious about that?
I would say that for many people yes, but according to some research I read yesterday, many people think that it is act of body decoration or something like that, like body art.
I mean, yeah, everybody has their own reasons.
I mean for teenagers of course it’s more of a rebellion, cause their parents tell them no, you can’t, when you’re 18 you’ll be able to do whatever you want. So they’re like I don’t care, I’m gonna do that. Although let’s be fair, you know, some parents are totally supportive in terms of that, so they just go together with their kids to a piercing salon.
I have a story about that.
So one of the last tattoos that I have, I have it with my sister and my brother. So we all have almost the same tattoo.
On the same place on our bodies. And when our parents and grandparents saw it, they said my goodness, it’s so lovely, it’s so adorable.
Well that’s an unexpected twist, right?
Yes. So we all were in our 30s back then, and it was not the act of rebel, but still. Even our grandma was like oh, it’s so connecting and lovely. And that after that my mom…
My mom and dad, they decided to have their tattoos. They haven’t performed it yet, but next year I think it’s 40 years since their marriage.
40 years? Wow! That’s so cool!
They are going to have tattoos.
I love it when, you know, couples have matching tattoos. We’re planning on getting one with my fiancée, so like yay, it’s so cool.
Yeah, that’s really sweet.
Lasting, you know, longer than an engagement ring of course. And with my tattoo, god, it was funny, because the day I got a tattoo session planned, my mom invited me for dinner and I’m like I can’t, you know, I have work, I have a lot of lessons, so I’m sorry.
You know, I’m gonna come tomorrow. She’s like yeah, okay, cool, you have a lot of work, fine. So the next day, the next morning, I’m like well mom, I have something to tell you, well, I got a tattoo. And she’s like you what now? Like, the real one that’s not gonna wash away?
I’m like yeah, the real one that’s not gonna wash away. And she’s like but is it a little tattoo? I’m like yeah, you know, yeah, it’s tiny. And just to remind you – it’s half of my leg from the ankle to the knee. And then she’s like okay, send me a picture.
And I sent her a picture and she was like oh dear Lord. I’m like oh dear lord how beautiful that is? Cause I love it. She’s like yeah, okay okay okay. I love my dad’s reaction cause whenever we talked about tattoos, my mom was like I hope you’re not getting one.
And my dad’s like why do you worry? If she gets one, you’re gonna be the last person to find out about that. I’m like you got a point here. And the thing is that my mom was like why, I mean, it’s beautiful, but why? It’s permanent, but it’s beautiful. You know, she had very mixed feelings about that. My dad…
When he came to see me in person, you know how you have to wrap something around the tattoo to apply some kind of a cream. He saw how I wrapped my leg and he’s like it’s just, you know, horrible the way you wrapped it. So every day he would come to me to wrap my leg nicely so that I can go outside.
I’m like aw, thank you. And then when I got another one, they were like, yeah okay fine whatever. Like, they’ve already accepted the fact, as they say, we have one, you know, we have a normal daughter and, well, that one.
Cause my sister’s like, you know, no piercings, no tattoos and then there’s me, you know. At some point I had three dermals and my mom was like oh, okay.
Wait, are you the youngest or the oldest?
Oh okay. So I understand.
So and then I had my hair done, you know, purple, blue and pink. Then I had another piercing which is tragus.
That’s always like that I think, youngest kids are more rebellious.
I’m the oldest in the family and I brought that fashion to our family members. And my brother has a tattoo – just one, but still. And my sister has several tattoos and piercings. And my mom even, she has her eyebrows tattooed.
Actually is it also a tattoo? Is it considered a tattoo?
Yes, yes. Permanent makeup, so that’s why it’s tattoo as well.
But I think it’s different category of them.
You mean in terms of like attitude?
It might be. I mean luckily, you know, we’re getting out of this stigma in Russia, so you know, the way it used to be treated, the tattoos.
Yeah exactly. Yeah actually my granddad, so he had tattoos and he had them done in the army. And it was like, some, you know… Because they were doing them by themselves, with a pen or like regular ink.
I remember my granddad had them as well.
I try not to think about what they did them with.
And it was like, you know, a name of his or some, you know, some silly things. And actually he was embarrassed of them, you know. Because like, he used to cover them all the time, because he thought that people gonna think that, I was like in prison or something like that. But now I think it’s changing. Definitely.
Oh it’s definitely changing. Since we’re talking about attitude to tattoos, I kinda have to ask – have you ever been told anything like well a teacher can’t have tattoos or piercings or something like that.
Oh I ignore this stuff. I don’t listen to this stuff, you know.
That’s why I always have my headphones.
Yeah come on, just leave me alone.
