Between the Lines – A girl’s first tattoos, usually done in the face, on the forehead, cheeks or chin …

A girl’s first tattoos, usually done in the face, on the forehead, cheeks or chin, were often excruciatingly painful, especially around the eyes, lips and between the eyebrows. “It would be impossible to keep your toes from wiggling,” said one elder, while the tattooist ran her needle and thread through the lampblack of the qulliq and stitched it through the young girl’s skin. “It felt like your face was on fire,” said another elder. Still others said it felt like sparks from the sun. Sessions could last whole days. At certain points, the girl might scream out for the tattooist to stop.Some say the tattooist probably prayed with every stitch, sometimes rubbing the soot in with a finger or her poker. She would gently remind the girl that the sea goddess denied access to the afterlife to women whose fingers weren’t tattooed. Women without face tattoos were banished to Noqurmiut, the “land of the crestfallen,” where they spent an eternity with their heads hanging down, smoke bellowing out of their throats.

Source: Between the Lines

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