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Author Topic: Cross Tattoos on Ethiopian Christians  (Read 13709 times) Average Rating: 0
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Gebre Menfes Kidus
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« on: March 09, 2009, 05:36:57 AM »

My Priest has a small cross tattooed on his hand. He said this was OK for us to have. I have seen pictures of Ethiopians with crosses tattooed on their hands and foreheads. I was wondering how this custom originated. Could it be that the Book of Revelation states that the mark of the beast will be taken on the right hand or the forehead [Revelation 10:4; 13:16], and thus Ethiopian Christians tattoo a Cross on these particular parts of their body as a kind of preemptive measure against the mark of the beast? This is just wild speculation on my part, but I am curious.

I am considering getting a small cross tattooed on my right hand (my Priest said this is OK). Could my Ethiopian brothers give me more background on this tradition?

And as far as other tattoos... Would it be OK to have Amharic letters tattooed also?

Thanks.

Selam
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« Reply #1 on: March 09, 2009, 02:13:55 PM »

Hello

Just to mention I commune at a Chalcedonian Orthodox church but strangely have a keen interest in non-Chalcedonian matters.

That said it concerns me that a new church member should be keen to be tattooed even though none of the many Ethiopians I see going to church on Sundays or major feasts in London has one visible.

I think there is a danger here of faith being subordinate to style like a Russian Orthodox growing a beard and pony tail like a monk.

Actually I did see a man with cross tattoos on his face and I wondered if his faith was firm inside or were the crosses without meaning. Surely the old Ethiopian lady I saw putting a coin in a beggars pot was witnessing to our faith more than the disfigured man.

What do you think?

God bless you
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Gebre Menfes Kidus
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« Reply #2 on: March 09, 2009, 04:13:36 PM »

Hello

Just to mention I commune at a Chalcedonian Orthodox church but strangely have a keen interest in non-Chalcedonian matters.

That said it concerns me that a new church member should be keen to be tattooed even though none of the many Ethiopians I see going to church on Sundays or major feasts in London has one visible.

I think there is a danger here of faith being subordinate to style like a Russian Orthodox growing a beard and pony tail like a monk.

Actually I did see a man with cross tattoos on his face and I wondered if his faith was firm inside or were the crosses without meaning. Surely the old Ethiopian lady I saw putting a coin in a beggars pot was witnessing to our faith more than the disfigured man.

What do you think?

God bless you

Yes, I agree that form and style must never be substituted for substance. God is concerned with the heart, not the appearance.

I have worn a full beard for many years now. And in the interest of full disclosure, I also have many tattoos. This may or not be a good thing, depending upon various opinions. But I am interested in the origin of the Ethiopian custom of Cross tattoos, and perhaps this provides an outward symbol of one's inner faith.

But I certainly agree that the teachings and spiritual truths of the Church are far more important than outward symbols or attire. My desire is to embrace the fullness of my Ethiopian Orthodox Faith in all significant ways.

I have many icons in my home. But if I do not reflect upon the truths they portray and do not pray and live a Christian life, then these icons do me little good. I imagine it is the same with Cross tattoos.

Thanks.

Selam
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« Reply #3 on: March 09, 2009, 04:45:39 PM »

http://www.orthodoxchristianity.net/forum/index.php/topic,5844.0.html

Here is a thread that talks about the history of the cross tattoo some. Personally I wouldn't do it since I haven't been thru what those people have.  It would be like wearing a purple heart that you bought off eBay. If you have family that lived thru this then that is a different story though. Maybe do something similar in spirit but different in style? Cross tattoos are really cool. Also I would wait awhile before you do it. Give yourself a timeline and then get it. You (like myself) are relatively new to the faith, give yourself awhile in the faith. Converts do sometimes leave the faith. Prove to yourself that this is the faith you want by practicing for years, then reward yourself.

