The women in my family absolutely wear the pants. My grandmother on my mom’s side (Mammy) was one of six sisters. My mother is an only child like me, but has many cousins who I call my aunties. They carry a lot of masculine sun energy -- they are boisterous, drink and swear like sailors, pack award-worthy love-to-roast ratios, and typically run the show with an iron fist in their households. They are resilient and they love hard. Traditions wax and wane but there’s one that’s stood the test of time.
Our family plant has been passed down and out to women in our family for generations -- at least 100 years. Traditionally, when a woman in the family gets her first apartment or home, she gets a piece of the plant. This thing is remarkably resilient. My mom’s side of the family is known for their green thumbs… but me, not so much. If it dies, you just give it a little water and sun and it comes back. If you forget to water it for a week, no problem. It’s a wood sorrel, technically, but just “the family plant” to us. It looks a bit like a clover, closes up at night, and sprouts pretty pink flowers if you take really good care of it.
Mammy, who had the greenest thumb of them all, passed in July 2020 to COVID-19 after being a long victim of Alzheimer’s disease. I had just moved thousands of miles from home to Miami, and was stuck grieving alone – and worse yet leaving my mother grieving alone -- in the middle of a pandemic. My aunt, Mammy’s sister and a diligent keeper and giver of family plants, owed me one for a few months and finally sent it over, along with dozens of photos of my grandma when she was alive. I spent the rest of that evening in tears, looking through photos with soil under my nails. I didn’t get to know my grandmother -- or our family history -- after my pre-teen years because of Alzheimer’s. This was how I got to know her as a fully cognizant adult.
For years, I’ve wanted to tattoo the family plant on my back. It’s not a rose or a colorful flower, but it is so deeply rooted and symbolic of my family. Losing Mammy renewed my vision with full force, though my idea of the tattoo had changed bit by bit over the years while I waited for the right artist and the right financial situation to come to me.
Regina Perez (@regperez on IG), an intuitive tattoo artist based in Miami, packed more meaning into this tattoo than I could have ever imagined. A little bit about her, from the bio on her website:
“What I want most with tattooing is connection. I want to offer something different in this industry, something more intimate and magical. I want the pieces that we design together to be only for you. For your journey. Your pain. Your healing. Your body. I want them to have a purpose… I want to encourage you to dig deep and see what comes up. How can I help you? Even if it’s only a little. I offer space. And comfort. I offer to sit and listen to your story, your motivation, your WHY; even if there are no words.”
Over email we spoke about the must-have elements of the tattoo and the story behind it. I told her the basics about the plant. I told her I may want something symbolic of my move to Miami -- my first time moving away from home -- or maybe something spiritual. Crystals, lavender, and other caricatures of my spiritual awakening are symbolic of my time in Miami, because had I not been here alone in the midst of a pandemic, I never would have found these things.
My appointment happened to fall on a full moon in Virgo -- a powerful time to cleanse the mind in body, and specifically, releasing trauma -- a synchronistic last-minute cancellation that Reg fit me into.
When I arrived, she had the plant drawn out for me AND MY ENTIRE ASTROLOGICAL CHART MAPPED OUT with notes and questions for me. No word of a lie, she must have spent hours doing this. She had the plant mapped out with anatomically accurate roots reaching downward and outward, but waited to add the final component before learning more about me.
We brainstormed a handful of spiritual symbols, whose meanings didn’t quite fit: a triangle, a circle, a snake. I mentioned, again, the full moon -- for which I brought a bunch of moonstones (graciously from @powerful_divine) to gift to Reg and to focus my intentions with. She looked at my chart and told me there’s a LOT of feminine moon energy in it. So we added in a crescent moon, but it still needed something. The moon is of feminine energy — which is intuitive, emotional, nurturing, reflective, and grounded.
