Ever since I was a child, I’ve been interested in Egyptian, Greek and Roman mythologies. I still remember the feeling when we began to study those things at school, especially the myths like how Pallas Athene was born through Zeus’ forehead – the whole world of stories really swept me off my feet.
From the beginning, I felt strongly connected to Pallas Athene. Pallas Athene is the goddess of wisdom, handicraft and strategic warfare and also the protectress of Athens. For me, Pallas Athene represents a strong and independent character, and later I’ve begun to see her as a symbol of feminism as well. I got my first tattoo of Pallas Athene as soon as I turned 18 years old.
When I was young, I didn’t know much about good tattoo artists and really didn’t give much thought to who I’d choose to tattoo my skin. I got my first tattoos at quite a fast pace when I was still under 20 years old. I have no regrets, but if I had a chance to get those tattoos now, maybe I’d do things a bit differently. Still, I don’t feel I should fix them, because they are a part of my life nevertheless.
I see fox as my spirit animal. Like Pallas Athene, the fox is represented as a cunning and wise character in folk stories.
In general, fox is associated with curiosity and playfulness, but in the Middle European folk stories, fox is also a very shy animal. Maybe shyness is the thing that has made the fox even more relatable for me. Of course fox is also a very beautiful animal. Seeing a fox in nature always feels like a special moment that has certain magic in it.
My second Pallas Athene was the first tattoo I got at tattoo studio Rönkkö & Moberg in Tampere (link). This tattoo is Veera’s artwork. I fell in love with her tattooing style and she has tattooed me some other pieces after this one as well. The tattoo is on the same arm as the first Pallas Athene, so maybe my one intention was to get a better version of the character. This tattoo was made in 2012.
I have two tattoos of my dog, Aik. These are both made by Veera. The skull was partly designed after Aik’s X-ray images. There are my favorite flowers, carnation flowers, right next to the skull. There are also some other favorite plants of mine, like blackcurrants.
Aik and his siblings were found from a Vyborgian forest, Russia, in the middle of the coldest winter. He spent a year in the local animal shelter before I finally adopted him. Many people thought Aik was a German Shepherd even though he was much thinner and smaller. Aik was a bit hesitant towards new people, and used to bark at the doorbell, for example. You had to earn his trust, which most of the times was achieved by offering him some food.
Aik was a charming fellow. Even though I tried to socialize him, he never showed particular interest towards other dogs and rather spent time with people. Maybe he had some bad memories from the days he spent in the shelter. My mom’s dogs were the only ones he accepted as his own pack.
Aik was the first and the only dog I’ve owned so far. In his latter days he got a tumor, and his condition collapsed in a short time. In the end, he lived only a little under seven years. It’s been two years since he passed away. I’m definitely going to get another dog at some point, but I’m trying to be rational and wait for a better life situation for now. I must admit it’s very difficult, though.
The idea for this tattoo came from a necklace that my mom gave me when I was 16 years old. There’s a dove of peace and the sign of Venus portrayed in the necklace. It has a huge sentimental value for me, and I’ve been wearing it since I got it.
My mom is an extremely important person in my life. She is such a strong woman! My family is full of gorgeous and strong women in general, many of whom have been through very difficult times.
My granny and my mom’s sisters have also been my idols ever since I was a child. We occasionally had some difficulties at home when I was young, and I remember how my mom’s sisters were always there for us children. It has left me some very warm memories.
The raven on my chest is a couple of years old and again Veera’s artwork. In addition to fox, raven is the second spirit animal of mine. Raven holds a significant meaning in folklore as well, as it has been on the other hand a bringer of life, and on the other hand a messenger of death.
Like fox, raven always has a strong impact on me whenever I see it in nature. My first raven memory can be located in one day of my childhood when my friend and I were cycling to my friend’s home. I guess we must’ve been swimming or something like that. There were plain fields near to the road, when suddenly, completely out of nothing, we heard a raven calling. The bird just stood motionless there on the field and stared at us. It was an unforgettable moment.