How far away is your parish? When you do get it hopefully it can be done close to your parish so a brother in the parish can go with you.
« Last Edit: March 09, 2009, 04:50:46 PM by Quinault » Logged
Elias
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« Reply #4 on: March 11, 2009, 09:38:38 PM »

Selam ALL,

There was a fierce Abyssinian king named Emperor Yohannes in the late 19th Century who waged battles against Ottaman Egypt and the Muslim Mahidists of the Sudan. He was a Orthodox Christian so much so that in his time, the Christian congregation of Abyssinia was so large that Pope Cyril V of the Coptic Patriarch of Alexandria , for the first time in the history of the church, appointed four Bishops for Abyssinia. However,the actions of the emperor ,-who like many former emperors had also claimed Solomonic descent, were not in line with the teachings of our Lord Jesus Christ. For instance,he expelled all Roman Catholics from his territory and he  decreed  that every Moslem in his reign must convert or else. Moslems were given deadlines while pagan worshippers had to choose betwen converting or face immediate death.He went a step further and ordered all Coptic-Ethiopian Orthodox Christians to tatoo a Coptic-Ethiopian Cross on their foreheads, so that his soldiers could identify the Moslems and slaughter them. His army killed and chopped off arms and legs of thousands of Moslems all over his territory.Many had fled to other parts of Abyssinia and the Sudan for safety. While the Emperor is still rememberd by some in Ethiopia as one who fought and died for his country and his faith, he is regarded and remembered as murderer and intolerant of their faith by Moslems.Thus, I believe this is the story where the tradition of the cross tatoo has its origins.

Hope this helps,Gere.

Selam for now
« Last Edit: March 11, 2009, 09:54:55 PM by Elias » Logged
Hiywot
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« Reply #5 on: March 16, 2009, 05:44:14 AM »

He went a step further and ordered all Coptic-Ethiopian Orthodox Christians to tatoo a Coptic-Ethiopian Cross on their foreheads, so that his soldiers could identify the Moslems and slaughter them.

Elias,

Are you quoting a true recorded history or something else? I know that historians have documented the disagreements between Atse Yohannes and the catholics as well as moslems. But no historian has painted him cruel as you mentioned above. The cross tatoo was also in use centuries before Atse Yohannes.

Regards,

Hiywot
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Gebre Menfes Kidus
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« Reply #6 on: March 16, 2009, 06:29:26 AM »

He went a step further and ordered all Coptic-Ethiopian Orthodox Christians to tatoo a Coptic-Ethiopian Cross on their foreheads, so that his soldiers could identify the Moslems and slaughter them.

Elias,

Are you quoting a true recorded history or something else? I know that historians have documented the disagreements between Atse Yohannes and the catholics as well as moslems. But no historian has painted him cruel as you mentioned above. The cross tatoo was also in use centuries before Atse Yohannes.

Regards,

Hiywot

Brother Hiywot:

Is it OK for me to get a cross tattoo on my hand? Does it matter which hand? I would respect your opinion on this matter.

Selam
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« Reply #7 on: March 16, 2009, 11:18:28 AM »


Brother Hiywot:

Is it OK for me to get a cross tattoo on my hand? Does it matter which hand? I would respect your opinion on this matter.

Selam

Your priest has already told you that it is OK to get a cross tattoo. You don't need the approval of anybody else. Just go ahead and have it the way you wish.

Regards,

Hiywot
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Irish Hermit
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« Reply #8 on: March 22, 2009, 03:25:37 AM »



http://www.christianitytoday.com/ch/bytopic/missionsworldchristianity...

Tattoos of the Cross
By Jennifer A. Johnson
Thursday, March 19, 2009

During centuries of persecution, Coptic Christians found bold and enduring ways to show their dedication to Christ.




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Salpy
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« Reply #9 on: March 22, 2009, 03:40:20 AM »

Thank you for the article, Father.   Smiley

Here is a link that takes one directly to it:

http://www.christianitytoday.com/ch/bytopic/missionsworldchristianity/tattoosofthecross.html?start=1
« Last Edit: March 22, 2009, 03:44:00 AM by Salpy » Logged

Hadel
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« Reply #10 on: March 22, 2009, 05:58:57 AM »

