"Demon Marks" & 17th Century Tattooing
06:54 AM
A close-up from an engraving of Jeanne des Anges (ca. 1638) displaying the nun and her "signed hand."

Thanks to the powers of Facebook (and Mikey Freedom), I learned of a fantastic article entitled, "Demon Marks Lay Bare the Twisted History of Tattooing." Granted, I'm only ten years late to the game in reading this 2004 piece (which is like a billion years on the Internet), but the information is really fascinating and I had to share.

The article is based on the research of Katherine Dauge-Roth, who has written about demonic possessions, exorcisms, and body markings among nuns in 17th-century France in her book, "Signing the Body in Early Modern France" (published in 2013).

Here's a bit from the article:
Poring over nuns' diaries, biographies, and exorcists' accounts, Dauge-Roth has pieced together a fascinating tale of torment, tattoos and devotion that details a range of 17th-century body-marking practices and sheds new light on women's spiritual traditions.

For some religious women, carving writing on the body was a way to signify their devotion, and to physically act out their desire for mystical union with Christ.

"In the seventeenth century you see women tattooing themselves with holy names and the sign of the cross," says Dauge-Roth. "One devout widow engraves the name of Jesus on her chest to avoid remarriage. It was a way of saying, 'I belong to God,' of affirming their spiritual commitment and identity."

Other women come by their inscriptions after a run-in with the devil.

Jeanne des Anges, an Ursuline nun from Loudun, France, experienced possession, exorcism and demonic "exit" marks that ultimately transformed her into a saintly character. "Jeanne reportedly had seven demons in her body," says Dauge-Roth. "When they exited they left several marks, including the inscription of four saints' names on her hand.

The whole article is great read. I highly recommend it.

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