The goal of the series hasn’t changed and it’s all about providing the basics on the subject. It starts with such general things as what to do before getting a tattoo done, what to look for at a tattoo shop, and how to take care of a fresh tattoo. A very good point is discussing such common mistakes as getting a tattoo in a foreign language (which not necessarily has to mean what we think it does!); it also discusses spiritual and cultural appropriation which really should be taken into consideration before the whole tattooing process starts.
A strong point in this tiny volume is a short section on ‘global tattoo myths’ where a reader can learn how tattoos were perceived in different cultures. It adds an interesting dimension and shows what a complex and old art the tattooing really is.
The biggest part of the book is focused on spiritual tattoos; it’s divided into sections (scripts and symbols, classical mythology, mythical creatures, angels and demons, animals, world religion, magic and mysticism, nature, Celtic, tribal) and briefly discusses meanings behind the most common symbols used as tattoo designs. Russ Thorne seems to be a funny guy and tries, quite successfully, to spice his writing up with some sense of humor, subtle enough to just get noticed and make his reader smile.
As before, the biggest disadvantage of the book is the lack of any bibliography and advice what to read to learn more on the subject. Since in this book ‘’essential’’ means ‘’basic,’’ some pointers toward further reading would be greatly appreciated.
Tattoos are pictures on the skin and their brightness, crispiness of the lines, vibrant colors etc. play an important role in how people perceive tattoos both on themselves and the others. Sadly, in this book pictures of the tattoos are tiny and almost deprived of the color which takes away from the experience of reading about the tattoos. I think I’d prefer less pictures but of better quality and bigger size from many very small pictures with hard to see tattoos.
All in all, I’d say that as far as the text in this book is involved, it might be satisfactory but on the purely visual level, it could have been done better.
Russ Thorne, Mythical and Spiritual Tattoo Design Directory The Essential Reference for Body Art, Chartwell Books Inc., 2011