Ferank Manseed is a traditional tattoo artist and has Swastikas in all different styles permanently tattooed on his body just as he always wears a smile on his face. I asked him about the symbols and what they mean to him, because surely having the Swastika; a symbol commonly associated with the Third Reich, proudly displaying itself on different areas of his clothing and body would bring him nothing but grief?
As a tattoo artist, I have always had a strong interest in symbology. Tattooists have always known the secrets and codes within images and symbols; it is part of our job. The most auspicious good luck sign is represented in almost every culture by a tetraskellion form. The symbol has many names and is known as Yungdrung, Manji, Lauburu, Sonnenrad, Swastyka, as well as many more.
I only tattoo positive images and symbols, I refuse to tattoo anything negative or hateful and Swastika is a huge part of my journey and my art. The oldest Swastika in England is situated on Ilkley Moore in Yorkshire, it is a carved stone estimated to be from the Iron Age and it sits among a huge collection of other stones containing ‘cup and ring’ markings from the same period. To this day, it is still called ‘The Swastika Stone.’ Almost a decade ago, I went there with two friends and sitting in the stones, I tattooed its mark into our skin by hand. I tattoo without machines in a more ancient and traditional way. It was a very enlightening and awakening experience. The book “Modern Primitives” made the body modification crowd aware of gentle swastikas via ‘Manwoman’ (RIP), a Canadian artist and poet who had a vision to reclaim the Swastika in the 60s. He has become a very good friend of mine in recent years and is a true inspiration.
The Tibetan word for Swastika is Yungdrung, it translates as a blessing of ‘Unchanging Wellbeing’. You will notice that some Buddhas have the Swastika on their chest. In Hindu culture, it is a blessing to Lord Ganesha, who is a deity that signifies good luck and new beginnings. I often get asked about my Swastika tattoos by people but it is rarely negative. I’m covered in Buddhist imagery as well as Swastikas. I have been asked to tattoo ‘Hakenkruez,’ (the symbol used by the Third Reich) but I refused. I won’t do F.T.W (Fuck the World) tattoos either. The main difference is that Hitler framed the symbol in a white circle with red surrounding it. Most of us know what the NSDP flag looks like. It’s a misconception that the Hakenkruez is in one direction and gentle Swastikas the other direction. I believe that if you are going to mark yourself with a visible Swastika tattoo, it’s good to educate yourself and be prepared to explain yourself. I usually recommend that people Google Swastika or look at a Swastika blog online to learn more. I also smile a lot, I think this helps. I rarely see fascists being happy, you know? I’m heavily tattooed but very approachable.
The Swastika guides me. It unlocks obstacles and connects me to people. I’m a ‘people person’ as well as a passionate artist. The Swastika spreads love and brings it back tenfold for me. It’s interesting because I see the Swastika as an important catalyst to consciousness and the truth. History, news, and the media have always had an agenda and we have been lied to. When people discover that what they thought Swastika represents isn’t true, it helps them to further question other ‘facts’ from history. Thankfully, almost everyone has a voice now. Only the very rich and very religious controlled ‘history.’
Every day more and more people embrace Swastika. It resonates deep within us; it’s a very ground roots people movement, explaining to one person at a time so they can do the same. German law has banned the Swastika and Swastika tattoos which in some way is trying to make the symbol guilty; this is ludicrous. There is just as much blood on the cross but they wouldn’t think of banning it. I get good reactions in Germany from all ages. I even showed people the big Swastika on my ribs and got understanding compassionate smiles. I’m often wearing a swastika t-shirt too. My favourite one was made by Swasi-Dan in Germany; it says ‘SWASTIKA FRIENDS AGAINST RACISM.’ It has opened a lot of positive conversations; Swastika is blessings in all forms. It brings people together and by telling this story, I’m encountering it in this very moment.
My first ever experience of tattooing is a funny story. I was 14 and we got to use Indian ink. 3 boys in my class tattooed swastikas on their arms; they were trying to be punk. Sid Vicious of the Sex Pistols wore the Swastika. I was shocked at how stupid they were. I never thought that looking back, this could be a life or career choice, but here I am. It’s my life now. I made lots of music before tattooing took over my life. I’m a self-taught singer too and I have many male and female singing voices. I’ve made art in lots of mediums, I’ve also had a successful poetry career, but tattooing is the ultimate art for me; it’s alive. It’s actually alive. With other art, we try to give it life so people can connect with it, but even one dot tattooed in the skin is alive; it has a past, a present, a philosophy and the life force going through it; magical stuff. Swastika and other sacred geometry placed in our skin connect us to very powerful magical energies. The spiral is also a powerful symbol, the spiral is everywhere; in your DNA, galaxies, the Fibonacci spiral is in our ear. Sacred geometry is present around us and that’s why we find it so beautiful and appealing. It is a part of us as well as the nature beyond us and recognising it hugely reconnects you.
I’m very ritualistic. The tattoos I create are a prayer and a blessing but I make simpler decorative tattoos too. I love geometric form and pattern as well as symbology, it’s a nice mixture! I still believe in tattooing as a sacred magical ritual. I have an altar of powerful items near my tattoo area, it includes: fossils, meteorites, swastikas, Buddhas, Ganesh, Aums, a Tibetan conch shell, a prayer wheel, penises and Thai amulets. When I travel to tattoo, I carry a portable altar with some select ‘power’ items. I use 2 crystal glass plinths with 24 carat flower of life designs; one to energise my ink and one to energise my needle. I wear an amulet with 108 swastikas on it; 108 is a sacred number with the 1, 0, and 8 represent one thing, nothing, and everything/infinite. They are there for me to ‘connect’ to the spirit and become inspired. I am often inspired and I think my passion shows in my tattoo work. I have no teacher, I find inspiration all around me, my eyes have always been wide open, I used lots of psychedelic drugs too. I once took acid and saw nothing but swastikas and sacred geometry calling me. I am drug free nowadays though, just high on life.
Tashi Mannox is a Tibetan calligrapher whose work I find is amazing. I wear his calligraphy on my ribs, a big swastika piece and the word Yungdrung in a beautiful sacred script. It’s very magical; some scripts can resonate just by looking. This is why Tibetans carve the mantra, ‘Aum Mani Padme Hum’ on stones and discard them; so someone finds the blessing. The symbols carry energy and with the purest of blessings and intentions they resonate with a person. The moment I saw Tashi’s penmanship, it spoke to me- so beautiful. Sacred text must be made correctly, especially as tattoos. It is hypnotic watching him work, his hand is so peaceful and graceful and his script contains that same magic. Imagine that within your skin. The most powerful places are over the chakra points; I tattooed my girl’s Metatrons cube tattoo on her heart chakra. I also blessed my hands with sacred mantras and symbols as they are my tools and I chose to energise them.
I realise as I get older that every little micro-second of past experience forms who we are in this present moment and we reference from our past constantly. What at the time appeared to be a really bad experience often taught us so much that we return to it and continue to learn from it. But I am not my past, I create my future. I have ‘now’ tattooed on my hand in Hindi, I’m looking at it now, and it’s a great reminder. We find the divine within. Through deep meditation I have come to understand my body has a ‘soul’ separate to this skin and I’m beautifully decorating its container.