Written on Her Skin: My Fairy Tale Tattoo Sleeve and How Stories Change Us

I grew up on myth and fairy tales, lugged my gigantic books of Greek mythology and my tattered copies of the color Fairy Tale books out into the woods, where I could read them in the sheltering arms of the great, old oaks. I was a very fanciful child, and lived more in my head and my imagination than the real world (as most authors could tell you), and studied fairy tales not just for their stories, but for their deeper, archetypal meanings. Fairy tales and mythology have been a part of my life for always, and I have built my life of them. My marriage with my wife, how we found and fell in love with each other is a fairy tale. All of my the books I have written have something to do with fairy tales. We were married in fairy wings, and every aspect of our daily lives has something to do with fairy tales, whether we’re cutting up old, unloved fairy tale books to transform them into wearable art that someone new can love, or retelling the most famous fairy tales from a lesbian perspective, fairy tales fill and enrich our lives. ❤ In short: I love them.

I am covered in tattoos. Every single one means something deep and important. I think of tattoos as spells and invocations–each tattoo I possess is a deep, colorful part of myself that has come to life on my skin. I have this superstition that every tattoo that comes out on a person was always meant to be, was–indeed–already under their skin, and the tattoo artist simply drew it out. Tattoos are a sacred artform to me, and I love them a great deal.

As any true Virgo rising (hah!), each section of my body has its own tattoo type. So, my legs and feet are all ocean tattoos (mermaid tail!), my chest/shoulders/everything above that is celestial, my torso is earth, my left arm is spirituality/the Goddess/Magic, and my right arm is Story and all things associated thereof. The word “Storyteller” is tattooed to my right wrist, the section of my body that I, arguably, see the most, as a constant reminder that this is who I am, always and forever. I wanted the rest of the arm to be filled with Story, in all of its magical forms.

Story, to me, is a spirituality in and of itself. I must write. I can’t NOT write. Writing is my entire life, and is a very spiritual act, so I wanted to marry that, somehow, to the concept of Story. I love stained glass windows, and–obviously–fairy tales have built my life. So I decided…what could be better than a stained glass window of fairy tales as a half-arm tattoo sleeve?

And so, it began.

(photo by the incredible Laura Vasilion of me, on my wedding day <3)

I love far too many fairy tales to even count, and I wanted reminders of all of them–choosing the symbols and images to put into the stained glass window made for difficult decisions. In the end, I followed my heart (always a useful thing to do~), and decided on:

The Wolf from “Little Red Riding Hood:” She (of course she’s a she ;D) is on the top of the window, not as an admonishment that following-strangers-into-the-woods-ends-badly, but that the Woods is dark and deep, and adventures are to be had, and you must trust your heart and your instincts, and that the strangers we meet might be the ones we end up loving the most.

The apple from the Garden of Eden: As a Pagan, I believe the Bible to be filled with stories. In the story of Eve, she chooses the apple–and wisdom–of her own free will, one of the most beautiful and heroic actions that can ever be taken in a story.

Beauty from “Beauty and the Beast:” Based on one of Mucha’s paintings, Beauty has been altered to hold a book. Below her rests the mirror and ring from the fairy tale. The mirror says a simple word: “home.” The word “home” is from the musical…the entire fairy tale of “Beauty and the Beast” is “our” fairy tale, my and my wife’s. It’s our most precious, and most meaningful, and the word “home” is taken from the musical. This whole section of the tattoo has to do with love, that love=home, that home is love. 🙂 ❤ ❤ ❤

Maple leaf, oak leaf and acorn: The seed of a fairy tale is the forest…stories begin under trees. The woods is a metaphor for so very many things, and the woods holds fairy tales. I wanted symbols of not only my own childhood forest where I began the fairy tale journeys in my beloved books, but reminders of every forest in existence, because in that is the knowledge that all things are connected.

The Woods: As above, when you enter the forest, you commit yourself to Story. I grew up in the woods, it was my home, and I believe you find yourself in the forest. The unicorn (YOU ARE NOT SURPRISED) in the center is the end of every fairy tale ever. It is the “Happily ever after.” ❤

The Star Girl: One of my favorite writers in the world is Isabel Wyatt. My sense of whimsy, wonder and magic is directly linked to how her books shaped and changed me as a child. One of my favorite stories is one that she retold, about two star children, sisters, who must save each other from a wicked witch. It touched me, and has never let go. The story is about trust and courage and faith–even in the darkest hour–and I needed that on me, permanently, forever. ❤

So I got the star girl, again based on another Mucha painting~

The pomegranate from the myth of Persephone: What we choose changes us. And we always have the power of choice. ❤ This one, I think, is the most self explanatory. For a longer explanation, look to The Dark Wife~ 🙂

A Wild Swan from “The Wild Swans:” Within us is the wild, always reachable, that seed of ourselves that longs for freedom, and will always search for it. Hopefully, someday, finding it. ❤


All of the images show a very, very long journey of the tattoo. I’ve had it worked on for years, and it’s still not done (TATTOOS ARE EXPENSIVE), but will someday. ❤ I'm blessed in the fact that my tattoo artist is also a dear friend, Cat of Strange Brew Tattoos. The center forest, with the unicorn, will finally be filled in, in May, another piece of the puzzle complete. ❤

All stories take time to grow and be told, all stories change us. The invocation of fairy tales upon my arm has, of course, changed my life as fairy tales tend to do.

Fairy tales ask us: do you have courage? Do you believe in magic? Don't stay on the path, be kind to strangers, believe in yourself. A heroine or hero exists in every single one of us, and anything is possible if we find the strength to step off the beaten path, beneath the trees, and search for something better.

And that's something that's been written on my skin. ❤


About Sarah Diemer

I write about heroic, magical girls who love girls. I drink a lot of coffee. Follow me at http://twitter.com/sediemer or find out more about my work at http://sarahdiemerauthor.wordpress.com
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9 Responses to Written on Her Skin: My Fairy Tale Tattoo Sleeve and How Stories Change Us

  1. Arielle says:

    This was so beautiful. Thank you for sharing. ❤
    Yay! for more being filled in, in May!! 😀 ❤


  2. Lara says:

    That’s amazing. I love the illustrative style, almost like coloured pencil artwork, at least in these pictures. I enjoyed reading about it!


  3. James says:

    I love your take on Eve’s story. Have you ever been tempted to rewrite that one? I’m sure that undertaking would be rather intimidating, though.

    I really like your tattoo, by the way. I love how you’ve crafted it all together into the stained-glass motif. 🙂


    • Sarah says:

      Well. I’ll give you a hint, sir. 🙂 Since the pomegranate is tattooed directly across from the apple, and since the pomegranate is about Persephone, and I retold Persephone’s story… *whistles innocently* ❤

      One day, I'll publish it. When the world is ready, I think. 🙂

      ❤ Thank you so much.


  4. Kelley York says:

    Wow, belated comment, but I just started following your blog and I wanted to say these are lovely. I don’t think I’ve seen tatts with the stained glass look before, but it works so gorgeously. 😉


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