Ricky Martin’s Mistaken Assyrian Aramaic Tattoo

UPDATE: Since the publishing of this article, Aramaic Designs now offers a Spiral Lord’s Prayer Tattoo Kit. 🙂

Well, it just goes to show you that when you take your time and look over something carefully that you do a better job at spotting things that are out of place. Thus is my plight with Ricky Martin.

Just the other day, a potential client asked if Aramaic Designs could completely replicate Mr. Martin’s Aramaic tattoo of the Lord’s Prayer. I furnished a quote and sent it over for approval, but in the meantime I went to work to research this particular design to see what it was all about (as preemptive research is one of my favorite hobbies). I, like many people, have seen pictures of it before, and whenever I gave it a cursory look over it seemed very well done and I could easily read snippets of the prayer around the spiral.

I’ve enhanced the above image to make it more readable.
Also this image, as a subject of criticism, is being used under the doctrine of Fair Use.

Then I tried to read over all of it from start to finish… Which is where things started to get weird.

This is what I was able to read from the above image after I enhanced it, starting at the bottom left and winding all the way to the “Yah” ligature in the center:

aykanâd’âf hnan (this portion I could not make out) : hav lan lahma’ dsuwnqânân yaumanâ‘ : malkuwthâkh nehwâçevyânâkhaykanâdvashmayâ‘ : ‘abwun dvashmayânethqadash shmakh te’the

This translates into the following and I kid you not:

Also as we (the same portion I could not make out) : Give us bread of our need today : Your kingdom may your will be done like which is in heaven : Our father who is in heaven may your name be holy she will come.

Although the individual chunks of text came verbatim from the Syriac Peshitta, they are completely out of order and using a bit of forensics (“source criticism” if you will 😉 ), I can immediately see what caused this tragedy: Whoever arranged this tattoo did not take into account that Aramaic is read from right to left.


Allow me to illustrate exactly what happened. Let us say that our tattoo designer came across the following text in this format:

Our Father who art in heaven hallowed by thy name thy kingdom
come thy will be done on earth
as it is in heaven give us this day our daily bread
and forgive us our trespasses …

They then took each line of text and connected them in the wrong direction, resulting in:

And forgive us our trespasses as it is in heaven give us this day our daily bread come thy will be done on earth our Father who art in heaven hallowed by thy name thy kingdom

The bigger tragedy is that this could have been completely avoided.

Several notes to go over:

  • The symbol in the center is a Yod-He ligature (“Yah“) which in the Syriac tradition is a shortened form of the Tetragrammaton that symbolizes the Trinity (hence the three dots on top, one on the bottom).
  • The reason the spiral trails off in “she will come” is because the Aramaic word te’the (i.e. the “she will come” in question) is referring to “your kingdom” or malkuwthâkh whose grammatical gender is feminine. If it were not obvious what the subject of the clause was, due to ambiguities in Syriac grammar, te’the could also translate as “you (masc.) will come.”
  • This only proves once more that if you are going to get a translation done, please trust a professional for both layout and the actual translation, itself. I’ve already done a few posts here (1 2) on The Aramaic Blog about mistaken tattoos, and if you don’t believe me, there are other websites that have examples as well. In fact, don’t just trust a professional, once you’ve obtained a translation have it double-checked with another professional source for accuracy before you even think about permanently affixing it on your skin. (For example Aramaic Designs will double-check translations pro bono.) Laser removal procedures are extremely unpleasant.

UPDATE November 2012:
For those of you who are interested in how The Lord’s Prayer looked like and sounded like back in Jesus’ time, I have posted my reconstruction of The Lord’s Prayer here:

The Lord’s Prayer in Galilean Aramaic on AramaicNT.org.


40 thoughts on “Ricky Martin’s Mistaken Assyrian Aramaic Tattoo

  1. It is Assyrian or Aramaic. I am Assyrian. I think Ricky Martin’s tattoo is cool. The order of words might be wrong, but we all know what it says. So, ENJOY IT!!

  2. Interesting topic. Although I can read and understand Syriac or Edessan Aramaic, I never questioned the possible inaccuracy of the written text in Ricky Martin’s tattoo.

    BTW: “Assyrian” is a cuneiform language, written with 100s of symbols. Aramaic, by contrast, is an alphabetic language, with only 22 letters.

    Those who call themselves “Assyrians” (or “Chaldeans”) since the early 20th century, are in reality nothing more than Syriacs/Arameans.