Selam ALL,

There was a fierce Abyssinian king named Emperor Yohannes in the late 19th Century who waged battles against Ottaman Egypt and the Muslim Mahidists of the Sudan. He was a Orthodox Christian so much so that in his time, the Christian congregation of Abyssinia was so large that Pope Cyril V of the Coptic Patriarch of Alexandria , for the first time in the history of the church, appointed four Bishops for Abyssinia. However,the actions of the emperor ,-who like many former emperors had also claimed Solomonic descent, were not in line with the teachings of our Lord Jesus Christ. For instance,he expelled all Roman Catholics from his territory and he  decreed  that every Moslem in his reign must convert or else. Moslems were given deadlines while pagan worshippers had to choose betwen converting or face immediate death.He went a step further and ordered all Coptic-Ethiopian Orthodox Christians to tatoo a Coptic-Ethiopian Cross on their foreheads, so that his soldiers could identify the Moslems and slaughter them. His army killed and chopped off arms and legs of thousands of Moslems all over his territory.Many had fled to other parts of Abyssinia and the Sudan for safety. While the Emperor is still rememberd by some in Ethiopia as one who fought and died for his country and his faith, he is regarded and remembered as murderer and intolerant of their faith by Moslems.Thus, I believe this is the story where the tradition of the cross tatoo has its origins.

Hope this helps,Gere.

Selam for now

Salam,

Personally, I have seen Coptic Egyptians in Jordan with crosses tattooed on their right hand between their thumb and their index finger. This is how I knew they were Coptic Orthodox Christians.

Only a personal note.

In Christ,
Hadel
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« Reply #11 on: March 23, 2009, 09:23:31 PM »


Elias,

Are you quoting a true recorded history or something else? I know that historians have documented the disagreements between Atse Yohannes and the catholics as well as moslems. But no historian has painted him cruel as you mentioned above. The cross tatoo was also in use centuries before Atse Yohannes.
Regards,
Hiywot

Hiywot,

I have not seen your request for clarification until this stage.

I am not aware that the cross tatoo was in tradition before the era of Yohannes IV. I shall be grateful to know when and how it started,if that is the case. However,  History attests that during the 15th century, Emperor Zerie Yacob ( Ge'ez for 'the seed of Jacob') decreed that all christians should wear a neck cross.

 As to the character and approach of Yohannes IV towards non-christians, I have quoted from history.Yohannes IV was very often represented  for his narrow mindedness and religious fanaticism.He may have had solid reasons for his rigid stance towards Musilms .Some historians contend that the method of conversions he employed involved only force that left no choice for Muslims,but complaince ,in order to save their lives.He ordered muslims to build churchs in place of mosques and to pay tithes to their parish priest.He was not only determined to halt the spread of Islam,but to eradicate it from his realm by any means.

Historical records also show,that he was restrained only when he received a letter from the Patriarch of Alexandria warning him of the dangers the Copts in Egypt would face if he continued to be harsh in his treatment of muslims in Abysinnia.

Today,there are Muslims in Eritrea known as Jabartis who claim their ancestors have been expelled from the province of Tigray(Ethiopia) during the days of Yohannes IV and point fingers at us the Tewahdo Orthodox for the cruelty their for-fathers faced at the hands of the king. Not suprisingly many of them have become Jihadi symphatizers.

You might like to check the following titles ,

i) Yohannes IV and Menelik II: The Empire Restored, Expanded, and Defended; Autor: Paul Henze ,

ii) Yohannes IV of Ethiopia : a political biography  --Author: Zewde Gabre-Sellassie

Elias
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Gebre Menfes Kidus
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« Reply #12 on: March 23, 2009, 09:57:44 PM »

The Church of Christ has always and will always be attacked. And sadly, satan often works from within the Church itself to try to undermine its validity and integrity in the eyes of the world. Countless volumes could be written and have been written on the injustices and excesses of Christianity. Our Orthodox Church has also been guilty of unfortunate actions of evil and cruelty done in the holy name of Our Lord at various times in her history.

But rather than rehashing and debating the evils of the past, let us acknowledge that they occurred and then labor together to assure that they do not happen again. And above all, let us hope and not despair; for Our Lord has promised that the gates of hell shall not prevail aginst the Church which He Himself has eternally established.

Selam
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« Reply #13 on: March 23, 2009, 10:55:23 PM »

But rather than rehashing and debating the evils of the past, let us acknowledge that they occurred and then labor together to assure that they do not happen again.
Selam

Selam Gebre,

I would like to clarify that it is not in my intention to speak about past evils and deeds of the church. If the Tewahedo Church or any other Orthodox church that I revere had committed  evils in the name of our Lord Christ, I would not hesitate to point them out,though. I am not prepared to cover mistakes that are not in line with the teaching of our Lord for the sake of not tarnishing the image of my own very church.

