Tattoos as Battle Scars: A Warrior’s Story

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“My tattoos are my battle scars of the life that I’ve lived,” she tells me as she begins to share her story. “The things that have traumatized me, and thus, enlightened my soul are now tattooed on my body.” Every single one has deep meaning, and is a reminder of where she has been, and what she has overcome. This is a warrior’s story.

Lori is a 33 year-old, unmarried, powerhouse woman. Her hair is blue, and she stands six foot tall. Have an image of an amazon in your head? You are dead on. She runs her family’s business, and is their pillar of strength. But stepping into a warrior’s pose was not an easy go.

Much like the Cherokee tribe that were a matriarchal society, Lori’s family looks to her for guidance in moments of distress or trauma. They know that Lori will swiftly take control of the situation and make the hard decisions, the right way. Yet, the wisdom and strength that her tribe depends on has not come easy.

Family and friends

When Lori was 16, she lost a friend to suicide. It affected her deeply. In an effort to honor their friendship, and her love for him, she tattooed the Japanese symbol of friend on her left shoulder. In this way, she always carries him with her.

The following year, she lost an aunt who was very special to her. This dear aunt was a woman who believed in doing things the old-fashioned way. Getting your hands dirty and working hard were just a part of living. And she taught Lori that. Following that aunt’s death, Lori tattooed the Japanese symbol for family on her right shoulder.

Consequently, Lori carries her family and friends on her shoulders. Moreover, she carries her friends and family with her into every battle she fights. At times, when needed, she feels they strengthen her. They are with her always in everything that she does. And on occasion, it helps her to persevere.

Unconditional love

Location: right calf.

At age 22, Lori tattooed an Egyptian ankh, topped with a heart in honor of her grandfathers. She had lost both “grandpas” within a year and a half. Each of these men represented unconditional love to her. Every time she looks at this tattoo, she is reminded to “love with a fiery passion, yet never forget the sting of death.”

A warrior knows what is important in life: family and love. To protect these things, to rise above one’s own self and needs in order to ensure that these values endure, is the epitome of a great leader.

The fighter

“No matter what comes my way, I can fight it,” Lori proclaims confidently. Surprisingly, she hasn’t always identified as a fighter. There were years when she was miserable, overweight, and emotionally frail. But there was a turning point where she knew she had to rise above it all. Letting go of less than stellar relationships was an important part of that process.

Lori came up with an original design for what she refers to as her “anti-depression” tattoo. Inside the bud of a flower is an upward pointed pentagram. Taken from the Wicca meaning of “spirit dominates all physical things,” this reminds Lori to keep her third-eye open and focused on the spiritual.

She added the acronym AKF, for “always keep fighting.” This was a phrase Lori took from a favorite actor who also lost a friend to suicide. She added the butterfly to remind herself to keep fighting and flying. It is an ever-present reminder to stay strong and fight hard on the days that depression may return. Fortunately, those are fewer and farther between now.


Location: back of right calf.

“People will always talk about you behind your back.” There was a time in Lori’s life when she felt she couldn’t trust her inner circle. Thus, she chose this tattoo as a form of protection. It is a witches knot with a circle of protection surrounding it. The intent was to prevent people who did not have her best interests at heart from causing her harm. It worked.

Shortly thereafter, a couple of close friends came to her and affirmed her intuition regarding other “friends” who weren’t loyal to her. In true warrior fashion, she cut them out of her life, and has lived stronger ever since.

The rising phoenix

Location: upper right thigh.

Lori’s most recent tattoo is a rising phoenix. It is the perfect symbol of a warrior who never dies. As previously mentioned, Lori has battled depression – to the point of suicidal thoughts. There was a point where she hit rock bottom. She realized, “Nobody is going to change me but me.”

Overweight, filled with hate and anguish, she turned inward. A four-day meditation and solace-fest left her with a new sense of self. Through this emotional “cleansing,” Lori feels that her old self died and she reemerged as a new soul.

A warrior’s story with a happy ending

As she released her old self and stepped into the warrior woman that she is today, Lori became the Phoenix rising. In her mind’s eye, she murdered the old self to rise above the battle of depression. There was a stronger self within her that had to let go of that darkness. By stepping into warrior mode, Lori was able to become the woman she was always meant to be.

In Lori’s words, her tattoos “are the stitches that hold her together.” Lori wears her battle scars as badges of honor. Each and every one reminds her of where she has been, what she has survived, and the strength that lies within. Her warrior’s story is tattooed on her body. That way she can never forget that she is a fighter who wins.

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