    There are lots of people who are still proudly aware of their Aramean descent, not least among them are the Syriac-Orthodox clergy and its adherents.

    For more on this issue, see John Joseph’s The Modern Assyrians (Brill: Leiden, 2000), pages 1-32.

  3. HELLO! ok…so you say I must trust a professional if Im gonna get my aramaic tattoo…and not just one, TWO professionals. well…I have 5 months looking for someone who knows at least SOMETHING about aramaic, and theres NOTHING FOUND! : ( I want to know how to write some names, thats all! can u help dude? please! greetings.

  4. hey! hi i think ur arameic search tatoos are great, i was just wondering, i was going to get the same tatoo in arameic, but i want othoer scrption from the bible, any suggestions?? i know a page its: http://pes.scripturetext.com/revelation/8.htm
    are all these page scriptions well??
    can u send me an answer to:magui_universmusic@hotmail.com
    hey as u said u better want to have a professional before doing sumthing ill have it for life 🙂

    thanks bye

  5. The prayer that’s on Ricky Martin’s arm is this:

    Nithqadash shmokh tithe malkuthokh
    nehwe sebyonokh aykano d’bashmayo oph bargho hab lan lahmo d’sunqonan yowmono washbuq lan hawbayn wahtohayn
    aykano doph hnan shbaqan l’hayobayn
    lo tahlan l’nesyuno elo paso lan
    men bisho metul d’dylokh hi malkutho
    whaylo wteshbuhto l’olam ‘olmin amin.

    You only put a few words in your article. and Assyrian is just a dialect from arameac we call our self these days Syriac.

  6. Anonymous,

    You’re reciting the prayer in the correct order.

    The prayer as it is on his arm in this photograph (and every other photograph) is in the order I have outlined, i.e. the lines were joined in reverse.

    If you would prefer I could compose an image outlining this unquestionably. 🙂


  7. To the person saying Assyrians are Arameans, You are incorrect, the Arameans were a tribe assimilated by the Assyrians.

    “The political power of Assyria was gone, but its people, culture and religion lived on. The Achaemenids preferred not to interfere in the internal affairs of their satrapies as long as the flow of tribute and taxes continued undisturbed (Dandamayev and Lukonin 1989, 104). This was no problem in Assyria, whose population continued to venerate the Great King as the source of peace and security.” Simo Parpola (University of Finland)

    http://www.raremaps.com/maps/large/17920.jpg – John Speed (Historian) Lived during the year 1500s-to early 1600, recorded map of Turkey year 1626 AD showing the minorities of people that Inhabited turkey “Assyrians” are shown.

  8. After reading your blog I completely gave up on tattooing anything in whatever language I don’t understand or if I’ve seen it online. I found a Tibetan phrase (not mantra) in one online dictionary that I liked and then started searching for the oldest possible language to write it in, then thought -ok most sanskrit stuff is tibetanized so it will be sanskrit – got it written by a person,but doesn’t have with whom to check it and I’m sure most ppl that are pros in this are frustrated from ppl asking them how to write this or that word for my tattoo. Then I looked for a more ancient language and came across Sumerian,read tons about it and as next I understood about Aramaic,which seemed perfect for tattoos and started reading info and info and landed on your blog and after what I saw I completely gave up on the idea.
    By the way it is kind of brutal someone to tell you – your skin is fucked up and that tattoo you put so much faith in is senseless,after you have tattooed ur skin,better not tell them.
    And poor Ricky Martin, i really like him,it came out kind of shocking his tattoo is fucked up too.

  9. i know that maybe you dont even look at this anymore, i hope you check this post
    id like it if you could give me a link where i can find the design of a Spiral Lord’s Prayer tattoo for free? would be nice if you could

  10. You should have it confirmed with Assyrians, whom are the only people that speak the Aramaic language today (Syriac Aramaic- language of Jesus).

    Assyrians didn’t speak in cuneiform, silly. They wrote Akkadian in cuneiform, as Akkadian was the ancient language of Mesopotamia long before Jesus’ time.

    Arameans are nestorians… they assimilated into the Assyrian empire. Arameans were not Jesus’ chosen Semites, as the Assyrians were the “people of my hand.”