I can’t say that I’ve ever heard that, cause I had my style kind of fully formed by the time I became a teacher. So that’s why almost all my piercings were already done. And a several tattoos. So when I became a teacher and when I came to school actually, that was my friend’s school first and…
Actually we worked there together.
Exactly. I was just straight form the university, it was my…
Your fifth year if I’m not mistaken.
Your fifth year of university or…
And we just worked in the same school. So actually that’s where we met.
Aw. You met through work and Natalie and I met through university.
Yeah, it’s kinda funny, yeah.
It’s a small town, a small world, yeah.
So you never d a problem then with?
If there could have been problems, I think the pupils and the students just didn’t choose me as the teacher, as their teacher.
Fair enough, fair enough.
You know, teaching it’s really personal thing. So it’s about interactions and about even liking each other, so.
Cause when I had my hair dyed very bright colors and everything, my mom used to tell me you’re a teacher, how are you gonna find a job? I’m like I already have a job.
Oh my god, yeah, this sounds so familiar.
And then, yeah. I’m like who cares? Am I less of a professional because of my tats, because of my piercings? No. And then when I got a grant and I had to go teach to an American university, my mom was like and how are they gonna look at you?
So I contacted my supervisor and I asked – is it okay that I have bright hair and piercings and tattoos? And she was like oh you’re gonna fit just well. And I did. And I loved that nobody cares, really, nobody cares.
Yeah. But I think it’s changing now in Russia too.
Little by little. But yeah, my grandma, she’s really conservative. Even when I’m like wearing jeans or something like that, she’s like a teacher shouldn’t wear jeans, a teacher should wear a dress, a skirt or something like that.
Oh so sweet. So sweet and so old-fashioned.
I know, I know, definitely.
But do you think that tattoos have to have a meaning?
I think yes. So all my tattoos have some meaning, for me personally. So they may not be, I don’t know, conventional meanings or something like that, but something that they mean to me. Maybe some event in my life or something like that, maybe I don’t know, people that I meet. Of course, one of the tattoos it’s kind of a family tattoo and it means a lot to me.
I think it’s just dedication to the universe, to the person actually who had that, that was a scar in Harry Potter’s universe, but still. I like the character, Hermione Granger, so and she’s lovely and wise and friendly really. And so I think altogether, so broad.
Natalie what would you think?
I think yeah, but I don’t know, I’m kinda in doubts here because again, it might look really beautiful when a person, again, covers all the body with different tattoos. But again, if I had one, it would probably mean something. I mean, definitely would mean something.
I have a little bit of a different position. I mean, all my tats, they have some kind of a meaning, I didn’t just get them you know, out of the blue, because the Big Ben is about my love to London and my trips there and one of my happiest days of my life over there.
Terry Pratchett – well I just adore his works, I’ve spent, you know, 5 years of my life at least reading and writing my thesis on it. Doctor Who – the same, I’m a whovian. But at the same time I don’t think that tats have to have a meaning. Like, nowadays it’s more like, you know, a beautiful picture.
They can symbolize something at least.
They might, but they don’t have to.
Don’t have to, yes, sure. I think the whole system has changed. Maybe in last 10 years, maybe 15 years.
Yeah I think it’s been within the last decade maybe, yeah. Yeah I think if there’s a beautiful picture or something you wanna get tattooed on your body – go for it.
I think I agree actually, yes. If you, like, look at this tattoo every day and you still enjoy it…
Yeah, that’s what’s important.
That’s wonderful, yeah. Or I think there three, like, I mean, reasons to get a tattoo. So the first one is like to remember something. For example, you get a phrase or you get, I don’t know, an image of something that makes you remember something.
Yeah, yeah, something like that. Yeah, actually. So the other one is probably aesthetic pleasure, just to, again, look at it and enjoy it. And the third one… I forgot actually. Yeah.
I think there can be maybe reasons behind that. You just like the picture you want to have. I think it’s more connected with the aesthetics. Matching tattoos. Maybe something, you know, as a reminder.
Cause let’s say my ex had a tattoo on their wrist which said stay calm. As you know, like, a reminder during the anxiety days and the days of depression and everything.
But does it really help? I mean, you look at it and…
If you make it habit. If you make it a habit to maybe check on your tattoo or when you feel anxious or something like that.
It depends on what you put into it.
Yeah, definitely. Yeah, I’ve seen a tattoo and it was something like think. You know. And I think it’s beautiful. Just use your brain.
I have a ring with this phrase. Think.
Wow, that’s nice, really nice.
So actually that’s why I chose the tattoo on my shoulder…
Forearm, yeah. On my forearm for that, to remember being loyal, being friendly and so on. So why not?
Are you going to get another tattoo?
