By Jon Osiris
Some time ago, the eccentric occultist, ceremonial tattooist, artisan and creator, Shri Timios the Natha went out on his regular moonlit stroll after "burning the midnight oil". He had been in meditation for hours and had also been studying arcane texts and drawing diagrams interlaced upon a human skull. He hummed some strange tune as he went out and seemed quite at ease as usual. The skull itself, previous to that evening it is said, was visually quite unremarkable, having no distinct features save a unique hole, opening into the cranial cavity between the parietal halves, just behind the coronal suture. This hole had signs of being made and healed before the owner of the skull crossed over into the world of spirit. The mandible was also missing. However, the lack of distinction of this specimen stopped there. The diagrams that had been laid out upon its surface had been executed with the precision and care that only a tattooist or a surgeon would possess and the skull itself seemed to glow with a strange and attractive light after the ritual markings were applied and the ceremony completed. I saw it just once when i was first given a tour of the Temple.
Now, the circumstances of how the Natha came to be in possession of this skull are hazy at best, but the story I was told is thus. I cannot ascertain all the methods at work here, but it is most certainly of a non-ordinary nature. It is said to have belonged to a woman in South America who had unique psychic gifts and a penchant for adopting stray dogs. Rumor also had it that she would sometimes hiss like a serpent at her guests if they had a certain disagreeable odor. Many years went by after her death, which remains a mystery, (though some say she was struck by lightning and died 11 days later) before her uppermost earthly possession wound up in the hands of an unscrupulous merchant. This merchant, being the traveler that he was, happened to be selling his wares in a market stall near the the Natha's Temple grounds. After a morning of instructing his young students in meditation and martial sciences, he went to buy herbs from the local sellers that his consort and Priestess had chosen to make her special healing teas. These would be given to those seeking out his services as a practitioner of ceremonial tattooing and healing after they had been tattooed and given his blessing with mantra and marking. The merchant, being the clever one that he was, had positioned this post-mortem morsel near some sandalwood oil that was of a particularly good quality such that the wafting scent caused the Natha to pause en-route. The resulting conversation after the Natha observed the skull which was resting just behind the censer, was not entirely pleasant, I am told, and ended with the Natha glowering scornfully at the merchant before turning back to his original errand. Some time that night, it is said, the merchant appeared at the Natha's Temple gate, seeking immediate audience. He seemed inordinately distraught while earlier was observed to be quite imperious after their exchange of words - was now desperate to relinquish the skull as quickly as possible. The merchant produced the skull from a burlap sack and placed it on the marble floor of the foyer. As he finished making his request to be rid of it, a large beetle flew in the window and landed on the skull. This seemed to increase the fears in the merchant had considerably, as he began back pedaling toward the door.
The Natha graciously received the remnant, pat the beetle gently on its carapace and nudged it to flight. He then bid the merchant a safe and speedy journey and took the skull immediately from the foyer to some ante-room adjacent while wrapping it in a fine red silk. Nothing more was said of the skull, nor was it seen again for a full cycle of the moon. One acolyte saw the Natha taking a red cloth wrapped object with him up the stairs to his roof top sanctum where he is heard most nights chanting and performing his sadhana in front of his ritual fire, at times with his consort. The skull is now ensconced in the sanctum, possibly as some sort of gargoyle or perhaps an antennae to the immaterial realms beyond waking consciousness… whatever it's purpose, whenever a guest, senior student or traveling dervish comes to sit with the Natha, there is always a good deal of laughter, happiness and general well being when they come downstairs, as well as with his tattoo clients and other visiting artisans and teachers.. after all, I am still here as well...
Jon Osiris : world traveling tattooer and metalsmith