Stick & Poke is a not-so-new but on-the-rise trend in the tattoo world. It has roots in many pagan and shamanic spiritualities which can often get over-looked when we’re saturated in a culture that is telling us to own our bodies and adorn them however we please – not that I have a problem with that.
It’s more that, for me getting a stick and poke is significant for many of the reasons that they were significant in these spiritualities. I’m a practitioner of Wicca – so to summarize that quickly, I believe everything has an energy and that we need to respect the energy of every unique person, plant, situation, rock, and worm while also staying in tune with our own energies needs in these alignments. Or something like that.
Stick and Poke, while a method of tattooing, is also an exchange of energy. The process is much slower, more intimate, and somehow more vulnerable. What would have taken a machine under an hour, took approximately 3 for my own two.
Stick & Poke; The Experience
In my experience, Stick and Poke while more casual in it’s method, should still be professional in it’s undertaking. This means make sure your artist is using new needles, cleaning and sanitizing everything properly, is set up in a safe, clean environment with fresh ink.
[If you’re not sure what safety processes take place when getting a tattoo, this is a great resource. ]
I’ve never gotten a “professional” stick and poke done before, but have done several on myself. Some of them stuck better than others depending on where it was (ankle vs. finger). This process involved shaving the area, sanitizing it and the tools, drawing on an idea in sharpie, and going at it for a couple hours. Usually kind of stoned, generally having a great time. Very much not something I would ask anyone to pay for.
I met with Reka to draw out a design the day of the appointment. I had told her in advance that I wanted the Wiccan symbols for the God and Goddess energy and that was about all the information she had.
“About the size of a loonie”
After a good 30 minutes of getting lines straight and circles centred, we had the design more or less in place, with some sharpied in reassurance.
The entire session, from meeting until leaving was about 6 hours. I had known Reka for a couple of years, and she was only in town for 2 days – making space to do this with me. About 2 hours into the actual tattooing process we breaked for sushi. It’s an energy consuming process, even when it’s being shared.
We got our last hour in and it was like meeting a glorious finish line. The procedure itself isn’t painful – not comparatively to machine tattoos. You get into a rhythm with another person. You can predict their moves, learn their breath, are aware of every poke. It becomes a trance-like experience with the darkness outside the only true indication of the time that’s passed.
A machine is never that personal. Spending 3 hours with someone as they permanently mark your skin with individual pokes is definitely a marathon of sharing energy. It’s an intimacy.
And this intimacy is why I chose to get stick and pokes for these tattoos that are the yin & yang of my world (more or less).
The Sun & Moon ; God and Goddess Energy
[ I want to preface this portion by saying that these are my own personal, curated beliefs based on my knowledge and preference of interpretation of Wiccan practices. If you have any further questions or want more resources please feel free to reach out.]
In Wicca, the God and Goddess are not the traditional figureheads we look up to. They are instead representations of energy. The Sun and The Moon. The Masculine and the Feminine. The Giving and Receiving.
In Wicca all God’s and Goddesses are recognized, each one a representation of a kind of energy. There is Akhilandeshvari; The Goddess Never-Not-Broken. She represents the energy of change. or Adrestia; a Goddess of Greek mythology representing the equilibrium between good and evil.
It’s all relevant.
But the God and Goddess represent the pure energy of the Sun and the Moon; The Giving and Receiving; The Introvert and Extrovert; The Male and Female in their highest forms.
There are believed to be two channels in the body. One side of giving, generally your dominant (which is my right). One side of receiving (my left). These are important factors in certain rituals, basic gestures, and even in recognizing the physical signs that can manifest and be unfolded in analyzing this information.
For example: When I feel like there is oncoming energy/actions that are attacking my personal character, I get back pain on my left side just below my ribcage. When I feel I am giving more energy than I have I get a tightness in my right shoulder.
This applies to headaches and what side of my body they’re on. Fatigue. Other aches/pains. The body is a map.
I got the symbol for the sun on my right arm for giving. I got the moon on my left for receiving. I got stick and pokes because, like all things, this was an exchange of energy. But also a significantly symbolic one for me. They are a reminder to stay balanced, and to honour the different cycles of the world and self, that often balance is not in the total equilibrium but in the ability to let these energies stay balanced in their own ebbs and flows. In their times of strength and weakness to support each other, like I must learn to do with myself.
Written by Forest Greenwell
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