I’m going to cover the one on my ankle first and after that maybe yes, I have an idea about my should being tattooed and it’s gonna match the tattoo on my side and maybe the one on my thigh.
Oh that’s cool, that sounds cool. Like a complex picture. I have so many ideas on what I would like to have tattooed. And where. Well there is a problem with the latter because, you know, my pain tolerance is not that high. So yeah and after having Tardis tattooed on my shoulder blade I said oh god, no.
It must be really painful, because it’s like…
Yeah, god, it was horrible. I honestly would assume that it wouldn’t be that horrible, because I mean, not that I have… Not that I’m skinny, you know. I have like quite a lot of fat over there, so it must be, you know… I thought that it would’ve, you know, worked as some kind of a…
Yeah. Okay, pain reliever or something, but no. I have so many ideas, but the thing is that I realized I have to do that here in Russia. Because one, we have fantastic tattoo artists. Two, it’s affordable. And that’s actually why a lot of people in the US assumed I was rich.
I was like little do you know about how wrong you are right now. So because they were like where did you get it done? How much was it? And I actually once wondered and I went to a tattoo salon and asked how much would something like that be, and they said well, given the quality and the colors it would be around 4 thousand dollars.
I’m like woah. And I’m like $130, Eastern Europe, go to Eastern Europe people.
Really? It was much more expensive.
Yeah. Like, 4000 dollars? Are you kidding me?
It is, it is. I remember once being… Having a walk in the center and there were some guys and they were like nice tats. I’m like cool thanks. They were like where did you get it done, you know, we started having a small talk. They were like well a friend of ours is, you know, has a tattoo machine, do you wanna come? I’m like a-no, a-thank you. This is something I would definitely not like to do.
So actually, since we’ve mentioned different, well, attitudes and countries, why don’t we talk about how tattoos appeared? So do you know anything about the history and when do you think they appeared?
Well actually I’ve got googled that and, like, the first evidence of a person who was tattooed, I mean, the one that we know about, so it was about more than 5000 years ago. So yeah. There was a body discovered on top of the mountain, so it was completely…
Yeah it was frozen, so yeah it wasn’t rotten or something, and we could actually see that there were some tattoos, like, on its body. So it means that it’s pretty old.
I think usually they had religious motifs.
Yeah, either religious or they also marked the slaves like that. Actually if we translate this word, tattoo, from Tahitian I think, it means a mark.
Well there are different, yeah, theories on where the word came from itself.
But yeah, you’re right, so the earliest evidence maybe was the mummy found in the… I think it was Italy, Italian-Austrian border. Somewhere there.
Something like that, yeah.
And they names it Etzi. So yeah, and the carbon… And it was carbon dated around 5200 years old, which is crazy. You know, when people say oh it’s just some modern trend, I’m like it is, of all things it is not that.
And we’ve mentioned, you know, what it meant for them. And I think it should be pointed out that different civilizations had different reasons for tattooing. So why don’t we take a closer look at some of these?
Do you mind if I give a little bit of a mini lecture?
Yeah you kinda did. You made us ask.
So I would like to start with China. Because some mummies were found in the cemeteries across Western China, so and they had tattooed skin and they dated as far back as 2100BC. So about a 1000 years younger than the Etzi mummy.
But still, you know, old enough, old enough. And in general in China, especially in Western China, tattooing was something barbaric. So and that’s why they had tattoos, they put tattoos on bandits and criminals. So convicted criminals, they were branded with the tattoos on their face, so it like used to warn other members of society.
Like, keep out, keep away. Actually the same thing was done in Russia at some point in history, you know, when there would be words on the face saying, like, thief. It was more of…
I’ve never heard about that.
It’s about 18th century I think. So a little bit later Peter the Great, Peter the Great’s time.
I know in Korea it’s even worse.
I’ve read the same about Japan, so they also marked thieves like that. And you know, in Japan they have characters, different kind of, yeah, characters. And so a character which means thief, so there are three lines.
I’m not sure actually. I never saw this character but I’ve read about it.
So yeah. And for the first offence they did the first line, then the second one for the second offence and the third one that would be the complete character of a thief. So it’s kinda funny.
So you could get away with it.
Yeah, exactly. So it’s like you do the offence, you still have a chance of not to become a thief.
You know, actually the history of tattoos in Japan is something, you know, also fascinating. I think it went through so many, well, just like in many other countries, it went through many stages.
But they are awesome really. Their compositions! Adorable.
They are. And actually Japan was the country that kinda inspired people from the, well, from America at the time. Because when it was first, you know, not discovered, but when the borders were open and the first travelers from America came there, they saw people with fantastic coverings on the body.
