Interview with ManWoman in Total Tattoo
02:04 PM
Manny, Astarte at Irish Tattoo Festival.jpg
As I mentioned in July's redux of the Traditional Tattoo & World Culture Fest in Ireland, I had the pleasure of interviewing ManWoman, an artist who's mission it has been since the 1960s to reclaim the swastika from its Nazi taint back to its ancient, peaceful roots.

ManWoman, or Manny as his friends call him, used tattoos as a way to spread his message, and in doing so, found a loyal fan base in the tattoo community. In fact, many of those in attendance specifically came to hear ManWoman's presentation on his journey. Today, ManWoman is no longer adding to his tattoo collection but continues to inspire through other mediums like painting, writing and mixed media arts.

In our interview, ManWoman discusses everything from his spiritual awakening to the swatika's origins to meeting Holocaust survivors. You can read the full article in the October issue of Total Tattoo, now on newsstands and online. Here's a taste:

There are Holocaust survivors living today for whom the swastika could mean nothing else. Have you ever met anyone who was directly impacted by the Holocaust?

Yes, I have. About a year ago I was at a health spa in Glen Ivy, California where my men's group was having our big annual meeting. We were sitting in the hot springs with the water bubbling all around and all of a sudden this little bony hand comes over the railing, and this old, old lady who must've been close to ninety pointed at my arms and said, "They told us children we were going to a party when they put us in Auschwitz." And I thought, "Oh my god, how am I going to explain to this lady that what I'm doing has no connection at all?" She just went into this really sad place and I felt bad. What do you say to someone like her? I just told her that it didn't have anything to do with that. How do you tell someone in 25 words or less, in a two-minute encounter, about the incredible beauty and sacredness of this symbol? A symbol that is has been used by Hindus, Buddhists, Pagans and ancient cultures as the most sacred symbol of blessing and auspiciousness. I was in India last year, and you can't go anywhere there without seeing it. It's everywhere.

The symbol appears in many cultures throughout history. Why do you think it keeps appearing in so many different times and places?

It's because it's a part of the archetypes of the inner foundations of the mind. There are universal symbols; like Karl Yung said, "If you slice through every religion there are universal archetypes: death, rebirth, the sacred mother giving birth to the divine child. And guess what pours through my dreams night after night? It's the archetypes but totally free from any organized religion. I see my duty as an artist and poet to refresh these archetypes. They're not going to change but they need to come out in a new form that we can relate to differently. When I see all these young people taking the swastika and playing with it, dancing with it, and making it into what it really is, it's just amazing. I feel like crying because I'm so excited. I come here and there are all these guys with their heads shaved and swastika tattoos on their faces, and it's like my dream is coming true. I better be careful what I dream of!

You can purchase the Total Tattoo issue here. It also includes a great profile on tattoo artist Daniel DiMattia.

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