One of our all time favorite books, Neil Gaiman’s American Gods, will be coming to life in a television adaptation that is scheduled to premiere on Starz this April 30th. Over the course of this month, we will be looking at how American Gods, the real-life gods that inspired the characters, and some of Gaiman’s other work have found their way into the world of tattoos. Once you've become familiar with Thoth, be sure to go back and meet Anubis, Kali, Loki, and Odin.
If any god would have been a tattooist, it’s Thoth — the highest of scribes in the Egyptian pantheon and maintainer of balance in the universe. He is usually illustrated with a man’s body and the head of an ibis or, less commonly, a baboon (see: Ben Ervin’s blackwork piece). Alongside enforcing order throughout the realm of the living, Thoth is an inventor and is attributed with the creation of magical arts, hieroglyphs, and the underworld, among other things. Because of his association with all art forms, it’s no wonder that he has been depicted so many times throughout the course of history, starting with ancient statuary and pictograms on pyramid walls and migrating all the way into body art.
Thoth’s main duty is to arbitrate the interactions of unruly Egyptian gods, preventing them from hurling the world into chaos. On several occasions, he’s turned the tide in battles between powerful deities like Apep and Ma’at. Aside from this extremely important occupation, he spends the rest of his time helping mankind out by enriching civilization with various inventions. Ancient Egyptians considered him the originator of science, religion, philosophy, magic, and more. He’s basically seen as the author of every type of knowledge, even that of tattoos.
Because of Thoth’s association with cosmic order depictions of him are often paired with sacred geometric symbols that represent the universe — Metatron’s Cube, the Flower of Life, etc. — as seen in the pieces by Jackie Singer Sabur and Robbie Campbell. Several of the tattooist here — Claudio Camilucci and Rachel Parks — show him making objects (even an electric guitar, talk about anachronistic) and recording information. Regardless of what aspects of his mythology they choose to highlight, all of these tattoos channel the creativity embodied by Thoth’s figure in powerful ways.
To see more body art that takes after the divine, browse these artists’ Instagram accounts. If you want a tattoo of your favorite Egyptian god, have one of them design it for you. And don’t forget to check out American Gods when it premieres on April 30th.