    Again, get in contact with an Assyrian for the most precise Aramaic tattoo! I did. 🙂

  11. Anon,

    Actually, the Assyrians aren’t the only group who still speak Aramaic today. There are a number of Jewish enclaves as well as 2 Muslim villages (Bakh’a and Jub’addin) that speak Aramaic languages as well.

    Also, where Assyrian Neo-Aramaic and its cousin dialects are usually referred to as “Neo-Syriac” they aren’t directly descended from Classical Syriac (although they were heavily influenced by it).


  12. When you will go to write a sentence in another lenguage that you can’t speak fluency, is better to search more than one person to translate, or write for you.
    Of course!

    So boring this situation.

    Nice blog.

    have a nice weekend.

  13. by The name of all mighty Ashur God of Existence,
    Cuniform is a script not language; Assyrian, Aramaic, Turkish etc… are.
    the script here is Assyrian not Aramaic, it is not academicaly accurate to call it Aramaic. It is Assyrian and the closest script to it is the Hebrew script called “KTAV ASHURI” which means ASSYRIAN SCRIPT.
    but if we pray it the phonetic result will be that we are hearing Aramaic .
    so it is an Aramaic prayer with Assyrin Script.
    why Assyrian not Akadian?
    because assyrians were there thousands of years before the Akadians (Ashur temple was build 4750 B.C.and the Akadian Empire 2300 B.C.).

    John Joseph is totally wrong ;
    check Simo Parpola from Helsenki university and Richard Frye from Harvard university (replies on John joseph)

  14. Well Rabshaqeh you are wrong!!! akkadians were before the assyrians and babylonians came after akkadians, but aabylonians are akkadians and assyrians came after Babylonia not before and they are also Akkadians. And aramaic came and spread trough mesopotamia and thats why the language is aramaic not assyrian. Its also an assyrian language today but is not the antic assyrian language! And aramaic is also not jewish but jewish had aramaic as language from the syriac because the syriac are known as padan aram in bible and the israel is syriac because israel all forefathers married in padan aram aramaic womens and all till jehuda juda were aramaic because chaldeans are the oldest aramaic people from ur in babylonia. Its how the language spreaded not from israel spreaded the language but from iraq go trough padan aram to israel!!!!Chaldean aramaic of course is not assyrian it is Rather from syro-phoenicia, syria. Because chaldean aramaic is the language replaced the akkadian-assyrian, but this was before abraham and this was b4 the jews and everything!!!Abo Aram= Abram was a chaldean from UR and Israel also is Aram-Israel till Jehuda!!! After Jehuda Jewish were known as Jews!!! Posh bshlama.

  15. yeshurun,

    Do not call anyone an idiot here, please and avoid excessive !’s as they are bordering on disruptive. (Note point 3 of posting here.)

    Otherwise, feel free to re-word and re-post with a bit more decorum.


  16. Ok steve;)

    Rabshaqeh Akkadian is not a language only a script? Ok, bring me your Simo. By the way, abraham was from babylon but he was not babylonian, but chaldean aramaic, the forefathers were from syro-phoenicia witch is the region in syria+lebanon. And first was the Akkadian Empire: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Akkadian_Empire and then came the Babylonian Empire: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Babylonian_Empire and later very later came Assyria: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Assyria . But aramaic come from the phoenician: http://www.omniglot.com/writing/aramaic.htm in syria lebanon witch is called syrophoenicia! The assyrian today ffail to understand that they are called assyrian cause they are liveing in that region. They may be mixed with the ancient assyrian but mixed between aramaic and assyrian but theyr language is syriac a form of aramaic and not assyrian but aramaic spoken by assyrians also. It is called leshana aramaye d’atoraye! and not leshana atoraye! Inform urself here little brain: http://www.chaldeans.org/wiki/index.php/Aramaic_history posh bshlama u pshena!

  17. the person who posted on September 5th 2008 has made me so angry. how naive are you to think Assyrians are just syriacs/arameans. We are the native people of the country Assyria which no longer exists but we do and still proud of our background. go read the bible then tell me we are not Assyrian.

  18. Again the same lies. You are a mandean aramaic tribe called assyrian cause of the place were you settled as an aramaic tribe like the chaldeans. syriac is called the language of the christians. syriac is not assyrian but new christian aramaic, from them are east and west syriac. what you call assyrian or chaldean are east syriac languages as dialects.the real assyrian is a akkadian language and not of the aramaic root. thy are completly different roots. babylonian and later assyrian, are both akkadian languages, while those self falsely proclained assyrians are in reality mandeans,witch are relatives with the chaldeans,both are syriacs and not assyrian!

