"I've seen that tattoos on Dahlen priests, but they can not be compared to the Ehrlen. The Dahlen tattoos are smooth, and simply a reflection of wealth and aesthetics; the Ehrlen 'Tao Mokoa' is instead chiseled into their skin - it is a reflection of their life, their spirituality. They are covered most beautifully in a tapestry of their individual stories. While some are intimidated by the striking visuals or the fortitude of the pain they went through to achieve it, I am fully entranced by the wonders I experience just witnessing the tribes of Mahangagahere." - Jean Montagne, La Patrian Explorer
The practice of Tao Mokoa, or Spiritual Tattoos, has been passed down through the generations from the beginning of the Ehrlen people. Tao Mokoa involves a series of ritualistic tattooing throughout one's life that begins when they first come of age. All members of a tribe will be expected to be tattooed to some extent, though the amount will vary by individual. It is said that when Seigna gifted the first Tohunga-Tao-Mokoa with Magick, that she allowed them to perform their enhanced art first on her, to be seen as a symbol by the rest of their people. Since then, Tao Mokoa has been an essential part of Ehrlen culture.
The application of these tattoos are performed by a Tohunga-Tao-Mokoa, a tattooist who has dedicated their life and work to their craft. Each tribe will have at least one Tohunga, with the largest having a few amongst them. While they are not a direct part of the leadership or advisors to the tribe leaders, they are viewed as sacred members of the tribe, and given special privileges in their life due to their importance to their tribe. The tattoos are applied with an Uhi
chisel made out of Albatross bone and ink gathered from local sources in the jungle which vary depending on the colors necessary. The Tohunga has a powerful connection with Seigna and channels divine magick into the tattoos they apply. The tattoos are then believed to be permanent enchantments, either bestowing power or fortune upon the individual who wears them.
When a member of an Ehrlen tribe comes of age to become an adult, usually around the fourteenth year of life, they will go on day of hunting and gathering with their parents. They are tasked with having one day to provide a meal for their family as well as gathering the ingredients necessary for the tattoo inks they desire. The design of the tattoo will heavily be influenced by what they hunt, and the size is determined by the amount of ink ingredients they gather. Naturally they will be judged by their peers for their first tattoo, the larger and more intricate ones indicating a successful first day as an adult. This is believed to be a telltale sign of their fortune for the rest of their lives - a bountiful hunt and harvest will mean a bountiful life.
After gathering their meal and ingredients, they will dine with their family that night while the Tohunga prepares the ingredients they gathered for inking. The next day is spent entirely with the Tohunga. In the morning, they go to the Tohunga and share with them the story of their lives so far, and the hunt they took part in the day prior. As they listen, the Tohunga will take a drawing instrument and mark out the patterns they belief fit the individual. Once complete, they take their Uhi and use a mallet to chisel the tattoo into their skin. This leaves the skin with physical grooves rather than a smooth finish. The Tohunga chants and sings throughout the entire practice, imbuing the ink with their divine magick to empower the individual. Their hands and the ink they apply will often glow during this process, only to settle into the true color of the ink after it is fully applied.
An Ehrlen will often be tattooed at multiple points throughout their lives. Reaching adulthood is the first, often succeeded by marriage and the birth of their first child. The more eventful or prominent someone's life, the more tattoos they will end up receiving.
Love this ritual and all the details. I like that they gather the ink themselves and that it's chiseled into the skin.
My world and three articles have been nominated for World Anvil's Worldbuilding Awards 2022. Please look over the candidates and I'd love your vote if you like my work!
Thank you kitoypoy! The Ehrlen in my world are largely based off of Polynesian and Maori influences. This is an adaptation of the real life practice of Tā moko combined with the fantasy of my world. I'd highly recommend looking it up, it's very fascinating!
Laura VanArendonk Baugh
Fascinating! I love the magical additions to the South Pacific concepts. I am in awe of those women who start by chiseling their lips. O.o Great article!
I believe it speaks volumes to the strength and spirituality of their people. Plus, I do believe Magic Tattoos are something we see far too little of in fantasy. Thank you so much! ^^'
E. Christopher Clark
This is really fabulous. I love the attention to detail given to each part of the process, and I love to imagine what the different kinds of first tattoos might look like.
Thank you very much! Art is most likely going to be one of the last elements added onto the articles, but I hope to have something to show for them soon!