Say "Aloha" to My New Mythology Tattoo!

Ever since I got my first tattoo, I’ve been hankering for a second. (When people tell you they’re addicting? They’re not kidding.) I knew I wanted something mythological, but that’s about all I knew for sure.

I’ve had a love affair with mythology as long as I can remember. I used to sneak out a copy of Edith Hamilton’s Mythology from my high school English classroom to read in my spare time, because it wasn’t assigned to my particular class. My first play, Deus ex Machina, which was co-written with my friend Tom Long, was an insane farce about Hercules’ 13th labor. Apocalypticon, my first novel, was essentially a post-apocalyptic version of The Odyssey, an epic poem steeped in Greek mythology. And if you’ve been paying close attention, then you already know that my next novel, Nā Akua, coming out this fall, blends Hawaiian mythology with a sprawling present-day adventure.

There’s something really special about mythologies…something about the way they pair storytelling with answer to questions that science couldn’t yet answer. That so many of the world’s ancient myths have survived to present day is very telling, I think, of their mesmerizing power. I wanted a tattoo that linked me to that kind of storytelling magic.

But I wasn’t sure what tattoo to get. So much of mythology is element-based, and I didn’t want a lightning bolt or an ocean scene. For a while, I toyed with some designs of Yggdrasil, the tree from Norse mythology that connects the nine worlds. But none of the designs really spoke to me enough to have them permanently imprinted on my skin.

This is what a traditional Manaiakalani looks like!

This is what a traditional Manaiakalani looks like!

Then, on our most recent trip to Hawaii, I came across a necklace pendant that was a stylized Manaiakalani—the Hook of Maui. See, in Hawaiian mythology, Maui was a demigod who was sort of like the Polynesian Hercules. One of his many feats was to pull up the islands of Hawaii from the bottom of the Pacific Ocean using his mythical hook. (More on that wonderful story here!) I know plenty of people have Manaiakalani tattoos, but they always look a little too on-the-nose for my taste. But this pendant that we found in a little shop in Paia, Maui was interesting, because it almost looked like a flame that curled in on itself to create the hook. And that sparked something.

Because I don’t know if you know this. But I frickin’ love volcanoes.

When I got home, I presented my incredibly, incredibly talented friend Steven Luna with an impossible task. Steven is a very gifted illustrator (and writer, and editor, and entrepreneur, and so many other things), and I asked if he could try his hand at drawing a Hook of Maui that somehow also looked like a flame to represent Pele, Hawaiian goddess of volcanoes, but that also looked like a water droplet, to represent the many water gods of Hawaiian mythology, including Namaka and Kanaloa.

It…was a pretty impossible task.

And yet! A few days later, he sent me this:


I don’t know how he does it. But he absolutely nailed it.

So now, not only do I have an incredible-looking tattoo that I am absolutely thrilled with, and not only does it represent multiple facets of a particular mythology, and not only does it remind me of Hawaii every time I look at it, but it also links me to a very good friend for life.

Which I’m pretty sure makes this the single greatest tattoo of all time.

Special thanks to Bunny at Chicago’s Deluxe Tattoo for doing such stellar work!!!

What do you guys think?

Clayton SmithComment