Henna tattoos can have a different meaning for many people, especially in the Middle East where Arabic henna designs are widely popular.
What is Henna
Henna is a type of temporary tattoo that dyes the skin for several weeks. Henna is made out of a plant that is dried, ground to a dust and then made in to a paste by adding essential oils. Henna got its start in the Arab culture and remains popular to this day and growing in popularity in other countries. The paste that is made is placed into a cone or bag that closely resembles that used by cake decorators. The paste is applied to the skin in intricate designs and as it dries and hardens it begins to fall off leaving behind an orange tint.
Arabic Henna Designs
Designs made from henna are completely free form and have no specific meaning and are meant for the sheer beauty of the art with no religious or cultural meaning. The henna tattoo can consist of nearly any pattern or series of patterns and the more elaborate the design the more erotic and sensual it is.
Henna is made primarily of several design styles which includes flowers, paisley designs, intricate lines, shading and doily designs. These patterns can wrap around your fingers, wrist, ankle or any other curved part of your body.
Placement and Application
The placement of the designs is important because they are meant to be seen. For this purpose the designs found in Middle Eastern cultures are often placed on the hand or on the top of the foot. Henna designs are typically applied by using a cone bag much like one used by pastry chefs. The paste can also be applied by using a plastic bottle, toothpicks or a metal spatula. In the hands of a capable artist, these intricate patterns can be applied freehand but there are templates available as well to make the task much easier.
Henna in the Arab World
Permanent tattoos in the Muslim world are greatly frowned upon, which makes henna a very popular alternative that dates back hundreds of years and is steeped in tradition. Henna makes it easy to get a tattoo without it being against Muslim traditions, since they only last a few weeks. These beautifully intricate designs are applied mainly to young women to glamorize themselves (older women will also sometimes wear henna) to their husbands after their wedding and during the ceremony.
Men in the Arab world do not partake in the art of henna as it is seen as feminine, something sensual and sexual, as well as erotic. It is a way to entice and is in no way masculine.
Arabic Henna Throughout the World
Henna can be seen in countries all around the globe despite its roots being firmly planted in the Middle East existing in India, Egypt, Pakistan, Morocco among just a few. The typical style in the originating country is that of large floral patterns painted all over the body, but as the design spreads it changes to meet the needs of the people. The United States, for instance, has taken henna and made it into pure skin decoration. Unlike the Middle East, the main reason to get henna is for show and not some profound meaning. The sentimental factors involved have been removed and what's left is something very basic and watered down. Henna done at the circus, carnivals and Renaissance fairs are just several examples of western style henna.
Choosing to get a henna tattoo is a lot easier than getting a permanent tattoo. There is no pain involved, and it lasts a lot longer than other typical temporary tattoos. With this said, it makes a great alternative for someone younger to get the feel of a tattoo as well as being able to function in a job that may frown upon body art. The cost is also a lot less than that of permanent tattoos.