• Travis Ryan


Updated: Mar 27, 2020

It was a deer, with tentacles coming off of its head. That’s how remember it, I was younger at the time but I remember seeing the preserved bodies in Europe of the “oldest human remains”, as the museum plugged it. It was a man who had been murdered with an arrow some thousands of years ago and then frozen into a glacier this ensured that this man would end up in a glass box leaving a lasting impression on a kid’s mind who was staring at the tattoos imbedded in his skin. The impression was that, the process of carving individual or tribe symbolism into one’s flesh is as human as snuffing the life out of each other, and though the repetitive freeze and thaw of water would have demolished a tombstone, this soft supple epitaph is eternal. People of all cultures have always marked themselves and even in the days before antibiotic ointment, steel needles, and latex gloves, people were getting struck up from the top down.

I didn’t really understand the practice until I was trapped on my own metaphorical glacier waiting for my uncertain faith, I had gotten the necessary ID tattoos before embarking my journey into the world, but didn’t understand the true significance until I was in the clutches of having the world ripped away from me. Its scary how, like breathing, your hands instinctively know how to sharpen a staple, burn grease and mix soot with water. The formula hasn’t changed since the beginning of time and the recipe is always compatible, we are made of water and carbon, as is the paint, the brush is a painful throw back, but the pain is necessary in the process. Tattoos are the ultimate way to transfer internal struggles to the outside, skin has always been easier to heal than mental scars. Both in pure glorification and the ejection of agony, once it sets in the skin the poison has been sucked out of the mind. And despite what the status quo may claim, people shy away from tattoos for the same reason they shy away from therapist, the ultimate fear is people being able to see and judge the dirty little corners of your mind. It’s a delusion based on the ready-made paranoia pumped by society, that everyone with a squeaky-clean exterior must match on the inside, it takes courage to let all around you know that you are not pristine inside or out.

I can relate to the fear myself, both of blowback from those in black BDU’s and jack boots, and of judgement, that whole stent in the concrete glacier produced a leg sleeve (concealment), and truthfully trust issues dictate that people don’t need to see the ink unless we’ve already passed a plane of intimacy where I’m stripping off layers of clothing and defense mechanisms. But as I progress, they will progress and spread like a mold made of personal acceptance. This is why other men and women stranded on a chunk of cold rock wondering if that arrow is coming for their chest everyday have more elaborate epitaphs displayed wherever there’s space. Ink work is the original trauma therapy, and in thousands of years once all tombstones have eroded, they’ll still be unearthing and encasing deer with tentacles, “lost soul” knuckle pieces, and tear drops from “the oldest human remains”.

“written in blood” “scribbled in flesh” “covered in history”

Travis Muffhuggin Ryan


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