So and that’s how people in America started to, you know, get tattoos. But then again, it used to be also used for marking a criminal. Then it had some kind of, you know, beautiful value.
But then also at some point tattoos were only connected with Yakuza so and that’s why there is still a little bit of a stigma and actually I think it’s still the case that if you go to some kind of a sauna or something like that in Japan, you’re not allowed to get in if you have a tattoo.
So you know there are Korean saunas in the US all over the place and some of them do have a rule like if you have a tattoo we don’t want you here.
Exactly. I remember I watched a documentary about a girl and she’s like tattooed all over, so she even has some tattoos in her eyeballs. Exactly. I know, I know. It looks really creepy. And when she wanted to go to a spa, she was like refused to.
I know about spas and different saunas in Japan that in many places you can have it covered, so they give out you some special, I don’t know, tape.
I mean if there are some tattoos on your eyeball you can’t cover.
You are not going to see today. Yeah, yeah. But that’s about China and Japan. Now a lot of mummies with tattooed skin were also found in Egypt. So and they even date back to at least 2000 BC. And we have to remember that these are just the evidence and the mummies that were found.
But who knows if there have been others. And some theories indicate that the tattoos found on the mummies in Egypt were for decorative purposes, so not to, you know, mark a criminal. And some scientists actually have a theory they were also being used as a medical treatment.
Maybe it’s like a part of, you know, letting the blood go or something. But it’s just a theory, so right now it’s impossible to prove that. And what’s interesting though is that in ancient Egypt tattooing appears to have been practiced exclusively on women.
There have never been found a male mummy that had tattooed skin. I think only one, out of some kind of dynasty that I have no idea how to pronounce and you know. But, yeah, that’s interesting, like why? And how come?
Maybe again, religious reasons.
They should have I don’t know…
Like a woman is a sacred, has a sacred…
Or the opposite, you know.
Well they had female leaders, quite a lot of them, so I would think they would be more respectful to women.
Probably, probably. You know it’s funny how, like, humans all over the world had the same idea of getting ink inside of your skin and getting pictures out of it. How?
In absolutely different parts of the body, different civilizations. Do you know that actually one of the, well, not the oldest maybe, but it dates back to 500BC, but one of the tattooed mummies was found in Siberia. Maybe you have heard about the, we call her an Ukok princess?
It was found in the Altai mountains in the Ukok plateau during the 1990s.
I went to the museum in Akademgorodok and there saw a replica.
Oh my god, you’re so lucky.
I had an excursion, I was leading an excursion. I was translating an excursion to the foreigners and that was a part of it.
Oh my god that’s so cool.
I think about 2 or 3 years ago. And that was adorable, lovely.
For a very long time, for about several years the original, so the real Ukok princess mummy was in Novosibirsk. Later on they transported her back to Altai.
As far as I remember it was for some scientific reasons in here, but after that they decided to transfer it to…
So wait, is there… Do you happen to know if there’s a replica?
Oh my goodness, I have to go see.
if you know where the pond with the ducks is, so there just on the right side you can see a museum and the museum is dedicated to the history of Siberian area and there are some maybe exhibitions, exhibits from different archeological sites and…
You can hire a guide and they can tell you a lot about it.
For some reason I would… For some reason I thought that it would be stored in institutions, so you know, behind the closed doors, so nobody out of public could see that.
I think it used to be, but now it is in public and you can see at least the replica of it.
Hashtag popularizing science.
Yeah. Alright, and well, as I earlier mentioned when Natalie told us the meaning of the word, you know, and you said it was from… from Tahitian?
There is also a theory that the modern English word tattoo may have originated form Samoan word for a tattoo which is tatau which mean a marking on the body.
Still a mark. Some kind of a mark.
Samoa is in New Zealand, no? Maori.
No, that would be Maori. Samoa is a little bit different. It think it’s in Oceania.
But still I know that in those places there are really deep traditions of tattooing.
Yes! I mean Maori they still have their bodies tattooed, and that’s very important. Did you know that actually at some point the native peoples of Chukotka used to have face tattoos, facial tattoos and it was exclusively women. As of 2018 there were only 4 women left who you know, kept the tradition. As of now there is no data about that. But it was an ancient tradition in that part of Russia to have facial tattoos.
Yeah, it’s interesting. Like, what kind of meaning do they have? Cause it’s definitely, you know, part of the culture, part of some kind of religion, yeah.
It must have had some meaning.
But yeah. I really want to read more about that.
And then in the 20th century, this was the century when tattoos started to develop like crazy. And then if we look at the decades, so let’s say 1910s, so beginning of the 20th century and the majority of tattoos were found on circus performers or sailors.
So like just these two categories, so they were used to tell somebody’s personal story, like profession. And it was common for a sailor to have an anchor tattoo, which I think is one of the reasons why it got just popular later.