You were curious to know the history behind the tradtions of the Ethiopian cross tatoo. It is possible you may have cringed at the contents of its origins that I provided. Neverthless, the correct story must be told and that is what I did, unless someone proves me wrong.

Elias
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Gebre Menfes Kidus
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« Reply #14 on: March 23, 2009, 11:16:57 PM »

But rather than rehashing and debating the evils of the past, let us acknowledge that they occurred and then labor together to assure that they do not happen again.
Selam

Selam Gebre,

I would like to clarify that it is not in my intention to speak about past evils and deeds of the church. If the Tewahedo Church or any other Orthodox church that I revere had committed  evils in the name of our Lord Christ, I would not hesitate to point them out,though. I am not prepared to cover mistakes that are not in line with the teaching of our Lord for the sake of not tarnishing the image of my own very church.

You were curious to know the history behind the tradtions of the Ethiopian cross tatoo. It is possible you may have cringed at the contents of its origins that I provided. Neverthless, the correct story must be told and that is what I did, unless someone proves me wrong.

Elias

Understood my brother.

Selam
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« Reply #15 on: March 23, 2009, 11:28:22 PM »

Elias,

Above, you indicated that the tradition of the cross tattoo actually had its origins with the late 19th century persecutions of Emperor Yohannes, which you described.  I have trouble believing that the tradition did not exist before that time among the Ethiopians.  The tradition existed before that time among Armenians making pilgrimmages to Jerusalem and it is my understanding that the tradition is quite ancient among the Copts.  In fact, the article posted above by Fr. Ambrose (Irish Hermit) even states that it has ancient origins:

Slaves of Christ

During these long periods of maltreatment, the Coptic practice of tattooing arose. Ancient (pre-Christian) Egyptian tattooing can be definitively traced back to 2000 B.C. In the Roman Empire, tattooing was a degrading practice used to brand slaves and criminals, and was also sometimes used in pagan religious rites whereby someone became the "slave" of a god. In the fourth century A.D., the Montanists, a Christian sect relying heavily on the Book of Revelation, began tattooing themselves as "slaves of God" (Rev. 7:2-3). The earliest evidence of Coptic tattooing goes back to the eighth-century, when Egyptian monks began to brand their hands with Christian symbols. Some scholars believe they learned the practice from Ethiopian Christians, who branded crosses on their foreheads, temples, and wrists.
[/b]

http://www.christianitytoday.com/ch/bytopic/missionsworldchristianity/tattoosofthecross.html


Can you give a more exact citation for your position?  Can you give an actual quote with a page number from one of the books you listed above?  I'm not challenging you and this is not an official request.  I just think it would help us understand where you are coming from on this.  Thanks.   Smiley

« Last Edit: March 23, 2009, 11:33:23 PM by Salpy » Logged

Hiywot
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« Reply #16 on: March 26, 2009, 07:17:13 AM »

Elias,

I totally agree with what the history books have documented. I agree that there were conflicts. Moslems were working both internally and externally to Islamize Ethiopia. It was a kind of war situation and force was the only available tool to King Yohannes to deal with the problem and hence protect Tewahido Christianity. You very well know that King Yohannes finally died during a fight with Moslems.

Now, what I disagree and am not comfortable with is the way you pictured King Yohannes. You used expressions like: “he slaughtered them”, “he is narrow minded” etc. How come you be so bitter with this King and use such words that one can hardly find in the history books. It even looks as if you are arguing for Muslims. We have a common Amharic saying that goes: “Mut mewqes dingay menkes” meaning “Despising a dead person is like biting a stone”. I think that we should be so merciful (which, of course, is inline with the teachings of our Lord) in our expressions of the characters of Kings that contributed to Tewahido Christianity much much much… better than us. After all, we contributed nothing at all!

My dear brother, I live in a country where Tewahido Christianity prevails. All Kings that contributed for this cause are my Heroes!

Kind Regards,

Hiywot
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« Reply #17 on: January 04, 2011, 02:32:01 AM »

I don't think there is something bad for having Cross Tattoos on Ethiopian Christians. Instead, it is a good sign. It describe your faith and believe in christ. I am also having a cross tattoo on my neck. If you want to know some more about cross tattoo then read this here :
http://www.tattoos-beauty.com/cross-tattoos.html
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