The raven tattoo also has an allusion to Edgar Allan Poe’s poem, The Raven. Poe is one of my favorite authors in general, and I still remember how The Raven haunted me after I read it for the first time. A funny detail is that the raven in the poem perched upon the statue that portrays Pallas Athene.
My tattoos are pretty personal, and my deep respect towards nature and animals can be seen on my skin. I’ve always been interested in art in general, and I see tattoos as one form of art.
I’ve noticed that many of my tattoos seem to be memorials of someone. I’ve wanted to keep my other arm empty so far, and I don’t know yet whether it will stay that way or not. If I’m going to get more tattoos in the future, I’m going to stick with folklore and mythology themes.
The moth and the moon are related to both nature and paganism. This and the amanita-eating fox are made by my cousin, Reetta Tahvanainen-Uusitalo, who currently works at Myrsky Tattoo in Helsinki. I love especially the colors in the fox tattoo, they are so delicious!
I guess this fox was the most painful of my tattoos along with the raven. I’m not particularly sensitive to pain, though, and some of my tattoos have been painful mainly just because the tattooing lasted so long. At some point, I even decided that five hours is the maximum time I’m willing to spend in a tattoo chair. We shall see if I’m able to keep that word.
Some of my tattoos have less meaning than the others, and for example, the bat was tattooed after a short decision process.
Originally, I went to design my raven tattoo with Veera, and our intention was to begin the tattooing during the same session. Anyway, for some reason we weren’t able to do that.
Since I had traveled all the way from Oulu to Tampere, Veera felt sorry for me. She asked if we should tattoo something small anyway, and then we invented this bat idea. The bat was made in maybe 15 minutes, and we also managed to design the raven at the same appointment. So I didn’t need to leave empty-handed at all!
The goat skull and the triple moon on my other leg are also made by Aliina. These are associated with quite many symbolic meanings that I usually don’t explain much to other people. Generally speaking, animism, Thelema and chaos magic fascinate me a lot. They all deal with things such as deep introspection, searching your own path, and showing respect towards all the living and non-living beings.
In a way, I see those things connecting with psychology as well: finding your own meaning and getting to know yourself are an essential part of psychology, and due to my work, I often confront my own feeling of being incomplete as well. It’s one of the most challenging and fascinating parts of my work.
I’ve been surprised to see how little negative feedback I’ve received at work concerning my tattoos. I work with young adults and adults, and especially young people often notice my tattoos. Many people seem to find it funny that their psychologist is tattooed and pierced. I think in a way, it can even be some sort of advantage – at least it often serves as a nice icebreaker between the client and me.
Death theme often manifests in my tattoos. I see death as an essential part of nature-themed tattoos as well. After all, it’s a fundamental part of the natural process of life.
My latest tattoo is Aliina’s artwork as well. In a way, it’s the most significant tattoo I have. A little over a year ago I lost a close, dear friend of mine. His real name was Eero, but people called him Kuikka (kuikka in English: the black-throated diver). Ei saa vaipua synkkyyteen (in English: Do not indulge in sadness) was his motto, which he had learned from his grandfather. The same text was tattooed on Kuikka’s stomach, and I’ve always seen it as a nice guideline of life.
After he died, the grief and pain felt so intense that I thought I couldn’t survive through it all. Back then, this particular quote worked for me as an important mantra and reminded me to hold onto things that I have and not give in to the pain.
During those days, I gained strength from the thought that Eero wouldn’t have wanted me to give up. I know that if he could’ve been there, he would’ve hoped that I would be able to enjoy, laugh and keep on living. Because after all, that’s what life is all about. Even though those days are now in the past, sadness and longing still remain. And I guess they always will.
Kuikka was the witch doctor of his own life, and he was interested in paganism, shamanism and that sort of stuff. There’s actually a certain interesting twist concerning this topic. It happened after I had already gotten this tattoo.
One day, I wanted to study some more information about black-throated divers just for fun. I found out that according to Finnish folklore, the black-throated diver is a sacred bird who was allowed to travel between upper and downer realms, the realm of the gods and the realm of the dead.
It was also the soul-bird of shamans, a truly pivotal animal. After reading it, I just thought well, this makes sense. Somehow, it suddenly felt like a quite clear connection.