A rising sun if I’m not mistaken.
Yeah, something like that.
Actually my granddad had both of them, you know. So he got them in the army as I said before.
My granddad used to have his name on his knuckles.
The same. He also had that. Had a lot of tattoos actually.
I think my dad had an anchor tattoo. And a bird. But you know, just the figure of the bird, not the detailed. Interesting. He was in the army, not a marine, yeah he was a marine soldier I think. Submarine.
My granddad, he wasn’t a marine, but he was just regular army I think. So I don’t know how it’s connected. Really.
Interesting, yeah. So that in the 1910s in the US mostly. Then in the 1920s cosmetic tattoos became very popular among women so many would get those, you know, eyebrows or lips, so that’s where it all started, 1920s.
I heard they even tattooed…
The hair, yes! Hair when they had I don’t know some troubles.
Oh my goodness. No, I’ve never heard of that.
Or facial hair even, yes, I saw a few pictures it was like wow, hello.
Convenient, you know. You never have to make up…
Like nowadays ladies go to the salon and have that…
Yeah permanent makeup, yeah. Oh wow.
I never liked it really. Looks very artificial, it doesn’t look natural.
Oh I think it depends on what kind of a tattoo artist you have. Like if it’s done professionally.
I think about 10 years ago it looked, it all looked awful.
Do you remember it was like extremely thin lines? Oh god, yeah.
An girls used to shave their eyebrows and that was oh my goodness, no, please don’t do that.
I mean there are eyebrows but there aren’t.
You know, this is one of the fashion trends I hope will never see the light of the day again, ever, please, be gone and be forgotten. Really. So and then, it’s interesting that even though some women started to get you know, the cosmetic tattoos, still throughout the 1920s, the 1930s, it was still thought as socially non-acceptable.
You know, like, for outcast, for circus performance, sailors and sometimes even criminals at that moment too. And that’s why a lot of women would keep their cosmetic tattoos a secret. Although, come on, 1920s? Come on? How would you keep it a secret? Like, how?
Like wear a veil or something, I don’t know.
And then in 1940s Norman Keith Collins who was one of the tattoo artists, he gave birth to the iconic sailor Jerry style of tattoo, so you know, now it’s called old school style of tattoo. You know, the sailor, something like comic.
So he added colors to tattoos. And he created his own pigments and he was adding them to his tattoo designs. And yeah, in general this decade features bold motifs, plenty of colors. I think if you see old school red, blue, something like that. So it comes from the 1940s.
I think. Yeah, although I think skulls and roses I think it was more after, it was started after…
Because it’s all considered to be old-school.
Yeah. I think it appeared itself in 1960s-1970s.
But because of that, yeah. So and that’s… And then kin the 1940s as well it was a boom among patriotic tattoos in the US because of the World War II. So and there were like military motifs, things like that. Then in the 1960s? 70s? The popularity just dropped because of the Vietnam war, so it was not that cool to have, you know, a military tattoo anymore. So due to historical reasons.
But then came rock. So and well, that’s how, you know, all this acceptance started, and now we have what we have. So thank you rock stars.
For being bold enough to get that. So but what about Russia? What can we say about attitude to tattoos in Russia and the history of it?
I think it’s all changing again, like, we’ve said before. But I think it’s about big cities probably. If you go to village, if you go to small city probably it will still be considered like, what do you have on your skin? What’s that?
Why? Are you from prison? Have you been released?
I remember maybe in 2012 my sister and I we went to Kazan and I had really bright orange hair, even mohawk.
Oh I remember this actually.
There were really many piercings and a few tattoos and there people wouldn’t understand me, really if I think I lived there or something. Because while we stayed there for I think 5 days or so, we looked like outcast I think. Really.
I think it’s changing now though.
Yes, yes, sure. I think here in Novosibirsk it is… it was more okay, more people were more use to that, but there I think… Even if they are closer to European part and so on…
They have a different religion, predominantly Muslim, so…
Of course. So because of that people are not used to such, I don’t know, expressions.
Yeah, I love Novosibirsk in terms of you know, having a lot of amazing tattoo artists, you know, and the annual tattoo convention, which, thank you covid, was cancelled last year but hopefully will take place this year at the end of August.
I wish, I wish! Cause last year it was cancelled.
I have. I was a model. Yes.
Just when I had my big tattoo done, the tattooist asked me to become a model of him, of his on that fest. And so because of that he had it renewed a little. And we went to the convent. I don’t think that we won something, but still it was really exciting.
That’s so cool! I wanted to go there for like several years in a row, but it’s at the end of August, so and 2 years in a row I had already left to the US by that time. And then I thought maybe in 2020. But we all knew that it would not take place in 2020.
