Oh man, this past weekend has been amazing and filled with spirit. So Saturday night I received my batok from Lane Wilcken during his workshop on Pilipinx traditional tattoo’s in NYC. I was asked by the woman who ran the event, Andrea, if I wanted to volunteer to get tattooed during the workshop. I told her I didn’t mind and the next day or the following day after Lane actually messaged me on Facebook asking me the same thing. I felt honored that he personally asked me and that he wanted to tattoo me saying he felt through the spirits that he should contact me for this. Of course I said yes and I was looking forward to it.

Something amazing happened before the actual workshop however. The night before before Lane messaged me I was actually at work. During my break I saw a centipede come toward me by my locker and away from my coworker who happened to be passing by. I thought nothing of it at the time and brushed it aside as after I got my stuff it just disappeared.

Then the day prior to the workshop I was in my bathroom getting something when I randomly saw a centipede which I have never seen before in my house except maybe once several years ago. I was so scared because it again came straight at me then just stopped just starting right at me before I left the room. It wouldn’t be until much later during the workshop the following day when Lane was talking about certain animals who acted omens and were ancestral spirits did I realize the significance of it. Now I realize it was a message from the ancestors or an ancestral spirit giving me their blessings like they knew.

It’s those little things that most of the time we don’t pay attention to in our busy everyday lives that we tend to tune out the spirits trying to get in contact with us and we just have to open our eyes, minds, and ears to them.

So prior to the tattoo session we gave our offerings to the spirits and ancestors. I offered some suman and Lane put them in his offering bowl he always uses during his rituals and prayers to the ancestors with rice and an egg. He put this on the altar which he always faces west and left it there for the spirits and ancestors. The workshop lasted for several hours mainly discussing our tattoo’s, a few myths, his stories,etc. We then had to cut it off short because it was nearing 7 and he wanted to have some time to work on me.

He instructed me how the offering ritual was going to be as he said his chants to the ancestors and the spirits of Turtle Island as these are their lands not ours, and letting them know I will be tattooed. He then gave me the offering bowl which I went to the altar and silently said my prayers and thanks to the ancestors, spirits, and diwata before placing them on the altar.

Soon after the tattooing session began and I received my first traditionally handtapped batok. This one actually is really special as while Lane was holding my arm and was coming up with a mental picture in his head from the spirits on what to give me he asked me to tell him a little more about reconstructing our indigenous belief systems. I told him that I was Pagan and that besides myself there are a few others who are reviving our indigenous beliefs and practices by looking at old Spanish documents and dictionaries and bringing them back to the modern day. He nodded then after awhile he told me that for my batok he felt that he should honor and represent that in my batok.

He told me he would be doing some crocodile teeth and within the crocodile teeth he would put the weaving patterns as a symbol of me weaving together our indigenous beliefs and practices as a living modern spiritual and religious practice. He then put on the python scales with the dots on them symbolizing the eyes of the ancestors.

It was interested as after he drew the initial line around my arm, he started to draw the triangles. At first it was I believe it was 7. He said no that’s not it so he wiped off the red outlines and drew again. He then got 11. He was like what and was confused as he tried to get 10. We asked why and he said he was trying to get an even number or multiple of 5 as it represents good wealth and fortune. So he tried a third time to try and get 8 and once again it was 9. He was like well ok then, I guess you are just meant to have an odd number then I’m not going to argue with the ancestors on this one since you keep getting it odd. So he left it an 9 not wanting to argue with the spirits (which I find ironic anyway as my luck number is 3 and in multiples of 3). As he was going along in the tattoo he eventually realized why it had to be an odd number for me as where the spirits were guiding him to put the python scales and the dots he realized if the triangles were an even number there would be one ancestor with a missing eye. So there are 9 crocodile teeth and 8 python scales which has a dot in each scale. This corresponds to 8 different eyes watching over me.

The experience of getting handtapped was just amazing. It really was a spiritual experience and I could feel it the moment Lane put my suman offerings in the offering bowl and altar and as soon as he chanted his prayers to mark the beginning of the workshop.

When he was holding my arm and receiving the image in his head of what he would tattoo from the spirits I could feel his energy as I received it on my left arm, which is both the receiving hand and also the maternal side according to Lane.

Just today I finally got a chance to burn and bury the baby wipes and the gloves used during the session that has my blood on them along with the food offerings of my suman, the rice, egg, and an orange. He told me that it was disrespectful to throw away anything that had your blood and essence as a spirit can take it and use it against you. We were to either bury. burn, or throw the offerings out to sea. As I don’t have access to the water at the moment I decided to bury everything and burn the wipes and gloves right next to my cherry tree that we planted in our backyard from a branch of the other cherry tree at the side of our house.

One thing that this experience has taught me is that the spirits and ancestors are always with you, regardless if you notice them or not. They are always there watching over you and are there to protect and guide you and I pay my respects to them everyday.

About The Author

Executive Editor & Founder

Ligaya is the Executive Editor & Writer at Pinoy-Culture.com. She lives in NYC with her two dogs and spends her time reading, writing, collecting and buying books online and in safe haven, Strand Bookstore, watching her guilty tv show pleasure Vikings, and overdosing herself in coffee as a certified caffeine addict. Her book, Diwatahan: A Look Into the Precolonial Beliefs, Practices, Myths, & Folklore of the Philippines, is currently in progress and is scheduled to be published in Summer of 2017.

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