Sunday, October 5, 2008

More about boa constrictors who swallow elephants.

I am still reading Tales from the Arabian Nights, so I was consulting my Penguin Dictionary of Symbols this morning, wondering about the number 300, and happened upon the entry about tattooing. This part cracked me up:

"...tattooing belongs among symbols of identification and is interfused with all their magic and mystic potency. Identification always carries a double meaning: it tends to invest the individual concerned with the properties and strength of the creature or thing to which that person is assimilated and, at the same time, to immunize the latter against its potential power to cause harm. This is why tattoos depict dangerous creatures such as serpents or scorpions, or animals which are symbols of fertility, such as bulls, or of power, such as lions, and so on. Identification also carries the sense of surrender or even of consecration to whatever the tattoo symbolically depicts. It then becomes a badge of fealty."

So my tattoo, of the boa constrictor who swallowed the elephant, protects me against a lot, one might think. A very dangerous creature, a symbol of childhood and imagination and fearlessness--and my own badge of fealty, surrender, consecration to these things. I suppose I am invested in the properties and strengths of the boa constrictor who swallowed an elephant, as well as invested in the properties and strength of the narrator of The Little Prince who drew the boa constrictor who swallowed an elephant (though I wouldn't have thought to put it that way). Also, of course, the tattoo is a constant reminder to me of these things, as I'd written about here.

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