So this year – I don’t know, I do not know what the future holds. So let’s see, let’s see. But what if I ask you – how or when do you think the first… Was the first mentioning of tattooed people in Russia? Apart from the Ukok princess which was, you know, Asian part, it was more on the border with Mongolia.
Again, probably they marked slaves, I mean, not slaves, but some kind of outcasts probably, like criminals or something like that. Like we’ve said before, we spoke about that.
So it’s interesting that there’s only one mentioning about Russian pagans, so in the pagan time, having marks on their bodies. And it was in the Journal of the Volga Bulgars which was written in 920, so in the tenth century, by Ahmad ibn Fadlan, an Arab Muslim traveler.
So he was travelling all around the world, trying to, you know, convert people into Islam, yeah. And he wrote about Volga Bulgars “Each is tattooed from tips of his toes to his neck with dark blue or dark green
But this is the only mentioning, so…
Maybe he got mistaken, maybe he just…
But we do not know, that’s the thing. So there are not many…
Yeah, just one mentioning about tattoos, nothing else has ever been found regarding any kind of mark on the body. So and, well, technically, there may be a reason why there were never mentionings of it later, cause 920 is not long before…
Russia, well, Rus at the time adopted Christianity. And, well, Gary would agree that if I mention the book of Leviticus, chapter 19 verse 28 which said ‘Ye shall not make any cuttings in your flesh for the dead, nor print any marks upon you: I am your Lord’.
So Christianity was totally against any kind of marking on the body, so maybe that’s why we do not have any kind of information about that later. And then Peter the Great, well, he brought a lot of things from, you know, Europe to mother Russia.
So and he actually started mandatory tattooing, mandatory marking of the soldiers which included a cross on their left wrist, but…
Ah, yeah, I read about this.
And also a personal number of the soldier. But since there were no pigments or tattoo machines or anything like that at time, they would cut the cross and then rub gun powder into it. Which, you know, could have some complications later.
And it may sound barbaric but the identification of dead soldiers at the time was 100%. Because, you know, hard not to identify a soldier when there is a number tattooed on the wrist.
Actually a scar and a tattoo.
Well yeah, it’s more like a tattooed scar because they still rubbed, you know, the gun powder.
So there was a pigment inside of it. Kind of a scar.
Actually, there is a rumor, but I don’t think it has been proven right or wrong that even Peter the Great himself had a little tattoo of an axe.
What do we have tattoos for? You know, he might have had his reasons. But in general if we think about Russian czars, Nicholas the second, the last emperor of Russia had quite a big dragon tattooed on his forearm after his cousin, a British prince, I forgot his name… George? Prince George maybe? So yeah, did you know that Nicholas II was related to the Royal Family?
Ah yeah-yeah-yeah-yeah. I’ve heard about that.
His cousin went to Japan, got inspired, got a dragon on his forearm tattooed, and Nicholas II was like oh, that looks great. So apparently he went to Japan too and also had quite a big tattoo on his forearm. So it’s still googleable, because there have been pictures from the time that are in some archives.
And after that, you know, Russia started to brand its criminals and deserters from the war, you know, with ink. And later criminals started to be branded, marked with acronyms on their foreheads, cheeks or forearms. And one of the common acronyms, well, one of the common words was thief, вор, or three letters, KAT, which stood for каторжник.
So a word for criminals serving hard labor in Siberia. So if there was a person with this tattoo not in Siberia, not in, you know, the area with labor camps, they would be put into justice apparently. And only then, by 1863, it was forbidden by law, so this marking tattooing was forbidden by law.
But the thieves embraced tattooing cause it gave them a way to identify themselves, take pride in their actions, communicate their life stories through that and then we had what we had which was Russian prison, prison culture tattoos or prison tattoos culture.
Have you seen the, I think, autumn fashion designers started producing, I don’t know, tights and different turtlenecks with the pictures of Russian tattoos from 1960s, 1970s and so on.
I have no idea. You know, those stars on the knees and so on. I have no idea why, but that became fashionable in Europe or something.
Fashion never ceases to amaze me you know. Why would you do that? Because, you know, it has its history and I’m really happy that it’s gone now. I mean of course they still have some kind of you know, tattoo culture in prisons or something. Maybe, maybe. But, you know, it’s more or less gone by now. But why would they do something like that and return that?
I have no idea. When I saw it first I was really shocked and when the people started wearing that, the tights, the girls were wearing tights with the stars on the knees, hello? Really?
And when I was telling about Peter the Great and, you know, cutting the cross and rubbing gun powder, you’ve said that it’s morel like scarification. So and this is yet one more type of body modification.
