When I was six years old, my family rented a cottage in Northern Finland. People often tend to leave their stuff at rental cottages, and this time we found a little book that was full of old runes. Even though I couldn’t read, I fell in love with the pictures in the book. There were pictures of plants, gemstones, trees, and each had their own meaning and special rune.
I told my mom that I want to choose the most beautiful plant, tree and gem of them all, and then my mom had to explain their meaning to me. Since I loved the color pink, I chose the ruby as my gemstone, and mom told me it was a symbol of friendship. Then, as my flower, I chose the wild rose, which was a symbol of creativity. Finally, I chose the rowan as my favorite tree because we had a rowan growing in our home garden back then.
Mom told me that whenever there was a rowan beside one’s home, it would serve as a protector of the house. I don’t know if my mom was being serious or not when she told me “Julle, if you write these runes down now and carry them with you, they will always protect you”. For many years, I had the runes written on a paper which I kept on my wallet, but as soon as I turned 18, I decided to tattoo them on my neck. Now I can always carry them with me.
I study cultural studies at the university, and many of my tattoos focus either on cultural or natural themes. I’m especially interested in minority rights, and I’m currently writing my Bachelor’s thesis on gender diversity in youth work. I’ve been thinking that I’ll only have grayscale tattoos on my skin. Somehow I find grayscale tattoos classical and pretty and easy to combine with many different clothes. I like not only tattoos but also the tattooing process itself. I love the feeling when you’re about to get tattooed, the tattooist takes out the tattoo bench and the needles, and you can feel your adrenaline rising – and the wave of relief when tattooing finally starts. It is a magnificent feeling.
I got my next tattoo after moving to Turku in the autumn of 2015. My long-term relationship ended on the same autumn, and I wanted to have a tattoo as a symbol of renewing and spiritual strength. Originally, I got interested in Kintaro Tattoo (link) because they use vegan ink. Almost all my tattoos are made with vegan ink. I’m a nature lover, I love wandering in forests and I’ve spent a great deal of my life by the sea. I suffered from severe anxiety disorder and OCD when I was younger, and I’ve noticed that when I’m surrounded by nature, it helps me to calm my mind and ease the buzzing thoughts that go through my head.
For me, the tree symbolizes strength. I’ve always been interested in environmental issues, and I wanted to have the tattoo on my bicep to remind that nature has power. We should remember to be kind to nature, because if we don’t, one day nature might strike back.
My next tattoos were these two: the bear and the text Sädehdi (in English: Shine). The bear is my spirit animal. In Finnish mythology, the bear is a crucial animal, and there are numerous synonyms for a bear in the Finnish language in order to honor the king of the forest. I’ve read lots of bear-related mythological literature, about ancient bear killing rituals and treating the bear in general. The bear possesses a remarkable power, but still it doesn’t appear to me as a beast. I love geometrical tattoos and dot work, so it felt like a natural choice to tattoo the bear just like this.
It felt important for me to have the text in Finnish. Swedish was my other option, since I’ve grown up in a Swedish-speaking environment, and I’ve also lived in Sweden. English, on the other hand, doesn’t feel as important language for me. I have lots of English-speaking friends, and I find it difficult to explain the meaning of this word and the feeling that is related to it. Shine just doesn’t have the same feeling in it.
The text relates to my past struggles with self-destruction. I’ve had anxiety disorder since I was 16 years old, and I guess in some way I’ve been anxious ever since my childhood. I have also been addicted to cutting when I was younger. There are still times when cutting crosses my mind, but then I just look at this tattoo and remember that I shouldn’t hurt myself anymore. The text ends with a dot, which makes it a simple statement: Shine. You can do it.
My violet tattoo is associated with themes of longing and sorrow. The tattoo reminds me of my grandparents who are both deceased now. My grandfather died when I was seven years old, so I mainly got to know him only through stories. He was a sailor, a tough man through and through, and he also had these traditional sailor tattoos, anchors and so on. Still, his favorite flower was a violet. I find the contrast so adorable – a big man who loved delicate little violets. In this tattoo, there are two flowers for my grandfather and two flowers for my grandmother.
I guess the death of my grandmother was the biggest shock of my life. I’ve always been a granny’s girl, she was the one I could always count on and who accepted me as I really am. If I had to name my one soulmate, I’d definitely say it was my grandmother. I feel like she was my other half, and no-one could ever be as dear to me as she was. My granny and I also shared a common middle name: Aurelia.
Granny was such a great character, an independent woman and a feminist. After my grandfather had already passed away, my grandmother’s leg needed to be amputated, and she had to use a wheelchair after that. Still, she would stand on her only leg and clean windows or do whatever came into her mind. And when I told her I like girls, she just replied: I see. Well, would you like to have another cinnamon bun?
We discussed all kinds of topics with my grandmother and talked a lot about her forthcoming death, for example. My granny wasn’t a religious person, and she just thought that one cannot possibly know what happens when you die – you just have to wait and see. On her final years, she had Alzheimer’s disease and a brain tumor. We lived in different cities, and therefore I couldn’t be on her side when she passed away.
However, we met a couple of weeks before her death. I had made her a card on which I told her how much I loved her. When the card was read to her, my mother asked my granny why didn’t she tell me how much she loves me too. My grandmother just looked into my eyes and said there’s no need to; Julianna already knows.
All my tattoos are located on the left side of my body. I’m diagnosed with a mild Cerebral Palsy, which manifests as a disability on my right leg. I’ve always been treated as medically asymmetrical, and people have always referred to my right leg as the “bad leg” or “wrong leg”. I want to celebrate my asymmetry by tattooing only the left side of my body.
Many people think that I should get tattoos on the same side where my CP is, in order to hide my disability in that way. I, on the other hand, think the opposite. By covering my stronger side with tattoos, I want to fight against the stigmatization based on asymmetry. I want my so-called wrong side to remain empty, bare and perfect just the way it is.
I’ve always identified myself as a feminist, but it was only after I moved to Turku when I really got immersed in the subject. I began to study gender studies at university and gained lots of new information about intersectional feminism. Feminism is much more than just women’s rights, and all genders face some kind of oppression that needs to be recognized. Still, there are lots of gendered oppression, glass ceilings and standards that only women face in their everyday lives. Grl pwr tattoo is about all these things that I need to remind both myself and the others. Whatever you decide to do in your life, what kind of person you want or don’t want to be – these are not gender-related issues. We are free to do anything we want to do.
The tattoo of Pippi Longstocking on my thigh is absolutely wonderful. She’s such a flower child with no shirt on, just adorable. The image is based on the original illustration by Ingrid Van Nyman. I feel so good whenever I see this tattoo. I read Astrid Lindgren’s books both in Swedish and in Finnish. Pippi holds so many meanings for me, and I think Pippi and I have many things in common. We’re both small, strong and independent women.
I love the fact that she doesn’t care what other people think about her, and she just plays by her own rules in the society. I find the same spirit in myself, and nowadays I don’t bother myself by thinking what other people might think about me. I also like the idea that you can do things in your own way, and there are multiple ways that can be equally right. On the other hand, Pippi is also a lonely girl. Even though she tries to remain cheery, she is always longing for something. There’s so much depth in that little girl.
This tattoo has a certain natural and gentle feeling that really appeals to me. The fact that she just sits there cross-legged, without a shirt on, flowers in her hair, eating a banana – she just lives in a moment, without caring what other people might think.
For me, tattoos represent self-empowerment. Tattoos improve my self-esteem, and when I look in the mirror, I’m pleased with myself like this, tattooed and pierced. Because of my tattoos, I’m more comfortable in my own skin. I think tattoos are a form of art, through which I’m able to express myself.