Chrysanthemum Lore

For the last month or so, I’ve been spending so much time (and money!!!) on something that I decided on rather sporadically and which has resulted in something mostly new to me. Color tattoo! Until now, I’ve had five tattoo, but none in color really (the closest I’ve come to that was some Persian poetry inked between my shoulder blades at the base of my neck which was done in a VERY faint henna-like color and which is now so faint some have asked if I had it lasered off, as though they were looking at the remnants).

Years ago, at the place all my other ink was done, “Old Man Jay” consulted with me about an abstract swirly design idea I wanted. We weren’t very specific but he basically understood what I asked for. But only VERY basically. And then, unlike any other tattoo I’ve gotten, Old Man Jay took a Bic brand ball point pen and started free-handing a design on my left bicep and upper shoulder area. When he had finished, I looked in the mirror at his handy work. It wasn’t what I pictured, but to be fair I hadn’t pictured anything really, thus the concept of an “abstract” swirling design. I knew that I didn’t want anything that looked “tribal” or gaudy or like what I’d seen on so many other people. That’s actually a little funny now because what you’ll see below is something MANY people have had done. At any rate, when he was finished, it was good enough at the moment to give the green light… And so he began scraping the design into my skin. When he was finished, I was pleased enough and so I paid and left and the rest (for that tattoo) is history. It was never something I loved, but also never something I actually regretted or felt I didn’t want others to see. Sometime later, I learned from others at that tattoo shop that Old Man Jay was sick with testicular cancer and not expected to survive. (I more recently found that not to be the case at all because he’s upright and doing business at that old shop! Cancer survivor or big fat liar?)

Fast forward a few years and I found myself in a different tattoo shop (one suggested by a friend) to make a purchase unrelated to tattoos and decided to consult with an artist about doing some “cover up” work.

There were only two tattoo artists employed there at the time, one of which being the owner of the establishment. But both were out. So instead, I consulted briefly with the piercer who said he was apprenticing under the owner. He gave me a general idea and said I should come back the following Monday to talk with the man. So I did. The owner’s name happens also to be Jay. Something about the name Jay and tattoos! The consultation with Jay went well and we scheduled and appointment for a week or two later for me to come in and get started.

That appointment was a Thursday and all my appointments since then have been on Thursdays. The first session lasted 3.5 hours and cost me more (I paid per-hour) than probably all my other tattoos, combined. That evening, before leaving, I made an appointment for two weeks later, for color. I came in a week after the first appointment to brag to Jay about the compliments I’d gotten on his line work, to discuss color ideas, and to confirm my appointment the following week – which was last week.

And so last Thursday I arrived, I went to the shop and pulled my shirts off (I’m almost always wearing two t-shirts) and he began etching hues into my skin. Fact: When basic lines are being tattooed into one’s skin, a single needle is used. Another fact: When shading and color are being done, multiple needles are used at the same time and my guy had NINE needles in the gun he was using on me that day. I spent four hours there and all but about the first 30 minutes was excruciating. Seriously – I’ve had things pulled from inside my body, out through my penis, and later a 3-feet section of tubing removed the same way (the tubing was removed while I was awake and sitting upright) and those experiences were nothing compared to this pain. Soon in, the pain had me sweating so much that it was running down my back and dripping off my elbows and soaking his chair. Half of my body trembled due to the pain. Once, I even jerked my arm away from him – almost involuntarily. That usually gets you kicked out of the establishment right then. I lucked out because right as I was jerking my arm from him he was letting go to refill the ink. It was pure misery and a real test to my pain threshold.

The design settled on was one of waves (at the bottom and throughout), clouds (at the top, only), and chrysanthemums, or as we call them here locally, “mums.” If you click here you’ll be taken to a site that details some lore about different flowers and I found it really fitting and an encouragement for choosing as I did. Among the great things you’ll read by following that linkout, below are meanings and symbolism that resonated a lot with me and I wanted to share here.

The Chrysanthemum means… lasting friendship and non-romantic affection, support of family and friends, rest and recovery after trials or challenges, cheerfulness, positivity,  & life and rebirth. This flower is associated with the month of November – the month in which my birth mother died. And it’s also associated with All Souls Day (Usually considered a Catholic or Eastern Orthodox holiday but is connected to what we now call Halloween, and in this context links to honoring the dead, which means much to me). Added personal meaning from my side is that there’s a flower for loved ones I’ve lost: My paternal grandfather, my aunt (dad’s side, in-law), my maternal grandfather, and my birth mother. It’s possible that in the future, I’ll add a flower for my dear friend Leah as well as eventual other losses.

In closing, I’ll share below a series of pics taken while work was being done on me and during breaks. In the first pic showing my skin, you’ll faintly see the original work by Old Man Jay which was being covered in this effort. The final pic is of me after I finally came home that night, showered off, and was totally spent by the long day and terrible physical pain it held.


The owner's workspace

The owner’s workspace






A colorful mess


Basic shadowing completed

Basic shadowing completed


First color outside of the color used for lines

First color outside of the color used for lines






Finally, a very VERY tired me

Finally, a very VERY tired me


Aum Shri Mahaganeshaya Namaha | Aum Shanti