I’ve never heard about this really.
But maybe I just tried to forget.
So I think the name speaks for itself, scarification, when you have the scars. And I think it first started in African countries because you know, because they have dark skin, the pigment is not really seen that much. So they would get the scars and rub some pigments into it. Then you have some kind of a 3-D maybe design.
It sounds painful, it does. But it’s popular still to this day. Of course people do not use knives or something like that, but the equipment is more like, you know, like surgical equipment or something like that, lasers. What other types of body modification can you think of? So we’ve mentioned scarification. Do you know anything else?
I remember in like the beginning of 2000s there was this fashion for, how do you call them, tunnels?
Gauged ears. Gauge, a gauge.
Might be. I’m not… Since it’s something that I don’t have, I’m like.
I used to have two, both my ears plugged and one of the tunnels was 5mm, the second was 10mm.
So the one of them got healed.
Yeah. It was tiny, it was not big. And the second one I’m still wearing. What do we call that?
I think we can call them a plug.
A plug. I mean it looks like a helix, yeah. So it’s nice and it’s not a 10mm tunnel or gauge, it’s just I think 8 or 7 now.
Yeah it really scared when you have like huge tunnels like 2-3 cm long.
My mom is always shocked to see people like that and she’s like it’s for the life. And I’m like oh no. She’s like what do you mean no? I’m like you can cut it and sew it back together. She’s like… I think she wishes she hadn’t heard that at the moment. But yeah.
I saw a few operations, like people cut their earlobes and just sewed it together. And it looks nicely again.
But I mean, look, it’s an earlobe, it’s all soft tissue, so it doesn’t sound that painful.
When you have this tunnel, the size of your, I don’t know, your ear actually, yeah, and it’s like ugh.
If you know, a person gets tired of this they can still get back to this. Which, you know…
At least it’s reversible, you know.
I mean, cause unlike scarification and scars, you can’t get rid of scars anymore. You can… You can’t even cover them much, you know. You can combine them with tattoos.
Just a little I think, if you, again, if you open the wound and sew it together and so on. I have no idea how it’s done.
Well, yes, it’s not anymore, you know, a quick and fast thing when you get your ears pierced within like a minute or two. No no no.
Have you seen the piercings, I don’t know what do we call, like windows in the cheeks.
I have no idea why they people that.
Have you seen them, you know, make a fountain? I’ve seen videos where they drink water and they’re like making a fountain of their cheeks.
I don’t think that actually… I mean, it’s not huge holes, it’s piercing, so… But I am 100% sure that you have to try it first without getting it pierced I mean somehow. Cause it doesn’t everybody because of the face shape and everything. But I have seen people who look amazing with cheek piercings, like really great. Really great.
Yeah, but I meant the plugs, yeah.
Oh the plugs! Like huge plugs? Oh I have no idea.
Yeah, the plugs, the tunnels with the openings.
I have never seen that, I’ve never seen that.
I saw just in pictures, thank gods not in real life.
Why would people do that to themselves? I mean…
It’s art, people want to express themselves.
Exactly. They want to outstand somehow.
Maybe shock, shock people.
Why not? Everybody has their own reasons, you know, and as long as people like that – why not?
I mean, yeah, of course. I mean…
As long as it’s legal, yeah. We also have one type of body modifications which is implants when you put something under your skin, you know, you can…
Yeah, yeah, yeah, exactly. So what else can we think of? There’s ear-shaping when you…
Like elves. Teeth sharpening. There was a practice in ancient China or even maybe still used when they bound the foot, so foot binding to make them smaller. Cause apparently it’s considered to be beautiful.
Really? I thought it was only like common in China.
Maybe I’m mistaken actually.
I saw some pictures, they have really little feet but they are not developed feet, but more like crumpled.
They are just put toes down…
It’s like torturing I think.
Well, part of the culture. But if we think about what is it? Like the beginning of the 20th, no, I think it was the 19th century when women were wearing, you know, tight lace and corsets to make their waist thinner. Some people even got their ribs removed like Dita von Teese, like, she got two ribs removed to have this tiny waist.
Actually I’ve read about corsets and they say it wasn’t really harmful, it was good for the posture and…
Cause sometimes it would... If you put too much pressure on the ribs.
There is also tongue splitting.
Yeah, I saw a few representatives with the tongue splits and when they could move the halves.
Oh my gosh. How is it really?
How do they speak? How do they make sounds? I mean…
Just like with your normal tongue. I don’t know. For some time I was kinda considering it, but I am such a huge coward, so I’m like god, maybe no? I’m kind of afraid of…
But I’m sure it must be some kind of difficulties when you speak because what if you make some sounds like th, so it must be hard.
But you can still, you know, stick the halves.