  19. Why has this degenerated into an Assyrians are Arameans debate. This was about an Aramaic tattoo. We Assyrians know who we are, end of story. We call ourselves Suraye, for millenia, and recently it was proven that Sur comes from Assur, and the two were interchangeable. Find it read it and give it up already. Why is it any of your business if you don’t believe it thats your business don’t insult us with your bad history and non-facts.

  20. Nope your facts are wrong, soraye have nothing todo with sur but with the word thur witch is for mountain thura thuro and meant is thur abdin the mountain of the servants of god. Thuraya thuroyo is from were it came. And for millenia yes but not the old assyrians, they not called themselfes soraye , this word came with the christian aramaic language and with the christians! Akkadian is not aramaic, its totally different in scriptform and speech! While you are aramaic claiming tobe assyrian, end of story!

  21. yeshurun
    i do not bring Simo Parpola who are you compared to him, you know nothing and you claim you do you even read what i wrote in a wrong way and reply on your errors.
    now regarding the historical errors that you are vomiting on this page; and due to the fact that such complicated discussion is difficult here due to the type of inteface of the page; i will give you my facebook which is Sargon Sliwo.
    and you will have your lesson in history from me not from Parpola and i will prove that you are very wrong and miss a lot of logic in what you wrote regerding who was first Assyrians or sumerians and regarding Abraham and else.

    waiting you there for the lesson ok do not run away you have big mouth that u will use there.

  22. yeshurun

    i will give you another lesson also about Sur and Suraya and how they all are derived from Assyria and that you are wrong again and arrogant in your ignorance.

    you messed up with the wrong person.
    i call it a lesson because it will be one believe me

  23. I am not behind anybody, but behind the truth, neither i know a person named parapola, but the fact is, that you are only accepting your truth and thats wrong. The fact is, that assyrians never spoke aramaic and you can believe it or not, its the arameans who gave the assyrians theyr language and those first tribe were the chaldeans and infact enslaved from the syrophoenician peninsula, kanaanite peninsula, first the babylonians and after the assyrians they toke them there as workers but spread rapidly and so replaced the assyrian akkadian and the assyrians are exactly that same thing, mandean aramaic which wrongly say they are assyrian fully, while as i said its possible that they have been mixed with assyrians but never fully assyrians because as i said assyrians were proud of theyr culture and language, they would not have changed theyr akkadian language for any price, but the fact is they disapeared and integrated in the aramaic tribes and many were killed during the wars, read the bible.

  24. This is wrong and a lie, sur existed before in the phienician peninsula and it come snot from ashur, it is ur interpretation. First of al sur is a place in syria and secondly the derivative or suraya suryaya soraya is not related to a place nor its haveing todo with ashur something. Sur comes from the word thuro thora and means mountain. And it refers to the mountain of the servants of god. Soraya means christians infact.

  25. now i am behind you yeshurun

    i know you called me idiot and little brain; well show me how big is your brain in history and add me on face book .either i will teach you or you will teach me .
    i will teach you the meaning of all words you posted about and else:
    Sumer Akadian cuneiform Syrya thuraya tur abdin Ashur , alll
    do not forget Sargon Sliwo.
    if you are truly as you claim add me there ok either i will come back here and apologize to you for the mistakes or you will apologize

    im waiting

  26. do not be afraid add me i will be fair with you not too harsh; you were posting in a very trustful way; have trust in what you know and add me.

    i would have gave you the lesson here but i cant post all the documents and scans here so the the lesson will be faster.
    again for the 3rd time Sargon Sliwo

    i understand that you still didnt forget your hate since the exile but look at the bright side we educated you there.

    waiting fot you ok?

  27. Ok guys, this squabbling is starting to get on my nerves and it is being disruptive to this article.

    However, I do have a solution: If you wish to debate this topic, I will give you a brand new post to host your debate in the comments.

    There are only THREE caveats:

    1) You must be civil. No name calling, harassment, etc. Let your arguments stand on their own merit. To this end, I want opening statements from each person who would like to debate sent to AramaicDesigns@gmail.com. These opening statements must adhere to all three of these caveats, which brings me to:

    2) You *must* use proper spelling, grammar, capitalization, and punctuation. No more ranting in all lowercase. Do so and you get disqualified. I don’t care if you use the Oxford Comma or not. Just use the kind of language you would read in a proper publication. 🙂

    3) You *must* cite your sources. If you state a fact that you know your opponent will dispute, cite something that backs it up. I don’t care what format you use, so long as it follows the other two caveats.

