New Tattoo Trend Using Cremated Remains Draws Warning

Tuesday, 01 Oct 2013 04:25 PM

By Nick Tate

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Health experts are warning about the dangers of a new tattoo trend, in which cremated remains are mixed with the ink used in body art to honor the dead.
 
Baylor University researcher Candi Cann says the trend is one of a series of novel ways people are using to memorialize loved ones. Others including the creation of "virtual tombstones" online and displaying "Rest in Peace" car decals or T-shirts.
 
"With 'do-it-yourself' memorials, people are creating their own ways of memorializing the dead, particularly in a more secularized society," said Cann, who presented new research on the trend at a recent meeting of the Association for the Study of Death and Society. "Some people are alienated from some common traditions such as a long funeral Mass. Cohesive rituals may not be part of their lives."

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Cann said her research, which is based on interviews with the bereaved, found that such memorials are "the opposite of what occurs in the religious realm with martyrs and saints and with relics. Martyrs and saints bring us closer to holiness and to God through their bodies and narratives of their suffering."
 
But modern-day bodiless memorials are increasingly "returning" the dead to us through visual or virtual "replacements" that are more personal than a memorial in a cemetery.
 
Wearing tattoos as a tribute is not unlike customs of Victorian England or the Civil War era, Cann said.
 
"People simply want to carry the dead with them," she said. "They see a tattoo as forever."

But some are even blending cremated remains with tattoo pigment, prompting medical experts to advise against the practice. Many tattoo artists refuse to do them to avoid legal complications.
 
While it has long been common to leave teddy bears or wooden crosses at the scene of a tragedy, people are becoming more imaginative and personal, Cann said. She found a snow-white "ghost bike," festooned with a maroon Christmas garland and placed at the site of a bicycle accident.
 
Online mourning has also evolved to include Facebook's "R.I.P." permanent memorials, as well virtual tombstones, which allow people to use their smartphones to scan headstone codes and launch websites with an interactive life story for those who visit the grave in person or online.

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