I mean, you can move them.
You can move them separately but…
And together, yeah. I don’t know, I think it looks kinda unusual, so unusual.
Thank god my mom can’t understand English. I think if she could she would have found out so many things that she doesn’t know. Sorry mom! Yeah. Would you get any kind of body modification like that? Would you consider it?
Not tongue splitting definitely.
So I still… I prefer traditional.
Piercings and tattoos, yeah.
Likewise, likewise. I don’t think I’ll ever get anything more than that yeah. I mean, other tattoos – of course, definitely. But yeah, nothing too extreme. And I have my last question actually- so at what age…
Cause we’ve mentioned teenagers and at what do you think it’s okay to get a tattoo. And since we all have… Well, Alyona has a lot of things pierced, but we all have earlobes pierced – at what age did you get yours pierced?
I think I was about 13 or 14. It was actually… Most of my friends had already had.
And you were standing out by not having that.
Exactly, exactly. And everybody was – oh, you don’t have.
Did you go with your mom somewhere?
Yeah, I did, I did. And it was like in a mall I think.
Oh I think at some point it was really popular, you know, to get something pierced at the mall with a pistol. Which I hope will cease to exist at one day. Oh they’re horrible, they’re horrible.
Because the thing is that they do not provide the full disinfection and in general they’re more traumatic to the ear. So it’s always better to use a needle. And a professional! To whoever is listening – and a professional!
Definitely, not yourself in a bathroom.
Although, let’s be fair, when I was a teen a lot of my friends did that, you know. A needle, cotton pads.
Yeah, actually my aunt did that too. Like when I first heard about that, I was shocked.
How come we’re alive right now, given all the stupid things that we did as teens? Yeah. Alyona, what about you? So when did you get your ears pierced?
I think I was about 8 years old.
Yeah, with a pistol. But now I know that it makes keloids and it breaks your skin and it doesn’t make a good channel for the earring.
Yeah, that’s what I have. How do you call them?
Keloids. I have this after my dermal. So I had one installed in the same place twice. And now it’s like a scar, which is quite big.
Well I talked to some piercer they say technically you can, it will be like a little surgery so yeah. I love it how you got your ears pierced at 13, you at the age of 8. I love it how my parents just took me to get my ears pierced at the age of 3. Like okay?
And the thing is that they did it on the baby ears like mine, so but I grew. So and now my, you know, the hole is kinda up there in the middle of the ear which means I can’t wear those tiny earrings that close behind the ear.
So I have to have like more or less bigger earrings, so that I have enough space. So that’s why, you know, the earring from my childhood I had to, yok n ow, give them away or something because I physically couldn’t wear them.
So that’s why a professional piercer!
A professional piercer, yeah! Whoever is listening, please. You know how they do it like don’t repeat that at home, supervised or something like that, yeah. And can we be too old for body modifications?
No. Well we unanimously agree that no.
I mean it might be hard to get tattoos when the skin is really wrinkled probably, but I don’t know really, it’s like a hypothesis. Probably.
So if you, dear listeners, are thinking about something but you think you’re too old for this – don’t be. Don’t be. Nothing stops you. Nothing does. Alright. So and what do you think would be the main takeaway from this episode for you? What are you going to remember this episode by after we are done?
Right after the episode Natasha is going to have a piercing or tattoo.
definitely. Piercing or a tattoo, probably, yeah. Yeah I’m really, you know, really… I have high motivation for that now.
Motivation, yeah, that’s a nice word for that.
Adorable to be motivated.
I think I will remember the history because it was really nice and informational, a lot of information, really. So yeah, thank you for that.
Oh always welcome, always welcome. Yeah I think the history is what I’m going to take away from this episode too, you know. It was something I had not known much about. I mean I had some kind of, you know, pieces of information, very random about, you know, the princess of Ukok, something like that, but not the whole picture.
Now we kinda do. Again, thanks to you.
Oh, always welcome, always welcome. Well and I have a question to our listeners – do you guys have tattoos, piercings? What’s your attitude to that? So leave a comment, especially in Vk, we’re always happy to chat with you over there. Especially on such a topic, I have a lot to say so.
Alright, so that was the BigAppleSchool podcast and today we discussed tattoos, piercings and body modifications. Thank you for listening and remember if you struggle to understand our conversation, you are always welcome to our website which is BigAppleSchool.com/podcast where you can find full scripts of each episode.
You can read it while listening, cool, right? Also if you want to get more content which will help you learn English, you can follow us on the social media such as Instagram, Vk, Youtube, Telegram and so on. Just, again, search our name, BigAppleSchool and, well, have fun. That was Katya and my guests for today were…
Stay tuned and we’ll see you around.