    Who will accept this challenge?


  28. no one can prove that this is Aramaic by proves from historical references.
    it was called so by biblical historians who wanted to support the big lie in torah about origin of nations (the sam Noah Aram hallucination).
    how ever this squarish Assyrian script has something similar written by jews and very close to it called “ktav Ashuri” they call it so since they wrote some chapters of the babylonian Talmud in babel.
    notice that although it was writen in babel still the script was called “ktav Ashuri”

    the other thing that mr knowledge (yesherun) doesn’t know is that the old Aramaic which is the oldest version of what is known as aramic script. is a 100% copy of phoenician.

    as for the so called blasphemy “aramaic” language, well a simple comparison between the old Assyrian (akadian) words and those we call aramaic (by ignorance) that we use in common speech (us Assyrians) will show that they are derived from old Assyrian at least hundreds of them.

    still mr wise guy and many others here do not know about something called “pushaqa”;
    pushaqa is the act of explaining words we use in the prayer language which is aramaic into the spoken which is a dialect of old Assyrian known as neo-Assyrian.
    as professor Geoffry khan from cambridge proves; same applies for professor Nineb lamassu from cambridge also.

    their lectures are on youtube and internet (google them)

    the mix-up written by mr yesherun is so huge and immense that needs pages to explain starting form prehistoric Ashur and Sumer and the archeological sites which prove that Assyrians are first who settled there; before sumerians even though the sumerians were the oldest culture in SOUTHERN IRAQ.

    a fact that should be accepted by yesherun since history supports it and that he should put his zionist hate for Assyrians aside when he speaks in history since history is FACTS.

    i already posted my name on face book here (Sargon Sliwo). that who wants to expand in this subject is very welcome there .

    i do not open this page often so i wont be reading the replies here

    apologies from admin if the comments went a bit far from subject.

  29. First of all you can’t teach me, because almost all you said is brainwashed lies. U cant teach me, because you don’t even know me and dont know who and what i am. Secondly lets see what you said. By the way, steve i accept what you said, you are ok, wonderfull person. Cuneform is not a script only, its the language assyrian used to write it. The script express theyr language. And saying the assyrian were before the sumerian. Well you are wrong mr rabshakeh. While the sumerians came from elsewere, the akkadian came from the so called phoenicia today. They were also never called akkadians before, but after the city aggade they first beeing called akkadian. They were infact possibly phoenician as the arameans are and even possibly they were arameans. And yes aramean is developed by phoenician as greek too, ass you see noah had shem and japhet as sons and ham of course. And i am not afraid of you, but i will not add a misguided false movement, which is not assyrian. And the second thing would like to say, not even are assyrians the youngest among the akkadians, but they came of the babylonians out an dont before sumer or babel, but after. The arameans are infact a prooven fact by historians and not by only bible researchers, but by language researchers! And aram noah is not a hallucination, not even ashur is, but the fact that you claim tobe something still stays in this place, you claim tobe assyrian which you are not , at least not fully, and i am sure about! Ask your church, they will tell you about ur language is not assyrian but aramaic. And the ktav ashuri was wroten later, the bible is older, so i am sorry for u. The bible was before the babylonian exile. There are two versions historian claim: either akkadians were arameans and spread from phoenicia to that place and adopted sumerian cuneform, being semites or they came out of the sumerians and when the arameans came by slavery and invaded them later by growing, akkadians became. The syriac language but came later after the quadrat aramaic script, it was made for the christians to distinguish them from the non christians. And i do not hate assyrian, infact i do hate liars which arent assyrians, because the idea of beeing assyrian appeared very later. Nobody called themselfes assyrians in iraq before, but syriacs! And of course poor souls dont know that, but spread lies over lies, i know what pushoko and in your fantasy its akkadian, but its aramaic infact. And ashur is not my god by the way, its aloh or yah my god ask your syriac church who yah is and how the apostles wrote his name on the gospels! You will be judged to have become a idol worshipper and satanic lier. And please dont use our holy fathers and dont call them assyrians, because they are syriacs from the syriac orthodox church like bar salibi, stop dirtening theyr names, please.

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