Protected by a hard shell, equipped to navigate both land and water, capable of crossing oceans and exceptionally long-lived, it is no wonder that the turtle has been revered for thousands of years by cultures all over the world as a symbol of strength, stability and stamina.
Although tattoo art has been embraced by numerous cultures throughout history, nowhere has the sea turtle been associated with tattoos more than in the Pacific Islands.
The art of tattooing has been prevalent on almost every shore of the Pacific, but achieved particular significance in Polynesia, the area defined by Hawaii in the north, New Zealand to the west, and Easter Island to the east.
Where a person stood in the hierarchical society of Polynesia was determined by their current role in the tribe, as well as by their genealogy and maturity. Shark, lizard and turtle tattoo designs were primary symbols, used throughout Polynesian society. One Hawaiian myth says that it was "Honu" (Hawaiian for turtle) who guided the first inhabitants of Hawaii to their new home. Although there are alternate myths, a reverence for the turtle's prowess in navigation is part of the Hawaiian culture. Capable of laying a hundred eggs at one time, they are viewed as symbols of fertility and creation. The sea turtle's ability to return home connects them with guidance, good luck and faithfulness. Their slow movement has some negative connotations, such as the decreased mobility of old age, but primarily the slow, dogged movement of turtles denotes steadfastness, as in Aesop's fable of the tortoise winning the race against the hare. Dennis Avner, also known by "Catman" or his native american name of "Stalking Cat", undergone incredible extensive surgery in order to look like his totem animal, the tiger. Julia Gnuse, also known as the illustrated lady, was born with a condition called porphyria which causes her skin to blister regularly and ultimately scar. Formerly considered by the Guinness Book of World Records to be the world's most tattooed man, Tom Leppard, now 73 years old, fled society years ago after spending ?5,500 to have his body covered in leopard-like spots. However, in 2008 he moved into a small house on Skye after a friend offered to move him by boat. Born Eric Sprague in 1972, the Lizardman was one of the first people to have a split tongue and in some circles is seen to be wholly responsible for the recent popularity of this particular modification.
A professional freak and sideshow performer, Horace Ridler exhibited himself as The Great Omi or The Zebra Man. Horace was an English aristocrat who returned from the First World War to Twenties' London where he began his transformation into one of the world's greatest oddities. As the years wore on the Omi’s appearance became more and more outrageous as did his personality.


The ultimate in multi-layered tattooing is represented by the chainsaw juggling, unicycling, sword-swallowing Lucky Diamond Rich from Australia, who has spent over 1,000 hours having his body modified by hundreds of tattoo artists.
He began by having a full collection of colourful designs from around the world tattooed over his entire body. Elaine Davidson is the World's Most Pierced Woman, according to the Guinness World Records.
The Tiger Lady is the stage name of the heavily modified female performance artist and tattoo artist Katzen, whose full body tattoo theme is that of a tiger. She received extensive tattooing on all parts of her body and wears tiger whiskers attached via piercings on her face. Etienne Dumont is an art & culture critic for a newspaper in Geneva who just happens to be covered head to toe in some of the most vibrant tattoos ever mande.
He also has silicon implants under the skin which give the horned appearance, 2.7 inch rings in each earlobe and plexiglass piercings through the nose and under his bottom lip. This unknown brazilian man shows some heavy tentacle suction-cup implants, done by Dark Freak at Luck All in Sao Paulo, Brasil. Covering one third of the planet, the Pacific Ocean is the realm of the sea turtle, and upon every land mass that the turtle has visited, legends and myths have arisen about the singular creature. Mohawk mythology ascribes earthquakes to the great World Turtle, stretching in reaction to bearing the weight of the world. As a culture with no writing, the Polynesians not only used tattoos as talismans of protection and spirituality, but as a way to exhibit their status.
An ancient petroglyph that depicts a turtle with a vertical line drawn down its shell supports this mythology. Ancient Hawaiians believed that their "Aumakua" (guardian spirits) could take the shape of a variety of animals, including the turtle. The curved, intact nature of the turtle shape makes it a good artistic choice for shoulder designs.
These turtles are generally depicted cheerfully, viewed as a symbol that a positive attitude and determined effort spell success in life. Modifications include extensive tattooing, transdermal implants to allow whiskers to be worn, subdermal implants to change the shape of the face and the filing and shaping of the teeth to make them look more like a tiger's. After 10 years she was covered in the bastards and holds the Guinness Record for being the most tattooed woman in the world.
Once every week, the ex-soldier travelled by canoe to buy supplies and pick up his pension.


This 37 year old man has transformed himself into a reptile via 700 hours of tattooing, five Teflon horns implanted beneath the skin of his eyebrows, filing down of his teeth into sharp fangs, bifurcation of his tongue, and stretching of his septum and earlobes.
He took to wearing lipstick and nail polish and signed his pitch cards, ‘the Barbaric Beauty’. But not content with stopping there, Lucky next opted for a 100% covering of black ink, including eyelids, the delicate skin between the toes, down into the ears, and even his gums.
When examined by a Guinness official in May 2000, Davidson had 462 piercings, with 192 in her face alone. Paul Lawrence is the guy with blue puzzle pieces tattooed all over his body who has made a name for himself performing stunts such as sword swallowing, pushing a moving power drill up his nose and swallowing various liquids, pumping them out of his stomach and swallowing them again. A tribal turtle tattoo might have had a more significant meaning to one tribe than another, gaining particular importance through an association to family genealogy. A 19th century missionary to Polynesia recorded that Pa te Pou Ariki, Chief of the Takitumu tribe in Rarotonga (one of the Cook Islands) had turtle tattoos on both knees.
It is said the great turtle Kailua would turn into a human female and appear to protect children playing on the beach from danger. So far, more than 24 hours of tattoos --costing over $4,075 Canadian dollars-- have got him halfway there and made him a minor celebrity on the internet, where people can’t decide if he’s a body modification visionary or mentally ill sicko. Despite his appearance, “underneath it all, I’m just an ordinary man,” he insisted shortly before his death in 1969. He is now being tattooed with white designs on top of the black, and coloured designs on top of the white! Performing at the Edinburgh Festival in 2005, the Guardian reported that she now had 3,950 body piercings.
The missionary noted that the turtle symbol was "reserved for the chief alone," indicating that the turtle was deeply associated with the chief's genealogy.
She has more piercings in her genitalia than in any other part of the body - 500 in all, externally and internally.



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