Are Tattoos Symbols of Transformation?

Are Tattoos Symbols of Transformation?


Presenter: Lindie Pankive-Greene

The remarkable interest in tattoos over the past four decades led to Lindie Pankiv-Greene’s research question “Are Tattoos Symbols of Transformation?”


In this presentation based on her research, she examines both current and historical literature on tattoos to understand their origins in today’s context. She will be sharing the understanding she gained through her research on tattoos of indigenous knowledge and why the current revival is important in today’s world.

The presenter will take us through her examination of the process of tattoo as a rite of passage. Through researching tattoos as transformative symbols between the mundane and transpersonal realms of existence, it became apparent to the presenter that tattoos are more than trendy body art, deeper than skin and could evoke transformation. Skin is the mediator between our inner and outer experiences, between the conscious and unconscious. Tattoo can be a soul language, the interconnecting symbol, expressing the unconscious materially in its search for individuation.

The presenter has been fascinated by the invisible from a young age.  Studying C.G. Jung and Transpersonal psychotherapy put form and understanding to her own embodied knowledge. Jung’s work on symbol, dreams and alchemy helped the presenter recognise that the burgeoning popularity of tattoos globally was connected to individual search for meaning through the transformative possibility of symbols. She therefore decided to research it further. According to Jung (1991), symbols of transformation carry the sacred, the unconscious, the Self and the universal.

In her experience as a therapist, tattoos have enabled the deepest conversations, revealing personal myths, and archetypes. Beyond the individual, the presenter discovered that tattoos are an ancient practice that connect us with our essence and creation.

Lindie Pankive-Greene is a Transpersonal psychotherapist, working in Constantia, Cape Town in private practice.

She lived in London for twenty-two years. Her first career was as an art director in the film industry. She trained as a transpersonal psychotherapist at the C.C.P.E. in London, where she first encountered Jung’s teachings and has completed an MSc in Consciousness, Spirituality and Transpersonal Psychology through the Alef Trust at Liverpool John Moores University. She studied altered states of consciousness as paths to transformation which led to her thesis research subject: “Are tattoos symbols of transformation?” This year Lindie is pursuing her interest in altered states and exceptional human experience as means of transformation, led by David Luke at Liverpool John Moores University.

Lindie has been interested in mythology from a young age and has recorded her own dreams for over twenty years. She works with her own and her client’s dreams. Her hobbies are painting, poetry and gardening.