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It wasn’t that long ago that it seemed like a rather rare occurrence to spot someone sporting a tattoo. In fact, body ink was still so avant-garde that one’s tattoo was often their most noteworthy physical characteristic. Even within the then esoteric world of tattoos, the variety of common designs was much more limited. The majority of tattoos could be classified into one of two categories: gritty—like “Mom” inked among barbed wire and thorny, black roses, or girly—like a lotus flower or happy dolphin diving into a wave.
Well a lot has changed in the past decade or so, as Millennials and Zoomers have now embraced inked body art as a form of creative self-expression. The catalog of common designs has exploded and it seems like there’s a tattoo for every style, mood, and personality. With the advent of social media, where we can all post and share our body art, the bounds of tattoo artists’ creativity is ever expanding. And, one of the most unique trends that's gathered a following are Soul Tattoos®—a unique modality of sacred tattoo art created and practiced by Ashley River Brant, who describes herself as a multidimensional artist and feminine healer. We were certainly intrigued, so we reached out to Brant herself, to learn about everything that goes into this transformative body art experience.
Looking for your next tattoo to be an involved healing arts experience rather than simply body ink? Keep scrolling to learn all about Soul Tattoos® and intuitive tattooing.
Meet the Expert
Ashley River Brant is a multidimensional artist, the creator of the Soul Tattoo®, the author of TENDING TO THE SACRED: Rituals to Connect with Earth, Spirit, and Self, and the co-creator of the Sacred Tattooing course.
What Is a “Soul Tattoo®"?
“A Soul Tattoo® is a form of intuitive tattooing that goes back to the ancient feminine origins of tattoo art, when tattoos were used for healing, protection, and manifestation of energy,” shares Brant. “I combined my mediumship gifts, elemental connection, art background, as well as my studies in the healing arts, and crafted a unique transformative experience of intentional art for the purpose of creative embodiment.”
Brant says she was initially moved to create Soul Tattoos based on her past experiences. She says, “I started down this path of sacred tattooing because I had experienced many disempowering experiences receiving tattoos when I was younger, and wanted to create a safe space for myself, and other women, to receive tattoos with care, intention, and connection to the sacred.”
Why Do People Get Soul Tattoos®?
Brant says that throughout her entire career, 95% of her clientele have been woman. “I think mostly women are attracted to this art of sacred tattooing because they remember. They remember the sacred, somewhere deep in their bones. They remember that life is infused with meaning and intention,” shares Brant. She continues, “They remember that it is safe to trust the unseen magic woven through my work. They remember that tattoo art was once a feminine practice. In ancient Egypt, the female seeresses, or mystics and priestesses, were the givers of healing and intentional tattoos.”
Brant says that in those ancient times, the receivers of the tattoos were also women, coming to receive tattoo “medicine” to support their creative energy, and that most often, the tattoo was placed around the womb and upper thighs. “[The tattoos] were used to protect a child and mother before a mother gave birth, as a new soul and a new mother was born. They were used to support women involved in sex magic/sex work, as well as with menstruation issues, fertility, and so on,” explains Brant. “That lineage of magic is not lost within us, it is in our DNA—it just needs to be unlocked.”
Lastly, Brant says most of her clients have had an inexplicable pull towards receiving a Soul Tattoo. “I have noticed over the years that women come to me for a Soul Tattoo because they feel a connection they may not be able to logically understand, but really they are just remembering their feminine, creative, sacred, unseen energy,” shared Brant. “It's a feeling.”
What Are the Risks Involved?
Brant says that even though Soul Tattoos are a beautiful healing art, they are still tattoos. “Tattoos of any kind can have triggering effects on the nervous system, especially if you are navigating life from a high-stress, traumatized state (fight/flight),” explains Brant. “The way I tattoo is by hand, and much more gentle than a tattoo done by a machine, but some [people] are still very sensitive to discomfort of any kind.”
Because Soul Tattoos are a unique breed of tattoo, they also have additional specific precautions. “This work isn't something you do for fun and then go about your days,” notes Brant. “It requires change. It requires rest. It requires recovery, reflection, gentleness, sacred listening, and self-trust.”
Sacred Tattooing, the educational course Brant has developed, has an entire lesson on how to guide your client (or yourself as a receiver of an intentional tattoo) through an integration period after a tattoo session. “In my opinion, this is the most important part of any healing work, [yet] often overlooked, as we live in a culture that does not value rest and stillness,” says Brant.
What to Expect From a Soul Tattoo® Session
A session starts off with a meditation, communion with the plants, a heart-to-heart chat/intention setting, and an aura reading. “I then channel a one-of-a-kind medicinal tattoo design for the client that carries the intent of transformation their soul is calling in,” explains Brant, who says the tattoo placement is also intentional, and based on the client’s chakra and meridian system. “I tattoo by hand in a relaxing and ceremonial experience that often includes sound, energy, and plant healing.”
Brant says, just like any healing arts session, the main thing you can expect from a Soul Tattoo session is transformation. “The transformation can be so subtle that you don't even notice until you wake up one day six months later and realize a weight you once carried is gone,” shares Brant. “Other times, the transformation is uncomfortable and may feel quite intense. All change carries an energy of death—this is simply the nature of transformation.” Fortunately, Brant says her clients usually experience positive feelings, stating, “My clients often feel a sense of peace and calm when they are with me—they feel seen, creative, validated, and inspired.”
How Long Does the Process Take?
“My Soul Tattoo® sessions, on average, can take anywhere from 2.5 to six hours, or may be broken up in multiple sessions, depending on the size and placement of the tattoo and intention of the healing work we are committed to unravel together,” shares Brant. She says that because everyone’s journey is unique, the process may vary. Some clients may see her multiple times in a year to work on certain aspects of transformation in their lives, while others have an annual visit, and still others may only come once in their life.
How Much Does a Soul Tattoo® Cost?
Soul Tattoo® sessions cost $222-$333 per hour depending on location, but Brant is no longer offering them.
Where to Get a Soul Tattoo®
Though Brant is no longer offering Soul Tattoos, she is offering apprenticeships to train interested practitioners on the full ceremonial practice of Soul Tattoos. And, if you want to experience intentional and intuitive transformative healing arts with Brant, she has co-created a course, Sacred Tattooing. “If you feel drawn to a Soul Tattoo®, our Sacred Tattooing online course is a beautiful gateway into the realm of this work,” notes Brant. She’s designed the course for tattoo artists, artists, inspiring intuitive artists/tattoo artists, and receivers of tattoo art alike. “In the course, we also teach receivers of tattoos how to empower themselves on their own tattoo journey. You can learn how to channel your own intentional tattoo designs for transformation, how to strengthen your intuitive awareness, the sustainable practices of tattooing, how to choose the right tattoo studio to get tattooed at, clear energy, work with sacred symbolism, and more.”
Is a Soul Tattoo® Right For You?
According to Brant, “You will know if an intentional and intuitive tattoo is right for you if you feel it from deep within. There won't be an ‘I should’ or ‘I need,’ but a simple and sure ‘yes.’” She describes this as a very individual and intuitive process.