Lel'a ko, which translates to 'ink of Lel
', is the name given to the sacred ink used in Koushan Mai tattoos
. This specific ink needs to be used for the tattoos to be considered true 'lelashan', or fate markings. False fate markings are considered taboo.
Lel'a ko is made of two separate components: sap from the black-veiled mushroom
, and blood.
The sap is harvested from the ripe fruit-bodies of the black-veiled mushroom by squeezing them over a bowl. This causes the thick black sap to seep out from the gills. Most Koushan Mai who regularly harvest the sap have permanently stained fingers and palms.
To this, a small amount of blood from the person about to be tattooed is added. It is believed that the addition of a person's own blood will speed up the healing of the tattoo.
Lel'a ko will be mixed in a small bowl by a priest
of Lel, the god of fate, ready to be be used in the ritual lelashan. It will then be blessed, so that the ink and hand together will create an accurate fate marking.
Using a pair of needles
, the priest will then slowly insert the ink beneath the skin, creating the desired design.