With the moon, it still needed something. Reg proposed an intentional number of dots. We went through the numbers one through ten, trying to find the best fit. We settled on 10 -- a symbol of completion. In my chart, she told me, there were indicators that I would be the one to end cycles of ancestral trauma.
I’m trying… but what if it’s not me? My mom healed her mother wounds, and I am healing mine (and maybe, still, some of hers). We heal a little more with every generation... but what if I’m not the one to end it?
“Is that really the energy you want to put out there?” Reg asked me. “What if you ARE? You’re working on it. Listen to yourself.”
I’ve always been a healer, for better or for worse -- fixing men, solving others’ problems, taking up less space so that others who need it can take up more… and also, practicing deep empathy, listening and intentionally understanding, being honest, loving, and forgiving, and sharing burdens. Like yin and yang.
I am, in fact, ending a cycle of generational trauma — this doesn’t mean something awful happened to me. I can’t point to one traumatic event that “messed me up” because there wasn’t one. I grew up a lot safer than my mother and her mother. It’s the little mannerisms, thought patterns, negative energy, fears, and anxieties that we subconsciously pick up from our families as we grow up. If we don’t acknowledge and heal from that, we hold it. And if we hold it, we risk passing it on and on and on.
The moon and its 10 dots separate the roots, my ancestors and their trauma… and the flowers, which is maybe me? Or my immediately living family? Or all of us (all of the present family energy), from creation to current? This tattoo develops more meaning every day I think about it.
The roots ground me to the beautiful bloodline I’ve blossomed from. I will always be connected to my family and especially the women in my life that I love because of this plant and this tattoo. We are all healing together.
Despite this deep, feminine bond we have, I sometimes feel like a black sheep in my family. I talk like them, laugh like them, love like them, demand respect like them, and boss men around like them… but I’m different from my mom’s side. These Irish-Catholic ladies can drink me under the table, for better or for worse, but that’s not the point. My mom is one of the strongest and most loving people I know -- but she’s is definitely Scorpio. She buries her emotions (the traditional Irish-Catholic way) and removes negativity from her life as if it never existed. I, on the other hand, have always needed to talk about and “solve” my feelings. We feel differently and heal differently, like yin and yang, moon and sun, masculine and feminine. My conversations with this part of my family haven’t yet reached these depths, but I wish I could heal all their burdens. They don't know this about me.
There is a long history of generational and ancestral trauma on my mom’s side, and some really notable events on my dad’s side. We grew up in Massachusetts, just an hour’s drive from some hauntingly historical places -- Salem, Boston, Plymouth Rock… the list goes on. I am blood-related to one of the accused witches killed in Salem -- the famous Rebecca Nurse. We are descendants of a family who came over on the Mayflower, where a pregnant woman’s husband fell off the ship and was never found.
Of my direct descendants, I’m the first to go to college. I’m the first to go to therapy. I might be the first to truly acknowledge the ancestral trauma we carry.
I don’t have to solve all our problems and heal every member of my family to complete the cycle. It starts with awareness, and healing as we go. My daughter will heal because I healed because my mom healed because her mom healed… Through my education, shadow work, and a category I like to call “whatever else works” (crystals, meditating, tarot, intuition…) I am healing every day. Sometimes it’s beautiful and sometimes it’s really, really painful.
This tattoo started as a tribute to the women in my family. It still is, but it’s so much more, thanks to Reg. While she was tattooing me, I used the energies of several crystals for healing emotional wounds and ancestral wounds – rhodonite and rainbow obsidian… labradorite for anxiety… and several moonstones for new beginnings (all from @powerful_divine on IG). Over and over again, especially during the parts that brought the most pain, I affirmed out loud: “I release the trauma of my ancestors. I release the trauma of my ancestors. I release the trauma of my ancestors.”
I put ink into my body to release the trauma of my ancestors. I put ink into my body to honor the strong women who suffered, persevered, and loved. I put ink into my body as a reminder that I am a healer by nature and by the stars. As above, so below.